Why I use Xanthan and Guar gums in my Smoothies

Die-hard smoothie-junkies who have been making shakes for years with fruit and milk or yogurt ask me WHY, oh why do I use the gums!? I tell them that I am very particular about the consistency of my shakes. However, if they are happy with the results of their smoothies, they should NOT change a thing that they do!

I began making smoothies to help with my 90-pound weight loss. You can read about that here and here. My goal was to get as much smoothie-licious volume into a huge tumbler for as few calories as possible, while incorporating lots of flavor.

My basic shakes have always consisted of water, protein powder and lots of ice for volume. Unless the protein powder has the gums inside already (MANY DO! Read the label!), then this provides a hideous mix of, well, ice-y and protein-y water. Ick. I don't even remember how I discovered the gums all those years ago, but they soon became a staple in my pantry.

I do add lots of goodies to my smoothies: fruit, nut butters, sugar-free syrups, pudding powders, crystal lite powders, eye of newt (just seeing if you're paying attention), stevia, etc. However, I am trying to go more 'au natural' when I can. My all-time favorite, go-to smoothie is the PB&J smoothie and you can find that here in my Smoothie Palooza Post.

In my "research"- i.e. my kitchen disasters & successes- the xanthan gum adds thickness and the guar gum adds creaminess and makes the smoothie less icy. Together, the two work better than either one alone. If you click on the links to the Wikepedia discussions, you will see that the gums work better together than apart- something that I learned in my kitchen as well.

I will be perfectly honest when I tell you that I do not measure out the gums. I know that I sprinkle or shake a small dose of the xanthan gum and a larger dose of the guar gum. Once Heabs of Heather Eats Almond Butter asked me to measure it- so the next shake I made, I doled out what would be my usual amounts and measured:
  • 1/4 tsp Guar Gum
  • 1/8 tsp Xanthan Gum
But let me assure you that it varies from day to day and shake to shake. If I have a frozen banana in the mix, I need less of the gums. If I use a protein powder that has gums already, I use less. Sometimes the type of ice itself can affect it, and which blender I use. IT IS SO VARIABLE THAT THESE ARE JUST ROUGH ESTIMATES OF QUANTITY!

If I see that it's not thick enough I'll add a tiny bit more xanthan. If it's icy but not creamy enough, I'll add more guar. It is way more art than science and you will need to play around with it on a day-to-day basis yourself. My advice: start small and add to it slowly.

CAUTION: THERE IS A POINT OF NO RETURN if you add too much of the gums (especially xanthan, so be light-handed!)-it becomes revolting and completely inedible. At that point it's either a "Sinker" (ie goes down the sink), or you double the amount of water and everything else in the recipe except the gums and try again. But it's very important to cross your fingers and toes. And if you have animals in the house like I do, you make them cross their paws, because you'll need all the luck you can get, and there is no guarantee that you'll salvage your breakfast/post workout recovery drink.
  • If you add too much xanthan, it becomes a gelatinous blob...down the sink.
  • If you add too much guar it becomes like chewing gum...down the sink.
  • If you hit the Goldie-Locks "just right" spot, you'll wonder how you ever lived your life without the gums.
If you are considering using these gums, please click on the links below. They are FILLED with information about these thickeners. Some people tolerate them well, others may have some GI issues and other problems. Click below to educate yourself.

Click here for Information on Guar Gum

Click here for Information Xanthan Gum

Edited to Add: The Gums do have calories FYI: According to Bob's Red Mill: For 7g (a Tablespoon) of Guar there are 20 calories and 6g carbohydrates. For 9g of Xanthan (a Tablespoon) there are 30 calories and 7g carbohydrates. Note: these are huge amounts and you would NEVER use this much in a smoothie, ever, ever, ever! Click here and here for Bob's Info.

Here are some examples of smoothies past...PS I much prefer to sit down and EAT my smoothie with a spoon...

PB&J in a bowl. With a creamy nut butter squirted out through a pastry tube...mmm!

Sprinkles make EVERYTHING taste better!

No joke- all of this PB&J came from that ONE packet of Jay Robb protein powder that Heabs sent me. Can you even imagine attempting to finish HALF of this? FYI, on the left is a HUMONGOUS VitaMix.

Love me my toppings!

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to try to answer them. Now I can ask: Do you have any fabulous tricks or tips about smoothies? I know my arch-enemy/BFF/twin-separated at birth, Protein Girl aka Allie, over at Pimp My Protein Shake must have SOME fabo tips. ;-)


Thinspired said...

I've been thinking so much about your gums lately and really want to try them. I can't wait to start experimenting--I think I found a place where I can get xantham gum here. When I do, I will be combing through your old posts like a mad woman!

Allie (Protein Girl) said...

