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Vanilla Extract: Haram or Halal?

I often receive questions about whether it is permissible to use vanilla extract or consume products containing vanilla extract. When I bake myself I do have the option of buying vanilla extract labelled as halal or use substitutes like vanilla bean, vanilla sugar etc.

However, while buying packaged desserts like ice cream or baked goods or while eating out it is very difficult to find the kind of vanilla flavoring that has been used in that particular product.In one of the issues of Halal Consumer, a publication of IFANCA which is a leading halal certifying agency in North America, there was an article on vanilla flavoring.

It was mentioned that products containing vanilla in any form are permissible. However, to get further clarification I wrote to them and this was the response that I received:

“When it comes to consuming any product, it is a personal decision. Everyone has to make up their own mind as to what is permissible and what is not permissible. Of course, not everyone is an expert in fiqh or food science, so we all find ourselves seeking information from authorities in each field.

I say information rather than guidance, because we each have to decide for ourselves what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and we must feel at peace with our decision. After consultation with Islamic scholars, understanding the food science, and testing we have concluded that products containing less than 0.1% alcohol that is not sourced from an alcoholic beverage can be certified halal.

That is to say, the alcohol cannot be beer, wine, hard liquor, etc. or anything that is a consumable alcoholic beverage. It must be alcohol used in the food industry as a processing aid for technical reasons. At less than 0.1%, our testing has confirmed it is not detectable by sight, smell, or taste and it is not intoxicating in any quantity (i.e., eating 10 gallons of ice cream with less than 0.1% alcohol in it will not intoxicate the consumer).

On that basis, a consumer product such as ice cream containing less than 0.1% alcohol used for technical reasons would qualify to be halal certified. Now, the vanilla flavoring, which contains 35% alcohol would not qualify for halal certification but its use in the ice cream or other product does not automatically disqualify the ice cream or other product from being halal certified.

Also, ice cream may contain other ingredients that are haram, so just because the alcohol may not be a concern, it should still be halal certified. If we certify an ice cream product, it means if it contains any alcohol, it is less than 0.1%, the alcohol did not come from an alcoholic beverage, and all the other ingredients are halal.”

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Shaykh Dr. Yasir Qadhi in his seminar on Fiqh of Food and Clothing has also stated that it is permissible to consume food items containing vanilla extract in minute quantities. And of course, Allah knows best.

I remember eating a few cookies with a few friends and the topic of vanilla extract being halal or not. That shocked me as I never thought a cookie or a piece of cake could be considered haram. I was determined to find out what the general understanding and concusses was on this subject in the islamic community.

The general consensus is that vanilla extract is halal and permissible as long as the alcohol level is low and not enough to intoxicate you.

What’s the deal with vanilla extract anyways? What does it do and why are some muslims worried about consuming it? Vanilla extract is commonly found in cakes and other desserts. This gets some people questioning whether the dessert they’re eating or making is halal or not.

According to a Toronto baker, vanilla extract adds the flavour of vanilla to the dessert which is easy to taste. Furthermore, it enhances the flavours of the other ingredients in the recipe (source).

Does Vanilla Extract Hav Alcohol In It?

Short answer is, Yes. Typically, there is approximately 0.1% or less of ethyl alcohol in vanilla extract. Companies use this alcohol as a processing aid and for other technical reasons. Having such a low percentage of alcohol, it is not enough to intoxicate anyone.

What Is IFANCA’s Ruling On Whether Vanilla Extract is Halal or Not

A blogger who runs a Halal Foodie blog had the same question and wanted to know if Vanilla Extract was halal and if IFANCA (Islamic Food And Nutrition Council Of America – A Halal Certifying Agency in America) does certify Vanilla extract as halal(source).

Sadaf, the owner of the blog, wrote to them and they responded by saying that after they consulted with Islamic scholars, the conclusion they came to was that vanilla extract products containing less than 0.1% ethyl alcohol that is not sourced from an alcoholic beverage (like beer, wine, and hard liquor etc) is halal and permissible for consumption (source).

