Is vanilla extract 0 Cal?

Quick Answer

No, vanilla extract is not 0 calories. While pure vanilla extract only contains water and vanilla bean extract, most commercial vanilla extracts contain some amount of alcohol as a solvent, which provides around 20-25 calories per teaspoon. However, since vanilla extract is used in very small amounts, the calories it contributes to recipes is minimal.

What Is Vanilla Extract?

Vanilla extract is a flavoring made by infusing vanilla beans in a solution of water and alcohol. This allows the flavor compounds from the vanilla beans to be extracted into the liquid.

The main ingredients in pure vanilla extract are:

– Vanilla beans – Vanilla extract is made by infusing pods from the vanilla orchid in a liquid solution. Vanilla beans provide the characteristic flavor and aroma.

– Water – Pure vanilla extract contains water as the main solvent for extracting the vanilla components.

– Alcohol – Most commercial vanilla extracts use a 35-40% alcohol solution as the solvent instead of pure water. The alcohol helps draw out more of the flavor from the vanilla beans.

– Sugar – Some lower quality vanilla extracts add sugar or corn syrup as part of the solution. Pure extracts contain no added sugars.

So in its purest form, vanilla extract contains no calories, since it is just vanilla bean extract in water. However, the addition of alcohol adds some minimal calories.

Typical Nutrition Facts for Vanilla Extract

For a typical commercial vanilla extract made with an alcohol base, the nutrition facts are:

– Serving size: 1 tsp (4g)
– Calories: 20
– Fat: 0g
– Carbs: 0g
– Protein: 0g

The calories come entirely from the alcohol content. Pure vanilla extract without alcohol would provide 0 calories per serving.

Does Vanilla Extract Have Calories?

Vanilla extract contains minimal calories since it is used in such small quantities.

The main source of calories in commercial vanilla extract is from the alcohol used to help extract flavor from the vanilla beans. Alcohol contains around 7 calories per gram.

A typical vanilla extract is 35-40% alcohol. This means:

– A teaspoon (4g) of vanilla extract contains around 1.4-1.6g of alcohol
– The alcohol in a teaspoon of vanilla extract provides 10-11 calories

So even though vanilla extract is not completely 0 calories, it still only contains around 20 calories per teaspoon.

This is a negligible amount of calories when you consider how little vanilla extract is used in recipes.

For example, a typical cookie recipe calls for 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract for a whole batch. Divided among all the cookies, the calories added by the vanilla extract per cookie are minimal.

Calories from Sugar

Some cheaper vanilla extracts add corn syrup or sugar to their ingredients. This adds additional calories from carbohydrates.

A teaspoon of sugar contains around 16 calories. So for vanilla extracts with added sugars:

– 1 tsp may contain 15-20 calories from sugar
– 1 tsp may contain up to 35 calories total (20 from alcohol + 15 from sugar)

When looking for a pure vanilla extract with minimal calories, check the ingredient list to make sure it only contains vanilla beans and alcohol or water. Avoid products with added sugars.

Does Vanilla Extract Break a Fast?

For people following intermittent fasting or other fasting diets, even small amounts of calories can break your fast.

So does vanilla extract break a fast if it contains 20-25 calories per teaspoon?

Whether those calories impact your fast comes down to your specific fasting goals and rules.

Here are some general guidelines:

– For fasts under 50 calories, the calories from a teaspoon of vanilla extract could break your fast.
– For fasts under 100 calories, the small amount of calories are less likely to make a difference. The insulin response should be minimal.
– For longer fasts like 16/8 or 24 hours, a teaspoon of vanilla extract is unlikely to have any significant impact.

If you are doing a pure water fast, try to avoid vanilla extract. But for more flexible fasting plans, the tiny calories from vanilla extract should not cause any concerns.

Some people prefer to play it safe and opt for pure vanilla extracts without alcohol during a fast. But many people still use normal vanilla extracts in small quantities without issue.

Should You Use Sugar-Free Vanilla Extract When Fasting?

There are sugar-free and zero-calorie vanilla extracts made specifically for low carb diets and fasting.

These sugar-free vanilla extracts substitute alcohol with glycerol as the solvent. Since glycerol does not provide calories, this gives a true 0 calorie option.

Using a sugar-free vanilla extract can prevent even minimal calories from entering your system during a fast. However, glycerol has a slightly different flavor profile from alcohol-based extracts.

For most people doing daily 16-hour fasts or 24-hour fasts, the tiny calories from regular vanilla extract are not a big concern. But if you want to strictly avoid any calories, a sugar-free vanilla extract is an option.

Does Vanilla Extract Have Carbs?

Pure vanilla extract contains no carbohydrates.

However, some cheap mass-produced vanilla extract products add corn syrup or sugar to the ingredients, which adds carbs.

Net Carbs in Vanilla Extract

Pure vanilla extract with no added sugars has zero net carbs:

– Total carbs: 0g
– Fiber: 0g
– Net carbs: 0g

Vanilla extracts with added sugars will provide around 4g net carbs per teaspoon:

– Total carbs: 4g
– Fiber: 0g
– Net carbs: 4g

To keep net carbs low, always check the label and avoid products with “sugar” in the ingredients. Stick to pure vanilla extract without additives.

Keto-Friendly Vanilla Extract

For the keto diet or other very low carb eating plans, pure vanilla extract with no sugars is ideal for keeping net carbs negligible.

