What is maltodextrin?

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Maltodextrin is a slightly sweet or tasteless polysaccharide derived from starch.

Why do “molecular gastronomy” chefs use maltodextrin?

Chefs use powder maltodextrin, generally tapioca maltodextrin, to “powder” fats like olive oil, bacon fat, and nutella (a pastry chef favorite).

Powdering fat doesn’t affect its flavor, but changes its texture into a dry powder that melts in the mouth, allowing chefs to bring a different look and texture to dishes.

Powdering tends to work better when the fat is chilled (as long as it still maintains a creamy or liquid consistency…many fats solidify when cold).

My understanding is that the maltodextrin isn’t drying or transforming the fat into a solid so much as it is absorbing it.

Why do food companies put it in processed foods?

In its powder form it’s often used as a food additive to increase the volume of powdered mixes or frozen foods without modifying their flavor.

In other words, food companies often use it to make more of things like cocoa mixes with the same amount of expensive ingredients (like chocolate) by fluffing them up with maltodextrin. It’s cheap and it doesn’t taste like much of anything.

Maltodextrin syrup is used as a food additive to make liquids more viscous and dense without making them much sweeter.

How is maltodextrin made?

Maltodextrin can be made from many different starches. The most common are corn, wheat, and (to a lesser extent) tapioca.

To make maltodextrin, starch molecules are partially split into smaller polysaccharides by cutting the hydrogen bonds that hold them together through the use of enzymes. This process is called “hydrolysis” (not to be confused with hydrogenation, which is entirely different).

Once made, maltodextrin is usually spray dried into a powder. It is also available (probably only to industrial food producers) in a syrup form.

Post Written by Matthew Johnson

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