Psyllium Husk Powder Vs. Xanthan Gum

Gluten-free baking can be tricky without the gluten proteins found in wheat to provide structure, elasticity, and binding.

Psyllium Husk Powder Vs. Xanthan Gum

Two popular ingredients used instead are psyllium husk powder and xanthan gum.

They can both mimic some of the functions of gluten, but they have distinct properties.

What is Psyllium Husk Powder?

Psyllium husk powder is a soluble fiber derived from the outer coating of the seeds of the psyllium plant. The husks are ground into a fine powder that has powerful water-absorbing capabilities when mixed with liquid.

Psyllium husk powder is most commonly used for its health benefits as a dietary supplement to relieve constipation, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. It can absorb up to 10-15 times its weight in water, forming a viscous gel-like substance in the digestive tract.

In baking applications, psyllium husk powder acts as a binder and adds moisture retention. The gel it forms replicates the elasticity that gluten provides in traditional wheat-based baking. Psyllium also helps baked goods hold their shape and not crumble apart after baking.

Typical usage rates are around 2-5% of total flour weight in recipes. Using too much can make baked goods gummy. It works best in yeast breads and to make gluten-free dough easier to handle and shape.

What is Xanthan Gum?

Xanthan gum is a popular food additive used as a thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier. It is produced by fermenting sugars with a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. The resulting slime is dried and ground into a fine powder.

Unlike psyllium husk powder, xanthan gum is not typically consumed for its nutritional benefits. It is used in gluten-free baking to replicate the binding and moisture-trapping abilities of gluten.

Xanthan gum helps give structure and viscosity to batters and doughs in the absence of gluten. It stabilizes air bubbles and prevents ingredients from separating. It also retains moisture and improves freeze-thaw stability.

Only a small amount is needed in baking recipes - around 0.5-1% of total flour weight. It is essential in gluten-free recipes but too much can make foods slimy or gummy.

Psyllium Husk vs. Xanthan Gum in Gluten-Free Baking

While both psyllium husk powder and xanthan gum can improve the structure, binding, and moisture retention in gluten-free baked goods, there are some key ways in which they differ:


  • Psyllium husk gives more stretch and chewiness similar to gluten, making it ideal for bread recipes. It adds elasticity to doughs and batters.
  • Xanthan gum provides smoothness and viscosity. It works well in cakes, cookies, and pastries by preventing crumbling.


  • Psyllium husk powder requires extra hydration time to allow the fiber to fully absorb water and form a gel before mixing into dough.
  • Xanthan gum disperses and thickens instantly in liquids without requiring extra hydration time.

Quantity Needed

  • More psyllium husk powder is required in recipes compared to xanthan gum. Typical usage is 2-5% vs. 0.5-1%.
  • Too much xanthan gum can lead to undesirable slick or gummy textures.

Health Effects

  • Psyllium husk provides dietary fiber and digestive health benefits. Xanthan gum does not offer additional nutritional value.
  • Some people experience bloating or digestive issues from too much xanthan gum. Psyllium has a better tolerance.

Gluten Substitution

  • Psyllium mimics the stretchy, chewy texture of gluten more closely, making it preferable in breads.
  • Xanthan gum is better for general binding and moisture retention in baked goods besides bread.


  • Xanthan gum is more expensive than psyllium husk powder.
  • However, such small quantities of xanthan are used in recipes that the cost difference is negligible.

When to Use Psyllium Husk vs. Xanthan Gum

Choosing whether to use psyllium husk powder or xanthan gum depends primarily on the specific recipe and the characteristics you want in the final product. Here are some guidelines:

Use psyllium husk powder:

  • In yeast-leavened breads to improve rise, texture, and moisture retention.
  • For flatbreads, pizza crusts, and pastas to add stretch and chewiness.
  • To make doughs easier to shape and handle.
  • In recipes where some extra nutritional value is desirable.
  • When you have extra time to allow it to hydrate before baking.

Use xanthan gum:

  • In cakes, cookies, pancakes and other baked goods besides bread where elasticity is not as important.
  • For frostings, fillings, pie crusts and pastry recipes.
  • To stabilize sauces, dressings, soups or beverages.
  • When ease of use and fast incorporation is preferred over added nutrition.
  • To improve freezer stability and prevent ice crystal formation.
  • For people who are sensitive to psyllium husk or need to limit added fiber.

Tips for Using Psyllium Husk Powder and Xanthan Gum

Here are some top tips to get the best results when using either psyllium or xanthan gum:

  • Always weigh your measurements for accuracy.
  • Hydrate psyllium husk powder properly to activate the gelling before adding to dough.
  • Start with smaller amounts of xanthan gum and increase gradually if needed.
  • Add xanthan gum to dry ingredients; mix psyllium gel into wet ingredients.
  • Reduce other leaveners slightly when using psyllium husk powder.
  • Let batters and doughs rest before baking to allow for hydration.
  • Combine with other thickeners like guar gum to improve texture.
  • Store in airtight containers away from moisture and heat.
  • Use wheat or oat flours along with gums to better mimic gluten.
  • Experiment to find the ideal gum amounts for each recipe.
  • Handle dough and batters gently to avoid over-mixing.

