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Is Tequila Gluten-Free? Discover The Facts In 2024

Donald Romeo

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Ellie Busby, MS, RDN

is tequila gluten free
100% agave tequila: a gluten-free choice for spirited enjoyment. Photo: Canva & Team Design

For those following a gluten-free diet – due to gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, or other health reasons – choosing gluten-free alcohol can prove challenging. 

Is tequila safe to drink on your gluten-free diet plan? The answer may surprise you. It’s possible to incorporate alcohol for weight loss, including tequila, into your health-conscious journey.

Read on to find out the answer to the question: “Is tequila gluten-free?” We’ll also cover the best gluten-free tequila brands and our recommended gluten-free alcohol list.

Does Tequila Have Gluten?

No, tequila does not typically contain gluten. It is distilled from the blue agave plant, which is naturally gluten-free. 

However, if the tequila is labeled mixto, it’s not 100% agave and contains alcohol distilled from other ingredients. Hence, mixto tequila might contain gluten. 

Look for tequila labeled as 100% agave if you are gluten-free or gluten-sensitive.

What Is Tequila?

Tequila is a Mexican spirit alcohol made by fermenting agave juice[1] harvested from the blue agave plant. The spirit is consumed straight in Mexico and served as a shot with salt and lime wedges around the rest of the world.

The agave plant must mature for four to eight years[2] until its sugar stores are concentrated enough. The leaves are then stripped away, leaving the piña – the succulent plant core –  which is roasted to convert the plant’s carbohydrates into fermentable sugars.

After roasting, the piñas are crushed to extract the agave juice, which is poured into vats and fermented with yeast. The first batch has a low alcohol content and is distilled twice to produce silver tequila. This is either bottled as silver or blanco tequila or aged for up to three years in wooden barrels[3] to produce gold tequila.

Authentic agave tequila[4] must be at least 51% agave before the distilling process. That means it may have other ingredients and can still be called tequila. Cheaper tequilas are more likely to combine agave with other ingredients.

Is There Gluten In Tequila?

Gluten[5] is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Tequila is primarily made from the blue agave plant, which is naturally free from gluten. However, other naturally gluten-free grains or products might become contaminated with gluten[6] during processing. 

Most alcoholic drinks can be labeled[5] gluten-free if they contain no gluten-derived ingredients and are not subject to gluten cross-contamination. 

So 100% agave tequila[7] or tequila labeled as gluten-free is completely gluten-free and safe to drink for those following a gluten-free diet –  due to gluten allergy, sensitivity, or any other reason.

However, not all tequilas are 100% agave. Cheaper versions – called mixto tequilas – may use no less than 51% blue agave. The remaining 49% can come from other sugar sources, potentially including gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye, or barley. 

However, this is only a problem if gluten-containing ingredients are added after fermentation and distillation. Gluten does not form a vapor,[8] so it would not end up in the final product after the distilling process.

If a tequila doesn’t say 100% agave on the label, it is very likely mixto and may not be gluten-free.

Risks And Cross-Contamination

Tequila may contain additives that include gluten or be contaminated with gluten during processing. This is especially high-risk in mixto tequilas, which contain added ingredients. 

Additives include cane sugar, sugar syrup, colorings, and flavor extracts. Certain cheap brands are known to incorporate glucose syrup, an ingredient sometimes derived from gluten-containing grains such as wheat. 

However, according to scientific research, even wheat-derived glucose syrup[9] shouldn’t contain gluten and should even be safe for those with celiac disease.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,[10] products labeled as gluten-free must have less than 20 parts per million of gluten – the lowest level detectible using valid scientific analytical tools. Manufacturers must indicate on their product labels if the food could be cross-contaminated with gluten[11] during production. 

How To Tell If Your Tequila Is Gluten-Free

The most straightforward way to tell if your tequila is gluten-free is to double-check whether the label says 100% agave or gluten-free. To be sure, look for tequila brands certified by the Tequila Regulatory Council.[12] Some popular 100% agave, gluten-free traditional tequila brands include Jose Cuervo, Don Julio, and Casamigos. 

Be cautious if the tequila lacks the 100% agave declaration. This means it’s likely mixto and, though rare, might include hidden gluten sources like ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains. 

