Pectin is a polysaccharide that is soluble and fibrous. It contains a long chain of edible sugars and is usually found in fruits and vegetables.
Since this compound turns into a gel when heated in a liquid, it is good for making jams and jellies.
Unfortunately, some people are allergic to pectin and it may even cause gas or bloating in others.
Moreover, commercial pectin isn’t all that accessible and can even be pricey. In this brief guide, we will explore some substitutes for pectin powder.
9 Best Substitutes for Pectin
Here are some substitutes that you can use instead if you don’t have access to commercial pectin. While some of these can be found lying around the house, others might need to be bought from the store.
Citrus peels are one of the most commonly available substitutes for store-bought pectin. This could be from any citric fruit like oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and the like.
In fact, citrus peels are frequently used as ingredients to make pectin powder. The rinds and the white pith constitute large amounts of this polysaccharide.
They can be chopped or diced into small pieces and added to the preserve that you’re making. Simply add the citrus bits into the pot as you stir the jam and enjoy the fresh fragrance of the citric acid.
This option works best for those individuals who get some kind of physiological reaction to pectin intake. It’s also preferable for someone with a sweet tooth.
Slowly adding more sugar and stirring for hours was the traditional way of making jams and jellies. This is a much more time-consuming process but it’s an effective way to avoid pectin altogether.
The end product is thick and delicious but it loses out on some of its nutritional quality. Cooking it for so long tends to break down some of the nutrients of the raw fruit or vegetable.
Cornstarch is a kind of starch derived from maize grains. It is usually used to thicken sauces and soups because of its transformation when mixed with low-temperature liquids.
When cornstarch is heated, the chains of molecules inside open up and collide with other chains to form a mesh. This creates the translucent and creamy texture in the liquid it is added to.
Cornstarch can not only be used as a pectin replacement but also as an anticaking agent in powdered sugar.
Gelatin is frequently used in kitchens to thicken the consistency of foods and to make them jiggle. This is not a vegan ingredient as it uses collagen, the animal equivalent to cellulose.
For non-vegan cooking, this is an excellent replacement for pectin. Much like the latter, gelatin consists of long chains of carbohydrates.
Put together, these compounds have a fibrous output that catalyzes the coagulation of preserves.
Compared to pectin powder, gelatin costs about the same. This makes it only a good substitute for people allergic to pectin if they don’t mind animal products.
Apples are the main ingredient in commercially made pectin. If you have access to plenty of green and tart apples, you don’t need to buy pectin at all.
You can simply make it at home. All you need to do is wash and cut whole apples into big pieces and boil them.
Do this first on high flame and then simmer. When cool, strain the contents through a cheesecloth and boil the juice again.
The quantity should reduce to half when done and voila! You’ll have yourself some fine-grade, homemade pectin for all your cooking experiments.
Don’t worry, we have another option for vegan readers allergic to pectin who try to avoid sugar. Tapioca is a natural carbohydrate that contains absolutely no allergens.
It comes from the tropical plant cassava and can be used whole or as tapioca starch.
This ingredient is often used in traditional cooking to thicken milk-based desserts. It acts in a similar way to pectin, sugar, and gelatin.
As it is primarily a polysaccharide as well, it will react in the same way when heated. Tapioca can substitute pectin in your kitchen and add to the texture of confectionery
Chia seeds are considered a superfood because of their nutritional value. These are seeds of the flowering plant, Salvia hispanica, native to Southern Mexico.
Chia seeds are packed with protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and omega 3 fatty acids. They come with natural gelling properties so they make a favorable alternative to pectin.
Add whole seeds to your jelly in the ratio of two spoons per 8-ounce jar of jam. It’s up to you to leave the seeds as they are or to puree the whole thing for a smoother texture.
When we say Jello, we mean the store-bought ready-made mix for flavored jelly. This substitute for pectin is a better option for novices or others who’re not too keen on making things from scratch.
Jello works perfectly to create multi-flavored preserves, especially if it’s already lying around in the kitchen. The core ingredient is gelatin, so this too is a non-vegan substitute.
But the advantage of jello over gelatin is that it is available in a variety of flavors. Also, it is a lot more accessible than gelatin or pectin.
If you’ve heard of agar before, it was probably not in the context of cooking. Agar is typically found in laboratories and is a jelly-like substance used for tissue culture.
But this gelatinous nature of agar makes it a suitable replacement for pectin. It is derived from a special kind of algae called Rhodophyta.
Agar is a mixture of two components, one of which is called “agaropectin”. As the name suggests, this reacts similarly to pectin when boiled. That’s why agar is used for making desserts in countless Asian kitchens.
There are plenty of ways to thicken a jam without using pectin. Agar, gelatin, tapioca, and cornstarch make excellent substitutes for this fruit-based thickening agent.
All of these contain similar polysaccharides that react in the same way as pectin when heated in a liquid. Pectin can also be made at home using green apples or citrus piths and rinds.
Yes, it is possible to make jelly without pectin. Animal-based options include gelatin and commercial Jello mixes. Other, plant-based substitutes are agar, tapioca, Chia seeds, and citrus peels. You can even make pectin at home from apples if they are green and tart.
Gelatin can be used as a substitute for pectin because it reacts in a similar way when heated. It is the main ingredient in Jello mixes. However, gelatin is a non-vegan product as it contains collagen, the animal equivalent of cellulose. Vegan replacements for pectin are tapioca, chia seeds, and extra sugar.
Pectin is an important ingredient for making jams and jellies but it is not an essential one.
There are several substitutes for pectin that are much more accessible. You can use citrus peels, tapioca, chia seeds, gelatin, cornstarch, or agar.
You can even try the traditional method of slow cooking with lots more sugar. Pectin can also be made at home if you have access to plenty of green tangy apples.