Is black licorice gluten free?

Black licorice is a popular candy that has a distinctive flavor loved by many. However, for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, enjoying black licorice may not be so straightforward. Licorice gets its signature flavor from the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra). But many mass-produced black licorice candies also contain wheat flour or barley malt – both gluten-containing ingredients. This raises an important question: is black licorice gluten free?

What is Black Licorice?

Black licorice is a candy flavored with the extract of the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra). The plant contains glycyrrhizin, a compound that is 50 times sweeter than sugar and gives licorice its distinctive flavor.

To make black licorice candy, licorice extract is blended with sugar, corn syrup, and starch. This mixture is shaped into different candies, such as licorice twists, wheels, or pipes. Starch helps give the candy its chewy texture.

Traditional licorice is black in color. The black color comes from the addition of anise oil. Anise oil has a similar flavor to licorice root and accentuates the candy’s licorice flavor.

However, many mass-produced black licorice candies use artificial flavors and colors instead of real licorice root extract and anise oil. These types of “licorice” candies just aim to mimic the flavor and appearance of real black licorice, without actually containing much real licorice.

Does Black Licorice Contain Gluten?

Whether or not black licorice contains gluten depends on the specific ingredients used to make it.

The key ingredients in most black licorice candy are:

– Licorice root extract – Gives flavor, naturally gluten-free
– Sugar – Gluten-free
– Corn syrup – Gluten-free
– Starch – Can sometimes be from wheat, which contains gluten
– Flour – Typically wheat flour, contains gluten
– Anise oil – Gluten-free, provides licorice flavor
– Colorants – Often caramel color or artificial colors, gluten-free
– Flavorings – Often artificial, gluten-free

So real licorice made solely from licorice root extract, sugar, corn syrup, and anise oil would be naturally gluten-free.

However, many mass-produced commercial licorice candies contain questionable ingredients like wheat flour or wheat starch. These ingredients clearly contain gluten.

Some candies also contain barley malt as a flavoring. Barley contains gluten, so barley malt would not be gluten-free.

So in summary:

– Real black licorice made primarily from licorice root, sugar, corn syrup, and anise oil would be gluten-free.

– But mass-produced black licorice candies often contain gluten ingredients like wheat flour, wheat starch, or barley malt.

– It’s important to check the specific ingredients list to see if any gluten ingredients are present.

Why Licorice May Contain Gluten

There are a few reasons why many commercial licorice candies contain gluten, even though real licorice root extract is naturally gluten-free:

1. As a cheap thickener and binder

Wheat flour or wheat starch can help provide a chewy texture and bind the candy mixture together during manufacturing. This helps reduce production costs compared to only using licorice root extract.

2. As a flavor extender

Barley malt adds grainy, malty notes that can help reinforce the anise flavor in artificial black licorice candy. Providing licorice flavor without much real licorice extract saves money for candy companies.

3. For shaping/rolling candy

Wheat starch and flour helps make the licorice candy easier to work with when shaping it into ropes, wheels, or other shapes during production. The gluten helps give the needed pliability.

4. Presence of gluten in factory

Many candy factories also produce other wheat-based candies on the same equipment as licorice. Trace amounts of wheat can be introduced during manufacturing.

So for mainly economic reasons, many confectioners have chosen to include gluten-containing binders and flavorings in their licorice candies.

However, some brands do opt to keep their black licorice gluten-free by using only real licorice root, cornstarch, rice flour, or other gluten-free starches and thickeners.

Is Australian Licorice Gluten Free?

Australian licorice, like the popular brand Allsorts, is especially well-known globally. But is Australian licorice gluten free?

The ingredients can vary by brand, but many major Australian licorice candies do contain gluten.

For example, ingredients in Allsorts Original Licorice include:

– Wheat flour
– Barley malt extract

So Allsorts would not be considered gluten-free.

Other Australian brands that contain gluten include:

– Switzers Authentic Licorice
– Darrell Lea Original Licorice

So if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you’ll still need to read ingredients lists carefully on Australian licorice. Don’t assume it will be gluten-free just because it’s imported.

However, some Australian licorice products are gluten-free. Yulli’s makes dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan licorice. Their black licorice is gluten-free, containing rice flour instead of wheat.

So gluten-free Australian licorice products are available, but always check if gluten is a concern for you. Major brands like Allsorts currently use gluten recipes.

Popular Gluten-Free Licorice Brands

While many major mass-produced black licorice brands contain gluten, there are some gluten-free options available:

Brand Details
Yulli’s Australian brand, uses rice flour
Licorice International No wheat, gluten-free facility
Kenny’s Black Licorice Made in gluten-free facility
Super Gold Licorice No gluten ingredients
Heavenly Organics Licorice No gluten ingredients
Anne’s Tested to under 5 ppm gluten
Tru Licorice Tested to under 10 ppm gluten

These brands offer black licorice made without any wheat-derived ingredients. Several are also made in dedicated gluten-free facilities and tested to confirm minimal levels of gluten cross-contamination.

So if you enjoy licorice flavor, gluten-free options are available. Just be sure to carefully read the ingredients since many major brands do contain gluten.

Other Licorice Varieties: Red, Fruit Chews, etc

This article has focused specifically on traditional black licorice candy. But you may also be wondering about the gluten-free status of other licorice-flavored products:

Red Licorice

Red licorice twists actually don’t contain much real licorice extract. They’re more similar to chewy fruit-flavored candy.

Many major brands of red licorice twists do contain wheat flour, making them not gluten-free. You’ll need to find brands that use rice flour or corn starch instead.

Some gluten-free red licorice options include Kenny’s Red Licorice Twists, Farley’s Fruit Chews, and Darrell Lea Soft Eating.