Unfortunately, alcohol does not legally have to list the specific ingredients on the label. But the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau[13] affirms that even spirits distilled from gluten-containing grains may label their products gluten-free – as long as manufacturing processes are followed to prevent contamination of the final product. 

Other Types Of Gluten-Free Alcohol

Rum

This liquor is naturally gluten-free and can be enjoyed by those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

Wine

Whether red, white, or rosé, most wines are typically gluten-free and safe for those on a gluten-free diet. This includes wines available in meal delivery services.

Gluten-Free Beer

Traditionally, beer is not gluten-free as it’s made from barley, a gluten-containing grain. However, there are numerous gluten-free beer brands available in the market. These beers are usually made from gluten-free grains like millet, rice, or sorghum.

Mezcal

This spirit, like tequila, is made from the agave plant, making it a naturally gluten-free option. While tequila is specifically made from the blue agave plant, mezcal can be made from any type of agave.

Brandy

Brandy is distilled from fruit juice, most commonly grapes, and contains no gluten-containing grains. Just be sure to check the label, as some flavored brandies may have added gluten-containing ingredients.

Cognac

A type of brandy, cognac is made by distilling white wine. It’s considered gluten-free since it’s made from grapes and not grains.

Armagnac

Another type of brandy, Armagnac, like cognac, is distilled from white wine and is naturally gluten-free.

Sake

A traditional Japanese rice wine, sake is naturally gluten-free since it’s made from fermented rice. It’s worth mentioning that some sake varieties might include brewing additives that contain gluten, so always check the label for clarification.

Hard Ciders

Hard ciders are fermented from apples or other fruits. They are naturally gluten-free and provide a bubbly alternative to beer. However, check the label, as some brands may use barley for enzymes and flavor.

Pure Distilled Spirits

Heading to the liquor store? Finding gluten-free liquors is not as complicated as you think. 

All pure distilled spirits, such as bourbon whiskey, gin, and gluten-free vodka, are considered gluten-free. Any distilled spirit is gluten-free[8] as long as no ingredients are added after distillation – even if the distilled alcohol is fermented from gluten-containing grains.[14] 

Although distillation should technically remove gluten proteins, highly sensitive people with a severe gluten allergy or celiac disease may still wish to avoid these spirits.

Liqueurs

A liqueur is a distilled alcoholic drink with added flavors. The manufacturers add flavorings after distillation, meaning these alcoholic drinks might contain gluten sources.[15]

Be especially wary of mixed drinks, such as cocktails containing tequila, as they might include liqueurs. A margarita, for example, is a cocktail made with tequila, lime juice, and triple sec – an orange-flavored liqueur. Hence margarita mixes might contain gluten sources.

Conclusion

Is tequila gluten-free? Yes, as long as it’s 100% agave-based without gluten-containing additives. Enjoying tequila on a gluten-free diet is possible, but care should be taken to avoid potential cross-contamination.

Always remember to consume alcohol responsibly alongside a balanced diet. If following a gluten-free diet, consider adding some gluten-free, fat-burner supplements, personalized vitamins, and gluten-free protein powders for a healthier lifestyle. We recommend consulting a registered dietitian for advice on the best supplements for your gluten-free diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Celiacs drink tequila?

Those with celiac disease can drink tequila, specifically tequila labeled as 100% agave. However, they should avoid mixto tequilas that might contain gluten.

Are tequila mixers gluten-free?

Tequila mixers can vary greatly. Some may be gluten-free, but others may contain gluten, especially those with added flavorings or sweeteners. Always check the labels.

What kind of alcohol is gluten-free?

Alcohols that are typically gluten-free include tequila, rum, wine, vodka labeled gluten-free, and gluten-free beers. All pure distilled spirits are gluten-free.

What alcohol is not gluten-free?

Beers, ales, and lagers that are not specifically labeled gluten-free, as well as some liqueurs and coolers, may contain gluten.


