Is Vanilla Extract Gluten Free? Info, Brands and More

  • Vanilla is a popular flavor to add in baking and cooking sweets.
  • Vanilla extract is one of the most widely-used in the world.
  • Pure vanilla extract or flavor should be naturally gluten free. 
  • Alcohol in the extraction medium, along with additives, might infuse gluten in it.

Is vanilla extract gluten free? Any baker will tell you that this ingredient is a must in the world of baking. But people with Celiac or gluten sensitivity must be on the look out of foods they can eat, or not. This article will help.

If there’s a dessert being made, there’s a bottle of vanilla extract sitting at the workstation.

It’s true – almost every dessert needs a tiny splash of vanilla extract to kill the smell of ingredients like eggs and to round up all the other flavors.

It is a much-loved ingredient in baking and sweets. But is it gluten free?

Pure vanilla extract is rich in taste because of its pure ingredients. It should be naturally gluten free unless the alcohol used in it contains gluten.

There are chances of cross-contamination, as well. You can rely on a vanilla extract that’s free from additives or alcohol to have no gluten and be completely safe. 

Is Vanilla Extract Gluten Free – What is Vanilla Extract

is vanilla extract gluten free

Vanilla extract is quintessential in bakery and confectionary-making. It not only adds a strong flavor to all desserts and sweets but also enhances the flavors of the other ingredients.

The best-quality vanilla extracts come in bottles that are not exactly easy on our pockets. But is vanilla extract gluten free?

The simple truth is that pure vanilla extract, which comes from vanilla beans, is naturally free from gluten.

Traditionally, it has a base of water and alcohol in which the vanilla beans are added for the purpose of extraction and manufacturing of the clear but rich shade of amber and a mesmerizing aroma.

Some variants of vanilla extracts available now do not contain alcohol at all.

Either way, a high-quality vanilla extract does not contain flavoring agents or additives of any kind. Since vanilla beans have nothing to do with any of the gluten grains, vanilla extracts should be naturally gluten free.

The only source of gluten in pure vanilla extract is the alcohol content in it. If the alcohol used by the brand is distilled, it will not contain gluten.

However, since alcohol is mostly made from gluten, and the brand uses non-distilled alcohol in the vanilla extract, gluten may be present in this flavoring. 

The process of distillation usually removes gluten, and the trace gluten left behind is generally below the permitted limit of 20 ppm.

So, it’s a good idea to check the label properly to see if the vanilla extract you’re about to buy. A reliable brand will always use distilled alcohol – and mention that on the label.  

Some brands now use alcohol made from non-gluten sources like potatoes, sugarcane, or corn. Some brands don’t even use alcohol, which is considered a vanilla flavor.

But both alcohol-containing vanilla extract and alcohol-free vanilla flavor are now utilized and mentioned interchangeably.

Why You Should Stay Away From Cheap Imitations of Vanilla Extract

Because vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans and has a rich aroma, it is quite expensive.

So, many people choose low-cost versions of it. But this is not at all a good idea.

The first problem that you can face with a cheap vanilla extract is that the alcohol might not be distilled, and it can contain gluten. 

Another problem is that imitation or artificial vanilla extract – or vanilla flavor, to be exact – is the use of additives.

The aroma of vanilla is made stronger in such imitations by using artificial flavoring agents like bran, coal tar, and other scary products. You probably know that additives might contain gluten. 

Coloring agents are also used in a low-cost vanilla extract to give it a rich color.

Sadly, it is difficult to determine from the label of the extract bottle if these additives have gluten in them. So it is better to spend a little more on buying a vanilla extract that is pure and naturally free from gluten. 

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Pure Vanilla Extract – Is It Worth The Price?

If you do a lot of baking, the price of your first bottle of vanilla extract might give you a small heart attack.

Using such an expensive product on a regular basis might seem like an extraordinarily expensive ordeal, right?

But let us tell you that using pure vanilla extract might not exactly be as costly as you think.

Since the pure extract is potent in flavor, you will need to use very little of the product.

Honestly, if you replace your regular low-cost extract or flavoring with the same amount of pure extract, the vanilla flavor will be too bold.

It will overpower all other flavors in the recipe instead of complementing them. 

Since you will only need to use a small amount, the bottle will last longer. It will still be more expensive than regular, cheap vanilla extract, of course.

But when it comes to health, you cannot and should not compromise. If the extract contains non-distilled alcohol or gluten-containing additives, it will harm you. 

