What brand of vanilla extract is gluten free?

Gluten free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people choosing to avoid gluten for medical or lifestyle reasons. For those following a gluten free diet, it’s important to check the ingredients list of all packaged foods before purchasing them. This includes something as basic as vanilla extract. While pure vanilla extract is naturally gluten free, some brands may add gluten containing ingredients. So which brands of vanilla extract are guaranteed gluten free?

Quick Answers

Here are some quick answers to commonly asked questions about gluten free vanilla extract brands:

  • McCormick, Nielsen-Massey, Rodelle, and Watkins are major brands that certify their pure vanilla extracts as gluten free.
  • Avoid vanilla flavoring or imitation vanilla, as these often contain gluten.
  • Always check the label and look for a gluten free certification symbol even if the product is labeled as pure vanilla extract.
  • Alcohol distilled from gluten grains is gluten free, so pure vanilla extracts using wheat alcohol are generally safe.
  • Homemade vanilla extract using vodka or gluten free alcohol is a gluten free option.

Gluten Free Certified Brands

When looking for a gluten free vanilla extract, your safest bet is to choose a brand that specifically labels or certifies their product as gluten free. Here are some of the major brands of vanilla extract that advertise their pure vanilla extracts as gluten free:


McCormick is one of the largest spice companies in the world and distributes vanilla extract nationwide. Their pure vanilla extract is certified gluten free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO). This certification means the product contains less than 10ppm of gluten. McCormick states that their vanilla extract contains alcohol distilled from corn, which is naturally gluten free.


Nielsen-Massey uses a proprietary gluten free alcohol extraction process for their pure vanilla extracts. Their extracts are third-party tested to verify they contain less than 5ppm of gluten and are appropriate for celiacs. Nielsen-Massey vanilla extracts are certified gluten free by the Celiac Sprue Association.


Rodelle indicates that all of their pure vanilla extracts are certified gluten free to less than 5ppm. They claim the alcohol used for extraction is sourced from corn, not gluten grains. Rodelle vanilla extracts carry the Celiac Support Association’s CSA-CSF certification mark.


Watkins has labeled their pure vanilla extract as gluten free for many years. They state their vanilla extract contains alcohol distilled from corn. Watkins vanilla extracts are certified gluten free by the CSA.

Be Cautious of Imitation and Flavored Vanilla

When purchasing vanilla extract, it’s important to look for bottles specifically labeled as pure vanilla extract. Imitation vanilla extract is made from synthetic vanillin and will likely contain gluten additives. Vanilla flavorings may also contain undisclosed gluten sources.

Products labeled as vanilla extract but including additional flavors like “vanilla cinnamon” or “vanilla almond” should also be avoided. Even if the vanilla itself is gluten free, flavorings added to it may contain gluten.

Stick to pure vanilla extract with no additional flavorings or labels like “imitation” for guaranteed gluten free products.

Check the Label for Potential Gluten Sources

Reading the detailed ingredients list and allergen statements on a bottle of vanilla extract is an important step. Even if a product says it’s pure vanilla extract without additional flavors, it may contain problematic ingredients. Here are some potential sources of gluten to watch out for:

  • Maltodextrin: a thickener derived from barley or wheat
  • Dextrin: can come from wheat
  • Caramel color: may be made with barley malt
  • Natural flavors: can be from gluten sources
  • Sugar: some brands use wheat-derived dextrose

If you see any suspicious ingredients on the label that could indicate gluten, avoid that brand and look for one that is certified gluten free instead.

Distilled Alcohol is Generally Safe

Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a solution of water and alcohol to extract the vanilla flavor. While cheap mass-market brands use alcohol distilled from corn, some high-end vanilla extracts use alcohol distilled from gluten grains like wheat or barley.

However, the distillation process removes the gluten proteins from the alcohol, resulting in a gluten free product. As long as the vanilla extract does not contain other gluten-risky ingredients added after distillation, brands that source their alcohol from wheat or barley are considered safe for gluten free diets.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Making your own homemade vanilla extract is a sure way to get a gluten free product. All you need are vanilla beans, gluten free vodka or rum, and time. Here is a simple recipe:

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

  • 10-12 vanilla beans
  • 1 cup vodka or rum (use gluten free alcohol)
  • Glass jar with tight fitting lid
  1. Split the vanilla beans lengthwise.
  2. Place the beans in the glass jar.
  3. Pour vodka or rum over the beans until they are completely submerged.
  4. Seal the jar and store for at least 3 months, shaking occasionally.
  5. After 3 months, the vanilla extract is ready to use! Simply remove the beans.
  6. For stronger vanilla flavor, leave the beans in the alcohol for 6-12 months.

