Or as they say in Hawaii: Carr-ah-what-ah-who-ah? Carrageenan, the name derived from a type of seaweed abundant on the Irish coast, is a carbohydrate gelling agent that gives binding and textural properties to a variety of food preparations.


Once found mainly at the industrial level and used in Asian cuisine, more and more cooks and chefs are venturing into creative ways of controlling their medium and carrageenan is one of those hydrocolloids that is effective in stabilizing, thickening, adding texture and viscosity, etc..

Use of hydrocolloids or other chemical agents that have a manipulative effect on ingredients is oft referred to as molecular gastronomy. When done right I like to call it, in Alton Brown’s words, “Good Eats”.


Here is an example of a panna cotta made without the use of gelatin but with carrageenan instead. This would be a life saver if you had ovo/lacto vegetarians over for panna cotta and couldn’t use gelatin because of it being an animal by product. (Life saver is a bit drastic of a word when related to dessert, but you get the point.)

















I blended about .3% by weight of carrageenan with milk, and a little half and half and whisked in sugar and vanilla and brought it up to 176˚F and then poured it into molds and refrigerated for 3 hours.


That’s it. An un-molding, a little butter basted fruit on top and apple/caramel sauce to finish and we’re done. Not only good eats, but to quote Jamie Oliver, “easy peasy” (What, no Emeril’s “BAM”? Sorry, only so many people I can quote in one post).






You can purchase carrageenan by mail order from various sources including

Le Sanctuaire.  For more ideas on hydrocolloids and molecular gastronomy you can visit Ideas in Food and Khymos





3 responses to this post.

  1. I bought a bag of carrageen in seaweed form. Would you have any idea how I could use it to make panna cotta? Thanks!

  2. You can download a free hydrocolloid cookbook here:
    It has a section on carageenan. There are different types so check and see which you have.

  3. That is very helpful, exactly what I was looking for. Thank you so much!

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