Licorice is generally considered gluten-free. Most licorice candies and products do not contain wheat, barley, rye or other gluten-containing ingredients. However, some licorice candies may be produced in facilities that also process gluten products or have cross-contamination risks. Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should check the labels and contact manufacturers to confirm gluten-free status before consuming licorice products.
What is Licorice?
Licorice is a confectionery product with a distinctive flavor derived from the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra). The licorice plant is a flowering plant native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. The roots of the plant are used to provide the signature flavoring for licorice candy and other products.
The primary flavor compounds in licorice root are glycyrrhizin and anethole. Glycyrrhizin is 50 times sweeter than sugar and gives licorice its characteristically sweet flavor. Anethole provides the aromatic, anise-like notes.
Licorice flavoring is used in a variety of products including:
- Licorice candies – Red vines, twists, pipes, wheels
- Licorice syrups
- Chewing gum
- Cigars and cigarettes
- Baked goods
- Liquors and spirits
In addition to flavoring, licorice root extract has uses in herbal medicine, although high consumption can have adverse health effects. The compounds in licorice root have demulcent, expectorant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.
Does Licorice Contain Gluten?
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape and gives elasticity to dough. It acts as a “glue” that holds food together.
For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the small intestine. This can cause a variety of gastrointestinal and other symptoms. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.
Licorice root, glycyrrhizin and anethole themselves do not contain gluten. However, licorice candies and other products flavored with licorice may contain other ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains.
For example, wheat flour or barley malt extract are sometimes used as binding agents in the production of licorice candies. Certain brands use oat flour to prevent sticking. Additionally, licorice pipes and straws may be dusted with wheat starch to prevent pieces from sticking together.
Most manufacturers of pure licorice extract do not source gluten-containing grains. But the possibility of cross-contamination still exists depending on production methods.
So while pure licorice root and its derivatives are naturally gluten-free, final products flavored with licorice warrant caution. Checking labels and contacting manufacturers is important for gluten-free diet adherence.
Are Popular Licorice Candy Brands Gluten-Free?
Here is the gluten-free status of some top selling licorice candy brands according to company statements and consumer reports:
Twizzlers licorice twists are produced by The Hershey Company. According to Hershey’s, all Twizzlers products sold in the United States are gluten-free. However, Twizzlers products sold in Canada and other countries are NOT gluten-free.
Red Vines original red licorice twists are gluten-free according to the manufacturer American Licorice Company. The company uses a wheat-free manufacturing facility. However, some of their other products contain gluten.
Good & Plenty
Good & Plenty licorice candy is gluten-free, according to the Hershey Company which produces the brand.
Chomperz soft licorice is certified gluten-free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO).
Ritter Sport licorice chocolate bars are produced in a facility that also processes gluten. The company cannot guarantee their products are gluten-free.
Panda brand soft licorice chews contain wheat flour and barley malt extract. They are not gluten-free.
Crows licorice pipes do not contain any gluten-based ingredients according to the manufacturer Darrell Lea. However, they do share manufacturing equipment with gluten products so cross-contamination is possible.
Licorice International sells 100% pure licorice extract and licorice products like pipes, ropes, and wheels. They state their products are gluten-free but warn those sensitive should verify based on their level of sensitivity.
Switzer’s licorice is specifically made in a peanut, tree nut and gluten-free facility according to the company.
Kenny’s Candy indicates their licorice products are gluten-free on their website. They also note that products are made on shared equipment so cross-contamination is possible.
|Twizzlers||Gluten-free (in the U.S.)|
|Good & Plenty||Gluten-free|
|Ritter Sport||Not guaranteed gluten-free|
|Crows||Gluten-free but risk of cross-contamination|
|Licorice International||Gluten-free but verify based on sensitivity|
|Kenny’s Candy||Gluten-free but risk of cross-contamination|
Is Black Licorice Gluten-Free?
Black licorice gets its signature color and flavor from the licorice plant ingredient itself. The dark color comes from the molasses that is added to the roots during extraction of the licorice extract.
