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:

Vanilla: Haram or Halal
Vanilla Pods

“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.”

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.


17 comments on “Vanilla Extract: Haram or Halal?

  1. I have heard of this concern from sisters and brothers who stay in countries where there are no restrictions. At least here in the UAE, we are relieved that things are Halal so there is no tension of using the same… JazakAllah Khair for this write up, hope it helps a lot of them…

  2. It’s controversial because it contains alcohol and according to Islamic faith any food item containing alcohol is considered haram (prohibited). Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I’m so glad you posted on this topic! This topic often causes so much confusion, but JazakAllah for clearing it up with this post 🙂

  4. In the holy book. According to other sources it says tht allah(swt) does not forbid alcohol but rather it forbids the consuming of inotxicants or ethanol

  5. Asalaamualaykum,

    To all those saying they’re glad they live in the Middle East or the UAE because they are sure everything they eat is halal, don’t be so sure. I’ve seen strepsils sold in the kids’ sweets aisle in KSA – which have a very high alcohol content in them. You just have to flip it over and look at the ingredients. What the Arabian countries do, more likely than making their “own” non-alcoholic versions of imports, is have committees of “scholars” who are happy to be paid to say that certain things are halal when there are in fact not. In the Middle East this is not limited to just confectionary, but also extends to questionable and sometimes outright haraam use of riba in the financial sector and various other areas of public life.

  6. The things I find when I Google my random questions. I’m not Muslim myself but I work off-duty police security at my local Islamic Center and was asked to bring a baked good for a function, and it randomly occurred to me that vanilla extract often contains alcohol. Thank you for the great information!

  7. Hi Stefan,
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. It’s really nice of you to take into consideration the faith based dietary restrictions of the Muslim community. I’m glad you found the information useful.

  8. Just adding my thanks–I teach english to a class of mostly Somali immigrants and I wanted to give them some homemade candy to celebrate the end of the semester. This was very helpful, thank you!

  9. Does this mean the Starbucks drinks aren’t halal as well?? Please answer as I drink Starbucks very so often.

  10. There is absolutely no way vanilla extract in the US is 35% alcohol. That would make it a controlled substance, hours and in some states location of sale would be restricted and you would have to be 21 years or older to purchase it. Please fact check your sources. The process for making vanilla extract uses a 70 proof (35%) vodka in the extraction process, but products containing more than 0.2% alcohol are considered a restricted alcohol product and you must be 21 years of age to purchase. Some states do not allow purchase of alcohol between the hours of 2am and 6am and some states not at all on Sunday. There are no restrictions on the sale of vanilla extract and therefore is considered a non-alcoholic product (containing 0.2% alcohol) by the USFDA. Therefore the 1 tsp of vanilla extract added to baked goods would render the alcohol content of said baked good to < 0.01% alcohol, and thereby meet the guidelines stated above of being able to be certified halal. And Allah knows best.

  11. Thanks for stopping by. Please refer to the ingredient list on any vanilla extract bottle labeled as ‘Pure Vanilla Extract’ or simply do a Google Search for alcohol content. In fact the FDA requires a minimum of 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans to a gallon of a minimum of 35% alcohol to 65% water mixture for a product to be labeled as pure vanilla extract.
    Many products such as mouthwashes or hand sanitizers contain upto 70% alcohol as one of the ingredients but are permissible for minors to buy because they are not classified as an intoxicating alcoholic beverage.
    As for the second part of your question, I would request you to read my blog post carefully again which says that IFANCA and most Islamic scholars state that even though vanilla extract itself cannot be certified halal, baked goods containing vanilla extract are considered as halal. Allah knows best.

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