A Handy Guide to Food Binders

While the term seems rather self-explanatory, food binders should be defined anyway. They are typically combined with other ingredients for food to gain a boost in moistness, shape, and texture. There’s also a nutritional value and flavor profile that can be applied to the snacks and meals they’re used on.

You’ll encounter food binders in one way or another while working in the kitchen. Whether you’re an aspiring chef or just want to whip up tasty meals for the family every time, here’s what you need to know about binding agents:

Binding Agents: In a Nutshell

As far as the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) is concerned, there are plenty of binding agents out there. They can be dairy products, vegetables, and fruit. In truth, a number of them aren’t even used in daily home cooking.

For brevity, here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Cracker crumbs
  • Eggs
  • Evaporated milk
  • Gelatin
  • Ground flax
  • Guar gum
  • Oatmeal
  • Milk
  • Potato starch
  • Psyllium husk
  • Rice
  • Tapioca
  • Wheat flour
  • Xanthan gum

Psyllium husk may ring a bell: that’s because it’s fiber from plant husks used in supplements or as a powder. It’s ideal for lowering cholesterol levels, though major amounts can have side effects. A teaspoon can easily be an egg substitute in recipes, at a 1:1 ratio. 

Guar gum stems from legumes, while xanthan gum is from fermented sugar. They are examples of binders not used regularly in your kitchen, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) counts them as “safe and suitable” for food binding use.

Binding Flour

  • White Flour

As expected, white flour is a widely used binding agent, used in cakes, cookies, muffins, and even savory dishes. Since it doesn’t have fiber, healthy fat, or protein, there are hardly any nutrients in it. However, there are other types of flour (such as wheat flour) that can provide nutrition while serving as food binders.

  • Almond Flour

Almond flour is great for baking. According to a study published by the American Heart Association’s journal in 2015, bad LDL cholesterol could be reduced by almonds. They were also found to serve as protection against cardiometabolic disorders. For the most part, it’s gluten-free, save for when it’s produced in a facility that also handles wheat.

  • Oat Flour

Carb-conscious people will benefit from oat flour. It’s made of ground-up, rolled oats. All one has to do is grind rolled oats in a food processor until they turn into a fine powder. There’s more protein and fiber in this than what’s found in all-purpose flour.

  • Coconut Flour

For a flour that has plenty of fiber, digestible carbohydrates, and healthy fats, check out coconut flour. It works well for people who have nut allergies as well. That said, when used for baking, there has to be more oil or water used than usual.

Egg Replacement

As mentioned, eggs are one of the most common food binders in our kitchen. However, some people have an allergy to eggs; others have reasons for being averse to them. Either way, one egg in a recipe can be replaced by the likes of:

  • 1/2 mashed banana (medium)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce (or other pureed fruit)
  • 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 3.5 tablespoons of a gelatin blend

Conclusion

Food binders are an important part of the food landscape. They are helpful in keeping food moist, shaping food, and boosting its texture. The USDA has a particularly long list, but among the most popular are flour and eggs. Now that you know these food binders, you’ll better understand the dynamics of food as you prepare your family’s meals at home!

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