Glucomannan, the misunderstood ingredient

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We had a poll going on in Keto 2nd Breakfast (now Ketogenic Science Food and Recipes group) about what ingredients people find the most confusing\not sure how to use. Overwhelmingly, this one ingredient is the one people don’t get the most. I understand. Yes, poor Glucomannan, the misunderstood ingredient. It’s a unique thing and not many people have heard of it outside of Dr. Oz. This is probably the only time you will ever see me refer to him here, lol. I’m not a fan.

Glucomannan is the fiber from the konjac root. You may recognize that name if you’ve ever had anything like Miracle Noodles or shirataki noodles. Yup. It’s what they are made of along with Picking Spice. The smell of them isn’t the konjac, it’s the Pickling Spice. It reeks! Now, think about those noodles for a minute. The texture. Pretty dense and rubbery, right? That is Glucomannan. Glucomannan comprises 40% by dry weight of the roots, or corm, of the konjac plant. Glucomannan is a food additive used as an emulsifier and thickener. Great, you’re thinking, I use xathan or guar gum for that! I can replace Glucomannan with those. No. It’s different. Very different. Glucomannan will turn to a gel in very, very small quantities. It will turn into a gel BRICK in not much more quantity. 1 tablespoon has the ability to absorb 2 QUARTS of water and be a gel SOLID. Xanthan or guar will make a jelly, but it would take a cup of it or more to come close to anything solid.

Why is this important? Flexibility. While we use xanthan to give a little flex with protein powder, it lacks the strength. We use psyllium as a flex and binder, but it lacks the strength. We use Glucomannan because it has all of the above, while also helping retain moisture and improve texture. Glucomannan to me is like cream of tartar. There’s really no “good” replacement for it. Yeh, you can find some things that MIGHT work “eh,” but ultimately, you aren’t really going to get the results you are looking for. If you see it in a recipe and you don’t have it, find a different recipe.

I use it in my none-fathead pizza crust and pasta that doesn’t suck for a reason. It hold it together better than just about anything outside of melted cheese… without the calories that cheese brings with it. It keeps these from drying out to cardboard. It lets them flex and bend like they should. The Low Carb Friends using it their baking mix. It gives the structure you just can’t get from keto flours alone, without adding 20,000 egg whites. And you know how I feel about egg separation: D. Remember how I’ve talked about xathan gum used with protein isolate to give the flex needed to go with isolate’s strength? Glucomannan does that, but better. It doesn’t dry out as much so your isolate-based baked goods are dry bricks. Yes, you can replace xanthan or guar in most recipes with a VERY small amount of Glucomannan. You typically cannot do the reverse. Yes, Glucomannan isn’t cheap in bulk. Serving-per-serving, it is quite economical vs the gums. A little goes a long, long way.

On last thing on Glucomannan, it reduces the impact of flavors when it is cooked. Sweets taste less sweet than you expect. Natural flavors of almond and coconut flour are pretty much wiped out. Salt tends to disappear. If you decide to play with Glucomannan on your own, keep this in mind and add more of things you want for flavor – extracts, sweeteners, spices, salt – than you typically would. The take-away from this? If you see it in a recipe, it is there for a very specific reason and replacing it with something that isn’t the same thing is most likely going to give you depressing results. If you want to ketofy something that could benefit from its use, it is a fantastic way to bind, thicken, strengthen, flex, and retain moisture.

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