With this simple vanilla extract recipe, you control the ingredients and can be positive there is no gluten. Feel free to use cheaper vodka or rum since the quality of alcohol does not affect the flavor.

Top Brand Recommendations

Based on their certified gluten free claims and commitment to safe, high-quality products, here are my top recommended brands for gluten free vanilla extract:


Nielsen-Massey is likely the most popular brand among gluten sensitive consumers. They have strong certification and testing protocols in place and clearly advertise their extracts as gluten free across all products. Their vanilla extracts come in convenient 4 oz bottles. Madagascar Bourbon vanilla and Tahitian vanilla are two gluten free favorites.


For a more affordable option, Watkins is a safe bet for gluten free vanilla extract. Their pure vanilla extract has been third party tested to verify non-detectable gluten. Watkins only makes a single pure vanilla extract, so you don’t have to worry about flavor variations. It comes in a large 11 oz bottle, so great value for bakers.

Rodelle Gourmet

Rodelle is premium gourmet brand of baking extracts and vanilla from France. Their variety of single origin extracts allow you to sample vanilla from different regions around the world. Try their extra rich extraction from Uganda or more floral vanilla from Tahiti. All Rodelle pure vanilla extracts are certified gluten free.

Use Vanilla Extract in Gluten Free Baking

Gluten free baking often requires more wet ingredients to achieve the right texture in breads and baked goods. Vanilla extract can add moisture and richness to gluten free recipes. Here are some tips for baking with gluten free vanilla extract:

  • Add 1-2 tsp of vanilla extract to gluten free cakes, cookies, and brownies
  • Fold vanilla extract into the dry ingredients rather than adding to wet for evenly distributed flavor
  • Combine vanilla with gluten free milk or dairy for enhanced creaminess
  • Brush vanilla extract on top of gluten free muffins before baking for flavor and moisture
  • For gluten free pie crusts, sprinkle vanilla extract over the dough as you roll it out

Vanilla extract can mask the bean or grain taste that some gluten free flours have. Feel free to generously add vanilla extract to your recipes for the signature warmth and aroma.

Watch Out for Reduced-Gluten Grains

Some companies are now marketing products made from grains that have been processed to reduce gluten content by 20-80%. These include oats, wheat, and barley. However, reduced gluten grains still contain gluten and are not considered safe for a strict gluten free diet.

Vanilla extract made from reduced-gluten alcohol, even if certified below 20ppm, should be avoided by those sensitive to gluten. Only vanilla extract certified gluten free to less than 10ppm is a reliable choice.

Many celiacs and gluten intolerant individuals cannot tolerate any amount of gluten. so reduced-gluten products should not be considered equivalent to gluten free. Check that any vanilla extract you use is entirely gluten free, not just reduced gluten.

What About Vanilla Flavoring?

With so many choices on store shelves, you may come across bottles labeled as vanilla flavoring or vanilla flavored extract in addition to pure vanilla extract. What exactly is the difference, and are these products gluten free? Here’s a breakdown:

Pure Vanilla Extract

– Made from real vanilla beans infused into alcohol solution
– Contains at least 35% alcohol
– Labeled as “pure vanilla extract” on bottle

– More expensive due to use of real vanilla beans
– Gluten free from most major brands

Vanilla Flavoring

– Made from artificial vanillin, not real vanilla

– Contains less alcohol, around 20%
– Simply labeled with “vanilla” on bottle
– Much cheaper price tag

– Often contains gluten as thickener

Vanilla Flavored Extract

– Made with a small amount of real vanilla (less than pure extract)
– Balance of flavor comes from vanillin

– 35% minimum alcohol
– Lower price than pure extract
– Gluten status uncertain

For gluten free consumers, pure vanilla extract is by far the safest choice. Vanilla flavoring and vanilla flavored extract may both contain hidden sources of gluten.

