How can I substitute one emulsifier for another?

The first place to start is looking up the emulsifier the recipe calls for in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia and seeing what alternatives are listed as recommended substitutions!

If what you’re looking for isn’t there, here are some guidelines:

  • What kind of emulsifier is it? Oil in water or water in oil? Is it a complete emulsifying wax or solubilizer? It is essential that any substitutions you make are for the same kind of emulsifier. Using a solubilizer instead of a complete emulsifying wax or vice versa will fail.
  • What is the solubility situation? Make sure whatever substitution you are making has the same solubility as the original ingredient.
  • What format is it in? Generally speaking, you’ll want to swap solid for solid, and liquid for liquid.
  • What is the recommended usage rate? Make sure you will not be over-using anything.
  • Charge: what is it, and does it matter? Different emulsifiers have different charges—typically anionic (negatively charged), cationic (positively charged), and non-ionic (no charge). Non-ionic is the most common and will be compatible with other charges. Cationic (or conditioning) emulsifiers should not be swapped for non-cationic emulsifiers as their cationic nature is typically part of the performance of the product. Anionic and cationic ingredients are generally incompatible, so make sure you keep an eye on everything else in the formula before choosing an emulsifier with a different charge than the original one.

Remember—just because something has “emulsifying properties” does not mean it can be used as an alternative for anything else with emulsifying properties. You can learn a lot more about the full spectrum of ingredients often sold as emulsifiers/solubilizers/surfactants here.

Posted in: Substitutions