Pectin is a structural heteropolysaccharide contained in the primary cell walls of terrestrial plants.
It is produced commercially as a white to light brown powder, mainly extracted from citrus fruits, and is used in food as a gelling agent particularly in jams and jellies. It is also used in fillings, sweets, as a stabilizer in fruit juices and milk drinks and as a source of dietary fibre.
The main use for pectin is as a gelling agent, thickening agent and stabilizer in food. The classical application is giving the jelly-like consistency to jams or marmalades, which would otherwise be sweet juices. For household use, pectin is an ingredient in jelling sugar (sometimes sold as “sugar with pectin”) where it is diluted to the right concentration with sugar and some citric acid to adjust pH. In some countries, pectin is also available as a solution or an extract, or as a blended powder, for home jam making. For conventional jams and marmalades that contain above 60% sugar and soluble fruit solids, high-ester pectins are used. With low-ester pectins and amidated pectins less sugar is needed, so that diet products can be made. Pectin can also be used to stabilize acidic protein drinks, such as drinking yogurt, and as a fat substitute in baked goods. Typical levels of pectin used as a food additive are between 0.5 – 1.0% - this is about the same amount of pectin as in fresh fruit.
In molecular gastronomy, pectin is used in the production of emulsions, foams and gels.