Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a versatile food additive that helps improve the texture, viscosity, and shelf life of various food and beverage product formulations.
18 min read

Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide commonly used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in food products. It is derived from the fermentation of glucose by Xanthomonas campestris bacteria. Xanthan gum helps improve the texture, viscosity, and shelf life of various food and beverage items. It is a versatile ingredient that is safe for consumption and widely accepted in the food industry. 

What is Xanthan Gum?

Chemically speaking, xanthan gum is a complex polysaccharide composed of repeating units of glucose linked by β-1,4-glycosidic bonds. The structure of xanthan gum is highly branched, with side chains extending from the main chain. A trisaccharide side chain contains mannose, glucuronic acid, and mannose consecutively. These units are linked together by glycosidic bonds, forming a long chain structure. Approximately half of the terminal mannose contains a pyruvic acid residue with unknown distribution. 

A black background with white text

Description automatically generated

Source: Wikipedia

How is Xanthan Gum Produced?

The production of xanthan gum involves the fermentation of a sugar source, such as glucose or sucrose, by Xanthomonas campestris bacteria. During fermentation, the bacteria produce enzymes that convert the sugar into the polysaccharide xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is an exopolysaccharide, i.e., it is secreted outside the cell. The resulting xanthan gum is then purified from the fermentation broth and dried to form a powder.

Cultures of X. campestris are grown using submerged aerobic fermentation in a sterilized medium composed of carbohydrates, a nitrogen source, phosphates (potassium), and trace minerals. This culture is precipitated by isopropyl alcohol, and the fibers are separated by centrifugation, dried, milled, and sieved. Xanthan production is influenced by the type and initial concentration of carbon and nitrogen sources, as well as by phosphate and citric concentration.

Applications in the Food Industry 

Rheology ModifierXanthan gum modifies the rheology of a food system by altering its viscosity (flow behavior).
ThickenerXanthan gum is hydrophilic, meaning it has a strong affinity for water. When xanthan gum is added to a liquid, it quickly hydrates and forms a viscous gel or solution. This gel-like consistency gives xanthan gum its thickening properties.
Gelling AgentXanthan is a non-gelling hydrocolloid. However, it does form gels when combined with agarose, kappa-type carrageenans, and konjac glucomannan.
EmulsifierThe presence of xanthan gum in oil-in-water emulsions enhances the system’s stability by improving the viscosity and preventing the separation of two phases. In concentrations higher than 0.08%, xanthan gum slows creaming in emulsions.
StabilizerXanthan gum provides uniformity to food products by improving the cloud, phase, and suspension stability. 
Mouthfeel ImproverXanthan gum improves the mouthfeel of food products by suspending and thickening. 

Product Examples

SavorySoups, salad dressings, sauces
ConfectioneryTopping creams, sweet sauces, jams & jellies, candies, gummies
DessertsDairy-based desserts, gelled desserts, ice creams
BakeryCake, bread, cookies
BeveragesReady-to-drink beverages, powdered beverages, flavored beverages, dairy-based beverages
ConvenienceReady mixes, cereal products

Specialized Applications

Xanthan gum’s properties make it ideal for use in a variety of specialized diets and applications, as described below.

  • Gluten-free products: Xanthan gum acts effectively as a gluten replacement to improve the texture of products where wheat flour or gluten additive would typically be used. It provides the binding required for gluten-free formulations and enhances the mouthfeel of the food. 
  • Reduced fat recipes: Xanthan gum forms a gel network, which can hold water. It improves the cohesiveness, gumminess, and chewiness in food products with low-fat content.   
  • Reduced carbohydrate recipes: Although the composition of xanthan gum consists of carbohydrates, it can help in reducing the overall carbohydrate content of the final food product. It accomplishes this by contributing high viscosities at very low concentrations in solution. It can replace other hydrocolloids like starch, agar, and pectin, which must be used in higher concentrations to achieve a similar viscosity. 

