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Agar vs. Agarose: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 11, 2023
Agar is a complex mixture of polysaccharides extracted from seaweed, while agarose is a purified form of agar, primarily used in gel electrophoresis.

Key Differences

Agar is a gelatinous substance obtained from various species of red algae or seaweed. It's used in cooking and as a medium in biological research. Agarose, on the other hand, is a component of agar and is specifically extracted for its gelling properties, making it ideal for laboratory applications, particularly in molecular biology.
Agar contains a mixture of two polysaccharides: agarose and agaropectin. It's known for its ability to form gels at relatively low concentrations. While, agarose is the component responsible for the gel-forming properties and is usually separated from agaropectin to increase its purity for scientific use.
In culinary applications, agar is a popular vegetarian substitute for gelatin due to its ability to form stable gels at room temperature. Whereas, agarose is not typically used in cooking; instead, it’s crucial in the field of biotechnology and biochemistry, particularly in gel electrophoresis for DNA separation.
Agar is less refined than agarose and may contain impurities that can interfere with sensitive laboratory procedures. However, agarose gels are highly pure and have predictable molecular sieving properties, making them suitable for precise molecular work.
Agar's gelling properties are influenced by the presence of agaropectin and other minerals, which can affect its strength and melting temperature. Meanwhile, agarose gels are more uniform in composition and provide more consistent results, especially in analytical techniques.

Comparison Chart


A gelatinous substance from seaweed.
A purified form of agar for laboratory use.


Used in cooking and biology.
Primarily used in gel electrophoresis.


Mixture of agarose and agaropectin.
A component of agar, primarily polysaccharides.


Less refined, contains various impurities.
Highly purified for scientific applications.

Application Area

Cooking, microbiology cultures.
Molecular biology, DNA/RNA analysis.

Agar and Agarose Definitions


A gelatinous extract from red algae, used as a thickener in food.
Agar is commonly used in vegan desserts as a substitute for gelatin.


A polysaccharide used in biochemistry for DNA and RNA studies.
Researchers use agarose to analyze gene expression patterns.


A stabilizing agent in food and cosmetic products.
Agar is added to ice creams to improve texture and prevent ice crystal formation.


A refined form of agar used in gel electrophoresis.
Agarose gels are essential for separating DNA fragments during genetic analysis.


A culture medium for microbiological work.
Scientists often grow bacteria on agar plates in the lab.


A component of agar utilized in molecular biology.
Agarose provides a medium for DNA migration in gel electrophoresis.


A plant-based gelatin alternative in cooking.
Agar can create jellies and custards without animal products.


A gel-forming substance for scientific experiments.
Agarose is preferred for its consistency and reproducibility in laboratory settings.


A thickening agent derived from seaweed.
Agar is utilized in soups and sauces as a natural thickener.


A laboratory-grade material for nucleic acid separation.
Agarose is critical for visualizing DNA in forensic science.


A gelatinous material derived from certain marine algae. It is used as a base for bacterial culture media and as a stabilizer and thickener in many food products.


A polysaccharide obtained from agar that is the most widely used medium for gel electrophoresis procedures.


A culture medium containing this material.


A polymeric cross-linked polysaccharide extracted from the seaweed agar; used to make gels that are used in electrophoresis.


A gelatinous material obtained from red algae, especially Gracilaria species, used as a bacterial culture medium, in electrophoresis and as a food additive.


A culture medium based on this material.




Common shortened form of agar-agar{2}.


Any culture medium that uses agar as the gelling agent; - used especially with a modifying prefix, as, EMB agar. The term is applied both to the dehydrated medium powder containing agar and to the gelatinous medium prepared from it.


Any culture medium that uses agar as the gelling agent


A colloidal extract of algae; used especially in culture media and as a gelling agent in foods


Can agar and agarose be used interchangeably?

No, they serve different purposes; agar is a general-purpose gelling agent, while agarose is specific to laboratory use.

Is agar vegan-friendly?

Yes, agar is a plant-based substance and a popular vegan alternative to gelatin.

What is agar?

Agar is a gelatinous substance derived from red algae, used in cooking and as a culture medium in microbiology.

Why is agarose preferred in gel electrophoresis?

Due to its purity and consistent gelling properties, agarose provides better results in separating DNA fragments.

What is agarose?

Agarose is a refined component of agar, primarily used in scientific settings, especially for gel electrophoresis.

How is agar different from other gelling agents?

Agar forms gels at lower concentrations and remains solid at higher temperatures compared to other gelling agents like gelatin.

How is agarose extracted from agar?

Agarose is extracted through a series of processing steps to separate it from agaropectin and other impurities in agar.

What makes agar a good culture medium?

Agar's ability to form stable gels that are not easily degraded by microorganisms makes it ideal for culturing bacteria and fungi.

Are there any allergenic concerns with agar or agarose?

Both are generally considered safe, but rare allergic reactions to agar have been reported.

Can agar be used in high-temperature cooking?

Yes, agar can withstand high temperatures without losing its gelling properties.

How does the gelling strength of agar compare to agarose?

Agar has variable gelling strength due to its mixed composition, while agarose offers more consistent gelling strength.

Does agarose have any nutritional value?

Agarose is not used for its nutritional value but for its properties in scientific applications.

What is the melting point of agarose?

Agarose generally melts at about 90°C and solidifies at around 35°C-40°C.

Is agarose only used in DNA separation?

While its primary use is in DNA separation, agarose can also be used for RNA and protein electrophoresis.

What is the melting point of agar?

Agar melts at around 85°C and solidifies from 32°C to 40°C.

How does agar affect the texture of food?

Agar imparts a firm and slightly brittle texture to foods.

Can agarose be used in cooking?

No, agarose is not typically used in cooking due to its specific properties suited for laboratory use.

Is agar environmentally sustainable?

Yes, agar is sourced from seaweed, which is a renewable resource.

Can agarose be digested?

No, agarose is not digestible and passes through the digestive system unchanged.

What are the storage conditions for agar and agarose?

Both should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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