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Mar 22, 2009 12:59 PM

Substitute for gelatin?

I came across this recipe for Cranberry Panna Cotta from Food & Wine this month: . 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. Agar agar - it's made from seaweed and can be found in Asian and some WFMs.

    4 Replies
    1. re: alwayscooking

      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

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

        1. re: pikawicca

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

          1. re: alwayscooking

            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. 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

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

        1. re: cheesecake17

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

          1. re: alwayscooking

            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

              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

              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

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

                1. re: cheesecake17

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


                  1. re: alwayscooking

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

                    1. re: alwayscooking

                      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

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

                2. re: alwayscooking

                  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. 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

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

              2. 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. 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.