Last Updated on February 11, 2022
If you're wondering how to make agar, our in-depth article will guide you through every step of the way! We've even included some alternative forms!
Agar is an excellent vegan alternative thickening agent to gelatine. It is colorless and will also not affect the flavor of your dishes. Furthermore, it has an extremely high heat tolerance, which enables you to make warm jells and jellies too!
How To Make Agar? - But First, What Is Agar?
Agar is a gelling agent used all over the world in various different cuisines. It is especially popular among the fine dining community to make molecular ingredients, especially vegan ones.
Although agar is used in many modern dishes today, it was discovered in Japan in 1658 by an innkeeper who threw away leftover seaweed soup. To his surprise, the seaweed soup set into a gel, and well, the rest is history! Throughout the years since its discovery, agar has become a prominent gelling agent in most Southeast Asian cuisines.
Agar is also known as agar-agar, which is the Malay word used for red algae. This red algae is most commonly used to produce this jelly.
Agar has many other names which include Kanten (Japanese name), Japanese isinglass, China grass, Jaffna moss, and Ceylon moss.
Because agar is made using seaweed, it is a completely vegan thickening agent and makes a fantastic alternative to gelatine. Furthermore, it can withstand much higher temperatures and won't melt as easily. This can enable you to make warm jellies - crazy, right?
How is agar made?
As we have mentioned, agar is extracted from seaweed. The seaweed is actually first boiled until it forms a gelatinous substance. This gel is then pressed into thin sheets to be dried. Once dried, they can either be processed into fine flakes, sheets, or even powders. This makes each form extremely convenient and easy to use.
The powder is the easiest form to work with and also the least expensive and arguably easiest to find.
How Do You Use Agar?
Depending on the form of agar-agar you are using, the exact directions will vary.
When using a powdered form, the general rule of thumb is to use 1 teaspoon for every cup (8.45 fl oz / 250ml) of liquid you need to thicken. This ratio will also vary depending on how thick you want the liquid to be. And furthermore, the thickness of the liquid will be determined by how you need to use it. For example, to make jelly you would need a lot of agar as compared to thickening a sauce.
Agar has to be boiled in order to set, which makes the process a bit more lengthy as compared to using other gelling agents. This is because agar only completely melts at 185°F (85°C), which also accounts for why it can withstand higher temperatures.
How To Make Agar Gel From The Powdered Form?
An agar gel has a thick consistency somewhere between a runny sauce and sets jelly. For this consistency, we use 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of agar powder and 2 cups (500 ml) of liquid. This liquid can be anything you'd like.
First, dissolve the agar into the liquid by continuously whisking it. Then, add the mixture to a pot and bring it to a boil while stirring it to make sure the liquid doesn’t burn.
Once the liquid is boiling, lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the liquid into a container and allow to set in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
To speed up the setting process, place the container with the gel over an ice bath to help it cool quicker. This can potentially reduce the setting time by half!.
One thing to keep in mind is that liquids or foods that have high acidity levels might require more agar to be fully set. If the gel doesn’t set, it can be reheated slowly before more agar is added. Once the additional agar powder has melted, the mixture can be boiled and simmered again, and finally, reset.
How Do You Make Agar Without Agar Powder?
When researching how to make agar from scratch, you will find that it is a little more complicated than you may have initially thought. But, with the proper research, it is definitely possible, but a lot of equipment and scientific devices may be needed! But, there are a few great alternatives that you can use if you run out of agar powder!
Of course, the closest substitutes would be to use agar flakes or agar sheets.
Agar flakes and agar sheets
For the flakes, you can dissolve 2-3 teaspoons of flakes in one cup of liquid over medium heat. When using sheets, you can use one sheet for every cup.
Regardless of which form you use, you can still bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for a couple of minutes. Then, cool the mixture and allow it to set completely.
Although nutrient agar is a gelling agent, it’s not recommended to be used for all substitutes. Nutrient agar contains beef broth, which makes it unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans. Since it contains beef broth, it should also only be used for savory purposes and not desserts.
Gelatin is a great substitute for agar and has similar properties. Gelatin doesn’t have to be boiled since it has a lower melting point, but that also means that it won’t withstand high heat. Gelatin is also not suitable for vegetarians or vegans since it is made from animal products.
Read more about The Difference Between Gelatin Sheets vs Gelatin Powder.
Unlike gelatin, Carrageenan is not made from animal products, so it’s suitable for vegetarian and vegan dishes. Carrageenan is derived from an Irish moss, which is a type of red seaweed.
Final Thoughts - How To Make Agar?
Agar is one of the most versatile gelling agents in the kitchen and you can have a ton of fun playing around with it. If you have any questions for us on how to make agar, feel free to let us know in the comments below!
How do you make agar easy?
The easiest way to make agar gels is to use the powdered form. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of agar powder in the liquid and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 5 minutes Then, let it cool and set it in the fridge for at least an hour.
What is agar and how is it made?
Agar is a thickening agent and stabilizer made from seaweed. The seaweed is first boiled to create a gelatinous substance, which is then dried.Once dried, it is processed into flakes, powders, or sheets.
How do you make agar without agar powder?
Instead of agar powder, you can also use the flake or sheet-form of the product. But, for entirely different substitutes, nutrient agar, gelatine, and Carrageenan can work equally well. But, keep in mind that these different products have different pros and cons.
How to make nutrient agar?
To make nutrient agar, you can boil together 2 cubes of beef bouillon,, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 cup of water, and 14 grams of agar powder. All of the ingredients should be melted. Then, pour them into a sterilized jar and allow them to cool. Then, allow the agar to set inside of the fridge.
Lindy Van Schalkwyk is a culinary specialist with a background in Advanced Cooking, Advanced Pâtisserie, Media Communications and Nutrition. She has gained invaluable experience in the culinary industry having worked in some of the top restaurants in Africa in 2016 and 2017. Her expertise in nutrition has enabled her to develop recipes for special dietary needs. In 2018, Lindy began working in the Food Media industry, focusing on recipe development, recipe writing, food writing and food styling.