Baking gluten-free can be hard if you don’t have the right ingredients to keep your baked goods moist, stable, flexible, and soft. Psyllium husk has emerged in gluten-free baking and became extremely popular due to its ability to mimic the elasticity of ‘regular’ wheat baked goods. In this article, we will dive into the types of psyllium husk, where to get it, and what you can make with it!
What Is Psyllium Husk?
Psyllium husk is a type of fiber that is gathered from the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant which is grown in India. Because it is a plant-based fiber, psyllium husk is often used as a supplement to help with constipation. In gluten-free baking, it is used to thicken the batter and create the elasticity gluten-free dough normally lacks!
Psyllium husk is a hydrocolloid which means that when it comes in contact with liquid it forms into a gel and keeps that liquid together. Because of such properties, gluten-free baked goods retain more moisture if baked with psyllium husk, which is wonderful news because who is not yet tired of dry and crumbly gluten-free bread?
If you add psyllium gel to the gluten-free dough, it will become elastic, stretchy, and easy to knead and handle. No more need to pour your batter into the bread pan! With psyllium husk, you can make braided bread, Dutch oven bread, cinnamon rolls, and many other recipes without trouble.
The Role of Psyllium Husk in Flour Blends
Psyllium husk acts as a binder and a thickener in gluten-free flour much like gluten does in wheat flour. It allows you to knead and shape the dough, helps with expanding during rising/proofing, and creates a chewy crumb very similar to regular bread.
Psyllium husk is not the same as xanthan gum, in fact, they are very different from each other! Psyllium husk makes dough stretchy, springy, and elastic so that you can knead and shape it into any bread shape you want. Xanthan gum won’t do that for you!
Having said that, I need to mention that when it comes to cakes, muffins, cookies, and other pastries, xanthan gum is actually a better choice as it allows for the fluffiness those baked goods need. Psyllium husk helps create a bread-like texture, and xanthan gum allows for fluffiness. Sometimes, both are used in a recipe for a medium type of texture, like in these soft gluten-free sourdough rolls or these soft pretzels.
Finally, it is important to remember that while psyllium husk helps with the elasticity and flexibility of gluten-free dough, it won’t make the dough the same as dough with wheat flour.
Whole Husks vs Powder
You probably often see that recipes call for whole husks instead of powder and you might wonder what is the difference. Psyllium husk powder is ground whole husks and it looks like brown powder while whole husks contain many little particles that are light brown in color. However, there are two types of psyllium husk powder.
The difference: one type of powder is coarsely ground and another one is very finely ground.
The coarse powder is denser than whole husks but pretty much acts the same and can be used without making significant changes to the recipe. You might need to use less of it as it is denser but if you substitute 1:1 you won’t ruin your recipe! The general rule is to use 85% of powder vs whole husks.
The fine powder will clump in water, so you should add it to the dry ingredients instead of the wet ingredients. We normally add whole husks to water to create a gel quickly (1-2 minutes). If you add psyllium husk to the dry ingredients you will have to wait 20-40 minutes for it to hydrate and make the dough elastic. However, if you are using finely ground powder, you should add it to the dry ingredients and let it hydrate for some time. It is inconvenient, and this is why most recipes call for whole husks.
Blond Psyllium Husk
Sometimes the package will say “blond psyllium husk” but it doesn’t always say that. The only reason blond psyllium husk is better is that it doesn’t color your bread purple. In my experience, the only time my bread turned purple was when I used excessive amounts of psyllium husk POWDER (finely ground), never with whole husks. So, while it is something to look out for, it is not a crucial factor (unless your bread did turn purple).
Where To Buy
You can check your grocery stores or special diet stores nearby to see if they carry psyllium husk. Here where I am from, I need to go to a special store to get it or I just order it online (which is easier AND cheaper).
Here are whole husks you can order from Amazon. But I recommend checking local stores for special diets as they might have better deals.
How Much Psyllium Husk Do You Need?
The rule of thumb is to use 5% psyllium husk compared to the amount of GF flour. So, if you are using 400g of flour, you would need 20g of psyllium husk. This is a general rule but I do adjust it for some recipes, especially if I am using xanthan gum and psyllium husk together. If you don’t know how much to use, go with the 5% rule!
When it comes to powder, the general recommendation is to use 85% of powder vs whole husks. If your bread turns purple, the chances are you used too much psyllium husk! So, if you are baking with finely ground powder, you might need to lower the amount of it if your baked goods turn purple.
Some people try using flax seeds instead of psyllium husk but the truth is that it is not the same. Psyllium husk is one of a kind and as of right now, there is no equal substitute for it. You can experiment with different substitutes if you absolutely can’t have psyllium husk but keep in mind that they will not make your dough AS stretchy and flexible as psyllium husk will.
What To Make With It
My absolute favorite psyllium husk recipe is this gluten-free artisan loaf. You can also make delicious cinnamon rolls, moist sourdough bread, the fluffiest dinner rolls with sourdough, super flexible sourdough flatbread, delicious pizza crust, bagels, and more!
4 thoughts on “Psyllium Husk in Gluten-Free Baking”
Natasha, thank you for this very clear and concise explanation of Psyllium Husk, I have purchased and it used it in baking for a couple years now because recipes asked for it, however this is the first time I’ve really seen a proper explanation. I can’t wait to try some of your recipes.
Hi Janet! Thank you for your feedback! I am glad it was helpful to you!
I’m new to G/F baking. I gag on bought G/F bread. I’m so glad and grateful I’ve come across your work. Going to try and see how I manage. Thank you, !
Excited for you to start making your own bread! 🙂