Is Tequila Gluten Free? Yes*

By: Michael Prentice

Yes, all tequila is gluten free. Even all mixto tequilas that are not 100% agave are gluten free. Some flavored tequilas may contain traces of gluten but the vast majority are also gluten free – check the label if you are unsure.

Is Tequila Gluten Free?

It’s a reasonable question to ask. You or someone you know may be sensitive to gluten or even have Celiac disease. And who knows if agave has gluten or if gluten is used in the making. Let me set you at ease. Even sprits that are made from gluten, for example whiskey or vodka made from wheat, are completely gluten free. The process of distillation leaves behind all traces of gluten.

This is different to most beers. However, beers are fermented and not distilled, so they still contain gluten.

  • Are mixtos that are not 100% agave gluten free?
    • Yes, all mixto tequilas are gluten free.
  • What about aged tequilas (reposado, añejo), are they gluten free?
    • Yes aged tequilas are gluten free.
  • What about tequila with additives?
    • Tequilas with additives are almost certainly gluten free.
  • What about flavored tequilas?
    • Flavored tequilas are probably gluten free, but check the label.

There can be confusion when it comes to whether tequila contains gluten. You may have read online that you need to buy 100% agave to be sure it’s gluten free, and to avoid mixtos which include other ingredients. This is rubbish. Even if the source other than agave did contain gluten (which would be very rare) the distillation process would remove all traces of gluten.

Distillation Removes Any Trace of Gluten

Alcoholic spirits such as tequila, mezcal, vodka and whiskey all go through distillation after fermentation. Even if there is gluten in the starting mix, no gluten survives distillation.

For example, wheat is used for making whiskey and vodka. Wheat is of course high in gluten. The fermented mash of the wheat does contain gluten. Following the distillation there are no traces of gluten and it is perfectly safe for even a celiac to drink vodka made from wheat.

Distillation turns a slightly alcoholic liquid into a highly concentrated alcoholic liquid. Heat is applied to the starting mix which usually has an alcohol concentration of around 4%-10%. Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, so alcohol vapor rises from the fermented mash and is then condensed and collected separately. All traces of gluten are left behind.

Agave Does Not Contain Any Gluten to Begin With

Tequila is made from the blue Weber agave plant. All varieties of agave are naturally gluten free. Agave sweetener (also called agave syrup or agave nectar) is also gluten free.

All Mixto Tequilas are Gluten Free

Mixto tequilas are gluten free. If for no other reason than they are distilled. Along with 100% agave tequila, some tequila is made with sugars from sources other than agave. The product can still be called “tequila” so long as 51% of the sugars come from agave. These tequilas are known as “mixtos”. The bottles don’t have “mixto” on the label. The only way to tell is if the bottle doesn’t say “100% agave”.

The most common sources of other sugar for mixto tequila are sugar cane, corn and sugar beets. None of these sources contain gluten to begin with. However, tequila could technically be made from 49% fermented wheat mash for example. Even tequila made with gluten would not contain any gluten in the finished process because of the distillation process covered above.

Aged Tequila is Also Gluten Free

Tequila is often aged in oak barrels to become reposado (aged 2-12 months) or añejo (aged 12+ months). Can the tequila aging process introduce gluten? No, all aged tequila remains gluten free.

Let’s cover the possible reasons why barrel aging might introduce gluten to tequila:

  1. The oak barrels do not contain gluten so there is no contamination with gluten.
  2. The liquors that were in the barrels before the tequila do not contain gluten.
    • Most barrels used for aging tequila are ex-bourbon barrels. As a distilled spirit, bourbon is gluten free.
    • Some barrels are ex-wine, brandy/cognac/whiskey. Wine does not contain gluten (although it is not distilled, grapes are naturally gluten free), brandy, cognac and whiskey are all distilled and gluten free.

