Both vanilla extract and natural vanilla flavor are safe for those on the gluten-free diet. Even though to make each product, vanilla beans are soaked in water and alcohol, it is considered gluten-free. However, this was not known until just a few short years ago. That is why you’ll often see in gluten-free cookbooks and on gluten-free recipes sites, the term vanilla with ”gluten-free” before or after it. The truth is that no vanilla – extracts or otherwise – contain gluten. Imitation and artificial vanilla extract are also gluten-free, though niether is nearly as good as the real thing.
McCormick recently began labeling their pure vanilla extract gluten-free, even though it always was gluten-free. There is no gluten-free product list on the company’s website which is annoying since they have started labeling at least the vanilla extract gluten-free. McCormick, like so many other companies, realized that some people will choose an item that is marked gluten-free over others that are not, when given the opportunity. However, there are less expensive vanilla extracts than the McCormick brand.
In Shelley Case’s book “Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide”, vanilla, vanilla extract, vanilla flavoring and vanillin are all listed in the gluten-free additive and ingredients list. It’s again confusing for someone new to the diet who might pick up a gluten-free cookbook at the library where every reference to vanilla calls for a gluten-free version. That would indicate there might be a gluten containing version of vanilla out there somewhere.
While it’s frustrating that for so long, very little was known about what was and was not gluten-free – at least in terms of many processed foods – the safest thing to do is rely on factual information from nutrition experts like Shelley Case. She has devoted much of her dietitian career to helping those in our community safely follow the gluten-free diet. Vanilla is gluten-free so buy whatever brand of it you want to. It matters not if ‘gluten-free’ stamped on the box or not.
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