People have been asking me how to make Frappuccinos at home. They tried, but got disappointingly separated ice and liquid, even using a Vitamix. I looked up the Starbucks list of ingredients, and found the secret ingredient: xanthan gum. In this post I will cover how to use xanthan, and also give a whole-food alternative for making satisfying frappes.
If you are a frequent drinker of Frappuccinos, you can save a lot of money by making them at home, plus you can customize them to be exactly how you like. They’re super easy too: a Vitamix will blend one in about 20 seconds.
Xanthan is made by fermentation, and it is used in a variety of foods, including sauces, dressings, and ice cream. Xanthan thickens without affecting flavor, and its liquid mixtures have the interesting property of being shear-thinning. In addition to stabilizing the ice-liquid mixture, xanthan also gives a Frappuccino a more satisfying mouthfeel.
Xanthan is available as a powder, and you may be able to find it in your grocery store in the baking section, as it is a common ingredient for gluten-free baking. Or you can get it online. A little goes a long way, so a jar will last a long time (that ~$9 linked jar is enough for ~340 Frappuccinos).
A small percentage of people report intestinal distress with xanthan, and I’ve read that some people prefer konjac glucomannan instead. However, xanthan has been used in foods for decades without any serious problems, and you’ve probably eaten plenty of it already (for sure if you’ve had Starbucks Frappuccinos). If you’d prefer not to use any isolated powders, I also have a whole-food recipe, which you can find below.
I made a side-by-side comparison, blending identical Frappuccinos with and without xanthan. Here they are: with xanthan on the left, without on the right: The difference is striking, both in terms of separation of liquid and ice, and mouthfeel.
The Starbucks ingredients also have another slightly unexpected ingredient, which is salt. A little salt helps balance flavors, even in sweet things.
Here’s the recipe that approximates the standard Starbucks Blended Coffee Frappuccino:
Traditional Frappuccino Ingredients
½ cup milk
½ cup strongly brewed coffee (double-strength), chilled
⅛ tsp xanthan gum
2.5 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt (¹⁄₁₆ tsp)
1 cup ice
Makes just over 12 oz, equivalent to the Starbucks ‘Tall’ size. (You can easily scale it up if you prefer. I’ve made a double batch, and you could go up to a quadruple batch with a Vitamix.)
Blend on high for about 20 seconds, and use the tamper if it stops circulating.
Be careful when pouring, because the ice-liquid mixture can slide out in a big clump, spilling outside your glass. (Ask me how I know.) You can avoid such a mess by using a spatula to ease it into your glass, or by shaking the container side-to-side immediately before pouring.
Flavorings and Toppings
You can of course also add your favorite flavorings and toppings. Vanilla, chocolate, caramel, whipped cream . . . The sky’s the limit!
You can adjust the recipe as much as you like. All it requires is a balance of liquid and frozen ingredients (roughly 1:1 by volume, exact ratio will depend on preference, temperatures of ingredients, size/shape of ice cubes, etc.).
You can obviously use your choice of milk. One of the times I made Frappuccinos I didn’t have any milk around, but I had some raw cashews. Cashews plus water blend up to a smooth milk, even without filtering. To make 1 cup of cashew milk I put 1/4 cup of cashews in the blender, then fill water to the 1 cup mark and blend on high for ~1 minute.
I’ve been using normal hot-brewed coffee that I let cool. I’ve always used it within the first day, but I’ve read that some people keep coffee in the fridge for a week or longer.
You could also use cold-brewed or instant coffee. Or you could use a latte/cappuccino powder, which would take care of all the ingredients except the ice. (Those powders tend to have cellulose gum, which plays a similar role to xanthan.)
The recipe uses xanthan, but as I mentioned above you can use glucomannan. Other alternatives include pectin and guar gum. If you want to read more about xanthan, glucomannan, and related ingredients, check out this extensive compilation of hydrocolloid information and recipes. For the whole-food recipe I used a slice of avocado.
To my taste, the Starbucks version is excessively sweet, so I prefer 1 Tbsp of sugar. You can also use your choice of other sweetener, including non-calorie sweeteners. (The sugar in Frappuccinos is not important for texture the way it is in things like sorbet.) In the whole-food version I used dates.
If you want your drink more frozen, add ice; less frozen, blend longer (use the tamper if it’s not circulating). If you want a more concentrated drink, you can freeze your milk or coffee into ice cubes so that you don’t use any water ice cubes.
2 pitted dates (I used Medjool)
½ cup milk
½ cup strongly brewed coffee (double-strength), chilled
⅛ small avocado (slightly under ripe)
pinch of salt (¹⁄₁₆ tsp)
1 cup ice
Blend everything but ice first, ~30 seconds. Then add ice and blend another 15-20 seconds.
The avocado is slightly under ripe to minimize avocado flavor. It may seem weird to have avocado with coffee, but you don’t taste the avocado. You can peel and slice the rest of the avocado and freeze it in a bag for future blended drinks.
The avocado stabilizes the mixture well: the Frappuccino in the photo at the top of this post was made with avocado. Not surprisingly, the flavor of this one is a bit different than the standard version; I’d describe it as more full. It is still totally satisfying though.
Make it Mocha!
You can add some cocoa powder plus a bit more sweetener or chocolate syrup to make a Mocha Frappe. I’d recommend starting with the above recipes plus 1 Tbsp cocoa & 1 Tbsp sugar or 1.5 Tbsp chocolate syrup.
