There are a lot of benefits associated with psyllium husk powder, including feeding your good gut bacteria, relieving constipation, and helping to stabilize your blood sugar levels. It’s also used in gluten-free baking recipes either for those with a gluten sensitivity or those on a low-carb keto diet. As a water-soluble fiber it helps retain moisture and keeps your gluten-free breads, cupcakes, and muffins from becoming too crumbly, but even with all these benefits psyllium husk powder isn’t right for everyone all the time. That leaves the question: what’s a good substitute for psyllium husk powder? We have the top 10 gluten-free, low-carb, and nutrient-dense options.
What Is Psyllium Husk Powder?
Psyllium husk powder is made from grinding up the whole husk of the Plantago plant’s seeds. It’s a popular natural fiber supplement and highly valued for its ability to (among other benefits) aid weight loss by increasing feelings of satiety, lower cholesterol levels, and improve heart health. It’s also a keto-friendly baking powder not unlike coconut flour, almond flour, and other gluten-free flours. Just as cauliflower can be chopped up finely and used as a gluten-free pizza crust or rice replacement, psyllium husk powder can easily be included in the dry ingredients for keto bread recipes.
While ground psyllium husk works great in gluten-free recipes, unfortunately some people are allergic to it. Outside of that, maybe the taste or texture that psyllium husk powder brings to recipes just don’t satisfy those home bakers and chefs looking for their perfect replacements on a gluten-free diet.
Alternatively, maybe psyllium husk powder works too well as a natural laxative, and while you’re happy to keep it in the medicine cabinet, maybe it’s just too powerful for your food. With all the benefits powdered and whole psyllium have to offer, it’s difficult to find any one substitution that can check all its boxes, but there are many substances out there which can sub in for low-carb bread recipes and more. Read on for the top 10 list.
The Top 10 Substitutes for Psyllium Husk Powder
Here are the details on other natural gluten-free ingredients and how they can take psyllium husk powder’s place in various recipes.
1. Flaxseed Meal
Flaxseed, aka linseed, is another popular gluten-free ingredient for vegan and vegetarian baking and cooking needs. High in B vitamins and minerals like copper, magnesium, and phosphorous, flaxseed meal is nutritious all on its own, but can also serve as a thickener or binder in pie crust and pizza dough recipes.
Flaxseed is (as you might have already guessed) a seed of the flax plant (Linum usitatissimum), which provides not only fiber but also textile material for linens like bed sheets, underclothes, and fine table cloths. When consumed, flaxseed is an excellent source of healthy fats (12 grams per ounce) according to the Journal of Food Science and Technology. It’s also rich in antioxidants like lutein, zeaxanthin, and lignans. With omega-3 fatty acid content to boot, flaxseed is at the top of our list for psyllium husk powder alternatives.
Flaxseed meal can be toasted into a crispy, nutty entity perfect for breading fried foods or topping desserts. When mixed with water, flaxseed has a consistency that makes for a great alternative to eggs or egg whites in recipes. Ground flaxseed can be used to form vegetarian and vegan chicken nuggets, and, like psyllium husk powder, can be used easily in baked goods to provide fiber and other nutrients.
2. Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum is a soluble fiber and popular thickening agent used to stabilize liquids in cooking and baking. It’s derived from a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestri that is fermented (digested) into a gooey substance that’s then made solid by the addition of alcohol. Once this mixture dries out, it becomes a powder that can be added to other liquids for viscosity.
Xanthan gum isn’t just in foods like jellos, yogurts, puddings, sauces, and soups. It’s also used to thicken cosmetic products, lotions, and shampoos, and can be found in industrial adhesives, toilet bowl cleaners, and pesticides. It was discovered in 1963 and has since been FDA-approved for use in many consumer products.
Xanthan gum is particularly desirable for recipes due to the fact that it’s a soluble fiber and will swell up once eaten and make you feel fuller, which then helps reduce calorie consumption for those trying to lose weight. Moreover, xanthan gum cannot be broken down by your body, so you can add it to recipes without adding any calories whatsoever. The only downside is that unlike psyllium husk or flaxseed, xanthan gum adds no nutritional value. It takes up space in your food, binds other ingredients together, and helps slow stomach-emptying and digestion, but it doesn’t bring you any other dietary or nutritional benefit.
Derived from the endosperm of corn kernels, cornstarch is a common ingredient found in processed foods and in many personal kitchens. It can be used as a thickener in both sweet and savory dishes, especially as a way to gain the consistency needed for pie fillings, gravies, and custards. It is gluten free and can be used to create wheat-free, gooey dessert fillings, though it does take some practice to make sure it doesn’t clump. It also doesn’t react well with acidic ingredients, so if you’re looking to make a lemon meringue pie, it may be better to use arrowroot powder or tapioca starch (read further along in this list for the details of each).
Cornstarch is valuable as an anti-caking agent, which is why it’s often found in powdery confectioners sugar to keep those fine granules from clumping together. The cornstarch gathers moisture to itself like the other thickening agents on this list, keeping that moisture out of the surrounding sugar granules. This is also why it’s found sometimes in cheeses you buy at the grocery store, to keep the cheese low-moisture and avoid any unpleasant sliminess due to condensation inside the package.
While cornstarch is classified as a “cereal starch” because it comes from a grain, it is nevertheless gluten free, and may be sold under the label “corn starch” or “cornflour,” though it is not the same as cornmeal.
4. Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder comes from the arrowroot plant (Maranata arundinacea), a starchy tuber native to tropical climates. Marketed as a gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, corn-free, and soy-free binder and thickener, arrowroot powder (or flour or starch) is a conveniently flavorless natural additive that can easily stand in for psyllium husk powder. While cornstarch is widely used, those who are on the paleo or Whole30 diet cannot consume a product derived from corn, making arrowroot particularly prized.
A fine, powdery, white starch, arrowroot acts much like cornstarch while adding no additional flavor. When combined with water, arrowroot powder mixes into a slurry that can be used to make fillings or gravies, especially those that involve acidic substances like cranberry sauce, a feature that gives it the advantage over cornstarch.
Arrowroot is not, however, the best with cream-based sauces, though it can be used for coating fish and meat for frying.
5. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are similar to flaxseeds in that they are soluble-fiber seeds rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Many people are aware of chia seeds’ ability to swell with moisture, as they are frequently used to make chia seed puddings and are often included in overnight oat bowls. A popular ingredient in healthy smoothies, ground chia seeds can also be used in gluten-free recipes, though they do have a distinct taste that may need to be masked.
Full of manganese, copper, selenium, fiber, and other nutrients, chia seeds are a thickening agent that brings a fair share of micronutrients every time they’re included in a recipe, including two essential fats your body cannot create in-house: alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid. Chia seeds often contain more antioxidants than flaxseed as well.
6. Tapioca Starch/Flour
Tapioca starch or flour is made from the pulp of the cassava root plant, which is native to the Caribbean and South America. As fine in texture as the other starches on this list, tapioca starch is naturally gluten free and perfect for pies, sauces, and the traditional Brazilian dish pão de queijo, a light cheese pastry bun.
Tapioca starch (distinct from cassava flour though they come from the same source) is made by peeling and then shredding the cassava root, and then spinning the mixture until it is principally water and starch. After that, the starch is dried and collected in a powdered form that can be used in baked goods to provide a chewy texture. For those who need to avoid eating potatoes or corn, tapioca starch is a perfect alternative, and just as excellent a substitute for psyllium husk powder.
7. Hemp Flour
Hemp flour has a rich and distinct flavor and can be used as a nutritional additive to foods like side dishes and salads. Full of omega-3 fatty acids, hemp flour is not as adept at binding as other items on this list like flaxseed (it’s quite different in texture as well). And it contains protein and fat that make it more nutrient-dense than psyllium husk.
Hemp flour is made by milling the hemp seed cake created by crushing hemp seeds for hemp seed oil. It’s the seed that keeps on giving, and can provide a gluten-free nutty flavor to cookies, muffins, breads, and waffles.
8. Guar Gum
Also called guaran, guar gum is made from guar beans and is a type of polysaccharide that can be found in many processed foods and in foods like cheeses, soups, yogurts, ice cream, sauces, puddings, vegetable juices, salad dressings, and more. It’s also in certain medications, cosmetics, and paper products. Like the other thickeners on this list, guar gum can absorb water and become gel-like.
In baking, guar gum is particularly useful because it can retain up to 8 times the water capacity of cornstarch, making it more applicable for adding viscosity to batters and dough. Gluten free and low in calories, guar gum can still provide valuable dietary fiber.
9. Coconut Flour
Coconut flour is made from dried coconut meat, which is a byproduct of coconut milk and oil production. Fine in texture, coconut flour is a gluten-free alternative to baking flour and to psyllium husk powder. Nutrient dense and full of fiber, healthy fat, and protein, coconut flour is a filling ingredient that provides minerals like manganese (important for supporting bone health) and antioxidants that help cut down on inflammation in the body.
Pro tips for cooking with coconut flour are to sift it before using to cut down on grittiness and to use eggs (if your diet allows for them) to make sure the super-absorbent coconut flour doesn’t dry out your final product.
10. Almond Flour
Made from ground almonds, almond flour is one of the more nutritious flour alternatives around. Gluten free and lower in carbs than coconut flour, it’s also easier to bake with, full of protein, and rich with nutrients like vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium.
The top selling point for almond flour is its nutrient content, but in practical terms baking with almond flour often involves brick-like baked goods for those unaccustomed to the density of its proteins and oils. Almond flour is also a little harder to work with when getting baked goods to rise as fluffily as wheat flour allows, but almond flour absolutely serves well for breading meats and for making denser recipes like tortillas, cobblers, brownies, and crusts.
Almond flour can easily step in for psyllium husk powder, but only if one is not allergic to nuts—that is why this alternative is last on the list, because it cannot be included for those with a nut allergy the same way that psyllium husk powder and many other options can.
A Superabundance of Psyllium Husk Powder Substitutes
We’ve listed our top 10 choices for psyllium husk powder, but the list could go on and on. Potato starch, rice flour, millet, sorghum flour, green banana flour…there are alternatives everywhere that may be better or worse depending on your dietary needs. Flaxseed is perhaps the closest match due to its natural laxative capacity, but if a fiber laxative element is the very problem you have with psyllium husk powder, one of the other options on this list may better suit you.
Whether you’re searching for low-calorie, low-carb, allergen-free, or nutrient-rich substitutions for psyllium husk powder, there is an alternative out there that’s perfect for you.