Tequila with Additives is Gluten Free

Tequila can contain up to 1% additives without having to disclose it on the label. Experts estimate that about 70% of all tequila contains at least some additives. The tequila regulator (CRT, Consejo Regulador del Tequila) permits four kinds of additives to be added. Let’s look and see if any of these might contain gluten.

Permitted additives in tequila:

  • Caramel coloring
    • Almost certainly gluten free. Almost all caramel coloring in North America (which includes Mexico) is from corn. It’s technically possible that the caramel coloring is made from highly processed wheat, but that itself is likely to have very low levels of gluten.
    • Compared to a Coke or Pepsi, (which use caramel coloring) any amount used in tequila is far less, and far less tequila will be drunk in a session compared to Coke.
    • Only aged tequila may use caramel coloring. Choose blanco tequila or confirmed additive free if you want to avoid it.
    • Some celiacs are sensitive to caramel coloring even if it doesn’t contain gluten.
  • Glycerin
    • Gluten free. Made from products not containing gluten.
  • Oak extract
    • Gluten free. Made from products not containing gluten.
  • Sweetener
    • Gluten free. Made from products not containing gluten. Although there are a wide range of possible sweeteners, no common commercial (artificial or natural) sweeteners contain gluten.

There is a growing movement towards certified additive free tequila, led by Tequila Matchmaker. The CRT has just launched an additive free classifier in October 2023 with Patron tequila the first to be certified.

Flavored Tequilas Are Probably Gluten Free, But Check the Label

Flavored tequilas do not have to follow the same rules as tequila. Flavored tequila may contain ingredients with gluten added after distillation. However most flavors are unlikely to have gluten. Common flavors for tequila are citrus fruits, other fruits and chili. These are not the sorts of flavors to have gluten, even if they are fully artificial. However, it’s best to check the label first, or contact the manufacturer if you need certainty.

Certified Gluten Free Tequila

Certifying tequila to be gluten free is somewhat redundant. It’s kind of like certifying bottled water to be gluten free. There are no ingredients in tequila containing gluten and even if there were, the distillation process would remove any trace.

This hasn’t stopped The Rock’s Teremana leaning into the marketing by having “gluten free” prominently displayed on their bottles. Teremana is the only tequila so far to be certified gluten free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization.

I guess technically it is nice to be sure there’s no cross contamination in the manufacturing, but I can’t think of any tequila producer who also deals with wheat, rye or barley. There may be real risk of cross-contamination at a whiskey distillery for example. But I expect all tequila would qualify to be certified gluten free because ingredients and equipment never comes into contact with gluten.

List of Gluten Free Tequila Brands

All of them. Every brand of tequila is gluten free. Ok, it sounds like a joke but it’s not really. Many sources out there give you a list of brands, when in reality, whether they claim it on the label or state it on their website, all brands of tequila are gluten free.

There is one caveat though, there is a tiny chance that tequila that uses caramel coloring that is derived from malted wheat or barley does have gluten. There are three ways to be certain you avoid this:

  1. Choose blanco or cristalino tequila. Blanco and cristalino tequila (aged tequila that has been charcoal filtered) will never contain caramel coloring.
  2. Choose certified additive free tequila. Tequila Matchmaker has a growing list of tequilas which are guaranteed to not use caramel coloring.
  3. Choose certified gluten free tequila. Teremana is the only tequila brand so far to be certified gluten free by the GFCO.

Is Mezcal Gluten Free?

Yes, mezcal is gluten free. Mezcal, like tequila is naturally gluten free. Although the production process is slightly different, there are no points where gluten is introduced.

The one possible exception is certain variations of pechuga style mezcals. Pechuga styles introduce additional ingredients like fruits and spices late in the third distillation process. A wide variety of ingredients can be used and its possible (but not common) that some items containing gluten, like bread, are used. The proteins and peptides that are related to gluten intolerance are not volatile, meaning they do not turn into a vapor. The ingredients only encounter the alcohol vapor so it’s highly likely that even if bread is used it won’t contaminate the finished product.

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