I make mine at home in the vitamin because I like to know what’s in my food, but also I add a scoop of vanilla whey protein powder. This makes it creamier and higher protein, like a meal replacement. I do the same with matcha instead of coffee to make a green tea frap.
I just love your website, Thank you for all you do to keep us healthy. I cook, so I know how many hours you spend doing this. While I’m not a vegan or vegetarian I do love the way one considers food differently when you are. Veggies have always been my favorite food, along with nuts, so these recipes are such a blessing.
After really enjoying this recipe, I tried a chocolate version. I used cocoa powder and sweetener in the amounts I use for hot chocolate, but with half milk/half water. Outstanding as well. Thanks for sharing the secret.
Just made a double batch of this today. Very good recipe! I was able to find xanthan gum at one of our local grocery stores that carries a large amount of the Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods products. They offer an 8 oz package of xanthan gum. Just hoping that the package lasts as the amount needed for the recipe is quite small.
Awesome! My understanding is that as long as you keep it dry, xanthan gum should last at least a year, and probably multiple years. I gave half of mine to my mother because you’re right—recipes like this don’t use much.
Just tried this out WOW, my new go to drink this is really good. This is going to save me a ton of money, sorry Starbucks. In place of the sugar I used liquid sucralose 15 drops. Total calories is 80, milk 65 gum 5, coco 10 so if you are a diabetic and watching your calorie intake this is the way to go. Will try it next time with some decaffeinated coffee so I don’t have to worry about being up all night
would the amount of glucomannan, pectin or guar gum be the same as the xanthin gum?
More, or less, yes. They will have some differences, and I haven’t done comparison testing, but people use them in roughly the same range.
I want to use pectin too- mostly because I already have it, but it’s also a natural product (although surely a lot of processing needed to isolate/concentrate).
I have a ‘freezer’ pectin and a low sugar (activated by a special included mix of some form of calcium I think, so it works for stuff with little or no sugar). I haven’t had much success yet when I experimented. Do you know or have any good resources for working with various pectin types that might be useful for recipes like this? I’ve read a dozen articles but none explain how it actually works & how to use different kinds in your own concoctions. I love the info and links you provided for xanthan, incredibly helpful.
I can’t wait to try this with my new vitamix I got for Christmas (from me!) 🙂
I haven’t tried pectin, but that extensive resource I linked has a section on it. Here’s the link again: https://blog.khymos.org/recipe-collection/
I have a question, I want to make an overall simple syrup with sugar and water but would also like to add Xanthan Gum so I don’t have to add the powder to the drink. Can I do this and if “YES” how long to I boil the sugar and the water with the Xanthan of do I add the Xanthan Gum after the Simple Syrup cools. Thanks. I want to make a Litter of Syrup to use with in a month.
I haven’t tried, but I think it should be possible. Xanthan is heat stable, so I believe you could add it before or after boiling. (Some people mix it with sugar to disperse it and avoid clumping.) That said, if you have a blender, you don’t need to boil to make simple syrup. My favorite resource on hydrocolloids says that xanthan does not hydrate at sugar concentrations over 65%. As long as you stuck to a 1:1 simple syrup it should be fine.
I thank-you for information about using Xanthan gum. I tried a version of an ice cap and it didn’t go so good. Also one of the first recipes I made was lemonade, I tweaked it using low sugar cranberry juice it was so refreshing!
Thanks for the trick (xanthan gum.) I just ordered some and am going to give it a try when making the matcha green tea frappucinos at home.
Thank you. My daughter made an entire blender forc4 of us and could not get it to be creamy. It was like snow cones in a cup. I found your instructions, she added the xanthan and blended and we are now enjoying our delicious creamy frappe!
Great! Isn’t it nice when there’s a single (relatively available) secret ingredient?
I’m not sure what I did wrong. I didn’t have Xanthan so I used Glucomannan as I had that. I also put a little sunflower lecithin as I heard it was an emulsifier as well. I did double the recipe, so I used twice the amount of everything, yet, I still ended up with a very separated, like the first picture, drink. As drinking through a straw, I got all the liquid first and was left with the ice at the end. Now, this isn’t a phenomenon only to this recipe. I’ve always had that issue with this blender. Maybe I need to invest in some xanthan and see if that fixes things.
Huh, I would have thought that glucomannan would work. I have read that some of these thickeners/stabilizers take longer to fully hydrate, and some are better than others at low or high temperature. Maybe you could get the glucomannan to work by preparing a solution of it ahead of time and letting it sit for a while to fully hydrate.
Thank you for the suggestion. This afternoon I tried putting my glucomannan and sunflower lecithin in with the liquids, blended for a few seconds to disperse, then let it sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes while I did something else. Then I blended with coffee ice cubes and some regular ice and it seems to have done much better. I also added some chocolate whey powder so I am not 100% sure what fixed it, but will definitely be trying letting it sit for a few minutes before blending in the ice in the future!!
Do you think banana would have the same effect as avocado in the whole food version?
Probably, but I don’t eat bananas, so I don’t know for sure.
This looks great- I’ve been experimenting with a Xanthan gum coffee with vega protein/collagen (takes care of the sweetness)- also respect that you add salt! Such a complimenting addition to enhance sweetness 👌🏻
I’m trying to find the best Xanthan Gum for smoothies or ice cream. Is there any particular one I should buy? I’ve seen it used in baking too. Would that type go into a frap also. Any particular brand the best? Also is it high in sodium?
I doubt that it matters much which one you buy. I linked the one I got above, and I’ll link it again here: NOW Xanthan Gum. According to the Nutrition Facts label, it is not high in sodium, and you don’t use very much anyway.