Let’s take a deep dive into the question, “Is Tequila Gluten Free?” We’re exploring the facts, the risks, what to look out for, and whether tequila is safe for those who are celiac.
Pure, 100% agave tequila is considered gluten-free. But what about that decked-out margarita? And those slushy poolside cocktails? We’re diving into the nitty gritty to answer the question “Is Tequila Gluten-Free?”
If you’ve been missing the opportunity to sip on your favorite tequila cocktail since going gluten-free, all’s not lost. Let’s have a look at how it’s made, which brands are safe to drink, and whether tequila is safe for those with celiac disease.
Related: Is Bourbon Gluten Free?
Tequila comes from the blue agave plant. Blue agave is a spiky succulent (a bit like aloe vera) with juices that are high in sugar. The plant is harvested and the bulbs are baked before the juice gets extracted and then fermented before it’s eventually distilled into tequila. You’ll find different types of tequila that range in age, quality, and color.
Less-expensive “Mixto” tequila contains at least 51% sugar from blue agave, while the other 49% can come from other sources of glucose and fructose. Though rare, these other sources may contain traces of gluten (ie. wheat used in manufacturing glucose syrup).
You’ll rarely see a mixto tequila labeled as “mixto”. Instead, they just call it tequila. For this reason, to be completely safe rather than sorry, it’s a good idea to stick to tequila bottles that clearly state 100% agave on the label.
Tequila brands made the traditional way, from 100% blue agave, are naturally gluten-free. Popular brands include Jose Cuervo, Hornitos, Teremana, 1800, Don Julio, Casamigos, Patron, Herradura, and Tequila Espolon. You’ll find many more that are gluten free, as well, so just check the websites.
While tequila made entirely from agave is considered gluten-free, look out for brands that add flavorings or additives after the distilling process. Always check labels to be sure that the tequila you’re consuming doesn’t contain hidden gluten. Better yet, stick to the brands that you know are 100% gluten-free!
There is also the risk, however small, of gluten cross-contamination in facilities that process wheat, barley, or rye (a distillery that also makes whiskey, for example). While unlikely, if you have a particularly severe gluten allergy, it’s a good idea to look into where your tequila is made.
Mixed tequila drinks, like margaritas, are where things get tricky. Firstly, bars and restaurants commonly use cheaper mixto tequila when making mixed drinks and even standard shooters. Secondly, mixed drinks and tequila cocktails can often contain other ingredients, and not all of them may be gluten-free.
The good news is, triple sec brands like Cointreau and Grand Marnier are gluten-free. As a result, a margarita made with 100% agave tequila, containing just the basics, is usually considered safe for gluten intolerances. Of course, always err on the side of caution and double-check each ingredient, to ensure that your marg is 100% safe to drink. If you’re looking for a homemade margarita that’s gluten-free, try my Skinny Grapefruit Margarita recipe.
If you’re celiac or highly sensitive to gluten, it’s probably best to avoid store-bought margarita mixes and flavored margarita drinks.
Most tequila, whether it’s expensive or cheap, will not contain gluten. However, if you have a high sensitivity to cross-contamination, make sure to buy only 100% blue agave tequila. Or, when in doubt, avoid tequila entirely and consult with your doctor on what’s best for you.
If you’re looking to substitute tequila whether it’s in a drink or in a chicken marinade, there are gluten-free options. Here are some ways to replace tequila in cocktails and other recipes:
There are other alcohol options if you’re gluten-free, from gluten-free vodka to beer and wine. There are even brands of bourbon whiskey that are considered gluten-free (check out my post, Is Bourbon Gluten Free?). With a few precautions, you’ll find the drink that’s right for you.
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