Properties of Xanthan Gum

Physical FormPowder
ColorCream color
OdorYeast-like smell
Storage Temperature & ConditionsStore in a cool, dry place in a tightly closed container.
Molecular Weight933.748 g·mol−1
pH (1 % Aqueous)6.0-8.0
Density (20 °C)1.5 g/cm3
Viscosity, 1% at {Temperature}1200-1600 cps
Moisture Content10-13%
Activation Energy (kJ/mol)44.65
Melting Point64.43 °C
Refractive Index1.3447
SolubilitySoluble in both cold and hot water
Claims (*Product Specific)Natural*, Halal*, Kosher*

Typical Formulations

Gluten-free Bread

Here is an example of a gluten-free bread formulation with xanthan gum, along with the weight of ingredients: 

IngredientComposition (g)
White rice flour18.6
Brown rice flour5.8
Potato starch5.4
Tapioca flour2.3
Oat flour9.3
Non-fat milk powder4.1
Sodium bicarbonate0.25
Sugar granulated0.75
Dry yeast2.0
Salt substitute0.6
Water (6–48°C)39.5
Whole egg7.4
Sodium stearoyl lactylate0.4
Novamyl@ BG0.01
Xanthan gum3.6

In this formulation, xanthan gum helps to texturize gluten-free bread. The loaf rise of the bread, both during proofing and baking, is improved when xanthan gum is used compared to other hydrocolloid

Source: Jungbunzlauer

Flavored Beverage

Here is an example of a flavored beverage formulation with xanthan gum, along with the % weight of ingredients: 

Ingredient% Composition
Thickener mix(xanthan gum: CMC: Water = 0.1: 0.5: 200)20.06
SHMP mix(ascorbic acid: SHMP: Water = 0.3: 1: 587.2)58.85
Vitamin C0.04
Sweetener (high fructose corn syrup)13.0
Beverage concentrate8.0
Potassium sorbate0.05

In this formulation, xanthan gum stabilizes the flavor/cloud emulsion by increasing the relative viscosity of the diluted juice beverage. 

Source: Google Patents 

Ice Cream

Here is an example of an ice cream formulation table with xanthan gum, along with the % weight of ingredients: 

Ingredient% Composition
Skimmed milk (32.5% solids)30
Sucrose syrup25 (15% solids + 10 % water)
Locust bean gum0.1
Xanthan gum0.2
Butter oil6
Palm monoglycerides0.5
Flavor & color0.04
WaterMake up to 100

In this formulation, a stabilizer mix with xanthan gum is used to obtain ice cream with ideal properties at deep freeze and eating temperatures. This stabilizer does not deleteriously affect the feel of the ice cream in the mouth, unlike other stabilizer systems.

Source: Google Patents 

Benefits of Xanthan Gum in Food Applications

Xanthan gum increases low shear rate viscosity in liquid foods while having little effect on the viscosity of the food products at high shear rates. This capability provides many advantages for food makers—the food product becomes easy to pour, mix, and pump. Moreover, the organoleptic properties and sensory qualities (flavor release, mouthfeel) are improved. 

The properties that truly distinguish xanthan gum are as follows:

  • The most important rheological properties of xanthan gum are high viscosity at low shear rates, its pronounced shear-thinning nature, and excellent resistance to shear degradation.
  • Xanthan gum has high resistance to pH variations in the range of 2-12.
  • Xanthan gum is compatible with most commercially available thickeners, including cellulose derivatives, starch, pectin, gelatin, dextrin, alginate, and carrageenan.
  • Xanthan gum shows a synergistic increase in viscosity with galactomannan.
  • Xanthan gum solutions are not depolymerized by enzymes commonly encountered in food products and raw materials.
  • Low effective calorie content can be achieved despite the high caloric value of xanthan gum due to the need to add only minimal amounts to achieve the desired viscosity.

Xanthan Gum Formulation Considerations

Stability & Compatibility

Xanthan gum is resistant to heat and pH changes, making it suitable for various food applications. It can withstand high temperatures (<90°C) without breaking down or losing its thickening properties. It is highly resistant to enzymatic degradation due to the nature of the sugar linkages and the structure of the side chains on the polysaccharide backbone. 

Xanthan gum produces solutions that have a wide range of compatibility with many food and non-food ingredients and additives. Xanthan gum tolerates most salts and high levels of monovalent ions. Depending on the type of ions, pH, and concentration, adding electrolytes can increase or decrease the viscosity and stability. Xanthan gum’s stability and compatibility are described in the table below.