I've been using guar gum for years and when my Twister discovered my utter lack of xanthan, she was stunned! The combo turns shakes into ice cream. Fab.

As for you Smoothie Girl, I am humbled by your ultra scientifically researched post. You are the Alton Brown of all things blended.

As for the more natural course...I've got a WHOLE lot of frankenfake foods to get through by New Years if that's going to be my resolution!

Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. You know the gums changed my life, and I have you to thank for it. Definitely a staple in my kitchen now and always. My beloved protein ice-cream just wouldn't be the same without them!

Janetha said...

the first time i heard of xanthan and guar gum was on HEABs blog and then when you were talking about them on our walk! i think i need to invest..i mean, check out that creamyyyyyyyness! lol, i agree, the alton brown of all things blended for sure! yeah, i always use a frozen banana to thicken things up, but sometimes i am not in the mood for a banana in my smoothie. i definitely need to get some gum action in my life. thanks for the post!

Therese said...

How did you know I was JUST asking myself the other day what the deal is with the gums. I love adding sugar free pudding mix to smoothies because it does thicken them up, but I don't love the processed ingredients.

Where do you buy them? Are they expensive?

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Therese- yes a bit expensive, but they will last you For.Ever!! Can buy them at any health food market and believe it or not, I've seen xanthan at regular grocery stores, but RARELY. You can also buy online. Bob's RedMill sells it. Soo worth it in my opinion!

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

I am basically scared off...and you know I am total Tweak Master, and down with the art method of cooking!

I have ruined too many dips and sauces by just that little smidge extra of XG and passed the point of no return. A little doesnt work so i think ok just a little more...and somewhere in the middle was what I needed..
I end up with the proverbial milk with ice flakes like you mentioned..

I also dont think GG does much for me. I have used wayyy more than you suggest and it doesnt fluff & thicken.

Granted, I do this mostly with acidic dressings to get them a consistency of thick ketchup vs. what they really are, i.e. OJ, ACV, ginger powder, etc.
Perhaps its impossible to make a silk purse (thick ketchup) out of a mole's ear (thin ACV, OJ, mustard or ginger powder).

Anyway love the post and will keep trying :)

Erika said...

I need to get on the gum train and try these things. I would probably end up with a "sinker" though!

Bekah said...

Thanks for the clarification my dear. Nice to know they work better together, as I almost bought xantham gum the other day. ;) ;) (Just one out of many ways, blogging has influenced my compulsive spending/eating habits.)

But I'm allll for the right consistency.

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Averie- How I wish I could give you a tutorial so that you could have some success. My experience shows me that using them together is heaps better than apart- HEAPS! But you have a very good point- acidic foods- I never use it in those. Sometimes I'll use it to thicken a sauce, but often in that case I'll use agar.

Erika- yes, you'll have some sinkers, but also successes.

Susan said...

Maybe I'm an easy sell, but I'm totally convinced! I don't like having smoothies for meals, but I DO like them for snacks. It's just hard to make a decent smoothie that's low enough in calories to be considered a snack. Sounds like this may be my answer ;)

Michele | aka Raw Juice Girl said...

I have guar gum in my pantry. Hmmm.... Wonder if I should experiment. LOL

Thanks for this awesome explanation!!!

And I love the pics!


eatmovelove said...

Great post! And I just seen about your weight-loss! Wow girl you look awesome!! As for the smoothies - what type of protein powder do you use? I hear to stay away from whey or is it isolated whey? And aren't powders 'unnatural'? Also are smoothies easier to digest?? What's your take on the use of Stevia and Turbinado organic sugar?...haha sorry for all the are "Smoothie Girl" ;)

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Susan- you definitely can get a snack for <150 cals. That's what I do: Smoothies for brekkie then as a snack.

Michele- Welcome! Honestly, guar doesnt do a whole lot without xanthan. It does a little but not much.

HayleY! Thanks for stopping by! :-D

Eatmovelove: Welcome! Here is your question: "As for the smoothies - what type of protein powder do you use? I hear to stay away from whey or is it isolated whey? And aren't powders 'unnatural'? Also are smoothies easier to digest?? What's your take on the use of Stevia and Turbinado organic sugar?"

Eatmovelove: My answers: I buy whatever is on sale! I have used every kind of powder available on the planet. I don't stay away from whey as I have no problems with it. I wish I was better at being "natural" but alas I often go for what tastes good. Unsure about digestibility of smoothies- would think easier than whole fruits, yeah? Stevia- I'm on the fence. I use it, but I'm trying to wean myself off a bit, as other countries have issues with it. Turbinado sugar is apparently no healthier for you than just plain cane sugar. I personally like the taste of maple sugar. Hope I answered some of your q's. I'm not really an expert, I just drink a lot of smoothies :-)

Allie Tries to Cook said...

