What’s The Difference: Gelatin Vs. Gulaman

These two ingredients are prepared differently.

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ILLUSTRATOR Roselle Miranda

No-bake desserts are commonly made using gelatin. This is the ingredient that helps stabilize the dish so that it can be sliced like a cake but without the need to bake anything.    

Do you use gulaman or gelatin? These two jelly ingredients come in two ways: powdered or in sheets. The powdered version is the easiest to use since these are simply dissolved in water, mixed with the other ingredients of your dish, and then allowed to set and then commonly chilled.  

However, gulaman and gelatin are different in many ways. Here are its differences: 

1 Gulaman is made from seaweed. Gelatin is made from collagen.

Gulaman is also known as agar-agar. It's made from seaweed and is a great vegetarian option for gelatin. This is because gelatin is derived from collagen, usually from animal skin and bone

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2 Powdered gulaman and gelatin are best dissolved in cold water but only gelatin needs to be bloomed.  

To prepare powdered gulaman or gelatin, you usually start with cold water. This is because hot water activates the gelling properties of the two ingredients. However, gelatin is bloomed first until the gelatin has absorbed the water and expanded. This takes a few minutes and will help it dissolve in the hot water more evenly than if you immediately dissolved it in hot water. 

For powdered gulaman, dissolving it in cold water is similar in theory but doesn't need to be bloomed. Just stir until dissolved and then placed over a heat source. 

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If you use the sheet or stick versions of these two, you will have to use a different method of dissolving it. For sheet gelatin, you need to soak it in water much like you're blooming it. Once softened, you can squeeze any excess liquid out and then dissolve this in hot water. 

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For gulaman sticks, these just need to be roughly shredded and added to cold water before being heated. This, too, will dissolve once heated through in the water.   

3 Gulaman should be boiled. Use only hot water when using gelatin. 

This is where many make mistakes. For gulaman, it needs to boil or at least reach a high enough temperature to activate the gelling properties. One of the ways to tell if the gulaman is ready to be removed from the heat is to check the liquid. If it's crystal clear and no longer cloudy, it's ready. 

For gelatin, boiling will make the gelatin stringy so avoid this by instead using hot water or heating the liquid just hot enough to melt the bloomed gelatin.  

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Gulaman sets quickly and hard. Gelatin sets slowly and remains soft.  

Once gulaman is removed from the heat, you need to move quickly since gulaman sets quickly once off the heat. It hardens and sets even while still warm so it's best to be prepared with any mix-ins you may want to add before you start preparing the gulaman.  

Gelatin meanwhile takes longer to set and cool. It sets slowly so it's easier to manage your time when making your gelatin dessert. However, it sets softer than gulaman, so you should use less water to make a harder gelatin dessert. 

Gelatin however makes it easier to use in recipes that make soft and chewy desserts such as marshmallows and gummy candies. 

Gulaman doesn't easily remelt. Gelatin melts easily. 

One of the best reasons to use gulaman versus gelatin is the ability of gulaman to remain set even during the summer. That's because gelatin easily melts at higher temperatures. Gulaman however needs to be remelted at a much higher temperature than summer room temperatures to melt again into a liquid. 

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