Friday, June 8, 2012

Agar Adventures: Vegan Citrus Jigglers

Veggieosity time! A while back I bought this little bottle of agar- which is a vegan version of gelatin- and have been wanting to try it out in something. The other day I decided, what the heck, let's play in the kitchen. Citrus "jello jigglers" of sorts.... doesn't that sound good?

Don't they look refreshing?

Well, let's just stop there. Consider this a science experiment, because these things tasted like crap. Or, more accurately: like algae. Well duh. That's what agar is. (And yeah, remember petri dishes from science? That what this is).

All I did was mix the agar with water (2 Tbsp+ 2 cups, as per package instructions) with a tiny bit extra agar (bc acidic fruits can affect the gelling ability of agar), and then added some fresh orange or lemon juice, zest, and vanilla extract, plus some cinnamon and a mandarin orange slice in the orange ones.  (I also played around by adding some cherries to some). Sidenote on jelling: if the agar doesn't seem to be setting you can always re-melt it and add more agar.

For some reason I thought that agar mixed with water wouldn't really have any taste- kinda like jello itself, but before all the dyes and sugars are added in.

Then I realized: I hadn't ever had jello before all the dyes and sugars are added in. Who knows what ground up animal bones taste like mixed with water. Shudder.

In any case, here's what NOT to do with agar: don't just plain old mix it with water and expect it to be a flavorless base that won't overwhelm more subtle flavors. Agar+water by itself does not taste good. There, now we all know.

If you're using a new ingredient for the first time, it's probably best to start with a recipe. (These went straight in the trash, right after my husband made fun of me for doing a post on something that tastes bad).
Don't eat me!
But, like my first experience with nutritional yeast, I'm not giving up. It's about learning how and when to use "special" vegan ingredients, and how much of them to use too. While I didn't like the taste of these, I thought the jelling ability was pretty darn cool- these jell up quickly and easily in molds, just the right consistency.

Agar (also called agar agar- the algae so nice they named it twice?!- or Japanese gelatin) can be used as a thickener, so in addition to just plain 'ole jello (or, errrr, NOT plain Jello, please) you might try it in custards, sauces, puddings, chewy candies, and making your own marshmallows.

Here are some recipes that use agar (all are vegan):
Agar comes in different forms, including flakes and powder form, and recipes may call for a specific one.

Definitely want to try to make the candies and eggs. And maybe marshmallow fluff. Random: Speaking of fluff, my cousins always used to eat "fluffer nutters" (marshmallow fluff + peanut butter) sandwiches growing up, and I thought they were crazy.... but, I also used to make fun of them for saying "wicked" (as in, "wicked awesome") all the time... but now I say it with pride.  As in: I want the Celtics to win WICKED bad ;-)

 For more on agar, click here. And let me know if you have a recipe success that uses agar!


  1. Thanks, for this funny and informative post :-) I have a small package of agar, can't remember what I got it for, but I know it didn't turn out well. Pretty much gave up on the stuff then and there. Maybe it's time to be brave again, and give it another shot.

    1. Definitely - I keep learning that it's all about trying again ;-) thanks for stopping by!

  2. Oh my ... I've had similar experiences with both agar and nutritional yeast! I've come to madly love nutritional yeast, but agar has yet to grow on me! Maybe I should give it another chance!

  3. I put a teaspoon of agar in my pies - it sets the filling just how you want it. I also used it in a tiramisu recipe to replace the gelatin and it was beautiful. I LOVE agar!!

    1. Nice- I will have to check those out! I'm not giving up yet ... ;-)

  4. I've had lots of jello-like desserts with agar before but I guess I've never stopped to think about the flavor of the algae. It was always paired with coconut milk or lots of mango, or both. So with both flavors fairly aggressive, I didn't even notice the funky sea taste.

    Maybe you could try a pina colada jiggler?

    1. thanks- I will have to try that! Using it with a strong flavor is the way to go I think

  5. The one thing I've made with agar so far tasted like antiseptic. I tried to make gummy sweets with blackberry puree. They were foul! I think no could cope with a faint taste of algae, but these were not nice and I am somewhat nervous to try making marshmallows or similar with it.


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