I came across this article today from The Kitchn about xanthan gum:

Michal said...

They dont call you smoothie girl for nothin! These all look scrumptious! The pb&j one especially. Hope you have a nice weekend :)

healthyambition said...

Great post! I recently got into the gums, and wish I'd read this before I started experimenting. Thanks for sharing your obvious knowledge on the area. And for all your fab smoothie recipes too! Your blog was a great discovery :-)

lpskins said...

Wow, you are truly a smoothie junkie. Something about the words guar gum and xanthan freaks me out. Sounds very mysterious. Glad you laid out those measurements or I surely would have used more that 1/4 teaspoon. That's the smallest sprinkle around town.

Kailey said...

hey deb!
i would have emailed you this but I can't find your email! anyways, I can't find xanthan ANYWHERE!! and my mom won't pay for shipping it :[ I have guar gum, but does it do much, if anything, by itself? I was looking on bob mills cite for the recipes with guar gum and it said to use 3/ that too much? should I just stick with 1/2? I really don't want the gum to go to waste. Is guar gum good for anything else? sorry this is such a long comment.

ps. in love with all your smoothies :)

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Kailey- I'm pretty sure that 3/4 (tsp??) of guar alone may be ok. It is much much better with the xanthan, and I've also heard that locust bean gum is great with guar- it's on my list of things to buy at the health food store next. I am surprised that you can't find xanthan as I see it sometimes even at the regular market!! Both gums will last you FOREVER, or almost that long. Yes, guar can be used in baking (see other resources-not my site!) and even just to thicken any sauces and dressings. I hope this helps! Keep me updated.

ateenagegourmet said...

This post is really helpful! I was in a health food store yesterday and I saw the xanthan gum. I had a lot of questions, but you answered them all. Thank you. :)

McIntonsh said...

Hmmmm...just was reading about agar agar on another blog. Any reason why you don't use this instead of the gums for smoothies? It seems to have even less calories?

Yeah...I know this is an older post but I am just curious (: I have the gums and love them but just in case I ever run out!!!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

<Icelandic keyboard) and it just is easy to get xanthan and guar. <i wasn´t aware of it having less cals= it seems that if something has less cals, <i have to use more of it. <i use agar for heating and thickening at the same time.+

and apologies for the photos-ö i have no idea why they are on their sideö stupid picasa/blogger!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

<sorry- half my reply vanished into the north pole arora borealis. ok. i was saying that i haven´t figured out in what proportions to use agar and it is easy to get the other two. sorry about the tech difficulties Æ-)

Yaara said...

Hey Deb!
I just came across your blog--it's great!! I have a quick question. I have xanthan gum and agar-agar--I haven't been able to find guar gum. Would the xanthan and agar-agar work good together?

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Yaara- I don't know if xanthan and agar would work together? I know that agar works when it's heated and THEN cooled. But no idea how it would work in smoothies. Sorry. My magic duo has always been xanthan and guar. For hot stuff I use agar. Hope that helps!

Lisa{Smart Food and Fit} said...

I never thought of adding the gums to my smoohtie, but it makes sense if you want that ice cream like texture. If you read ice cream lables you'll see it in the ingredient list. Sounds like you have it down to the science! Thanks for sharing and I'll have to try it!

hillary biscay said...

i know i am 2 years late but i have recently been searching for an answer to this very question! will definitely try both gums (after checking my protein powder ingredients). thank you!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Lisa- yes it's in so many processed foods it's amazing!

Hillary- it's never too late to discover this trick- I've been doing it about 10 yrs now and I can't imagine not having it up my sleeve :-) Let me know how it works for you!

bretay said...

I have purchased the xantham gum at my local Wal-Mart.It's around 9.95 for the bag.It was located in the gluten free section.

Lindsey said...

OK so two comments in one day! Way to delurk! I tried xanthan gum today and OH MY GOODNESS. Amazing! I don't have guar gum yet because my store didnt have it so I am waiting to try the magic. Thanks!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Lindsey ! High five to my de-lurker extraordinaire! When you get the guar, you'll be able to use less xathan & your shake will be creamier.

Nicolette/Nikki/Nik/N said...

GAAAHH!! I just got some xanthan today and am SOOO excited to try it out tomorrow!! I didn't see any Guar at the store I was at, but am going to a health food store tomorrow, so hoping they will have it (I was especially thinking about the guar today as I ate my icy smoothie bowl wishing it wasn't so ice-crystal-y!)

Steve said...

I have been trying to "reverse engineer" Surf City's smoothie recipe. They have these 2 "gum" ingredients in it. Ordered both at Vitacost (currently cheaper than either Amazon or Walmart). Thanks so much for the post !

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