Is Vanilla Extract Keto Friendly?

Is Vanilla Extract Keto Friendly?

Vanilla extract is an essential flavor enhancer that no baker can go without. It is known for its rich taste and sweet aroma. But is vanilla extract keto? Let’s find out!

keto pure vanilla extract in a glass bottle with vanilla beans and vanilla flowers in the background

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Vanilla extract is indeed a baker’s best friend. It is arguably the most important and most used flavoring in baking. It can be added to almost any baked good or sweet treat to enhance its taste.

This classic flavor truly stands out in treats such as cakes, ice cream, cookies, and custard. Your yogurt, smoothies, coffee, or protein shakes as we did in this proffee recipe can be flavored using vanilla extract.

But can you use vanilla extract while adhering to a low-carb ketogenic diet? Read on to find out!

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What is Vanilla Extract?

Vanilla extract is a solution made by steeping cured vanilla bean pods in alcohol until the flavor is infused in it.

In the United States, the FDA requires vanilla extract to contain at least 35% alcohol and 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon to be labeled as “pure vanilla extract”.

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world. The main reason is that the process of making pure vanilla extract is laborious and complicated.

Madagascar is responsible for nearly 80% of the world’s vanilla, with the remaining coming from countries like Mexico and Tahiti.

Is Vanilla Extract Keto-Friendly?

Pure vanilla extract* is keto-friendly as it has low carbs and contains no sugar. One teaspoon of vanilla extract has only about 0.5 grams of carbs!

Additionally, the majority of recipes only call for small amounts of vanilla extract, thus the overall carbohydrate load is not much raised. So pure vanilla extract can be added to flavor keto-friendly and delicious low-carb desserts.

Imitation vanilla extract, on the other hand, may contain added sugar, dextrose, and corn syrup, which would make them not ideal for a keto diet.

 How is Pure Vanilla Extract made?

Making vanilla extract is a remarkably laborious and complicated procedure.

The vanilla blossoms are hand pollinated to ripen the pods. This takes around 8-9 months. The vanilla pods then go through a curing process for 1-2 months.

two vanilla beans kept on white background

The dried vanilla beans are then broken open and soaked in a solution of ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and water for months. Over time, the alcohol mixture absorbs the flavor compound, vanillin, and preserves them. The result is a highly flavorful and shelf-stable extract.

Pure vanilla extract should only have 3 ingredients – vanilla beans, alcohol, and water. It should not contain any additives like sugar or artificial colors or flavors.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Making your own extract is a good option if you want to ensure the finest quality and that it is keto-friendly.

  • Cut three or four vanilla bean pods* in half lengthwise. Place them in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Fill the jar to the brim with vodka or any food-grade alcohol. Make sure to cover the vanilla pods entirely. Use approximately 8 ounces of at least 70-proof alcohol per 4–6 vanilla beans. This is the same standards issued by the FDA.
  • Shake it a few times, and then tightly secure the jar’s lid. 
  • Store the jar in a dark and cool place away from direct sunlight.
  • Shake it every day for the first two weeks and then occasionally after that. Do this until the alcohol turns a rich brown color and you get a fragrant dark brown vanilla extract.
  • Let your extract bloom for up to 6–12 months before using it for the most potent final product. Read more on how to make your own homemade vanilla extract here.

Whole natural vanilla beans are one of the most expensive spices in any cupboard. So if you are buying them to make your own vanilla extract or vanilla paste, make sure to look at the tips below :

  • The best-quality beans come from Mexico, Madagascar, and Indonesia.
  • They should look glossy on the outside and be plump and pliable to touch.
  • Do not buy beans that are dry and brittle. They should be somewhat squishy.
  • You would also be able to smell the unmistakable vanilla aroma from a good vanilla bean.
  • Some beans may be speckled with whitish dust. This is crystallized vanillin and it’s nothing to be worried about.
  • Longer beans usually have better flavor.

Natural vanilla bean pods should be stored at room temperature away from heat or sunlight. A dark cool place like a cupboard should work.

Fold the beans in half and store them in an airtight container. If the beans are too brittle to fold, they are too old and dry. Properly stored, vanilla beans will keep for two to three months.

Each Vanilla bean pod contains about 0.1 grams of net carbs.

Imitation Vanilla Extract

99% of vanilla extract available in the grocery store is fake or imitation vanilla. Imitation vanilla extract or artificial vanilla extract is flavored with synthetic vanillin, which is a lab-produced version of the real vanillin.

Imitation vanilla extract is also known as vanilla essence. 

If the imitation vanilla extract* is clear, it only contains synthetic vanillin. The ones that have caramel color, it has usually been dyed with color and sugar. So this would not be keto-friendly.

pure vanilla extract in a glass bowl with vanilla bean and vanilla flower in the background

I would highly recommend reading the label if buying imitation vanilla extract to check if it is suitable to use in keto recipes.

Vanilla essence typically costs less than vanilla extract, but its flavor is also milder and less potent. While vanilla essence mimics vanilla’s smell, it doesn’t come close to capturing all of the complex floral and woodsy notes of the pure vanilla extract.

Vanilla Flavor

The pure vanilla flavor* is made with vanilla bean extractives but without alcohol. Most commonly used carrier for producing the flavor is Propylene glycol

It is a good choice for anyone who wants to avoid alcohol. The pure vanilla flavor however contains added sugars and is not keto-friendly. Pure ground vanilla powder* could be a good substitute.

Health benefits of vanilla extract

Many people use vanilla extract as a sugar substitute and low-carb sweetener. This can promote weight loss and blood sugar management by reducing high blood glucose levels.

According to WebMD, It can also numb some toothache pain due to its high ethanol concentration. The antioxidant properties of vanillin against free radicals may also provide healing effects.

Moreover, the smell of vanilla has a calming effect and helps with sleep apnea.

Commonly Asked Questions

Is vanilla extract plant-based?

Yes, vanilla extract is plant-based. Vanilla extract comes from the Vanilla orchid plant. It is mixed with only water and alcohol. However, the alcohol-free vanilla extract may not be 100% plant-based as it is produced with glycerin, which can sometimes be derived from animals.

Is vanilla extract gluten-free?

Yes, vanilla extract is gluten-free as it is not produced with any gluten-containing products. However, it may be produced in the same facilities that gluten-containing products are also processed in, therefore check the label if you are concerned about cross-contamination.

Is vanilla extract sugar-free?

Yes, pure vanilla extract is generally sugar-free. However, some vanilla extracts include corn syrup, fructose, or added sugar, so be sure to check the ingredient label if this is something you are concerned about.

How do I convert between extract, paste, and beans?

As a general rule of thumb, 1 Tablespoon of pure vanilla extract = one 6-inch vanilla bean = 1 Tablespoon of vanilla bean paste*. (But check your vanilla paste bottle, as some brands may vary!)

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keto pure vanilla extract in a glass bottle with vanilla beans and vanilla flowers in the background

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About the Author

akshita and mihdun of sugar spice n everything nice

Hi! Akshita & Midhun here! Welcome to our blog where we show simple yet awesome recipes for your cravings.

Akshita being allergic to egg, we are committed to providing egg-free recipes along with some vegan friendly options. Read more about us here!

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