I volunteer at my local aquarium, so I’m pretty familiar with carrageenan, where it comes from, and it’s uses. So when I heard that Food Science Matters was talking about carrageenan I really wanted to be part of it. Not only did I think this was a great opportunity to share, but it was also a great opportunity for me to learn more about carrageenan. (As you know, I love to do research and learn more about different food ingredients.)
Sometimes when I’m at the aquarium, I get to go talk to the guests about what seaweed is (did you know seaweed is an algae?), and its many uses. That’s where carrageenan comes from – algae!
When I’m at the aquarium talking about carrageenan, it’s because we want to educate people that they use things from the ocean all the time, in fact possibly daily, and that they should care about the state of the ocean and the seaweed in the ocean. It’s sort of that whole “circle of life” thing – we use stuff from the ocean so we should care about it.
When I was researching carrageenan for this post and for Food Science Matters, I got to learn a ton of cool stuff about it! Like, the fact that you can make your own carrageenan in your kitchen! That’s super cool and science-y to me! I have the instructions for you lower in this post!
Did you know that carrageenan has been used by cooks for years? It’s a soluble fiber derived from seaweed. And it’s used as a plant-based stabilizer or thickener in food, cosmetics, and toothpastes. Simply put, carrageenan is a seaweed extract that makes sure that things don’t separate.
By the way, did you notice before where I said it’s plant-based? Yep, it’s a vegan ingredient that can be used like gelatin (an animal-based product). As a vegetarian, I appreciate that this plant-based thickener can replace gelatin in foods and other products. Also, carrageenan can be certified as both halal and kosher.
And, in case you’ve heard bad things about carrageenan, I wanted to briefly talk about the studies that suggested that a certain type of carrageenan could cause gastrointestinal problems, including cancers. These studies tested poligeenan, which is a completely different substance than carrageenan and not used in food. Carrageenan has been deemed safe for human consumption by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, an international committee of science experts administered by the United Nations and the World Health Organization, and approved for use in foods in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
If you’d like to read more about carrageenan, and its safety, hop on over to Food Science Matters where they have some great info. Also check them out on their social media:
- Red seaweed
- Cook the seaweed with a little salt, adding a bit of alcohol and then mixing it in a household blender to release the natural carrageenan.