Creating a hot sauce recipe can be a fairly simple combination of adding hot peppers and vinegar together but when additional ingredients or processes are used the hot sauce recipe can be very complex. That is when additives like xanthan gum are used to stabilize, thicken or bind ingredients of a hot sauce together.
Xanthan gum is used dry and is added to a hot sauce when the ingredients are blended. There isn’t any processing, cooking or other forms of preparation needed when using it. However, it should be used in small amounts until you have figured out the right consistency for your hot sauce.
Xanthan gum was invented in the mid-’60s and has been used in food products ever since. As much as it sounds like a substance that is toxic, harmful or under-researched…it is not. There are probably thousands of products are the market that uses it for various reasons, including hundreds of hot sauces.
What is xanthan gum and what is it made of?
Xanthan gum is a food additive that is included during the manufacturing of foods as a thickener and stabilizer but when added to hot sauce it is usually used to keep ingredients that don’t mix well together from separating. Xanthan gum is created from a fermented sugar bacterium. The sugar may come from wheat, corn, dairy or soy and if people suffer from severe allergies to this substance, they may have to avoid it. It is no less natural than yeasts or vinegar and is widely used in commercial food production, especially hot sauces.
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What is xanthan gum used for?
Xanthan gum is used to thicken and stabilize foods. It is used to improve the consistency, texture and appearance of many different types of food products, including ice cream, baked goods and hot sauce. In addition, xanthan gum is used to stabilize a hot sauce and keep the ingredients from separating. Dressings and sauces that combine oil and vinegar often use xanthan gum for these reasons.
How to use xanthan gum in hot sauce
Because of what it is used for in a hot sauce it xanthan gum will influence the texture and appearance of the sauce, but this the intent. Often used in other condiments and foods it is used as a stabilizer, emulsifier, thickener, suspending agent, bodying agent, and foam enhancer. Xanthan gum can allow otherwise non-blending ingredients to combine in a sauce.
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Some other thickeners like corn starch and arrowroot powder need to be cooked into the sauce to help reduce the liquid consistency but xanthan gum does not. Xanthan gum should be added to the hot sauce toward the end process of blending without the need to cook or heat it. It does not need any additional processes to provide the stabilization. Blend the ingredients of your hot sauce, add xanthan gum, and blend further.
Xanthan gum can be used at a variance of temperatures and it will not affect the outcome of the sauce. This is one of the reasons it is widely used in a variety of food types. I let all my cooked, smoked or roasted hot sauces cool down before I blend them but maybe your processes are different. Perhaps you prefer to blend your ingredients hot or at room temperature, either way, the xanthan gum will produce the same results.
How much xanthan gum should be used in hot sauce?
Only you can determine what results you want from your sauce. Adding too much xanthan gum to a hot sauce will thicken it to a paste or gelatinous, gooey form and not adding enough will still leave the liquids separating. Separate your sauce into two or three containers and use different amounts to achieve a different consistency. Or use one batch and gradually increase the amount added until you get the consistency you want.
¼ xanthan gum to 1 quart of sauce
Use ¼ tsp of xanthan gum added to 1 quart of sauce, to begin with. Add it slowly as you blend but it does not usually clump up as a corn starch would. Adding it gradually simply gives more control over the consistency of the sauce. Adding a liquefying substance like vinegar or water will give the sauce more consistency if you use too much xanthan gum, but it will become a sauce much different in flavor.
If you are using xanthan gum in a new recipe you should have the ingredients weighed on a digital scale. Xanthan gum works well in both small and larger concentrations. Adding 0.1% can thicken a liquid and adding 0.5% will produce a paste. Anything more than 0.5% will cause the sauce to become gummy and sticky and the end product will be almost unusable as a hot sauce.
Example: 1 lb (16 oz) of sauce would use 0.016 oz (.45 g) of xanthan gum
If you are unsure of the amount of xanthan gum to use in your sauce weigh your sauce. First, weigh the container without sauce. Second, weigh the container with sauce. Third, subtract the weight of the container. Multiply the weight of the sauce by 0.1%. This will be the measurement of xanthan gum to use in your hot sauce. I use a Taylor Digital Scale that has increments as low as 1 gram. Get the Taylor scale here from Amazon.
Will xanthan gum reduce the heat of a hot sauce?
Adding xanthan gum to a hot sauce will not reduce the heal level. There is very little xanthan gum needed for thickening and binding hot sauce ingredients. The heat of a hot pepper can be reduced before it is mixed as a hot sauce but is difficult to do to a hot pepper of extreme heat. There are also some methods to reduce the heat with additives once it becomes a sauce but that is only because you are reducing the concentration of the pepper within the sauce.
Does adding xanthan gum alter the pH level of a hot sauce?
