Unflavored gelatin is used to thicken foods and to act as a food stabilizer. Vegetarians and vegans find substitutes for gelatin when it’s called for in a recipe because it’s made by boiling the tissues and bones from pigs and cattle. Although some of these substitutes might sound exotic, they are sold in American stores.


Kudzu is a fast-growing tuberous vine (meaning it contains enlarged pods that contain nutrients for the vine) found in Eastern Asia and the Southeastern region of the United States. The starchy powder that’s made from the vine’s roots is used as a thickening agent.

Pectin and Sugar

Combine pectin and sugar to make a gelatin substitute. Pectin is the primary material that binds cell walls in fruit. Because of their chemical compositions, when pectin and sugar are warmed and blended, they form a gel.


Arrowroot is an herb that grows in rain forests. Like kudzu, its tuberous roots are harvested to produce a starchy powder. Arrowroot is found in such foods as Korean noodles, fruit gels and cakes.

Agar Agar

Agar Agar, a material that’s extracted from a Gelidium species of red seaweed, is known for its strong gelling ability. It also has an advantage over gelatin: Instead of having to refrigerate agar agar to make it to gel, you only need to allow it to sit for about 60 minutes at room temperature.