What is the role of the commonly used food additive carrageenan?


Carrageenan is the most common food additive and is often used in ice cream, cold drinks, sausages, jelly and other foods. Its main function is to shape the food.Carrageenan has been hotly debated recently, and adding it to ice cream can keep it from melting for a long time. What exactly is carrageenan?

What is carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a polymer of sulfated polysaccharides extracted from algae, and its essence is a polysaccharide substance. Discovered in the 1950s, and due to its excellent gelling and rheological properties, carrageenan is widely used in the food industry. Since carrageenan itself cannot be decomposed and absorbed by the human body, it has no nutritional value for the human body. But because of its special interaction with protein, it is often used as a stabilizer and thickener in food and cosmetics.

Properties of Carrageenan

Carrageenan has obvious gelling properties and can be dissolved into a liquid state at high temperature, while a gelatinous substance will be formed below a certain temperature. Carrageenan dissolves into a liquid state at a high temperature above 90°C, while a gel phenomenon occurs below 90°C, becoming a viscous semi-solid, and gradually solidifies as the temperature decreases, eventually forming a solid. It is this unique property that makes it a stabilizer for a variety of frozen foods, which can increase the richness of foods such as ice cream, while improving the stability of the ice cream during temperature fluctuations, allowing the ice cream to maintain its shape.

Carrageenan is water-retaining and can encapsulate moisture in food to prevent moisture loss. Carrageenan itself is a network-like gel-like substance with multiple hydrophilic groups, which can retain a lot of water and is not easy to bleed. It is because of this characteristic that carrageenan is often used in the processing of meat products to retain the flavor and moisture of meat and improve the taste of meat products.

Carrageenan has a special interaction with protein, which can improve the stability of protein structure and prevent protein denaturation. Carrageenan can interact with the structure of proteins. It can improve the gel strength of protein and prevent the denaturation reaction of various substances with protein, thereby maintaining the freshness and taste of food. Therefore, it is often used as milk stabilizer, brewing clarifying agent, etc.

Application of carrageenan

ice cream

Carrageenan is the most common food additive in ice cream, and is often used as a thickening and styling agent for these frozen foods. Carrageenan has gelling properties, which can not only maintain the shape of ice cream, but also reduce the impact of temperature fluctuations on food, enhance its formability and resistance to melting, and can prevent protein denaturation and maintain the taste of ice cream.


Carrageenan is an indispensable food additive in the process of making jelly, fudge and other foods. As a good coagulant, it can solidify the jelly at room temperature, and because of its good water retention, it can keep the jelly and fudge. Taste, and at the same time make the food elastic and not easy to deform.

Meat Products

Carrageenan is also often used in making ham, sausage, canned meat and other meat products. It can interact with the protein of the meat to keep the meat protein fresh, so as to maintain the taste of meat food such as ham and sausage, and can retain the moisture in the meat food, so as to maintain the tenderness of the meat.


Carrageenan is often used as a stabilizer and thickener in condiments such as oyster sauce and soy sauce. It can improve the taste of various seasonings, enhance the viscosity of the seasonings, and at the same time play a certain role in maintaining the stability and freshness of the seasonings.

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