Find out if vanilla extract is safe for a gluten-free diet, and if imitation vanilla and vanilla flavoring are gluten-free.
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Vanilla extract is one of the most common ingredients in many baked goods today. There are few dessert and sweet tweet recipes that you’ll be able to find that don’t call for this delicious flavoring.
It’s for a good reason that vanilla extract is so popular too – it adds a flavor you just can’t get from any other ingredient. It’s rich, sweet smelling (without being sweet), and smells like a warm hug (I’m channeling my inner Olaf here).
Vanilla is such a common ingredient, you may not even consider how it fits into a gluten-free diet, because it’s so pervasive.
Just like any other ingredient and food, it’s important to do your due diligence and find out that every ingredient that goes into your mouth is safe for your gluten-free diet if you avoid it for health reasons.
Vanilla is so common in baked goods – homemade and store bought – that it’s a good idea to do some research and know what’s safe before continuing on cooking and baking with it.
In this post, we’re going to dive deep into the topic of vanilla extract and find out what vanilla is, what it’s made from, and if vanilla extract is gluten-free.
We’ll also learn about imitation vanilla and vanilla flavoring, discuss why vanilla extract is so expensive, and finally what brands are safe for a gluten-free diet. Let’s learn out about everyone’s favorite baking ingredient!
What is vanilla extract?
Vanilla extract is an ingredient made from steeping vanilla bean pods and seeds in alcohol and water.
It is used in many baking recipes and provides a very rich flavor and smell that many folks associate with homemade treats. Vanilla can also be used in savory dishes, but it is most commonly found in cakes, cookies, puddings, and sweets.
What is vanilla extract made from?
Vanilla extract is made from the beans of a tropical orchid that is native to Mexico, but is now grown in various parts of the world, like Madagascar, Central America, Africa, and the South Pacific.
Vanilla beans are cured, then ground into small pieces, then added to alcohol or water to extract the flavor from the vanilla beans and pods.
Some manufacturers make their vanilla extract slowly by allowing the flavors of vanilla to be extracted into the alcohol over a long period of time. Others try to speed this process up by using heat, but the flavor is often compromised when this method is used.
Vanilla extract is generally made from just vanilla beans and seeds and alcohol or water.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheat products, and acts as the “glue” that helps to hold wheat, barley, kamut, spelt, farro, durum, bulgur, rye, and semolina together to maintain their shape.
You can find gluten in whole grains, but also in many processed foods as well. If you purchase wheat bread, there will be gluten in it, because wheat by nature has gluten.
Many processed foods have hidden gluten in them in the form or gluten or wheat derivatives. These are also in the form of flavorings, binders to keep ingredients together, or other additives.
Is vanilla extract gluten-free?
Since alcohol or water is gluten-free, and vanilla beans are naturally gluten-free, we can say with certainty that pure vanilla extract is gluten-free and safe for a gluten-free diet.
Is imitation vanilla gluten-free? Is vanilla flavoring gluten-free?
Imitation vanilla is not the same as vanilla extract. This product is created from synthetic vanillin from other plant fibers – not the tropical orchids that make real vanilla beans.
Vanilla flavoring is a blend of pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla.
Imitation vanilla and vanilla flavoring, even though they’re not the same as real vanilla extract, are also likely to be gluten-free. As with any food, it’s best to look for a product with a gluten-free label if you’re concerned about gluten being present.
Why is vanilla extract so expensive?
Pure vanilla extract is expensive, because the ingredients to make it are rare and the time it takes to grow vanilla beans and extract them isn’t quick.
The process of growing and making vanilla extract is a big waiting game, so manufacturers boost prices, knowing there is demand for the product.
While vanilla extract can be on the pricey side, you get what you pay for. Pure vanilla extract is leaps and bounds better flavorwise compared to imitation vanilla or vanilla flavoring.
The nuanced flavor that comes from the real deal pure vanilla extract will come through in all your recipes. It is worth the extra money to get a good quality vanilla!
Gluten-free Vanilla Extract Brands
All vanilla extract brands are gluten-free, but if you’re wondering which to look for, here are some popular brands you can find locally or online that you can use in all your gluten-free baking.
- Beyond Good
- Kirkland Signature
- Native Vanilla
- Nielsen Massey
- Simply Organic
Are my favorite brands of vanilla extract gluten-free?
Find out if your go-to brands of vanilla extract are safe for your gluten-free diet using these Q&A’s below.
Is McCormick vanilla extract gluten-free?
The McCormick website states that their vanilla extract is non-GMO, free of corn syrup, and naturally gluten-free.
Is Aldi vanilla extract gluten-free?
I was not able to find a statement from Aldi on their website, but did find a document called “Guidance for people avoiding gluten” and their vanilla extract was on this list as a product that does not contain gluten.
Is Costco vanilla extract gluten-free?
The Kirkland Signature brand of vanilla extract contains only vanilla bean extractives in water and alcohol. There are no gluten-containing ingredients in this brand of vanilla extract.
Is Stop and Shop vanilla extract gluten-free?
Stop and Shop pure vanilla extract contains vanilla extractives in water, alcohol, and corn syrup. There are no gluten-containing ingredients in this brand of vanilla extract.
Read on: Is corn syrup gluten-free?
Is Clubhouse vanilla extract gluten-free?
The Clubhouse website shows there are no allergens in their pure vanilla extract, and it is made with vanilla bean extractives in water and alcohol. There are no gluten-containing ingredients in this brand of vanilla extract.
Is Watkins vanilla extract gluten-free?
The Watkins website states their pure vanilla extract is gluten-free, so you can trust that this is a safe option for your gluten-free diet.
If you love to bake and have been wondering where vanilla extract fits into your gluten-free diet, I hope this information has helped you. Vanilla extract is almost always gluten-free.
While it’s tempting to want to save a little money on vanilla and opt for an imitation or flavoring, know that the best quality and flavor will come from pure vanilla extract.