Temperature< 70°C
OxidationProne to thermal-oxidative damage
MoistureVery hygroscopic

Rheological Properties

Xanthan gum solutions are shear thinning fluids. Xanthan gum exhibits strong pseudoplastic behavior, especially in solutions that are in the semi-diluted region (> 2,000 ppm). In fully diluted solutions (< 2,000 ppm), it shows a slight pseudoplastic behavior. Newtonian behavior is seen when xanthan gum concentrations are below 500 ppm. The viscosity of solutions and degree of shear thinning increase with the concentration of xanthan gum. Concentrated xanthan gum solutions do not form a chemically cross-linked stable (strong) gel but exhibit a weak gel-like behavior. A small amount (1%) of xanthan increases water viscosity by a factor of 100,000 at low shear rates, yet only by a factor of 10 at high shear rates. This degree of pseudoplasticity is difficult to match when using other hydrocolloid
The effects of various factors on xanthan gum solutions are described in the table below.

Gum ConcentrationThe degree of pseudoplasticity and the value of the transition from a soft gel to pseudoplastic behavior is directly related to xanthan gum concentration.
pHIn a study, the stability of gum solutions and pH values did not show a linear correlation. For this reason, xanthan gum solutions are considered to have high stability over a wide range of pH (3-10). The effect of pH on viscosity is gum-concentration dependent. At a gum level of 0.25%, maximum viscosity is achieved between pH 6 and 8; there is a slight decrease on either side of this range.In another study, pH was reported to have a strong effect on the emulsion ability of xanthan gum due to electrostatic interactions. The stability of emulsions at a pH of 3 was found to be better than at a pH of 5-8.
Salt ContentThe presence of ionic materials can stabilize the three-dimensional gum network. However, the effect of salt on xanthan gum solutions should be considered. Adding salt reduces the viscoelasticity of xanthan gum solutions in the semi-dilute region (5000-2000 ppm). However, studies on xanthan gum in saltwater revealed that the change in viscosity when stored at elevated temperatures was smaller than xanthan gum in distilled water solutions. A study revealed that increasing salt content from 110,000 to 220,000 ppm increased the viscosity of gum solutions, possibly because the extremely high salinity allowed the gum to recover its entangled partially-ordered conformance. The salt concentration affects the rheological properties of xanthan gum only after a threshold concentration in solution. For example, in a study, the addition of salt only affected xanthan gum solutions when above 0.3%.
TemperatureThe effect of temperature on solution viscosity is gum-concentration dependent. An increase in temperature decreases the viscosity of solutions of higher concentrations (>0.25) of gum. The shear thinning behavior of xanthan gum also decreased with increased temperature.Increasing temperature increases molecular mobility and, therefore, should decrease viscosity. However, a temperature increase also increases the thermal degradation of the polymer, which causes an increase in the viscosity, complicating the phenomenon. The effect of temperature on viscosity is affected significantly by the salt concentration in the solution. Extreme temperatures are damaging for xanthan gum solutions. In a study, at 120°C, xanthan gum solutions were observed with decreased shear stress and fluid loss.
AlcoholXanthan gum can be used to increase the viscosity of food alcohols up to a level of 60% w/w alcohol. Above this alcohol level, the gum becomes incompatible with the alcohol, and a gel results.
Other AdditivesIn a study, an anionic surfactant (SDS) affected the rheological properties of the solution by decreasing the viscosity of the solution through a charge-shielding mechanism.

Modified Xanthan Gum

Native xanthan gum has limitations, including susceptibility to microbial contamination, unusable viscosity, poor thermal and mechanical stability, and inadequate water solubility. Chemical modification can circumvent these limitations and tailor the properties of virgin xanthan gum.

  • In a study, pyruvate-free xanthan gum was produced using glyoxal and Na2SO3 during the production process to improve thermal stability. The elimination of pyruvate reduced the negative charge on the molecule, thus allowing glyoxal to cross-link the xanthan gum molecules, whereas Na2SO3 prevented oxidation. 
  • Xanthan gum was modified with methyl methacrylate to obtain a higher viscosity and shear stress. 
  • Xanthan gum was reacted with acrylic acid in the presence of a catalyst to form xanthan acrylate, which improved viscosity for high-temperature and high-salinity reservoirs.
  • Purified xanthan gum was heat-treated in a powder state to reduce the spinnability of an aqueous solution and to obtain >=1200 cps viscosity at 1% concentration.

