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Substitute for gelatin?

LNG212 Mar 22, 2009 12:59 PM

I came across this recipe for Cranberry Panna Cotta from Food & Wine this month: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/cr... . And I would like to try it.

BUT ... is there something that can be substituted for the gelatin (a vegetarian source)? I'm not generally a dessert-maker and I am at a loss. Any help from all of you knowledgeable cooks out there in CH-land is always appreciated. Thank you.


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  1. alwayscooking RE: LNG212 Mar 22, 2009 01:00 PM

    Agar agar - it's made from seaweed and can be found in Asian and some WFMs.

    4 Replies
    1. re: alwayscooking
      LNG212 RE: alwayscooking Mar 22, 2009 01:06 PM

      I have a jar of agar agar at home, it's what I usually use when a recipe calls for cornstarch (not that I have anything against cornstarch; I just don't usually have it). I didn't even think of that. I think of these two as thickeners. Is that what function gelatin performs too? Or am I mistaken in thinking this way?

      And thanks for that info. The recipe sounded so tasty and I am really hoping it works.

      1. re: LNG212
        pikawicca RE: LNG212 Mar 22, 2009 01:16 PM

        Agar-agar actually gels liquids, and they hold up at room temp much better than when you use gelatin.

        1. re: pikawicca
          alwayscooking RE: pikawicca Mar 22, 2009 01:18 PM

          And don't use to much - it will chew like a bad lab experiment!

          1. re: alwayscooking
            cimui RE: alwayscooking Mar 22, 2009 09:00 PM

            have you chewed your bad lab experiments? ;)

            LNG, i think the standard ratio is about two tsp. of powder / pint of liquid. (those are what my packages say.) use a smidgen more than this since the cranberry juice is pretty acidic.

            there's also agar agar flakes, which i've never used. i just did a quick google search and it looks like the ratio is about two tablespoons / pint of liquid.

    2. sfumato RE: LNG212 Mar 22, 2009 01:13 PM

      If you live near any kosher neighborhoods, there is a good chance that you can find vegetarian gelatin. For more info on substitutes:


      12 Replies
      1. re: sfumato
        cheesecake17 RE: sfumato Mar 22, 2009 02:30 PM

        the brand name of kosher jello is Kojel. many well stocked supermarkets have it also.

        1. re: cheesecake17
          alwayscooking RE: cheesecake17 Mar 22, 2009 02:32 PM

          Kosher gelatin is often made from fish bones. Most (not all) vegetarians avoid all meat.

          1. re: alwayscooking
            LNG212 RE: alwayscooking Mar 22, 2009 06:56 PM

            Yes, thanks for the suggestion; but you are correct - we don't do fish either.

            But I'll be trying it with the agar-agar and if ithe recipe works out well, I may post results here (under a new thread, I guess).

            1. re: LNG212
              paulj RE: LNG212 Mar 22, 2009 07:17 PM

              Agar-agar is commonly used in Asian cultures to make gelled desserts (and salad items). They normally wouldn't use cream, but it shouldn't be hard to find recipes using coconut milk or some sort of almond flavoring. That may give you ideas of how to adapt it.

            2. re: alwayscooking
              sfumato RE: alwayscooking Mar 22, 2009 08:51 PM

              From that website I recommended:

              "Many kosher gelatins are vegan. Try Lieber’s unflavored gel, Emes Plain Kosher-Jel, Carmel’s unsweetened gel, KoJel’s unflavored gel, and Hain Superfruits."

              No fish there.

              1. re: sfumato
                cheesecake17 RE: sfumato Mar 23, 2009 08:40 AM

                Kosher gelatin is not made from fish unless it's marked that it is.

                1. re: cheesecake17
                  alwayscooking RE: cheesecake17 Mar 23, 2009 08:48 AM

                  Kosher gelatin can be made from fish bones/isinglass and beef skin/hooves:


                  1. re: alwayscooking
                    cheesecake17 RE: alwayscooking Mar 23, 2009 08:59 AM

                    Yes, it can be.. but it would be marked as such. Kojel is vegetarian..

