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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Let's Talk About Thickening Agents

Many first time low-carbers are puzzled as to what to use to thicken sauces, stews, soups, protein shakes, etc. People have been known to ask with forlorn hope whether almond flour might do the trick.

Here are a few ideas:

1) Vegetable gums - Xanthan gum (my preference) and guar gum
These need to be used cautiously, as in excess they can make things real gummy (slimy) tasting. Using a small amount of liquid (from the stew or whatever), blend with a small amount of xanthan gum - usually no more than 1/2 tsp to begin with. Then add to the stew and stir on high heat until thickened; repeat if necessary. Vegetable gums will thicken cold or hot liquids.

2) My Thickening Agent recipe - this is a combo of xanthan gum, guar gum and cornstarch: 1 tsp = 0.4 g carbs It works as well, if not better than the leading commercial Thickening Agent, ThickenThin Not/Starch by Expert Foods. One typically needs less of my Thickening Agent to get the job done. These Thickening Agents (mine) and the commercial variety last a very long time on the shelf and also for the reason that one uses very little at a time. My Thickening Agent can be used with a little liquid in a blender and blended - this is to ensure no lumps. Although, I did not suggest this method in my cookbooks, it is the one I prefer these days. These thickening agents will thicken hot or cold liquids.

3) When making soups with veggies, take some of it and blend in a blender until pureed and add to the soup, or blend all of it for a Creamed soup.

4) If you can stomach the idea - one or two teaspoons of powdered pysillium husks in a shake should help thicken it - great fiber!

5) Some people use glucomannan (konjac) powder. Konjac powder has about ten times the thickening power of cornstarch. Dissolve the konjac powder in a little cold water before adding it to the sauce. Konjac flour thickens nicely when it's heated to boiling temperature. About 1 teaspoon of konjac powder will gel about one cup of liquid. Find it at the Konjac Foods site.

6) To thicken sauces, sometimes all that is needed is a couple of egg yolks. Bring sauce to boil, add a little of the hot sauce to egg yolks in small bowl. Turn heat to low and add egg yolk mixture. Stir vigorously until sauce thickens.

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