What is “Kanten” Agar? The Emerging Healthy Ingredient

Kanten agar made of seaweed
Kanten Flakes (Photo by Megumi Kanten USA)

Known as agar or agar-agar, “kanten” is the Japanese name for the gelatinous substance made from seaweed. It is the freeze-dried and dehydrated form of congealed Tengusa, a type of red algae scientifically classified as Gelidium, and also a health food discovered 350 years ago in Japan. Today kanten agar comes in three forms: flakes, bars and powder, and various products are available at Asian stores and healthy markets.

Applications of Kanten

Kanten Agar Soup & Salad
Kanten Soup and Kanten Salad (Photo by Megumi Kanten USA)

In Japan, many gelatinous sweets are made using kanten agar. It can be used as a substitute to gelatin, which is extracted from animal collagen, to make such desserts as jelly and pudding 100% vegan. Kanten agar does not have the same resilience or stickiness as gelatin, but is a strong coagulant that can solidify large quantities of liquid.

Kanten flakes make a great topping for soups and salads. Rich in dietary fibers, zero in calories and gluten free, kanten agar is more recognized as a healthy ingredient in Western countries. Kanten absorbs liquid and expands, so it also acts as an appetite suppressant.

It is perhaps good to know some cooking ideas and tips from a kanten manufacturer prior to using kanten.

Kanten Products

Here are some of the kanten products available in the U.S.

Eden Agar Agar Flakes is a vegetable gelatin made of a variety of sea vegetables with strong thickening properties. The seaweeds are boiled to a gel, pressed, dried, and crushed into flakes. Perfect for desserts, pie fillings, baked good fillings, puddings, parfaits, fruit or more vegetable aspic and more. The flakes dissolve in hot liquids and thicken as it cools.

NOW Foods Agar Powder is kanten in powder form for easy cooking. It can be used as a vegetable substitute for gelatin. The product is 100% pure powder and gluten free.
Kanten Noodle by Megumi Kanten USA is a noodle soup series with kanten agar noodles in a delicious soup. Rich in dietary fiber, low in calories and gluten free, this convenient product turns into a healthy meal in just one minute after adding hot water. One serving of Kanten Noodle contains 6 grams of Kanten agar, of which 5 grams are dietary fiber.

Hot Trending Kanten Dessert

Kinseiken, a traditional sweets store in Japan, invented this crystal-clear jelly dessert called “Mizu Shingen Mochi” coagulating local spring water with kanten agar.

A photo posted by Jfood411 (@jfood411) on

The popular Mizu Shingen Mochi has been heavily replicated and recently introduced to the U.S. as “Raindrop Cake” by Darren Wong. The buzz spread to other countries and many eateries began to offer the Raindrop Cake so images of the kanten dessert are storming all over on social media. Many expect the raindrop cake to gain the status of “the dessert of 2016.”

In case you are curious how to make the raindrop cake at home, here is the recipe from Chopstick Chronicles.

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