Licorice Fruit Chews

Fruit-flavored licorice chews, gummies, ropes, and straws often contain wheat flour or starch as well. Popular brands like Twizzlers pull n’ peel contain gluten.

Again, look for fruit or “berry” licorice made with rice flour or other gluten-free starches. Darrell Lea strawberry licorice is a gluten-free option.

Licorice Teas

Many herbal licorice root teas are gluten-free to begin with. Licorice tea bags contain purely licorice root, anise oil, and other herbs. Popular brands of licorice tea like Traditional Medicinals and Yogi Tea don’t contain any gluten ingredients.

However, sometimes grain-based ingredients like barley malt are added for flavor. Check the ingredients lists of flavored licorice teas to ensure no gluten sources have been added. Plain licorice root tea is reliably gluten-free.

Licorice Extract Powder

You can buy ground licorice root powder to use when baking or making desserts and drinks. Pure licorice root powders from brands like Frontier Co-Op are gluten-free. Just avoid licorice powder blends with wheat flour or malt added.

Licorice Supplements

Finally, licorice root can sometimes be found in herbal supplements intended to help treat stomach or respiratory issues. These are typically in capsule or tablet form.

Most licorice supplements contain minimal additional ingredients beyond licorice root extract and are gluten-free. But as always, double check the actual ingredients lists since gluten-containing excipients could potentially be added.

Is Licorice Safe on a Gluten-Free Diet?

Outside of the directly gluten-related concerns, licorice can also pose some health and safety issues – especially when consumed in excess.

Some key points about licorice’s safety profile:

– The compounds in licorice root and tea are usually safe when consumed occasionally in moderation. The roots have been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times.

– However, consistently consuming very high doses of licorice may lead to side effects. The glycyrrhizin content can negatively affect hormone levels and blood pressure when over-consumed long-term.

– Licorice candies once in a while are fine for most people, but going overboard could be risky. Eating an entire 1 pound bag every few days may not be advisable. Everything in moderation!

– People with hypertension, kidney disease, liver disease, or electrolyte imbalances may be at higher risk for licorice side effects. Those with such pre-existing conditions should take extra care with portion sizes.

So licorice-flavored products that are gluten-free can absolutely be enjoyed in moderation as part of a gluten-free diet. Just keep your overall consumption within reasonable limits and consult a doctor if you have related medical concerns. Monitoring your reaction over time is also wise when adding anything new to your diet.

Finding Gluten-Free Black Licorice

If you want to enjoy quality black licorice candy but need to avoid gluten, look for these clues on ingredient labels:

Avoid if Contains:

– Wheat flour
– Wheat starch
– Barley malt
– Maltodextrin (usually from barley)
– Dextrin (can be wheat-derived)

Look for:

– Real licorice extract near the top of the ingredients list
– Cane sugar or brown rice syrup as sweeteners
– Rice flour, tapioca starch, or corn starch instead of wheat starch
– Gluten-free statements on the packaging

Buy from:

– Dedicated gluten-free brands
– Companies that make their products in gluten-free facilities
– Brands that have third-party testing for gluten cross-contamination

Doing a bit of research and carefully reading labels will help you find high-quality black licorice that can be safely enjoyed as part of your gluten-free lifestyle. Just remember moderation is still key when occasional side effects are a concern.

Cooking and Baking with Licorice

Beyond enjoying licorice candy on its own, you can also use licorice root powder to add flavor to your own gluten-free recipes:

Licorice Tea, Lattes, Hot Chocolate

Steep hot water with licorice tea bags or powder. Sweeten with honey or sugar and drink on its own. Or use strong licorice tea in place of water when making tea lattes, hot cocoa, or chai drinks.

Marinades & Sauces

Whisk licorice root powder into gluten-free tamari as a marinade for meats. Add it into pan sauces and gravies as well for a flavor boost.


Fold a small amount of licorice powder into gluten-free baked goods like muffins, cookies, cakes, and breads. Or sprinkle it on top of finished desserts. Use sparingly as the flavor is very potent.

Ice Cream

Infuse dairy or non-dairy milk with licorice root powder, then use as a base for homemade ice cream. Or add licorice powder into an ice cream churn along with your other mix-ins.

Smoothies & Popsicles

Add a bit of licorice powder into your favorite gluten-free smoothie recipe. You can also blend it into popsicle mixes before freezing for licorice-flavored pops.

Is Licorice Actually Good for You?

Licorice root does have some beneficial compounds, though the candy form has little nutritional value:

Potential Benefits

– Antimicrobial properties help fight bacteria and viruses
– Anti-inflammatory effect may soothe sore throats or stomach issues
– Acts as a demulcent by coating and soothing mucous membranes
– May offer mild laxative effects for constipation relief


– The root is likely more beneficial than the candy due to added sugar
– Those with high blood pressure need to moderate intake
– Pregnant women should avoid large amounts
– Can deplete potassium levels if over-consumed
– People on medications like diuretics should check for interactions

So licorice candy or tea once in a while can be harmless and enjoyable for most people. But the actual root may offer more advantages when used for specific medicinal purposes. Of course, check with a doctor before using licorice supplements long-term or in large quantities.

Gluten-Free Licorice: The Bottom Line

Traditional black licorice made primarily from real licorice root, sugar, and starch would be gluten-free. However, many mass-produced licorice candies and twists contain questionable fillers like wheat flour.

Major Australian licorice brands also often contain gluten. But there are some gluten-free options by reading labels carefully. Eating too much licorice can potentially lead to side effects, so moderation is key.

Overall, those avoiding gluten for medical reasons can still enjoy quality licorice in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Just be vigilant about checking ingredients lists and procuring reputable gluten-free brands. With a few precautions, the unique flavor of black licorice can still be appreciated on a gluten-free lifestyle.

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