Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause negative health effects. As a result, these individuals must follow a strict gluten-free diet and avoid foods containing gluten.
Margaritas are a popular tequila-based cocktail typically made with a margarita mix, tequila, and lime juice. Many commercial margarita mixes contain glutenous ingredients like maltodextrin, dextrin, or barley malt. However, some brands produce gluten-free margarita mixes made without these problematic ingredients.
What ingredients commonly contain gluten?
Here are some of the most common ingredients that contain gluten:
- Barley malt
- Malt vinegar
- Soy sauce
- Teriyaki sauce
Any ingredient containing wheat, barley, or rye contains gluten. Other ingredients derived from these grains, like maltodextrin and dextrin, also contain gluten. Barley malt is commonly used to provide flavor in margarita mixes, beers, soy sauces, and other products.
Are traditional margarita mixes gluten-free?
Traditional, popular margarita mix brands like Jose Cuervo and Margaritaville are typically not gluten-free. They contain ingredients like maltodextrin and dextrin derived from wheat and barley. Individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should avoid these mixes.
Here are some examples of traditional margarita mixes that contain gluten:
- Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix
- Margaritaville Classic Margarita Mix
- Margaritaville Last Mango Margarita Mix
- Margaritaville Island Lime Margarita Mix
- Chi-Chi’s Margarita Mix
- Mr & Mrs T Margarita Mix
Always carefully read the ingredient list on any margarita mix to check for gluten-containing ingredients. Phrases like “maltodextrin” or “contains wheat and barley” indicate the presence of gluten.
What margarita mixes are gluten-free?
While many traditional margarita mix brands contain gluten, some specialty brands now offer gluten-free options:
- Picabi Gluten-Free Margarita Mix
- Margaritaville Trop-Rock Gluten Free Margarita Mix
- Tres Agaves Organic Skinny Margarita Mix
- Milagro Margarita Mix
- Sauza Sparkling Margarita Mix
These mixes avoid ingredients like wheat, barley, and maltodextrin. Be sure to still read labels carefully though, as ingredients can change over time.
Are homemade margarita mixes gluten-free?
Homemade margarita mixes using just lime juice, agave nectar or simple syrup, and water tend to be gluten-free. Avoid adding any maltodextrin, dextrin, barley malt, or other glutenous ingredients.
There are many gluten-free margarita mix recipes online using clean ingredients like:
- Fresh lime juice
- Lemon juice
- Orange juice
- Agave nectar
- Simple syrup
Making your own margarita mix allows you to control exactly what ingredients are included.
What about margarita salt and sugar mixes?
Some margarita mixes come pre-mixed with salt or sugar on the rim of the glass. These rim salted mixes may contain glutenous ingredients:
- Jose Cuervo Golden Margarita Salt
- Margaritaville Island Lime Margarita Salt
Always inspect the ingredient list, as most salt and sugar rim ingredients contain anti-caking agents that may be gluten-based. Make sure to look for a “gluten-free” label.
Should you use gluten-free tequila?
Most tequila is made naturally gluten-free from distilled blue agave. However, some debate exists around whether tequila can pick up traces of gluten during the distillation process:
- Most 100% agave tequilas are considered gluten-free, even without a certification.
- Blended tequilas with added grains may have higher potential for cross-contamination.
- Gluten-removed tequila has had the gluten filtered out.
- Tequilas certified gluten-free have been tested to below 20ppm.
Sticking with 100% agave tequila is a good option for avoiding gluten. If you’re highly sensitive, look for brands that are certified gluten-free.
Popular gluten-free tequila brands
Here are some 100% agave tequila brands considered gluten-free:
- Don Julio
These brands distill 100% blue weber agave without added grains. Individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can enjoy margaritas made with these gluten-free tequilas.
What about margarita limes?
Fresh lime juice and wedges are naturally gluten-free. However, be cautious of pre-packaged lime juice products, as they sometimes contain glutenous ingredients:
- Jose Cuervo Margarita Lime Juice Cocktail
- Ruby Red Grapefruit Margarita Lime Juice Cocktail
As always, read labels carefully and look for juices containing just lime juice without preservatives or anti-caking agents.
Tips for ordering gluten-free margaritas at restaurants
When ordering margaritas at a restaurant, here are some tips to stay gluten-free:
- Ask if they use a gluten-free margarita mix
- Request 100% agave tequila
- Ask for salt on the rim instead of a flavored, sugared rim
- Request fresh-squeezed lime juice
- Avoid beer or flavored margaritas with unknown mixes
- Check if the restaurant has a dedicated gluten-free menu
Ultimately, your safest option is sticks with simple margaritas made from 100% agave tequila, fresh lime juice, and gluten-free agave nectar or simple syrup.
Should you avoid margarita mixes altogether?
Due to the likelihood of cross-contamination and uncertainty about ingredients, some gluten-free diets recommend avoiding margarita mixes altogether. Making margaritas from scratch with gluten-free ingredients gives you the most control.
However, there are several reputable gluten-free mixes available if you read labels carefully. Call the manufacturer if you have any doubts. Gluten-free certification provides an extra layer of assurance.
While traditional margarita mixes often contain gluten, more gluten-free options are now available. Carefully read ingredient labels looking for wheat, barley, rye, maltodextrin, and dextrin. Also inspect flavored margarita salts and lime juice products for hidden gluten. Tequila is generally gluten-free, especially 100% agave varieties. With some diligence, gluten-free margaritas can be safely enjoyed by those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.