What Is Xanthan Gum ?

Guar gum and xanthan gum are often used in ice lollies and ice cream.
Ice cream and lollies often use xanthan gum and guar gum as a thickener.

Xanthan Gum sounds like an ingredient from science fiction but it is one of the most useful and surprisingly common materials to be found in food, pharmaceutical and personal care products. The ingredient is often categorized by many terms:  a polymer, a hydrocolloid, gum or polysaccharide. It is used to thicken fluids like beverages, creams, sauces etc. Increasing viscosity to improve or change mouth feel is a useful property of gum ingredients  and xanthan gum has regularly been chosen for this purpose. It is also entirely safe to use.

Xanthan is also a naturally produced ingredient and works well when combined with other polysaccharides to produce products with unusual flow behaviour. The unusual properties mean that it has very wide stability over a range of temperatures and can be used in both acid and alkaline conditions (Garcia-Ochoa et al., 2000). There is good stability too and appears not to breakdown easily. 


It consists of repeating units of pentasaccharides β‐d‐glucose with a link 1 to 4, forming the main chain. The side chain is composed of glucuronic β‐d‐mannose‐(1,4)‐β‐d‐glucuronic acid and (1,2)‐α‐d‐mannose (Fitzpatrick et al., 2013)


Xanthan gum is produced by a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris which is aerobically fermented. The gum is extracted, impurities removed and then dried to a powder.

The USDA began developing xanthan gum for the food industry in the 60s but its unusual flow also attracted the attention of the oil industry who use it to recover oil from drilling sites. Ice cream is also a popular food that makes use of its pseudoplastic behaviour.


Extremely small amounts are used. The ingredient is often dissolved in water using a high shear mixer before added to the main formulation. It forms biodegradeable films when combined with other gums and polysaccharides. Chitosan is a common material to be combined with xanthan it produces some unusual films as a result (Horn et al., 2015).


Fitzpatrick, P.Meadows, J.Ratcliffe, I.Williams, P.A. (2013) Control of the properties of xanthan/glucomannan mixed gels by varying xanthan fine structureCarbohydr Polym. 92 pp. 101825 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.carbpol.2012.10.049

Garcia‐Ochoa, F.Santos, V.E.Casas, J.A.Gomez, E. (2000) Xanthan gum: Production, recovery, and propertiesBiotechnol. Adv. 18: pp. 54979https://doi.org/10.1016/S0734-9750(00)00050-1

Horn, M.M.Martins, V.C.Plepis, A.M. (2015) Influence of collagen addition on the thermal and morphological properties of chitosan/xanthan hydrogelsInt. J. Biol. Macromol.  80 pp. 22530.

1 Comment

  1. I bought this gum to help me with my keto diet and it’s fab, also arrived very quickly when I ordered it from Holland & Barrett. Sounds like another weird ingredient from the nuclear war. Have to say though that it probably is a useful one in replacing some of the trans fat I was feeding myself.

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