Are All Alcohol-Free Vanilla Options Unsafe?

Alcohol-free vanilla extract has become popular for use in baking for children or those avoiding alcohol for religious reasons. However, most alcohol-free vanilla contains maltodextrin derived from wheat or barley. This makes it unsuitable for gluten free diets.

There are a handful of specialty brands that produce gluten free alcohol-free vanilla. These use corn, tapioca, or potato derived maltodextrin. But gluten free alcohol-free vanilla is hard to find and much more expensive. Homemade alcohol-free vanilla is also an option.

For most gluten free consumers, pure vanilla extract with gluten free alcohol is the best choice for availability, affordability, and safety. But if you need an alcohol-free option, be careful in checking ingredients or purchase a reputable gluten free brand.

Beware of Flavored Coffee Beans

Flavored vanilla coffee beans seem like a delicious idea. Unfortunately, many coffee companies dust vanilla beans or flavored powders onto their roasted coffee beans. These flavorings often contain gluten.

For example, Starbucks vanilla roasted coffee beans contain “natural vanilla flavor.” Since they don’t specify a gluten free source for this natural flavor, it’s safest to avoid.

Some small batch specialty coffee roasters do make gluten free vanilla coffee using dusts of vanilla beans, lactose, and sugar. But due to the risk of gluten exposure, flavored coffee is generally not considered safe for celiacs.

Your best bet is to buy plain roasted coffee beans and mix in your own gluten free vanilla extract at home. That way, you can control what’s added.

Vanilla Extract vs Vanilla Beans vs Vanilla Paste

Using vanilla beans and seeds directly or vanilla paste can provide more intense flavor than vanilla extract alone. Here’s how these popular vanilla products compare:

Vanilla Extract

  • Made by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol solution
  • Provides pure, concentrated vanilla flavor
  • More affordable and convenient than whole beans
  • Gluten free options widely available

Vanilla Beans

  • Whole, dried vanilla pods harvested from orchids
  • Natural source of flavor by scraping out millions of tiny seeds
  • More expensive but provides true vanilla taste
  • Naturally gluten free

Vanilla Paste

  • Combines extract with vanilla bean seeds suspended in a paste
  • Concentrated flavor of beans without the hassle of scraping
  • Middle ground between extract and beans for flavor
  • Ensure brand is gluten free before using

For most baking needs, gluten free pure vanilla extract offers convenience and cost savings. But vanilla paste provides a quick bean flavor boost. The best results come from using whole vanilla beans, though availability and price may limit frequent use.

Common Questions

Is pure vanilla naturally gluten free?

Yes, vanilla extract made directly from vanilla beans contains no gluten. The gluten free risk comes from added ingredients after the vanilla is extracted.

Are vanilla beans gluten free?

Vanilla beans are simply dried seed pods harvested from orchids. There is no gluten present in raw vanilla beans.

Can I use vanilla flavoring on a gluten free diet?

Most vanilla flavoring contains undisclosed gluten sources like maltodextrin. Pure vanilla extract is a much safer choice.

What about vanilla powder?

Vanilla powder can contain gluten fillers and anticaking agents. Check purity and brand reputation if concerned about cross contamination.

Is all vanilla naturally gluten free?

Yes, vanilla itself does not contain gluten. But some added ingredients in processed vanilla foods may contain gluten.

The Bottom Line

When shopping for vanilla extract, look for brands that specifically state “gluten free” on the label. Do not assume pure vanilla extract is automatically safe, as some companies may add thickening agents or low-quality alcohol that contains gluten. Brands like Nielsen-Massey, Watkins, Rodelle, and McCormick are reliably gluten free.

Avoid products with “vanilla flavoring” or “imitation vanilla” on the label, as these often have undisclosed sources of gluten. Also beware of flavored coffee beans, as the flavoring dusts may contain gluten. When in doubt, homemade vanilla extract with vodka or gluten free rum is foolproof.

High quality, gluten free vanilla extract makes baking desserts and adding flavor to coffee drinks safe and enjoyable for those on a gluten free diet. Taking a few moments to read labels carefully allows you to appreciate the rich flavor of vanilla without worry.

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