Vegan Agar Gems / by Molly Brodak

The recipe for agar gems is so simple that it really doesn't need a lot of explanation--which means this post is going to be full of just tons of eye candy instead.

Agar jellies have a less chewy consistency than gelatin desserts. Instead of being wiggly and gummy like gelatin treats, their texture is almost crisp in a way, incredibly delicate and quick to melt in one's mouth. It is the perfect treat on a hot summer day or as a refreshing dessert that doesn't require firing up the oven. The recipe I have here is just a slight adjustment to the instructions on the box: I have made these slightly more firm, and you can make your gems more or less firm by simply adjusting the amount of liquid you add. 

Making these gems is also super fun. Agar sets up much faster than gelatin dessert, so it is easy to layer colors and make interesting shapes while keeping the mixture warm on the stove. I ladled out small portions of the mixture into bowls and mixed in food coloring, or added a teaspoon of coconut milk to make the mixture opaque.

mini mountains

mini mountains

I was using flexible candy molds and flexible bakeware to make the agar dessert in since popping out the completed shapes was much easier with a flexible mold. If you don't have any flexible silicone bakeware to use, just be sure to line any cake pan or container you are pouring your agar mixture into with parchment. Then when you are ready, run a knife along the sides, turn agar out, and cut into desired shapes (the parchment is important because agar dessert will break apart easily).



You can also make agar spheres by dropping the mixture slowly out of a squirt bottle into a glass of cold vegetable oil (strain the agar beads out with a wire strainer and rinse briefly in cold water.

A blue sphere suspended in a triangle

A blue sphere suspended in a triangle

Below you can see how to make clouds on a celery green sea: just gently drop some opaque coconut-milk-agar mix into a clear portion of agar mixture that has been setting up for about 5-7 minutes (if you drop it in too early, it will all mix together). Once that layer is set, add another layer (the "sea" layer) and then when you cut this piece up, flip upside down.

The agar has basically no flavor except for a very light herbal taste. You can add any flavorings you like to the mixture, but clear extracts are best to keep the colors bright. I recommend lemon or coconut.

I used Swallow Globe brand agar-agar powder, which I picked up at my local Asian food grocery but you can purchase this online, too. I found it was not as crystal clear as I would have liked, so if anyone has any recommendations for an agar-agar that sets crystal clear, let me know!

Vegan Agar Gems

1 oz packet agar-agar powder (7 g)

120 g (4.25 oz) sugar

750 ml (25.3 fl. oz) filtered water

2 tsp lemon extract

Coconut milk and gel food coloring

Bring water to a gentle boil in a small saucepan and add the sugar, stir until dissolved. Turn the heat down to barely simmering and add agar-agar powder, stir until dissolved. Add extract. Keep mixture warm while ladling out small portions to color. Allow layers of mixture to set for at least 8 minutes before adding another layer. Cool completely, turn out, and cut into desired shapes.

looks and tastes like joy

looks and tastes like joy