The use of xanthan gum in the nixtamalization process: A review

María I. Silvas-García, Benjamín Ramírez-Wong*, Patricia I. Torres-Chávez, Lorenia C. Medina-Rodríguez, María G. Salazar-García, Ana I. Ledesma-Osuna

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Nixtamalization is an ancient process for the elaboration of multiple corn products, such as tortillas, tacos, tamales and snacks. These products provide important nutrients such as carbohydrates, dietary fiber and calcium. This ancient and basic food originating from several pre- Columbian Mesoamerican cultures has spread throughout the world. At present, the nixtamalization industry generates revenues of approximately two billion dollars annually. Nixtamalization is a thermal-alkaline process used for corn, mainly for the production of tortillas. This process beneficially changes the nutritional and textural properties of corn. The most common production of nixtamalized flour and dough (masa) products is the immersion of the corn kernel in a solution of lime, followed by a thermal process and subsequent milling to obtain a dough (masa). As a derivative of cooking, a large amount of polluting effluent, known as nejayote, is produced. This cooking liquor has an alkaline pH (10-12) and a high solid material content (6-12% w/w). In recent years, the extrusion process of grinding corn and adding lime to obtain nixtamalized corn flour without pollution has been proposed as an earthfriendly process, with significant advantages such as a shortened production time and increase in performance. The extruded nixtamalized corn flour is added to water to obtain masa, which is used to mainly prepare tortillas. However, tortillas obtained by this method exhibit rapid drying and a more fragile texture. In this sense, the addition of hydrocolloid gums, particularly Xanthan gum, has solved the problem of extruded nixtamalized corn flour, improving the rheological properties of the masa and the tortilla textural quality. The presence of this hydrocolloid allows the masa to increase its water content, which improves the characteristics of the resulting product. The use of Xanthan gum helps improve nixtamalized corn products as well as the use of green processes, which generate less pollution and better tortillas. Studies have shown that hydrocolloids can extend the shelf life of tortillas for longer periods of time because the hydrocolloid gums retard the starch retrogradation process, which also provides more readily digestible products. In third generation products, such as snacks, Xanthan gum is added to the mixtures for the production of pellets of expanded corn. The addition of the gum improves the structure and evens out the texture of the pellets, which is attributed to the gum’s high water retention capacity, thus providing a rubber matrix and helping to standardize the gaps between the starch polymer networks. The aim of this chapter is to review the studies in which Xanthan gum has been added in different stages to improve product quality during the nixtamalization processes (traditional or extrusion). This information could be used to improve nixtamalized corn products, to extend the tortilla shelf life and to design expanded nonfried snacks. Furthermore, this process may increase the nutritional value of the resulting products.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationXanthan Gum
Subtitle of host publicationApplications and Research Studies
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9781536100303
ISBN (Print)9781536100105
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016

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© 2016 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.


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