Health Benefits and Risks

Psyllium Husk Powder

  • Improves regularity and relieves constipation and diarrhea
  • Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar by slowing digestion
  • Supports heart health by reducing blood pressure and arteries hardening
  • Promotes a healthy gut environment and digestive tract
  • Potential to cause bloating or flatulence if ramped up too quickly
  • May impact absorption of certain medications taken concurrently

Xanthan Gum

  • Provides negligible nutritional value other than added soluble fiber
  • Can sometimes cause undesirable digestive side effects like bloating and gas
  • Thickens stool which relieves constipation for some people
  • May influence blood sugar less than psyllium husk powder
  • Generally considered safe in the quantities used in foods
  • Has been approved by the FDA for use as a food additive

Combining Psyllium and Xanthan

For the best outcome in certain gluten-free baked recipes, combining psyllium husk powder and xanthan gum can be advantageous:

  • Bread recipes often benefit from a small amount of xanthan gum in addition to the larger amount of psyllium husk powder. The psyllium provides elasticity and rise, while the xanthan gum gives more stability and finer crumb texture.
  • Adding a touch of psyllium to recipes that predominantly depend on xanthan gum can improve moisture retention.
  • Xanthan gum helps temper some of the gumminess that can result from excess psyllium husk powder.
  • People who are sensitive to psyllium may be able to enjoy its benefits in smaller amounts combined with xanthan gum to reduce side effects.
  • Using both enhances the structure and extends the freshness of baked goods by utilizing the unique advantages of each one.

Other Binding Agents

While psyllium and xanthan are the most popular options, other binding agents and thickeners can serve similar functions in gluten-free baking:

  • Guar gum - Derived from guar beans. Provides thickness and moisture retention. Can cause digestive issues if over-used.
  • Ground flax or chia seeds - Forms gel-like consistency when water is added. Offers added nutritional value. Provides fiber.
  • Agar or gelatin - Acts as stabilizer and thickener. Main difference is agar is vegetarian, gelatin is not.
  • Pectin - Found naturally in fruit. Used as gelling agent. Requires sugar and acidity to activate.
  • Locust bean gum - Made from carob seeds. Often combined with xanthan gum. Used in smaller amounts.
  • Konjac gum - Water-soluble fiber from konjac plant. Provides thickness with low viscosity.

Testing combinations of different gums along with psyllium or xanthan allows finding the best binder for the particular recipe ingredients and desired results.


Can you use psyllium husk powder to replace xanthan gum?

Yes, in some recipes psyllium husk powder can substitute for xanthan gum. Use about 2-3 times the amount of psyllium powder compared to the xanthan gum called for. Psyllium performs better than xanthan for providing an elastic, chewy texture.

Can you use too much xanthan gum in baking?

Yes, using too much xanthan gum can make baked goods gummy or gluey. Start with small amounts and make adjustments up or down in future trials. Over 0.5-1% xanthan by weight of total dry ingredients is usually excessive.

Is psyllium husk powder gluten-free?

Yes, psyllium husk is naturally gluten-free. It is harvested from the plantago ovata plant, not from wheat or grains that contain gluten. Psyllium husk powder is commonly used as a binder specifically in gluten-free baking recipes.

Can you use psyllium husk in place of eggs?

When hydrated, psyllium husk powder forms a gel somewhat similar to the function of eggs as a binder in baking. For each egg replaced, use 1 tablespoon psyllium husk powder whisked with 3 tablespoons water. It works best in items like cookies, brownies, and quick breads.

Does xanthan gum need to be refrigerated or frozen?

No, xanthan gum has a long shelf life and does not require refrigeration. It does not need to be kept in the freezer for freshness either, as long as it is stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry environment away from moisture and heat.


Both psyllium husk powder and xanthan gum offer benefits in gluten-free baking by improving binding, moisture retention, stability, and texture in the absence of gluten proteins.

Psyllium husk powder shines when chewiness and elasticity reminiscent of gluten are desired, especially in bread and dough recipes. Xanthan gum provides smoothness and thickening power unmatched by other additives.

Choosing the right gum for the recipe along with experimenting to find ideal amounts for each ingredient allows gluten-free bakers to produce phenomenal baked goods that don’t crumble apart or become soggy.

Combining psyllium and xanthan gum increases structure, freshness, and moisture retention better than using either one alone. Guar gum, gelling agents, and other natural binders can also supplement or stand in for psyllium or xanthan depending on the recipe.

While both psyllium and xanthan make gluten-free baking achievable, psyllium offers the added perk of providing some important health benefits related to digestion, heart health, blood sugar, and regularity.

Sarah Cortez
Sarah Cortez

My name is Sarah and I'm a baker who loves trying out new recipes and flavor combinations. I decided to challenge myself to use a new spice or ingredient powder in my baking each week for a year. Some successes were the cardamom sugar cookies, vivid turmeric cake, and beetroot chocolate cupcakes. Failures included the bitter neem brownies and overwhelmingly hot ghost pepper snickerdoodles. Through this experience I've discovered amazing additions to spice up desserts while learning how to balance strong flavors. Follow my journey as I push the boundaries of baking with unique powders!

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