Guar Gum is a fine white powder that is a natural thickener and stabilizer.
It has 8 times the power of cornstarch to thicken, while giving some of the mouth feel that fat or oil would and standing up well to freezing.
It hydrates quickly in cold water, but doesn't form a gel.
Guar Gum comes from the seeds of a shrub called "Guar" or "Cluster-Bean Bush." It is an annual plant in the legume family.
There are many different cultivars. On average, they grow 20 inches to 10 feet (50 cm to 3 metres) tall. they have saw-toothed edged leaves, and blooms with small flowers that are white in the bud, turn to light pink as the petals open, then when fully open are deep blue or purplish. The flowers are self-pollinating.
The seeds grow in pods which grow in clusters. The pods are 3 to 4 inches (7 1/2 to 10 cm) long. The young bean pods can be used as a vegetable or livestock feed. To eat the pods, they need to be picked very young before they start developing small hairs. They can be cooked as you would a green bean.
Each pod has 6 to 9 small, round seeds in each pod. The seeds are about 1/5 inch (5 mm) wide.
38% to 45% of each seed is endosperm, and it is from this that the thickener comes, which is a light-cream colour. To extract it, the hull is removed, then the seed is ground. Because the endosperm and the germ inside it are of different harnesses, they grind at different pressures, so it's easy to separate one from the other. The separated endosperm is then ground more finely and sieved to make a fine white powder. The rest of the seed can be treated and used as livestock feed.
Commercially, Guar Gum is often used in combination with locust bean gum and / or xanthan gum. It is used in baking mixes, dairy products, salad dressings and sauces. In ice cream, it helps prevent ice crystals from forming. In cheese spreads, it helps to give it a consistent texture and make it spreadable. It is used in gluten free breads where it helps to thicken the dough to help prevent gas from the yeast escaping, to make the bread more leavened. It is also used industrially for things such as cosmetics and paper.
In salad dressings, it will thicken and emulsify the sauce, but it won't make it creamy.
Guar Gum seed is grown commercially in India, Pakistan and America. Australia is still trialling it as of 2006.
Use sparingly in dressings. Per 2 1/2 cups (1 pint / 600 ml) of dressing being made, you only need about 1/2 teaspoon of guar gum. Put it in the oil (along with any dried herbs) and whiz in the blender before adding any other ingredients. If you need to add more Guar gum, whisk it in a small amount of oil first then add to the dressing.
Guar Gum is possibly native to India or Pakistan; some feel that it might have been in Africa before that.
Introduced into America in 1903.
Stephens, James M. Guar — Cyamopsis tetragonolobaFact Sheet HS-608. Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Last revision: October 2003.
ThickenersAlginic Acid; Arrowroot; Bisto Instant Gravy Granules; Bisto; Carrageen; Cassava Flour; Clearjel; Filé; Genugel; Guar Gum; Lecithin; Locust Bean Gum; Lotus Root Flour; Malanga Flour; Marshmallow Powder; Panade à la frangipane; Panade; Pectin; Thickeners; Water Chestnut Flour; Wild Mango; Xanthan Gum
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Cluster Bean Bush; E412; Guaran; Cyamopsis psoralioides, Cyamopsis tetragonoloba (Scientific Name); Farine de graines de guar, Gomme guar, Guarée (French); Guar, Guar-Gum, Guarkernmehl (German); Goma guar, Guar (Spanish)