I want to make ice cream, sorbet and gelato without eggs. Momofuku's Christina Tosi's Milk Bar cookbook advocates for this and uses gelatin as emulsifier and stabilizer as well as glucose for thickening instead of the usual full eggs/yolks required by many other books (e.g. one of Ben & Jerry's bases, Ample Hills, Bi-Rite). [UPDATE: the excellent Hello My Name is Ice Cream by Dana Cree avoids using eggs in many of its recipes.]

Modernist Cuisine at Home for their nut butter gelatos also uses tapioca starch and xantham gum as stabilizers (as well as the nut butters themselves, I assume). ChefSteps uses locust bean gum, xantham gum and kappa carrageenan as stabilizers.

What is the equivalent of

  • one full egg, and
  • one egg yolk

in traditional custard/egg-based ice cream recipes in terms of

  • gelatin + glucose
  • tapioca starch + xantham gum
  • locust bean gum + xantham gum + kappa carrageenan
  • other emulsifier/stabilizer/thickener combinations?

1 Answer 1


There is no such thing as "the equivalent" of one yolk, because yolks and other emulsifiers are not the same thing, don't work the same way, and don't have the same results.

If you are trying to find out how much of a given emulsifier to use, either 1) use a recipe (the preferred way) or 2) find its description (for example in Lersch's book Hydrocolloids, CC lincensed) and see the range. Then work within that range. For xanthan, it is "0.25% thin running sauce, 0.7 - 1.5% thick sauces, 0.5-0.8% foams; [0.07-1%]". "Thin running sauce" is a good description of ice cream base, so you can go with that one as a starting point. You'll have to adjust by experimenting.

Also, no idea why Modernist cuisine advises both xanthan and starch at the same time, as they are both thickeners. They must have found out through experimenting that some ratio gives an optimal mouthfeel, so take advantage of all the work they have put into it and use that ratio. It is independent of any yolk use in other recipes. If it were just because of a "thickening power" (How would you measure such a thing? Any single-dimensioned measure will be inadequate for kitchen purposes), the mixture wouldn't make any sense.

  • as the tag suggests, no substitutions are equivalent, of course. however, I'm looking for approximations for what I understand is the role of eggs in frozen desserts - emulsification and stabilization (maybe also adding a bit of fat). are there any other roles it plays?
    – arturomp
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:11
  • No, these are the roles. But you have to calculate the amount to use in terms of what is good for your chosen emulsifier, not in terms of what would be good for eggs.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:16
  • that's why I'm asking about emulsifiers as well, so that I can turn recipes that call for a certain number of eggs or yolks into eggless recipes! :)
    – arturomp
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:23
  • 1
    There are no general substitution rates of emulsifier to eggs. Let's say that you have a recipe with a three eggs you like. Pick a relevant variable, like the kinematic viscosity ν, let your recipe have viscosity ν'. Calculate the amount X of xanthan which it takes to get the same amount of liquid to ν'. It doesn't mean that, if you have a second eggy recipe with six eggs, and add 2X xanthan to it, it will taste like the original second recipe. It also doesn't mean that it will taste good. Worse, it doesn't even mean that the original recipe will taste good with X xanthan in place of 3 eggs.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:47
  • 1
    In fact, not even a second egg-based recipe with 3 eggs will have the same mouthfeel like the first one, unless it also uses the same technique, since how you incorporate the egg and into what you incorporate it changes the mouthfeel too. But that one is less of a concern with pure custards, which tend to follow the same technique. That gives the "predictable" results you references. But since the results of other thickeners are not comparable to the results of eggs, beside a general "mouthfeel gets smoother", you cannot really find a of conversion rate, much less a linear one.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:50

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