Pure black licorice is made from licorice extract, sugar or corn syrup, and molasses or caramel color. It does not naturally contain any gluten.
However, some mass-produced black licorice candies may use small amounts of wheat flour or barley malt extract. This helps give the candies a chewy, gummy texture. Brands that use these ingredients would not be gluten-free.
Additionally, many black licorice candies are produced on shared equipment alongside wheat-based candies. This introduces the chance of cross-contamination.
So while real, natural black licorice is gluten-free, it’s important to check labels and contact manufacturers to confirm absence of gluten before consuming. Those with celiac disease or sensitivity should exercise caution with mainstream black licorice candies.
Is Licorice Tea and Herbal Tea Gluten-Free?
Many herbal licorice teas are formulated with pure licorice root along with other herbs, spices, and botanicals. Since licorice root is naturally gluten-free, these teas are fine for gluten-free diets as long as no other gluten-containing ingredients are added.
However, some licorice tea brands contain barley or wheat as added ingredients. For example, Biofinest Licorice Tea contains both barley and wheatgrass. This would not be gluten-free.
Some other ingredients to watch out for in herbal teas include:
- Barley malt
- Grains like Kamut or farro
- Maltodextrin (may be derived from wheat)
- Natural flavoring (may contain gluten)
As long as the ingredients are limited to teas, herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables and gluten-free flavors, the tea can be considered gluten-free. Checking the label and contacting the manufacturer is the best way to verify gluten-free status.
Some gluten-free licorice root tea brands include:
- Traditional Medicinals Organic Licorice Root Tea
- Celestial Seasonings Licorice Tea
- Republic of Tea Organic Licorice Root Tea
- Yogi Licorice De Glycyrrhiza Glabra Tea
- Triple Leaf Licorice Root Tea
Is Licorice Safe on a Gluten-Free Diet?
For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, pure licorice root and licorice flavor made without gluten-containing ingredients are generally considered safe. However, licorice does pose some health risks when consumed in excess.
Licorice root contains the compound glycyrrhizin. In high doses, this compound can lead to side effects like high blood pressure, edema, low potassium levels, headache and fatigue.
The European Union has set the safe limit for glycyrrhizin at 100 mg per day. For American adults, the FDA suggests limiting licorice consumption to no more than 2 ounces (56 grams) per day.
Moderate, occasional intake of licorice flavored products and teas is not a cause for concern. But regular, high consumption could potentially lead to adverse effects in some individuals. Those with hypertension or heart conditions may be more susceptible.
As long as licorice intake stays within the FDA recommendations, it can be safely enjoyed as part of a gluten-free diet. But those who experience negative symptoms may want to minimize licorice consumption.
What About Licorice Allsorts and Other Licorice Sweets?
In addition to twists and other basic licorice candies, companies produce a wide range of licorice-flavored sweets. These include licorice allsorts, strings, whips, pipes, straws, wheels, drops and more.
The gluten-free status of these specialty licorice products varies by brand. Some use gluten-containing wheat starch or flour to help bind and shape the sweets. Cross-contamination is also a potential concern.
Making sure the sweets are produced in a certified gluten-free facility is ideal. Otherwise, carefully reading ingredient lists and reaching out to manufacturers is key.
The following brands offer specialty licorice sweets specifically made in dedicated gluten-free facilities:
- Kenny’s Candy Licorice Pastels, Straws, Scottie Dogs
- Glutenberg Licorice Wheels
- Edward & Sons Dried Licorice Wheels, Straws
- Dr. Kracker Licorice Twists
- Colorado Sweets Licorice Scottie Dogs, Whips
Pure licorice root, extract and oils are naturally gluten-free. But final licorice-flavored products may contain problematic ingredients or be cross-contaminated during manufacturing in shared facilities.
Reading labels carefully and verifying the production process with manufacturers is important. Those who are extremely sensitive may want to stick to brands made in certified gluten-free facilities to minimize any risk.
Overall, licorice can typically be enjoyed in moderation as part of a gluten-free diet. But it’s always best to check with your doctor if you have concerns about the safety or interactions of specific products with your individual health condition and sensitivities.