How Vanilla Extracts Are Made

There are different ways of extracting the pure essence from vanilla beans. However, to ensure that the vanilla extract is pure, strongly flavorsome, and healthy, without any gluten content in it, the following two methods of extraction are used. Take a look at these healthy vanilla extraction methods.

is vanilla extract gluten free
extracting vanilla using alcohol

a) Vanilla Extraction Using Distilled Alcohol

As mentioned earlier, the best way to ensure that vanilla extract is gluten free is by using distilled alcohol.

The process of distillation eliminates gluten content and prevents the formation of any extra protein. Other gluten free products used in the extraction medium with alcohol is water.   

b) Vanilla Extraction Using Plain Water

Vanilla extraction is also performed with the help of a purely water-based extraction medium.

The process is tedious, which is why large-scale commercial producers often avoid it.

However, many brands have now developed the practice of vanilla extraction using pure water for those who avoid alcohol.  

These methods are used for pure vanilla extract. There are other variants of vanilla extract which cannot exactly be termed as extracts.

These are low-cost flavoring agents with additional ingredients or even vanilla flavorings.

Their manufacturing process will differ based on the product and the brand. 

Technically, when there is no alcohol, the liquid is referred to as vanilla flavor.

However, referring to alcohol-free flavor as a pure extract has become a well-accepted convention now.

This production process of vanilla flavor uses propylene glycol. But you should be careful if you are allergic to the substance.  

Making Your Own Vanilla Extract At Home

Vanilla extract is readily available at any good store. Yet, some people make it at home.

The question is – is it worth all the hassle? You see, the best thing about making something at home is knowing exactly what you’re eating or feeding your family. The satisfaction of picking the healthiest products is heavenly.

If you are allergic to gluten or have celiac disease, you probably already have the habit of cooking everything at home.

This is to ensure that nothing remotely gluten-containing goes into your mouth.

Vanilla extract can also be made at home to ensure that it is gluten free and safe for your consumption.

Pure vanilla extract is indeed gluten free, but sometimes, manufacturers might put additives in them, and these might not be gluten free.

In addition, pure vanilla extract that’s free from gluten is going to burn quite a hole in your pocket. Most importantly, vanilla extract is pretty easy and fun to make.

Here’s how you can make pure vanilla extract at home:

A. Homemade Vanilla Extract (With Alcohol)

Here’s how to make vanilla extract at home, using an alcoholic medium. 

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Ingredients: 

  • Vanilla beans – 3 pieces
  • Vodka (70 proof) – 1 cup
  • Mason Jar (tall and narrow) – To be used as a vessel for extraction

Instructions:

  • Split open each vanilla bean by cutting it lengthwise using a knife. Be careful not to separate the two halves. Keep them connected at the bottom.
  • Put the split beans into the mason jar. Pour the vodka into the jar so that the beans are completely submerged in it. Put the lid on the jar and close it tightly. You can wrap the jar in a piece of black cloth.  
  • Put the jar in a cool and dark space, and let it stay for 2-3 months, pulling it out every week to give it a shake before putting it back. You can keep it for 6-12 months, too!

Your vanilla extract is ready to be used. Since 70 proof vodka has about 35% alcohol and 65% water.

This ratio of alcohol to water is used commercially. So, by using 70 proof alcohol, you get what the purest vanilla extract makers provide.

If you use a higher proof, the final extract will be more potent in flavor. 

B. Homemade Vanilla Extract (Without Alcohol)

Hate alcohol? Don’t worry! We have another simple recipe for you. 

Ingredients:

  • Vanilla beans – 3 pieces
  • Water – ¾ cup
  • Food-grade glycerin – ¼ cup
  • Mason Jar (tall and narrow) – To be used as a vessel for extraction

Instructions:

  • Split the vanilla beans using a knife, and be careful not to separate them. 
  • In a separate container or jar, mix together 3 parts of water with 1 part of glycerin.
  • Put the beans inside the mason jar and pour in the mix of glycerin and water.  
  • Place the bottle in a cool and dark place and let it sit there for at least two months, bringing it out to shake it every week. You can let it sit like that for about 2 months. 

Your vanilla extract is ready. It is free from alcohol and gluten and is perfect for your bakery needs.

Sure, vanilla beans are expensive, and the process demands your patience. However, it is a healthy way to allow glycerine to extract the rich flavor from the beans to give you something that’s packed with flavors.

Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic vanilla extracts made at home have a long shelf life.

They can last indefinitely, though they remain in their best condition for up to 4-5 years.

Make sure to store the liquid in an airtight jar and keep the vanilla extract in a cool and dry space for best results. 

