Unsweet sugar mostly used in creative cooking as an aroma carrier, in the form of tasty powder that can be sprinkled over food preparations and dishes.
Maltodextrin is derived from starch from grains such as corn or rice, tubers such as potatoes, or roots such as tapioca. This starch is composed of long chains of sugar and is the plant’s food reserve.
Once the starch is extracted from the original product, it is hydrolyzed, that is, degraded by enzymes. The process is virtually the same as in starch degradation by enzymes in the digestive system.
Although the composition of maltodextrin is a blend of sugar, its sweetening power is much weaker than that of syrups and table sugar! The indicator used to measure the hydrolysis degree of sugars is called “Dextrose Equivalent” (DE). DE ranges from 0 to 100 where 0 corresponds to untransformed starch and 100 corresponds to simple dextrose molecules, i.e., entirely hydrolyzed sugar. On this scale, refined sugar of the type generally used in cooking occupies the 92 to 99 range. Syrups, such as corn syrup, have a DE between 20 and 91. Maltodextrins have a DE below 20, so they range between starch and syrups.
In the food industry, maltodextrin is used to make soft, low-fat bakery products. It also prevents the formation of crystals on the surface of frozen foods and is used as a sugar substrate in sports drinks.
Besides the food sector, its uses are diverse. Some soaps use it as an aroma carrier and texturizer. The pharmaceutical industry uses its properties to reduce crystallization in syrups and as a filler in tablets.
The use of maltodextrin has been further extended in molecular gastronomy by absorbing fats to create flavorful powder. Since maltodextrin is easily soluble in water – and therefore in the saliva – once in the mouth, these powders melt and release their fat.
Did you know?
- Maltodextrin is added to beer to improve its mouthfeel.
- It is a significant part of the content of powdered energy drinks used by athletes.
- It is used in the manufacturing of many drugs to improve taste, shape or solubility.
- It is considered by nutritionists to be an empty substance containing virtually no calories, vitamins or nutrients.