Is Vanilla Extract Paleo: Everything You Need To Know

The Paleo Diet has become popular as it’s known for its many benefits. Paleo diet plans can improve insulin, manage cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. Despite these amazing advantages, it can be difficult to know what things are paleo-approved or not.

If you’re on a Paleo diet but love baking, you’re pretty restricted to what ingredients you can use. You may be wondering if you can use certain staples in your recipes.

Vanilla extract is essential in everyone’s kitchen. As it’s natural, vanilla is suitable for Paleo, so is vanilla extract Paleo as well? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think!

In this article, we’ll look at what vanilla extract is, if you can eat it on the Paleo diet, and why it is or isn’t Paleo friendly.

Is vanilla extract Paleo?

Pure vanilla is fine to eat on Paleo, as vanilla beans are natural ingredients. However, most vanilla extract bottles at the grocery store aren’t Paleo safe. Inside these bottles, you’ll find sugar, artificial chemicals, and alcohol, all not approved on Paleo.

However, you’ll find that more expensive bottles of ‘real’ vanilla extract can be used on Paleo, depending on your lifestyle. These will be made from pure vanilla beans and alcohol, without the sugar and preservatives found in cheaper bottles.

Some paleo followers are fine using these higher quality extracts, as they believe the alcohol consumed is in tiny amounts that won’t affect their goals.

If you use higher quality vanilla extract in your baking, then once your goods are exposed to heat, the alcohol will evaporate, leaving the vanilla flavor behind.

This loophole allows some on a Paleo plan to use vanilla extract, however, if you pride yourself on an organic diet, or have stricter goals, you’ll want to stay away from vanilla extract no matter what.

Does vanilla extract have health benefits?

You may want to know if vanilla extract has any health benefits, despite only using it in small quantities. Pure vanilla extract is expensive, as it takes a lot of work to make it.

Artificial vanilla is made from wood pulp and coal tar, whereas natural vanilla is extracted from the beans themselves. This makes artificial vanilla less expensive, but natural vanilla has more health advantages.

Both the flavor and smell of vanilla can provide some health benefits. The smell has a calming effect on both adults and children. It can also lower stress and anxiety levels.

Consuming vanilla can also help you lower your sugar intake. Vanilla is naturally sweet, but has fewer carbs and calories than actual sugar. Substituting sugar for vanilla can help you manage your insulin, lower blood glucose, and stabilize energy levels.

The ingredient most people worry about is alcohol. Alcohol in large amounts is harmful, but in vanilla extract, the amount used is very small. It’s needed to draw out the scent and flavor from vanilla beans.

Once the vanilla is cooked, exposure to heat makes the alcohol evaporate. If you’re using vanilla extract in recipes that don’t need heat, don’t worry! There’s not enough alcohol in a teaspoon or two that can cause health problems.

Where can I buy vanilla extract?

Your nearest grocery store should stock vanilla extract, but you might find that these bottles are artificially flavored, rather than made with natural vanilla.

If you want to find quality vanilla extract, try health stores, like Trader Joe’s or Wholefoods. You can also find many online stores that sell natural, good-quality vanilla extract. These bottles will be more expensive than ones that contain sugar, or chemical vanilla flavorings.

If you’re having difficulty finding high-quality options, or don’t trust that your vanilla extract is as pure as it claims, you can make your own! There are loads of recipes online for you to try. All you need are vanilla beans and an alcoholic spirit. Place in a container and leave for 2 – 3 months.

Afterward, strain the mixture through a filter and pour it into a bottle. That’s it! You’ll be confident your homemade bottle is free from nasty chemicals or sugar.

Should I eat vanilla extract on Paleo?

While vanilla extract technically isn’t Paleo, as it contains alcohol, there are many factors that allow some Paleo followers to keep it in their diet.

As vanilla extract is typically used in small amounts, some believe it’s insignificant to their diet. Also, as mentioned before, there’s a loophole that allows you to use vanilla extract.

As long as you use high-quality vanilla extract, made from just pure vanilla and alcohol, you can use this when you bake. Cooking or baking with heat makes the alcohol evaporate, so you’re just left with the vanilla flavor.

However, some people on the Paleo diet prefer to keep consuming healthy, natural, and organic foods. If you follow a stricter Paleo plan, you may want to leave vanilla extract out of your diet. The choice is purely personal; it depends on your diet and goals.

What can I use instead of vanilla extract?

If you’d prefer to skip vanilla extract, here are some Paleo-approved substitutes you can try instead.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is popular on Paleo diets as it’s natural, full of antioxidants, and packed with nutrients. It smells pretty similar to vanilla and can give baked goods a nice toffee flavor.

However, if you’re on Paleo, do be careful when using maple syrup. It may have natural sugars, but these are still sugars! Make sure you use it occasionally, and only in small amounts.


As honey is a whole food, you can eat it on Paleo! It works well as a vanilla extract substitute as it’s naturally sweet. Just be aware that honey is a high sugar food. Like maple syrup, honey should be consumed in moderation. You’ll only need around a tablespoon in most recipes.


Cinnamon is a great spice to use in place of vanilla extract. Other than smelling great, cinnamon has been proven to lower blood sugar and improve cholesterol. It’s totally Paleo approved, just add a teaspoon to your recipes when needed.

Do be aware that cinnamon tastes and smells stronger than vanilla. If you prefer subtle flavors, try a ½ teaspoon instead. You can always add more if needed.