Their confirmation came after conducting tests and finding that at a percentage of less than 0.1%, the ethyl alcohol is not detected by sight, smell, or taste and is not intoxicating in any quantity (source).

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One common point of confusion is vanilla flavouring, and that is not the same as vanilla extract. Vanilla flavouring can contain up to 35% alcohol and not all products with that much alcohol are certified.

Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract Options

If alcohol levels is the point of concern for you when using or consuming Vanilla Extract, here are 2 Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract options we found that could be useful to you.

Is natural Flavour vanilla halal?

It is well known that using natural ingredients in the making of halal food items has become a trend today. Some people believe that using naturally grown and extracted ingredients is permissible for consumption.

Many years ago, I used to eat the following cake:

Nothing was added and there were no preservatives except for some olive oil used as an ingredient. The cake itself turned out moist and tasty. There was however a concern if the Olive oil was halal or not.

I did some research and found that the olive oil used is not pure olive oil but is a mixture of oils which are widely used in food processing. The two most common mixtures used – both of which contain up to 35% of pure olive oil – are:

So if you want to be sure that your cake or other desserts are halal, all you have to do is make sure you use only the natural ingredients for your recipe.

However, an argument could be made against using naturally grown ingredients as well. Many people argue that by doing so, there is a risk that such ingredients might have been grown in haram soil (soil with residue from haram substances).

Does natural vanilla flavor have alcohol?

The natural vanilla flavour is flavoured using the extract of vanilla beans. The extract is produced by macerating the beans in an alcohol-based solution. So natural vanilla flavour/extract will contain alcohol. As it comes in liquid form, we can take into consideration what was explained above with regards to extract containing small amounts of alcohol being permissible to consume (Source).

So if you decide to make your own ice cream, and use the natural flavor, ensure that it is halal and if you are not sure, then choose something else.

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As mentioned above, vanilla extract has a very small amount of alcohol and is permissible to consume. It should always be noted though that even in minute quantities, alcohol is still haram and should not be consumed. Regardless of the source, if there is any ethyl alcohol in the ingredient, it will NOT be permissible to consume. You can read more about this at: Alcohol Is Haram – Overview

What Are The Halal Vanilla Alternatives?

Vanilla flavoring is an option for those people who are concerned about trace amounts of alcohol in extract. Though some might argue that to get the flavour as close to that of vanilla beans as possible, you need to go with natural extracts (no sugar or artificial colours). For those looking for an alcohol-free vanilla flavour, one option to consider is Yakult

We recommend that you do not consume any food or drink which contains small amounts of alcohol. If you have any doubt about whether or not something contains alcohol, then it is best to avoid consuming it.

What is natural vanilla flavor made from?

Natural vanilla flavor is produced using alcohol and by using the extract of vanilla beans (source). Vanilla flavor, however, typically doesn’t contain alcohol.

What is the difference between vanilla extract, pure vanilla extract and natural flavoring?

Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract is made from soaking coagulated vanilla beans in an alcohol solution for a period of time. The solution which is left after absorbing the flavour/essential oils from the bean is called as extract. Pure vanilla extract contains 35% alcohol (source). IFANCA does certify it as halal.

Is vanilla extract halal?

IFANCA says that extract is made from natural vanilla beans and is permissible for consumption by Muslims. They also cite a study done by the Department of Food Science at Cornell University (Source) which determined that:

‘a 1:10 dilution of ethyl alcohol in water was not detected by sight, smell, or taste. A more dilute solution (1:100) could not even be detected above the odor threshold of pure ethyl alcohol. In a sample containing 0.1% ethanol.

Though the flavour of vanilla is a beautiful one, it is also a sweet reminder of the forbidden fruit. The thing which makes it halal or haram is the alcohol in concentrations that can be detected by both flavour and sight, smell and taste (source). So when looking for halal vanilla flavouring, make sure you check the percentage of ethanol present. Just because a product says vanilla flavouring doesn’t mean that there are no traces of alcohol. I hope this article on Vanilla Extract has been helpful to you! Leave your comments below on this article and please like our Facebook Page for more useful posts.