Small amounts of liquid extracts generally do not need to be tracked or counted for keto, since the carbohydrate content is so minimal.

Some keto dieters also opt for sugar-free vanilla extract made with zero-calorie glycerol instead of alcohol. This provides an extra assurance of zero carbs or calories entering the diet from vanilla flavoring.

Can You Substitute Vanilla Extract in Recipes?

Vanilla extract has a very distinctive flavor that is hard to perfectly mimic with other ingredients. However, there are some workable substitutes that provide a similar vanilla taste:

Vanilla Bean Paste

Vanilla bean paste is a convenient substitute for vanilla extract in recipes. It provides the same vanilla flavor thanks to real vanilla bean seeds contained in the paste.

The main difference is vanilla bean paste has a thicker, more paste-like texture compared to liquid vanilla extract. But it can typically be used in a 1:1 ratio to replace vanilla extract.

Vanilla Powder

Vanilla powder is made from ground vanilla beans. It can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract, though it provides a less concentrated flavor.

Use about 2 teaspoons of vanilla powder for every 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract called for. Vanilla powder works best in recipes where it can dissolve, like cookies or cakes.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

You can make your own DIY vanilla extract at home by infusing vanilla beans in a high-proof alcohol like vodka. This provides a natural option free of added sugars.

Let the beans steep for at least 2 months before using to allow the flavors to fully develop. One vanilla bean in 1/4 cup vodka makes about 1/4 cup of vanilla extract.

Imitation Vanilla Extract

Imitation vanilla made with artificial vanillin provides similar flavoring power as real extract. However, it lacks the aromatic compounds only real vanilla beans can provide.

Imitation vanilla often contains added sugars as well. It works in a pinch, but real extract provides superior flavor.

What About Vanilla Essence?

Vanilla essence is another type of vanilla flavoring like vanilla extract. However, there are some key differences:

– Vanilla extract – Made by infusing vanilla beans in alcohol/water solution
– Vanilla essence – Made by dissolving vanilla bean extract in water

This gives vanilla essence a much milder flavor. It takes about 2-3 times more vanilla essence to match the flavor intensity of vanilla extract.

Vanilla essence is more common in Europe, while vanilla extract is the standard vanilla flavoring in the USA. Essence is mostly used in recipes where alcohol is undesirable, like in children’s baked goods.

Vanilla essence also typically contains added sugar, so it is not quite as low in calories and carbs as sugar-free vanilla extract.

What’s Better – Vanilla Extract vs Flavoring?

Vanilla extract and vanilla flavoring sit side by side on most grocery store shelves. What’s the difference?

Vanilla Extract

– Made by infusing vanilla beans in alcohol/water
– Provides true vanilla flavor from real beans
– Contains minimal ingredients – usually just vanilla bean, alcohol, and water
– Has a rich, nuanced, aromatic vanilla taste

Vanilla Flavoring

– Made from artificial vanillin rather than real beans
– Provides a flat single-note vanilla flavor
– Contains additives and sugar or corn syrup
– Has a less complex vanilla-like taste

Pure vanilla extract is a far superior option over artificial flavorings. The complex flavor profile of the thousands of compounds in vanilla beans cannot truly be replicated.

Always opt for real vanilla extract when you want the true taste and aroma of vanilla. Artificial vanilla flavoring is no substitute for the real thing.

Nutrition Facts for Real vs Imitation Vanilla

Here is a nutrition comparison between real vanilla made with vanilla bean extract vs imitation vanilla flavoring:

Real Vanilla Extract

(1 teaspoon)
– Calories: 20
– Fat: 0g
– Carbs: 0g
– Protein: 0g

Imitation Vanilla Flavoring

(1 teaspoon)
– Calories: 15
– Fat: 0g
– Carbs: 4g (from added corn syrup)
– Protein: 0g

As you can see, real vanilla extract has the benefit of:

– No added sugars
– Minimal calories from alcohol content only
– No artificial flavorings

Imitation vanilla contains extra carbohydrates from added corn syrups. The artificial vanillin also provides an inferior flavor.

Is Vanilla Extract Keto?

Pure vanilla extract is generally considered keto-friendly.

It provides no carbohydrates or sugars, making it a zero-carb option. The only calories come from small amounts of alcohol, totaling around 20 calories per teaspoon.

This minimal calorie and carb content makes pure vanilla extract easy to incorporate into a ketogenic diet. A dash of vanilla can enhance the flavors of keto desserts, drinks, yogurt, and more without disrupting ketosis.

When shopping for keto, check that your vanilla extract has no added sugars in the ingredients. Some cheap mass-produced extracts add corn syrups, which would provide unwanted carbs.

Overall, vanilla extract is a versatile, low-carb way to provide flavor on a keto diet. Just account for the minimal calories from alcohol in your daily totals.


In summary, pure vanilla extract contains minimal but not quite zero calories, providing around 20 calories per teaspoon. These calories come from the alcohol used to extract flavor from vanilla beans.

While not completely zero calorie, the small serving sizes used in recipes means vanilla extract contributes negligible calories overall. It can generally be considered a “free” flavor enhancer.

Vanilla extract is also zero carb, making it easy to incorporate into low-carb and keto diets. Just be sure to use pure extracts without added sugars.

So while not technically 0 calorie, pure vanilla extract can be enjoyed guilt-free in moderation, providing the delicious flavors of vanilla with minimal impact on nutrition.

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