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In soups that traditionally include a consommé as the base, such as French Onion Soup, what are some ways to replace the mouthfeel of the gelatin-rich stock when converting the recipe to be vegetarian?

Background - I am quite happy with my vegetarian French Onion Soup recipe, using Vegemite to add umami, and homemade vegetable stock for a solid base, but the one aspect left somewhat unsatisfying is the "richness" or unique mouthfeel of the consommé. I know there won't be any perfect replacement, but I need some inspiration. Most discussions on gelatin substitution seem to focus on more obvious gelatin applications (jello-style desserts). I'm hoping that for soup mouthfeel there might be some other options I haven't considered.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Agar...derived from seaweed. Used in McDonald's milk shakes because it's vegetarian and cheap, lab petri dishes and vegetarian cooking. Doesn't have a flavour. You can find it in health food stores but I think many grocery stores are carrying it these days. Heat it up in water like gelatin and when it cools you have jelly.

You could use Arrowroot to give a slight thickening for texture or even cornstarch but I'm thinking those won't give you quite what you're looking for though Arrowroot will be closer.

I think there is a Chia seed gelatin too but don't have any first hand experience with it. Chia seeds when soaked in water give off this thick gelatenous substance, very weird to see it happen. Ask about it at the Health food store too.

Here's a website for a few more substitution ideas.

Good luck!

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I'm not sure about the arrowroot - while it thickens, the mouthfeel of the resulting hydrocolloid is very different from gelatine. Agar will probably be closer, haven't tried it. – rumtscho Feb 15 '12 at 9:28
+1 Thanks, agar sounds like an interesting possibility and something I haven't tried before. I use arrowroot in a number of other soups, but doesn't seem quite right for the French Onion Soup. – Sam Ley Feb 17 '12 at 3:08
Agar gets my vote too but in just this soup, a wee portion of the soft-cooked onions pureed into the soup add a silky touch. – Pat Sommer Feb 17 '12 at 5:44

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