A low pH level of about 3.4 to 4.6 is important for a hot sauce to maintain its shelf life. Adding xanthan gum to a hot sauce will not alter the pH of the sauce. Xanthan gum is one of the few gums that can tolerate the lower acid levels of hot sauce and still perform its intent. Xanthan gum also performs well at a higher pH if your hot sauce uses alkaline ingredients or emulates a salsa or chutney. That is the same reason it may be commonly found in cream salad dressings.
Does the FDA approve xanthan gum?
Xanthan gum has been approved by the FDA and there is no limitation on the amount used. However, large amounts in a small batch of hot sauce may not produce the desired results. It is non-toxic to humans consumed in any amount and therefore does not need to be regulated.
Does xanthan gum have a flavor to it?
Xanthan gum does not have any flavoring to it therefore it will not influence the overall flavor of your sauce if used per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Although made from wheat, corn, soy or dairy it will not have the flavor concentrations of these food products.
Does xanthan gum provide any nutritional benefits to a hot sauce?
The only nutritional benefit that xanthan gum will provide is fiber and it will be in very minimal amounts in your hot sauce. Typically, it will only provide less than 1 gram of fiber per ¼ teaspoon. If you were to use a ¼ teaspoon per quart of hot sauce that would be less than 1 gram of fiber per quart (32 ounces). If your 12 oz bottle of hot sauce has 70 serving suggestions then that is a minimal amount of fiber that the xanthan gum is contributing to the hot sauce.
How much additional cost will xanthan gum have to my hot sauce?
Xanthan gum is a relatively inexpensive additive to a hot sauce which is another reason why so many brands of hot sauce use it. Costs can range from $.65 an ounce to $1.50 an ounce depending on the brand. The average cost is about $1.00 an ounce or about $0.035 (3 ½ cents) a gram on average. That is the equivalent to about $.01 per 10 ounce bottle of hot sauce, following the ¼ teaspoon to 1-quart rule.
If used to make mass quantities of hot sauce the costs can add up but are still minimal compared to other ingredients. The cost can get significant if you are producing 100,000 ($1,000) to 500,000 ($5,000) bottles of hot sauce a year.
Hot sauces that use xanthan gum
According to hotsaucesurvey.com there are over 350 hot sauces that use xanthan gum as an additive used as a stabilizer, thickener, binding agent or to keep ingredients from separating. That’s not every hot sauce on the market but it is most likely a hot sauce that uses oil.
Many traditional or classic hot sauce flavors that use hot peppers and vinegar don’t need xanthan gum because these two ingredients blend well. However, many gourmet hot sauces being introduced to the market have many combinations of exotic ingredients and use xanthan gum to give the hot a visually stable appearance.
Does xanthan gum work for an oil-based hot sauce?
Vinegar is a common ingredient used in hot sauce as a preservative and flavoring agent. Oil is not as commonly used but when the two are added they don’t mix well together. This can be seen in an oil and vinegar salad dressing. The addition of xanthan gum will bind the vinegar and oil with the other ingredients which keep them from separating so you do not need to shake it every time you want to use it. A review of top-selling hot sauces that use oil will most always include xanthan gum.
Positives of using xanthan gum in a hot sauce
Keeps ingredients from separating
Binding ingredients together is the number one reason that xanthan gum is used in a hot sauce. The emulsification of the ingredients will be evident when the sauce is poured out. The appeal of a hot sauce is as important as the flavor.
Adds very little cost to a hot sauce
Xanthan gum adds very little cost when compared to the other ingredients. However, it can be similarly priced to other thickeners and stabilizers such as guar gum. Xanthan gum is usually more expensive than corn starch but is much easier to use in a hot sauce.
Does not alter the flavor of a sauce
When used correctly, xanthan gum will not alter the flavor or appearance of a hot sauce. This is because the amount needed is minimal to achieve stabilizing properties. Hot sauces are known for their bold flavors so it would be difficult for xanthan gum to overpower the sauce.
Negatives of using xanthan gum
Adds another step to processing
Traditional and classic hot sauces are known for the simplicity of the ingredients. When combining other additives there will be other processing steps involved as well. Although it is a simple step of measuring and adding some sauces may already have a complex recipe and process.
Best use for xanthan gum in a hot sauce
The best use of xanthan gum in a hot sauce is when fresh or fermented hot peppers are used in the recipe. Many processes draw out the water of a hot pepper neither of these processes does. When the water remains in the hot sauce it tends to separate or float above the other ingredients.
Sauces that are made with roasted or smoked hot peppers will be thicker when they are blended. These processes draw out the water and if you are simply blending them with a few other ingredients you may not need the addition of xanthan gum.
Many brands and varieties of hot sauce use xanthan gum as a stabilizer and thickener. This substance is widely used and is acceptable to FDA standards. Experiment with what xanthan gum can do to your hot sauce.