+ 15 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Ginés Hernández-Cortés, Juan Octavio Valle-Rodríguez, Herrera-López, E.J., Dulce María Díaz-Montaño, González-García, Y., Escalona-Buendía, H.B. and Jesús Córdova (2016). Improvement on the productivity of continuous tequila fermentation by Saccharomyces cerevisiae of Agave tequilana juice with supplementation of yeast extract and aeration. [online] 6(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s13568-016-0218-8.
  2. Efraín Acosta-Salazar, Rocío Fonseca-Aguiñaga, Warren-Vega, W.M., Zárate-Guzmán, A.I., Zárate-Navarro, M.A., Romero-Cano, L.A. and Campos-Rodríguez, A. (2021). Effect of Age of Agave tequilana Weber Blue Variety on Quality and Authenticity Parameters for the Tequila 100% Agave Silver Class: Evaluation at the Industrial Scale Level. [online] 10(12), pp.3103–3103. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10123103.
  3. Sandra Teresita Martín-del-Campo, J.E. López-Ramírez and Estarrón-Espinosa, M. (2019). Dataset of volatile compounds identified, quantified and GDA generated of the maturation process of silver tequila in new French oak barrels. [online] 27, pp.104707–104707. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dib.2019.104707.
  4. Warren-Vega, W.M., Rocío Fonseca-Aguiñaga, González-Gutiérrez, L.V. and Romero-Cano, L.A. (2023). A critical review on the assessment of the quality and authenticity of Tequila by different analytical techniques: Recent advances and perspectives. [online] 408, pp.135223–135223. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2022.135223.
  5. Center (2022). Gluten and Food Labeling. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/gluten-and-food-labeling
  6. Wieser, H., Segura, V., Ángela Ruiz-Carnicer, Sousa, C. and Comino, I. (2021). Food Safety and Cross-Contamination of Gluten-Free Products: A Narrative Review. [online] 13(7), pp.2244–2244. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13072244.
  7. Rocío Fonseca-Aguiñaga, Warren-Vega, W.M., Floriberto Miguel-Cruz and Romero-Cano, L.A. (2021). Isotopic Characterization of 100% Agave Tequila (Silver, Aged and Extra-Aged Class) for Its Use as an Additional Parameter in the Determination of the Authenticity of the Beverage Maturation Time. [online] 26(6), pp.1719–1719. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26061719.
  8. Coeliac UK. (2020). What alcohol can I drink? [online] Available at: https://www.coeliac.org.uk/frequently-asked-questions/what-alcohol-can-i-drink/
  9. Gutowski, E.D., Weiten, D., Green, K.E., Rigaux, L., Bernstein, C.N., Graff, L.A., Walker, J.E., Duerksen, D.R. and Silvester, J.A. (2020). Can individuals with celiac disease identify gluten-free foods correctly? [online] 36, pp.82–90. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnesp.2020.01.012.
  10. Office (2023). ‘Gluten-Free’ Now Means What It Says. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/gluten-free-means-what-it-says#:~:text=Foods%20that%20are%20inherently%20gluten,is%20less%20than%2020%20ppm.
  11. Center (2022). Questions and Answers on the Gluten-Free Food Labeling Final Rule. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/questions-and-answers-gluten-free-food-labeling-final-rule
  12. Crt.org.mx. (2019). Welcome To TRC. [online] Available at: https://www.crt.org.mx/index.php/en/
  13. Ttb.gov. (2020). TTBGov – TTB | Ruling | TTB Ruling 2020-2. [online] Available at: https://www.ttb.gov/rulings/r2020-2
  14. Beyond Celiac. (2022). Is Liquor Gluten-Free? | BeyondCeliac.org. [online] Available at: https://www.beyondceliac.org/gluten-free-diet/is-it-gluten-free/liquor/
  15. Beyond Celiac. (2020). Is Liqueur Gluten-Free? | BeyondCeliac.org. [online] Available at: https://www.beyondceliac.org/gluten-free-diet/is-it-gluten-free/liquor/liqueur/
Donald Romeo

Medically reviewed by:

Ellie Busby

Donald Romeo is a highly skilled health and wellness writer and a dedicated nutritional researcher. His expertise unravels the intricate connections between nutrition, holistic health, and well-being. With an astute understanding of nutritional science and a talent for translating complex concepts into accessible content, Donald brings valuable insights to his readers. He is committed to empowering individuals by providing practical and evidence-based advice to support their wellness journey. Through his engaging articles, Donald inspires readers to make informed choices, adopt healthier habits, and embrace a holistic approach to their overall vitality.

Medically reviewed by:

Ellie Busby

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