Carrageenans are natural extracts taken from red seaweed. There are several types and one of the most popular is iota carrageenan.
Iota carrageenan can be used to thicken liquids and stabilize emulsions or foams. It's also very adept at creating gels. Iota carrageenan works best with dairy products but can be used with a variety of liquids.
Where to Buy Iota Carrageenan
You can buy iota carrageenan several places. We highly recommend ModernistPantry.com, they have great service and are really good to work with (because of this, we do have an affiliate relationship with them), and they also sell the Texturas brand. You can also find iota carrageenan at WillPowder and get larger quantities and bundles at ForTheGourmet.com.
How Much Iota Carrageenan to Use
The firmness of an iota carrageenan gel is determined by the amount of iota carrageenan used to create it. The more iota carrageenan used, the firmer the gel will become. Usually a percent of 0.75% to 1.5% iota carrageenan is used for gels. For dairy gels, 0.4% to 1.5% iota carrageenan is often used.
Iota carrageenan fluid gels are typically made out of gels created with a 0.1% to 1.0% ratio. Iota carrageenan foams use 0.2% to 1.0% gels. To thicken dairy liquids a ratio of 0.02% to 0.04% is often used.
Iota Carrageenan Dispersion and Hydration
In order for iota carrageenan to be used effectively it has to be properly dispersed and hydrated.
Iota Carrageenan Dispersion
Iota carrageenan is best dispersed in cool liquids. This will prevent hydration until the liquid is heated. An immersion blender or standing blender is the preferred tool to disperse the iota carrageenan.
Hydrating Iota Carrageenan
In order for iota carrageenan to hydrate properly it has to be brought above 70°C / 158°F. Iota carrageenan does not hydrate well with sugar and so sugar should be added after the hydration process is completed.
How to Thicken With Iota Carrageenan
The simplest application of iota carrageenan is the thickening of dairy products. Adding iota carrageenan to dairy based drinks or sauces is a great way to add thickness and improve mouthfeel.
To thicken a dairy liquid first disperse the iota carrageenan into the cold liquid using an immersion or standing blender. Then heat the liquid above 70°C / 158°F so it can hydrate. Let the liquid cool and it will thicken.
The amount of iota carrageenan used to thicken liquids really depends on how thick you want the liquid to become. Usually, a ratio of 0.02% to 0.04% is used. Anything much higher than that will begin to set as a gel. For greater thickening you can make a fluid gel as described below.
How to Create an Iota Carrageenan Gel
Creating a gel with iota carrageenan results in an elastic gel. The firmness of the gel will depend on how much iota carrageenan is used. You can make the gel more brittle by adding kappa carrageenan.
To gel, the liquid must contain calcium that is free to bind with the iota carrageenan. If the base ingredient lacks calcium it can be added in the form of calcium salts like calcium lactate or calcium chloride.
Making an iota carrageenan gel is similar to creating other gels. Make sure the liquid you are gelling is cold then use a standing or immersion blender to disperse the iota carrageenan into it. Heat the liquid above 70°C / 158°F then pour into molds and let cool.
The gel will set at 40-70°C / 104-158°F, depending on the amount of calcium ions present. It will melt about 5-10°C / 9-18°F above the setting temperature.
Iota carrageenan gels will usually use a ratio of 0.4% to 1.5% for dairy gels. For non-dairy gels, a 0.75% to 1.5% ratio is pretty standard. If you want a more brittle gel you can replace some of the iota carrageenan with kappa carrageenan. The more kappa carrageenan is added, the more brittle the final gel will be.
How to Create an Iota Carrageenan Fluid Gel
Iota carrageenan fluid gels are often used as cream sauces or puddings. They are made by blending an iota carrageenan gel until it is a smooth puree. Using an immersion blender or standing blender to puree the gel works well.
In general a ratio of 0.1% to 1% iota carrageenan will result in a fluid gel ranging from a thin cream sauce to pudding like. You can thicken the fluid gel by adding some xanthan gum or thin it out by adding water or another liquid when you are pureeing it.
How to Create an Iota Carrageenan Foam
Iota carrageenan foams are made from iota carrageenan fluid gels that are dispensed from a whipping siphon. These foams are thick, fine foams that are very dense.
For iota carrageenan foams, the more iota carrageenan you use the denser the resulting foam will be. The foams will range from light foams starting around 0.2% up to denser foams at 1.0%.
Iota Carrageenan Recipes and Articles
This recipe turns a popular spinach-garlic dip into a foam for dipping. It can be served with roasted pita squares or even just vegetables and chips. This dip also works great as a sauce to perk up the flavors of steak or chicken.
For a modern twist on this clam chowder with smoked clams recipe I gel the chowder, cube it, and serve it on a crunchy sourdough crouton with a smoked clam on top. A tasty and talked about party treat!
This recipe infuses milk with the great flavor of maple and pecan then turns it into a tender panna cotta dessert. The common modernist gelling ingredients of iota carrageean and kappa carrageenan are used to make the panna cotta portion; an immersion blender and a whipping siphon are both modernist equipment used to make this delicate ending to your meal.
This great party snack use a crispy bacon base topped with a creamy corn custard and a spicy poblano chile fluid gel to make a rich and complex one-bite snack.
I love peanut butter, whether its by itself, baked in something, or on veggies. This modernist recipe turns the peanut butter into a creamy custard gel. It is bound by a combination of iota carrageenan and kappa carrageenan and contains a little bit of sugar and some vanilla for flavoring.
This creamy iota carrageenan custard is full of poblano flavor and great as an addition to many different dishes. You can serve it alongside pork chops or pork belly, or even as a side with fish.
This article is by me, Jason Logsdon. I'm an adventurous home cook and professional blogger who loves to try new things, especially when it comes to cooking. I've explored everything from sous vide and whipping siphons to pressure cookers and blow torches; created foams, gels and spheres; made barrel aged cocktails and brewed beer. I have also written 10 cookbooks on modernist cooking and sous vide and I run the AmazingFoodMadeEasy.com website.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links on this site might be affiliate links that if used to purchased products I might receive money. I like money but I will not endorse something I don't believe in. Please feel free to directly go to any products I link to and bypass the referral link if you feel uncomfortable with me receiving funds.