Agar-Agar Vs. Gelatin: Differences Explained

Both gelatin and agar-agar serve a similar purpose in your recipes. While these two might now look the same, they are both used as thickening or gelling agents. They are used as one of the essential ingredients while preparing desserts. While agar-agar and gelatin can be used interchangeably in your recipes, there are a few notable differences.

What is Agar-agar?

Agar-agar powder.

Agar-agar is a jelly-like, plant-based substance extracted from red algae, a type of seaweed. It is a mix of carbohydrates and is popularly known as plant-based gelatin. Agar-agar was popular in Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries, where people used it to create jellies for centuries.

This semi-translucent, white vegetable gelatin is packed and commercially sold in the form of bars, powders, flakes, or strands. Agar-agar is used in recipes as a stabilizing or a thickening agent. If you are thinking about cooking with agar-agar, it’s best to use it in a powdered form.

What is Gelatin?

Gelatin is a type of natural protein which is derived from raw collagen. This renowned thickening agent has been promoted through the cosmetic industry for decades as an anti-aging substance. Gelatin contains over 18 amino acids, a crucial part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Gelatin is made by cooking animal ligaments, skin, bones, or tendons to derive raw collagen from their cells. Due to its unique thickening and gelling properties, most professional chefs and manufacturers use it as a food ingredient. If you’re looking for a thickening agent with health benefits, gelatin is the perfect ingredient to invest in.

Agar-agar Vs. Gelatin: What’s the Difference?

While both agar-agar and gelatin are popularly used worldwide in the preparation of desserts, they are somewhat different from each other. The significant difference between the two is the way they are produced. While agar-agar is a vegan and plant-based substance, gelatin is derived from livestock collagen. 

These thickening agents need to be prepared differently while using them for your recipes. While you can simply dissolve gelatin in warm water, you must boil agar-agar to set it properly. Desserts made with agar-agar are set more quickly and easily than gelatin and do not require refrigeration.

You can easily substitute gelatin with agar-agar in your recipes. Since it’s a little more potent than gelatin, one teaspoon of agar-agar in a cup of liquid would make an excellent gelling agent. On the other hand, you would need eight teaspoons of gelatin to reach the same consistency. 


While agar-agar and gelatin are thickening agents, their nutritional values are different. Agar-agar is an excellent vegan substitute for gelatin and is gaining popularity worldwide. Although agar-agar is a little firmer and less creamy than gelatin, you would not taste any difference in your recipes.