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Xanathan gum (like many other vegetable gums) is often used as an emulsifier and for thickening liquids.

Meanwhile, mono- and diglycerides (aka glycerin flakes) are used in a similar way.

I have read that mono- and diglycerides need to be dissolved in an oil, not water for them to work. They also need to be heated in order to dissolve completely.

But besides the above two constraints, when are the glycerides more appropriate to use, compared to xanthan?

More specific reason for my curiosity.... I am preparing a frozen ice-cream type dessert that contains, among other ingredients, coconut oil and almond milk. The final step will be churning in an ice cream maker in order to incorporate air. Now, if I understand correctly, I could heat the oil and add the glycerides to it before combining with the milk.... Or I could hydrate the xanthan in the almond milk, before combining with the oil.

Which is the better approach? Are there any general principles or rules of thumb for when to use glycerides?

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    One thing to be aware of with glycerides: Vegetarians and people with cultural taboos about common meats will usually give anything that states it has glycerides or glycerin in it a wide berth. Nov 21, 2015 at 10:33
  • Well, you can also add methycellulose to the list, which is also used as thickener and emulsifier, see molecularrecipes.com/gelification/hot-baileys-ice-cream. Nov 21, 2015 at 12:40
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    So, have you made ice cream before? And why do you want to add thickening agents? That's a commercial trick to help keep the ice cream from separating and getting too hard, but isn't needed in home made ice cream usually because the ice cream gets eaten quickly, and letting the ice cream sit out for 15 min is the usual remedy to hard ice cream.
    – Escoce
    Nov 21, 2015 at 14:33
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    @Escoce It might be a commercial trick for manufacturers of dairy-based IC, but it is an eminently practical choice in my case. I am making a vegan ice cream and while there are a couple of different sources of fat in my recipe, I am still in need of an emulsifier (or a mix of several) to maximize mouthfeel. I would even add that the texture/mouthfeel of most homemade dairy-based ice creams (especially the ones made without eggs) would benefit from adding a vegetable gum emulsifier to the mix.
    – Alvin E.
    Nov 21, 2015 at 19:42
  • @rackandboneman That is a very good point about glycerides and animal sources. Apparently they can be derived from both plants and animals. And indeed, in the absence of further information in my case, to err on the side of caution is to stick to xanthan. :)
    – Alvin E.
    Nov 21, 2015 at 19:46

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Xanthan is a stabilizer/thickener, but not an emulsifier, while it´s vice versa for Mono- and diglycerides. For making ice cream you need an emulsifier in each case to turn the fat-water dispersion into an emulsion. Traditional recipes are using lecithine from yolk for this purpose. For vegan ice creams plant based lecithine from soy or sunflowers can be used as well as Mono- and diglycerides. Stabilizers like guar, locust bean gum, xanthan or agar can be considered optional but can significantly improve texture and melting behaviour of the ice cream.

For further information on stabilizers I recommend Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection edited by Martin Lersch (CC-License)

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