Xanthan Gum Gives Copycat Starbucks Caramel Frappuccinos An Ideal Texture

For those who enjoy decadently sweet and creamy coffee drinks, there's no beating one of the original pioneers in the field: the Frappuccino. It's been a mainstay on the Starbucks menu for three decades and is now available in nearly countless flavors, though possibly none more iconic than the caramel variety. Fans who want to avoid the time, hassle, and expense of a trip to their local Starbucks will be excited to learn that it's easy to make our copycat caramel Frappuccinos at home. But you'll need one lesser-known but critical ingredient to make them work.

Xanthan gum, a white powder thickener and stabilizer, is used in various recipes to help bind ingredients. In the case of our copycat Frappuccinos, xanthan gum is added to the blender alongside typical ingredients like coffee, milk, and caramel syrup-slash-sauce. Mashed recipe developer Mackenzie Ryan says this tiny, often ignored addition is vital to emulsify the mixture, preventing the ingredients from separating after a few minutes. Fortunately, it's also flavorless and won't be noticeable in the final drink.

There's plenty of room for tweaking the texture

You'll only need a quarter teaspoon of xanthan gum per Frappucino — according to Mackenzie Ryan — meaning those who buy even a small-sized container will have it around for quite a while. Luckily, it's by no means a single-use ingredient; the gum is also used for stabilizing and thickening sauces as well as dressings or for making smoother ice cream, and it's a vital part of gluten-free baking.

Those who want to tweak their Frappuccino texture further can also alter the milk they use. Ryan says Starbucks typically uses ordinary 2% cow's milk, but higher-fat varieties (like whole milk) will produce an even creamier drink. The lactose-intolerant aren't out of luck, either, as Ryan says alternative non-dairy milks are fine, too.

So, the next time you're whipping up a homemade Frappuccino, don't forget the humble yet effective xanthan gum. It's the difference between any old blended coffee and a true copycat that'll fool even diehard Starbucks fans.