Physicochemical Properties

ViscosityXanthan gum is an efficient thickener used in food systems. Concentrations as low as 0.1% by weight will cause a significant increase in viscosity. 
Xanthan gum imparts a relatively high viscosity at near-zero shear, which is typical during beverage storage, but shear thins dramatically to provide an appropriate thickness character when a beverage is consumed.
Pasting PropertiesIn a study, xanthan gum increased hot paste viscosity and final viscosity while decreasing peak viscosity in starches.
Phase stabilityXanthan gum is not an emulsifier but helps to stabilize an emulsion once it has been formed. It reduces the surface tension between the two immiscible substances, such as oil and water, preventing them from separating. 
In a study, adding xanthan gum at 0.05% and above caused an increase in the viscosity and, hence, the stability of water-in-oil-in-water type emulsions. 
Cloud stabilitySince juice particles are negatively charged, adding food gums with a negative charge is expected to increase electrostatic repulsive forces between particles.
In a study, adding 0.4-0.5% by weight of xanthan gum to a non-centrifuged cloudy apple juice completely inhibited juice clarification, and turbidity was stable for extended periods of storage. 
Foam StabilityAdsorption at fluid interfaces of whey proteins was improved by synergistic interactions with xanthan gum, resulting in better surface and viscoelastic properties of the film interface.
Water absorptionIn a study, xanthan gum steadily increased the water absorption and mixing time of whole wheat dough. The highest water absorption, with a 20% increase, was noted for 1.0% xanthan gum.
Freezing propertiesXanthan gum inhibits the formation of elongated ice crystals in frozen desserts, preventing growth in crystal size at low temperatures in abusive storage with temperature fluctuations. 
In a study, adding xanthan gum reduced the size of ice crystals in a sugar solution. 

Nutritional Properties

Calorie ContentXanthan gum contains carbohydrates (77g/100 g). The caloric value of xanthan gum is 333 cal/100g. The addition of xanthan gum to food products adds significant calories. However, xanthan gum is unlikely to be absorbed intact and is expected to be fermented by intestinal microbiota.

Sensorial Properties

TasteXanthan gum has no significant flavor, so it works well with various flavor profiles and does not affect food taste when used in moderate concentrations.
TextureXanthan gum affects rheology and water absorption in food products, affecting food texture. Xanthan gum increases the hardness of noodles. Adding xanthan gum imparts a softer, more cohesive (less crumbly), elastic texture to gluten-free bread.
MouthfeelXanthan gum improves the mouthfeel of beverage products by altering the rheological properties. In a study, xanthan gum was added to cloudy apple juice at concentrations <0.01%, which significantly improved the mouthfeel of the beverage.
Flavor releaseXanthan gum improves the flavor of foods by modulating the rate of flavor release. In a study, the release rates of limonene and hydrophobic esters significantly decreased at a 0.02% xanthan gum concentration. Reduction of release rates for more hydrophilic esters (ex., methyl butanoate and ethyl butanoate) was found at the higher viscosity (0.8%). 

Comparison with Other Hydrocolloids

Hydrocolloids are a heterogeneous group of long-chain polymers (polysaccharides and proteins) characterized by their ability to form viscous dispersions and/or gels when dispersed in water. The presence of many hydroxyl (-OH) groups markedly increases their affinity for binding water molecules, rendering them hydrophilic compounds. 

This shear-thinning character of xanthan gum is more pronounced than that of other polysaccharide systems such as guar gum, locust bean gum, hydroxyethyl cellulose, and sodium carboxymethyl cellulose. The unique rigid, rod-like conformation of xanthan gum is more responsive to shear than a random-coil conformation. The table below compares typical properties and applications of some commonly used thickening hydrocolloids. 

