How to Use Gelatin and Agar-Agar

A lot of desserts that call for gelatin or agar-agar need to be prepared carefully. Even a slightest mistake can cost you your whole dessert. Follow these simple tips to ensure success every time.
By Kavitha Iyengar

Cooking with agar-agar

China grass or Agar Agar or Kanten is a sea weed and completely vegetarian. It gives a smooth, glossy finish and many chefs prefer to use it over gelatin. China grass, if used properly sets easily at room temperature. The method of using Agar Agar or Gelatin (which is derived from the collagen inside animals’ skin and bones) may be the same. Agar agar comes in flakes or powders.

Be careful to follow the recipe correctly to get the desired texture. These are some useful tips to cook with agar agar, china grass or kanten:

  • They need to be broken into pieces and softened by soaking in cold water for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Heat in low flame for them to melt completely. Never heat on a high or even medium flame.
  • When you boil agar agar, stir continuously or the flakes/powder will set in the bottom.
  • Do not over cook the agar agar mixture as it tends to set while cooking.
  • The agar agar mixture has to be added to another hot mixture immediately. Both the mixtures have to be HOT for the agar agar to set properly. If any one of them is cold, then your dessert will not set properly
  • In case the agar agar mixture solidifies before you add to another hot mixture, reheat in low flame until it melts again completely and then add it.
Kavitha Ramaswamy

Kavitha Ramaswamy

Kavitha Ramaswamy is the founder of www.Foodomania.com, a vegetarian and vegan Food Blog where she shares over 500 easy recipes with step by step pictures.

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Originally Published: January 27, 2012

24 Responses to How to Use Gelatin and Agar-Agar

  1. Jeanne Reply

    June 7, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    i want to make a mousse with agar agar. Is it necessary to heat the blended fruit mixture before I add the hot agar agar?

    • Kavi | Foodomania Reply

      August 12, 2013 at 12:07 am

      hi.. you’d essentially use the agar agar just like you would use gelatin. Now i don’t know what recipe you’re following so I wouldn’t know whether to heat or not

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  3. Andrea Fedder Reply

    August 7, 2013 at 3:20 am

    Do you substitute the same amount of agar agar in a recipe that calls for gelatin?

  4. Hiral Reply

    August 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Hey I want to use agar agar / china grass to make cheese cake ..pls tell me if it ll set properly or no

  5. Kavi @ Foodomania Reply

    August 18, 2013 at 1:05 am

    depends on the recipe.. for any recipe that calls for gelatin, you can use agar agar in the exact same quantity and use as instructed.. it will work

  6. Hiral Reply

    September 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I m using agar agar strands so what ll b the quantity instead of gelatin powder ? Pls help its urgent

  7. Elgin H Reply

    September 23, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Im making a vegan cheese and the recipe im using calls for agar agar powder, could i substitute flakes ? and if so whats the conversion from flakes to powder vice versa.

    Thank You

  8. Kavi @ Foodomania Reply

    September 24, 2013 at 12:20 am

    I would just pass these flakes through a spice mixer / food processor to break it up & make a powder.

  9. Maggie winter Reply

    October 8, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Could I use agar agar as I do gelatine in my smoothies, currently I just put a packet of gelatine in a blender full of smoothie for the benefits of gelatine could I add agar Agar in the same way. I’m not using it as a thickening agent just as a health benefit so would I need to heat it first or soak it, so unsure what to do any help would be great, cheers.

  10. Kavi @ Foodomania Reply

    October 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    I’d definitely say moisten it in water for a couple minutes before adding to smoothie. I’ve never used it just like that before.

  11. Priyanka Reply

    October 29, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    I can’t find agar – agar anywhere…. Can I use china grass instead of gelatine in. Cheesecake and in what quantity?

    • Kavitha Ramaswamy

      Kavitha Reply

      March 25, 2015 at 7:15 am

      YEs, but see that it is flavorless

  12. barbara morris Reply

    November 25, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    I have purchased a .25g packet of china grass but there are no instructions on how to use this .. I understand that I have to heat this slowly but don’t know how much water should be used with this one packet, would be grateful for some help please.

  13. Ah Moi Reply

    December 11, 2013 at 1:18 am

    1 packet of gelatine, how many cups of water and sugar, I want the ratio of water and sugar


  14. Malik Reply

    December 22, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Dear kavitha..
    Thank you for this information. I want to know how to add powder agar with vergan cheese with milk or after be cheese.
    With My greeting


  15. Amrita Manocha Reply

    April 27, 2014 at 11:04 am

    What if I want to set something that cannot be heated?

  16. Bev Jackson Reply

    June 5, 2014 at 5:32 am

    Hi As the person Amrita asked in April I would like to do a cold savoury mousse dish using agar agar. Your introduction says it has to be HOT to HOT and it will not work in a cold dish? What can I do here the dish is chilled not heated? Thank you

  17. varsha Reply

    July 15, 2014 at 4:56 am

    How much china grass is required in replacement of 1tblsp agar agar piwder or 1 tbsp gelatin powder?

  18. Dana Reply

    December 5, 2014 at 4:23 am

    Hi. I am looking for some advice on using agar agar to set equal quantities of fruit puree and granulated sugar. Some fruit (gooseberry) is higher in pectin that others (pears). I am struggling to get a firm set, like pate de fruit or fruit paste. I want to cut it into shapes after cooking/cooling so I need a firm set. Any pointers? Can you actually use too much agar agar? Thx

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  20. Sundari Reply

    April 2, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Hi,is there any way to add it to a cool or cold fruit puree? I am making a layered cake with coconut cream and top it with mango puree. if i heated the mango puree and pour it over the cream of coconut it would probably melt the coconut. what is your advice?

  21. Mrudula Dighe Reply

    April 16, 2015 at 5:47 am

    How can I use agar agar if I am using whipping cream and cream cheese in my dessert

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