Best Gluten Free Vanilla Extract Brands

Making vanilla extract at home might be easy and healthy, but it’s also time-consuming.

If you think you will get bored of waiting for several months for your vanilla extract to come out all perfect, you can always choose a store-bought one. You’ll find them at local stores and online. 

Let’s take a look at some of the best gluten free vanilla extract brands. 

a) McCormick

The first name on our list of recommendations is the pure and natural vanilla extract from the house of McCormick.

It is made of Madagascar vanilla beans, which is enriched with the highest level of vanillin for a robust, full-bodied flavor.

You will also get a hint of tobacco in the “bourbon rummy” taste. 

Made with a medium of water and alcohol, this extract proudly flaunts its gluten free status on the package itself.

So you can purchase this extract without any fear of allergic reactions. It’s also free from GMOs and is manufactured using nothing but pure ingredients. It also comes in a “no mess” bottle. 

b) Nielsen-Massey

The next name is Nielsen-Massey. It has given the world a wide range of pure vanilla extracts.

Its range includes vanilla beans Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico, Uganda, and Tahiti.

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One of the Madagascar bean extracts is made with bourbon. Some extracts have a mix of various beans from different regions.

All Nielsen-Massey vanilla products have an alcoholic base. They are also extremely healthy.

You can rely on the brand because all the products are certified as all-natural, GMO-free, and of course, gluten free. They also do not contain any added sugar, so that you can enjoy nothing but the pure taste of vanilla. 

c) Blue Cattle Truck Trading Co.

One of the most popular choices for vanilla extracts is produced by Blue Cattle Truck Trading Co.

This extract is made using vanilla beans from Mexico. You cannot miss the spicy, woody richness in the smooth and creamy taste of the extract – features that are common in any Mexican vanilla extract. 

This vanilla extract is completely healthy, with no additives, preservatives, coumarin, or corn syrup.

It is also registered with the FDA and is made by following all set standards. The extract is also free from gluten content, as mentioned on the package itself. It is a great combo of health and taste in a bottle. 

d) Singing Dog

Singing Dog offers both alcohol-rich vanilla extracts and alcohol-free vanilla flavors. In all its products, the beans used come from Indonesia.

So, you get a rich and unforgettable taste that adds fruity and spicy notes to any dish in which you put it. Indonesian vanilla is noted for the flavors of cinnamon and prunes. 

While the vanilla extracts of this brand contain alcohol from sugarcane, its vanilla flavor is made using glycerine from rapeseed. All its products are free from allergens.

They are also completely gluten free, as mentioned on the package, and the brand site mentions that it takes care to keep the facility safe, too. 

e) Thrive Market

One of the most popular vanilla extracts is produced by Thrive Market. The product uses vanilla beans that are sourced ethically from Madagascar for a rich taste that you will instantly fall in love with.

This extract is for environmentally-conscious eaters, as it comes in a bottle made of recycled plastic. 

The brand also takes care of the health of its buyers because this product has several certifications to prove how healthy it is.

It is free from sweeteners, salt, soy, GMOs, additives, and preservatives. It is also free from gluten and is safe for you. The brand also ensures that farmers benefit from your purchase.

The brands might be expensive, but they are high-quality and healthy. If you are going to buy vanilla extract, it is ideal to invest in the best products instead of settling for something less just to save a few bucks.

Any vanilla extract that is marked gluten free will be a little on the expensive side of the scale. 

Alternatives to Vanilla Extract

We have already mentioned that there are inexpensive vanilla flavors available.

But chances are, these cheap ones are fake and unhealthy. You will also find artificial additives in them.

So, if you are planning on buying the liquid form of vanilla to add flavor to your dishes, a pure vanilla extract or flavor is ideal. 

Apart from the liquid form of vanilla, i.e., extract, there are other ways to infuse the richness of the beans in your cooking and baking.

You can buy vanilla bean paste or vanilla or vanilla bean powder, both of which are free from gluten. Or you can invest in vanilla beans. But none of these are pocket-friendly.

Final Words

Vanilla is one of the most widely used flavors in the world of sweets. Not only is it a rich aroma on its own, but it also enhances the aromas of other ingredients in any dish and rounds them up beautifully.

Pure vanilla extract is expensive, but it’s packed with flavors and ideal for a gluten free lifestyle. 

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About the Author: Diana

Foodie at heart, ever since I discovered I had Celiac, I completely changed my diet and eating habits, I enjoy writing and reading about recipes and actually cooking for my family