How Different Sweeteners React in a Gummy

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Struggle:

Gummies, gummies, gummies, we field a lot of questions about gummies. A large range of topics come along with this subject. Pectin gummies seem to be a hot topic along with sugar and sugar substitutes. Sugar is a complex little molecule. While getting the sweetness correct is pretty easy, the tricky part is the texture. Most Pectin gummies use sugar and HM pectin. HM pectin requires a large amount of sugar in order to gel. But, sugar free gums must use LM pectin since it does not require sugar. Instead LM pectin requires calcium. Pectin gummies rely on the sugar being cooked to a specific temperature to give the right texture to the final product. So when switching from sugar to a sugar alternative it will be slightly tricky to find the perfect texture because no sweetener reacts exactly the same as sugar. We tried a number of different sweeteners to find the right mix. The findings were pretty interesting once we nailed it down. 

“What will happen when I switch sweeteners in my gummy recipe?” 

Switching Sweeteners

We won’t get into the full recipe for our plant based sugar free gums in this article. But when it goes live it will be linked here. The important thing today is covering what happens when you change up the sweetener. More importantly what happens as it reaches what would be soft ball stage (240°F) when cooking table sugar. As you cook sugar it goes through a range of textures as it reaches different temperatures. The “soft ball” stage means the sugar can be formed into a soft ball once cooled. Since we are covering different sweeteners we must look how they react when heated similar to table sugar. 

We tried a number of different sweeteners when attempting this experiment. Allulose and xylitol were used due to their replication of the flavor of table sugar. These are the two best tasting sugar substitutes. Sorbitol was used due to its ability to prevent moisture from weeping. Isomalt was tested as it reacts the most like table sugar when heated. 

Allulose was a quick one to disqualify. Allulose a tendency to caramelize quickly, especially when in the presence of … just about anything other than allulose. On top of that allulose does not recrystallize very well and the soft ball stage doesn’t happen until about 350°F. So by that point it’s basically caramel and can taste scorched.

Xylitol has some of the same properties as allulose. It doesn’t recrystalize as quickly as table sugar so the soft ball stage comes at a higher temperature, roughly 300°F. A big benefit of xylitol is that it remains clear and colorless. 

Sorbitol works well but the flavor needs a bit of help. It reached the correct temperature (240°F) and was at a similar texture to the soft ball stage. It was easy to use and wasn’t caramelizing. 

Isomalt was one I had high hopes for. The sweetness is about 50% of what table sugar is so that definitely hurts it. Also no matter what we tried we couldn’t find a happy medium for the texture. It was either gritty, too soft, or break your teeth hard. I’m sure the correct temperature is within the range but finding it and getting it spot on every time doesn’t seem replicable. 

Where we ended up was a 70% sorbitol and 30% xylitol split and here’s why. The sorbitol allowed for the most consistent gums with the best texture out of these. Xylitol had the best flavor and color. When adding 30% xylitol it raises the soft ball stage from 240°F to 250~255°F. This gives you a nice window where you will get the best texture without having to rush the gummy off the heat. We would like to try this mixture in a number of recipes going forward. So the next time you are looking to make a candy or confection that is sugar free give a 70/30 split of sorbitol and xylitol a chance. And until next time keep cooking.