If you have a sweet tooth, you have probably enjoyed a recipe baked or cooked with vanilla extract. This ingredient is common in many sweets like cakes or vanilla ice cream.
It is critical for those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance to know whether a product has gluten. This post will dive deep into vanilla extract and is vanilla extract gluten free.
What Is Vanilla Extract?
There are two types of vanilla extract: pure and imitation. Pure vanilla extract is just as the name suggests. It is made solely from vanilla beans and has natural vanilla flavor. Whole vanilla beans are put into distilled alcohol for months to years. The flavor of pure vanilla extract is strong and sweet.
It is more expensive than imitation because vanilla beans are tricky to grow and harvest. Growing vanilla is labor intensive, and lately, the industry in Madagascar has been plagued with pirates stealing vanilla.
Most pure vanilla extracts come from Madagascar, Mexican vanilla, or Tahitian beans. You can definitely taste the difference when using the real thing.
The limited areas where vanilla can grow make the supply of vanilla much smaller than the demand. Even though it has a hefty price tag, it is usually better to use pure vanilla extract when cooking or baking. You’ll get the best, robust flavor and color from using the real stuff!
The cheaper alternative to pure vanilla extract is imitation vanilla. The imitation extract is cheaper for numerous reasons. First, while pure vanilla comes only from vanilla beans, cheap artificial vanilla extract is cut with sweeteners (i.e., added sugar). It may taste slightly like vanilla, but imitation vanilla tends to have a “chemical-like” aftertaste.
If you love baking as much as I do, check to see what baking ingredients are gluten-free.
Answer: Is Vanilla Extract Gluten Free?
Yes, and maybe, depending on if you use real or imitation vanilla. Pure vanilla extract is always gluten free! Many in the gluten free community worry about the alcohol content in extracts, but this is not an issue.
Bourbon vanilla made with real vanilla is also gluten free. Vanilla can be stored at room temperature, and small amounts go a long way in recipes. Molasses is another popular ingredient paired with vanilla; see Is Molasses Gluten Free.
Vanilla bean extract has an alcoholic base. The alcohol’s distillation process removes any possible gluten from the vanilla beans, with well below 20 ppm of gluten. Most vanilla bean pastes and extract manufacturers use alcohol from potatoes or sugar cane.
Though pure vanilla extract is gluten free, artificial vanilla extract is a bit more complicated. Imitation vanilla is generally free from gluten, but it can contain corn syrup, additives, and coloring to give it that same caramel color as a pure extract.
These ingredients may not be gluten free for all brands, so it’s important to check the label for an allergen ingredient statement. The importance of correct labeling really comes into play if you are considering cheap imitation vanilla flavoring.
In the United States, most flavorings and color additives are gluten-free. However, it's better to check the ingredient label first if you are celiac or have a high gluten sensitivity. Imitation vanilla brands are at risk for traces of gluten.
If you love to bake, be sure to see Is Honey Gluten Free too!
Gluten Free Vanilla Brands:
There are many great brands of vanilla extract! These brands use good manufacturing practices and are considered high-quality vanilla extract. You can find real vanilla extract at grocery stores and online.
- Simply Organic
- Great Value
- Costco Vanilla Extract
- Trader Joe's Vanilla Extract
- 365 Vanilla Extract (Whole Foods)
- OOrganics Vanilla Extract (Raleys chain stores)
- Stonemill Pure Vanilla Extract (Aldi)
Recipes With Vanilla Extract:
Vanilla extract is easy to make from scratch! Give this simple homemade vanilla extract recipe a try. It makes great gifts!
- Gluten Free Vanilla Wafers - They get rave reviews!
- Bakery Quality Gluten Free Vanilla Cake. Many use this recipe to make wedding cakes, too!
Simplifying the art of baking and cooking gluten-free recipes.