We love a wiggly, "Jello"-type dessert as much as anyone does. But the sad truth about gelatin is that it’s made from the bones and skin of various animals and fish — placing it squarely out of bounds for vegetarians and vegans. Fortunately, there’s an easy work-around that results in cruelty-free desserts with just as much flavor and sweetness: agar agar, also known as kanten, which originated in 17th-century Japan.
This colorless, flavorless, odorless extract of seaweed has the valuable ability to gel a variety of liquids, without having to be chilled. Even better, foods gelled with agar agar will not melt at room temperature or even when heated.
For something so apparently neutral, agar agar nonetheless brings with it some nutritional benefits. For one thing, it’s 80 percent fiber. For another, it helps absorb glucose and bile, stimulating the metabolism.
Making desserts with agar agar is ridiculously easy, particularly when using the powdered variety. With adult supervision around the stove, even children can turn out their own jiggly treats.
Get the recipe: »» Basic Agar Pudding Mix