Agar vs. Gelatin

What's the Difference?

Agar and gelatin are both commonly used as gelling agents in various food and scientific applications, but they have some notable differences. Agar, derived from seaweed, is a plant-based substance, making it suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. It has a higher gelling strength and can withstand higher temperatures, making it ideal for creating stable gels in hot dishes. On the other hand, gelatin is derived from animal collagen, making it unsuitable for vegetarian or vegan diets. It has a lower gelling strength and is more sensitive to heat, making it better suited for cold or room temperature applications like desserts and jellies. Overall, the choice between agar and gelatin depends on dietary restrictions, desired texture, and the specific application.


Photo by Julian Yu on Unsplash
SourceDerived from seaweedDerived from animal collagen
TextureFirm and brittleSoft and jiggly
Setting Temperature35-45°C20-30°C
Setting TimeQuickly, within minutesSlower, may take hours
ClarityClear and transparentTranslucent
FlavorNeutral tasteMild, slightly sweet
UsageCommonly used in microbiology, food industry, and pharmaceuticalsCommonly used in desserts, confectionery, and culinary applications
Photo by Girl with red hat on Unsplash

Further Detail


Agar and gelatin are two commonly used substances in the culinary world, particularly in the creation of desserts, jellies, and other food products. While both agar and gelatin serve the purpose of thickening and setting liquids, they differ in various aspects, including their sources, properties, and applications. In this article, we will explore the attributes of agar and gelatin, highlighting their similarities and differences.


Agar, also known as agar-agar, is derived from seaweed, specifically from the cell walls of red algae. It has been used for centuries in Asian cuisine and is known for its gelling properties. On the other hand, gelatin is a protein obtained from the collagen found in animal bones, skin, and connective tissues. It is commonly derived from pigs or cows, making it unsuitable for vegetarians or those following certain dietary restrictions.

Gelling Properties

Both agar and gelatin have the ability to form a gel when mixed with liquid. However, they differ in terms of their gelling properties. Agar has a higher gelling strength compared to gelatin, meaning it can create a firmer and more stable gel. Agar sets at a higher temperature, typically around 35-40°C (95-104°F), while gelatin sets at a lower temperature, around 15-20°C (59-68°F). This difference in gelling temperature can be advantageous in various culinary applications.

Texture and Mouthfeel

When it comes to texture and mouthfeel, agar and gelatin also exhibit dissimilar characteristics. Agar produces a gel that is firmer and more brittle compared to gelatin. It has a clean and smooth mouthfeel, often described as "snappy" or "crunchy." On the other hand, gelatin creates a softer and more elastic gel, which is often preferred in desserts and confections. The texture of gelatin is often described as "jiggly" or "wobbly," providing a pleasant and delicate mouthfeel.

Heat Stability

Agar and gelatin differ significantly in terms of their heat stability. Agar can withstand higher temperatures without losing its gelling properties, making it suitable for hot preparations such as soups, sauces, and custards. It remains stable even when exposed to boiling temperatures, making it a reliable choice for dishes that require heating. On the other hand, gelatin is heat-sensitive and can lose its gelling ability when exposed to high temperatures. It is best suited for cold or room temperature applications, such as desserts, mousses, and aspics.

Clarity and Transparency

Another attribute where agar and gelatin differ is in their clarity and transparency. Agar produces a clear and transparent gel, allowing for visually appealing presentations. This clarity makes it ideal for creating intricate designs or showcasing vibrant colors in desserts. Gelatin, on the other hand, tends to have a slightly cloudy appearance, which may not be desirable in certain culinary applications. However, gelatin can be clarified through various techniques, such as filtering or skimming off impurities, to achieve a clearer result.

Flavor and Odor

Agar and gelatin also vary in terms of flavor and odor. Agar is relatively flavorless and odorless, allowing it to be used in a wide range of dishes without altering the taste or aroma. This neutrality makes it a versatile ingredient that can be incorporated into both sweet and savory recipes. Gelatin, on the other hand, has a mild, slightly sweet taste and a subtle aroma. While it is generally well-received, the flavor and odor of gelatin may be noticeable in certain preparations, which can be either desirable or undesirable depending on the dish.


Agar and gelatin find applications in various culinary creations, each with its own strengths and limitations. Agar's firm gelling properties and heat stability make it suitable for creating molded desserts, aspics, and savory dishes that require stability at higher temperatures. It is also commonly used in vegetarian and vegan recipes as a gelatin substitute. Gelatin, with its softer texture and delicate mouthfeel, is widely used in desserts, including mousses, puddings, panna cotta, and jelly-based sweets. It is also a key ingredient in the production of gummy candies and marshmallows.


In conclusion, agar and gelatin are both valuable ingredients in the culinary world, offering unique attributes that cater to different needs and preferences. Agar, derived from seaweed, provides a firmer gel, heat stability, and clarity, making it suitable for a wide range of applications. Gelatin, sourced from animal collagen, offers a softer gel, delicate mouthfeel, and versatility in desserts. Understanding the differences between agar and gelatin allows chefs and home cooks to make informed decisions when selecting the appropriate ingredient for their culinary creations.

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