                    1. re: alwayscooking
                      sfumato RE: alwayscooking Mar 23, 2009 09:54 AM

                      Right, but then it wouldn't be marked "vegetarian" or "vegan." :) I was talking about kosher gelatin that IS labelled as such.

                      1. re: sfumato
                        cheesecake17 RE: sfumato Mar 23, 2009 04:01 PM

                        ooops- i thought you meant kosher gelatin in general.. sorry!

                        1. re: cheesecake17
                          sfumato RE: cheesecake17 Mar 23, 2009 06:32 PM

                          No worries! :)

                2. re: alwayscooking
                  pjstjohn RE: alwayscooking Jun 4, 2014 03:07 PM

                  the ingredients in Kojel are vegetable gum, tapioca and adipic acid, aspartame, potassium and coloring and flavor. You should read the packages before you comment on what's in a product.

            3. margshep RE: LNG212 Mar 22, 2009 02:39 PM

              Never thought of it as a substitute for gelatin, but a product that is used for thickening in canning that does not go cloudy (hence the name) is "ClearGel" It is cooked cornstarch. If on an ingredient label you see "modified corn starch". That's the stuff.
              Don't know if it will work for you or not.

              1 Reply
              1. re: margshep
                purple goddess RE: margshep Mar 22, 2009 07:10 PM

                sub arrowroot for cornstarch when thickening gravies and the like. Arrowroot won't go cloudy

              2. greygarious RE: LNG212 Mar 23, 2009 09:08 AM

                Yesterday, on the PBS show "Cultivating Life", they showed, and cooked with, a seaweed commonly known as Irish Moss. It is a source of carrageenan, a thickener used, among other things, in ice cream. Different thicknesses of the gel it produces were shown. The dried moss has to be rinsed to remove sand. It was then simmered in both cream and sugar water, as they made panna cotta and accompanying thickened caramel sauce drizzle.

                1. LNG212 RE: LNG212 Jun 8, 2009 07:34 PM

                  Sorry it took me so long to report back but I had to make the recipe twice. I had agar flakes on hand and tried that first. Okay, I must have done it wrong. Like alwayscooking said, it was soooo chewy! But in a weird way where some parts were chewy and others didn't set at all -- so basically I didn't mix/cook it well or long enough.

                  So I tried again using the vegetarian Kojel (I now very much like Super Sol supermarket). The instructions on the packet were so very specific as to how to use it for a gelatin replacement that I couldn't mess it up. And I didn't. I made it again and I served it at a dinner party on Friday night and everyone raved about it.

                  Even for those of you not using a gelatin substitute, do try this dessert recipe. It's very tasty (the cranberries give it a wonderful tartness) and, serving it as in the photo, it is so very pretty too.

                  Thanks everyone for all the responses and the helpful information.

                  1. MickiYam RE: LNG212 Jun 4, 2014 09:27 PM

                    Agar agar and gelatin have slightly different textures, but you can make a "milk tofu" or annin tofu with agar agar that's basically Asian panna cotta. The flavoring I learned to make it with was almond.

                    This looks amazing: http://theasiangrandmotherscookbook.c...

                    But the annin powder already contains sugar, so I'm not sure how to adapt your recipe to this.

                    There are several varieties of agar agar out there, too. I think there's a good chance there might be a recipe for this in the packet, though.

                    Looking at your recipe, I'd make up enough agar-agar to solidify 1000 ml (about four UScups) in 500 ml (2 US cups) water. Bring to a boil, dissolve and cook as directed. Add sugar while on low heat. (Your recipe calls for 6 TBSP; that sounds OK but tart.) Remove from heat, and stir in the buttermilk (reduce to 500 ml or 2 US cups) and if you are using frozen berries, QUICKLY stir in the frozen ones. Because agar-agar sets up quite quickly compared to gelatin.

                    Immediately pour into prepared cups. Chill. Agar-agar will be ready to eat in an hour.

                    You have to be careful that none of the agar-agar sticks to the pot, though. If you can peel off a thin sheet from your pot, you may wind up having a nice fruit soup. Which could be good, as well.

                    This time of year, I would consider using cherries if you can get them. Or strawberries.

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