For Thicker Smoothies, Try Blending In Xanthan Gum

From pan sauces to salad dressings to certain soups, most people would probably prefer something thick and creamy over something that's watery. The same principle also applies to shakes and smoothies, two homemade staples for anybody who owns a blender. When people want to bulk up a thin shake or smoothie, their first instinct is to add more ice (which waters down the flavor) or more ingredients (which is not cost-effective). However, there is a much simpler way to achieve that Jamba-like consistency without having to alter the original ratio of other ingredients, and that's by using xanthan gum.

For those not familiar with xanthan gum, it might sound strangely scientific and even dubious for your health, but it's actually something you should probably be keeping in your pantry. Xanthan gum is a powder derived from bacteria that's found on the surfaces of various leafy greens like broccoli, cabbage, and kale. The bacteria is then fermented and ground into a powder, resulting in a natural binding agent that stabilizes and thickens dishes in much the same way that flour-derived roux does for gumbo or potato starch does for sauces in Chinese food. It's completely flavorless, odorless, and even gluten-free, which makes it an ideal means of thickening something like a protein shake or fruit and vegetable smoothie.

How to properly use xanthan gum

Xanthan gum can be found in any supermarket baking section these days and can actually last for quite a long time in your pantry. It also works in a few different applications, ranging from thickening to baking to making fancy foams. To properly use xanthan gum as a thickener, remember that a little bit goes a long way. The recommended ratio is usually less than half a percent by weight of the total volume, so when thickening a blended drink, just under half a teaspoon of xanthan gum would be sufficient to achieve the desired texture. You can start with the smallest amount and increase it till you have the thickness you're looking for. And you can just drop the powder into the blender and whiz it up. 

Accidentally using too much of this powder won't have any detrimental health effects, but may cause bloating or discomfort akin to eating food that is very high in fiber. If you add too much xanthan gum, however, you might end up with a gummy rather than creamy consistency, which is another reason to add it slowly until you're used to the process. Once you've found the perfect amount of this magic ingredient, you're well on your way to a thick, creamy smoothie, flavored exactly as you intended.