Hydrocolloid as a ThickenerPropertiesApplication in Food Products
Xanthan GumHighly shear thinning; maintains viscosity in the presence of electrolytes, high temperature, and wide pH ranges.Soups and gravies, ketchup, instant beverages, desserts, toppings, and fillings
Carboxymethyl Cellulose (CMC)High viscosity but is reduced by adding electrolytes and at low pH.Salad dressings, gravies, fruit pie fillings, ketchup
Methyl Cellulose (MC) and Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose (HPMC)Viscosity increases with temperature independent of pH and electrolytes.Salad dressings, cake batters, beverages, whipped toppings
Gum ArabicLow viscosity gum; shear thinning at low shear rates (<10/sec); near Newtonian behavior above 100/sec of shear rate.Fruit juice-based beverage, soft drinks
Galactomannans (guar gum, locust bean gum, and tara gum)Very high low-shear viscosity; highly shear thinning; independent of electrolytes but degrade and lose viscosity at high and low pHs and high temperatures.Dairy products, including ice cream, ketchup, fruit juices, pudding powder, cake batter
Konjac MannanForms highly viscous dispersions that are not influenced by the addition of salts; forms thermally irreversible gels with alkali.Noodles and jelly desserts
Gum TragacanthSwells rapidly in cold or hot water to form highly viscous dispersions, up to 4000 mPas at 1% solids.Salad dressings, bakery emulsions, fruit beverages, sauces

Synergistic Use 

When used alone, xanthan gum doesn’t contribute much thickening or gelling. However, when combined with other hydrocolloids like locust bean gum, it forms strong gels. It also forms gels when combined with agarose, kappa-type carrageenans, and konjac glucomannan. 

Use as Gluten Replacement

Xanthan gum acts as a binder—and thus a gluten substitute—that holds baked goods together, prevents them from being too crumbly, and greatly improves their texture. In a study, adding xanthan gum to gluten-free bread made of rice, maize, and quinoa produced batters of lower stickiness, adhesion, and cohesive strength yet of higher firmness, consistency, cohesiveness, and viscosity index. After baking, these loaves presented lower specific volume; lower crumb, pH, hardness, springiness, mean cell area, and void fraction; and higher chewiness, resilience, mean cell density, cell size uniformity, and mean cell compactness.


The dosage of xanthan gum in food products varies from 0.01 to 1% and above. The dosage varies with respect to application and desired outcome. 

Safety & Regulatory Considerations

FDA InformationThe FDA has approved xanthan gum as a food additive. It is included in the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) under Title 21, Part 172.695.
EU Information Xanthan gum is regulated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as a food additive. It is listed in the EU’s food additives database under the code E415. The maximum permitted level of xanthan gum in various food categories is specified in the EU’s food additive regulations.
Other Regulatory InformationOther countries and regions, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, also regulate xanthan gum as a food additive and have established maximum permitted levels and specifications for its use.

Health Effects of Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum may have a positive impact on blood sugar levels. Research has shown that consuming xanthan gum can help slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which may be helpful for individuals with diabetes. In a study, xanthan gum consumption (12 g to 14.5 g daily) lowered fasting glucose by 38% and postprandial serum glucose by 31% to 37%]. Xanthan gum also reduced postprandial glucose by 13% when given alone and 36% when combined with Beta-glucan.

Safety & Toxicity of Xanthan Gum

Studies have shown that xanthan gum is nontoxic and has no adverse effects on human health when consumed in typical amounts found in food products. The body does not metabolize it, and it passes through the digestive system without absorption.

A panel by EFSA concluded that there is no safety concern from using xanthan gum (E 415) in foods for special medical purposes consumed by infants and young children at concentrations reported by the food industry.

Identification Numbers

CAS Number11138-66-2
EC Number234-394-2
INS No. (Food Additive)E 415
JECFA NumberINS 415

Acceptable Limits or Maximum Usage

The maximum usage level of xanthan gum in the food industry per the EU is as follows.

CategoryUsage Level
Unflavored live fermented cream productsQuantum satis
Tabletop sweeteners in liquid formQuantum satis
Table-top sweeteners in powder formQuantum satis
Canned or bottled fruit and vegetablesQuantum satis
Jam, jellies, marmalades, and similar products10000 mg/kg
Other similar fruit or vegetable spreads10000 mg/kg
Processed cereal-based foods and baby foods for infants10000 mg/kg20000 mg/kg in gluten free cereal products
Other foods for young children10000 mg/kg
Dietary foods for infants for special medical purposes1200 mg/kg
Dietary foods for babies and young children1200 mg/kg
Meat preparationsQuantum satis

Fun Facts About Xanthan Gum

  • Xanthan gum can increase satiety or feelings of fullness. Consuming foods containing xanthan gum can help reduce appetite and decrease food intake, which may be helpful for weight management.
  • Xanthan gum is also used in a variety of other industries for product development. It’s commonly used in cosmetic and personal care products, including lotions, shampoos, and creams, to provide texture and stability.

Additional Sources & Resources