Is Vanilla Extract HALAL Or HARAM In Islam

Khadija Ahmed

August 10, 2023
Is vanilla extract halal or haram?

Vanilla, botanically referred to as planifolia, is a type of climbing orchid originating in Central America and is one of the most expensive plants after saffron.

The word "vanilla" is derived from the Spanish term "vainilla" which translates to "little pod". This little pod is known to be the second most expensive plant after saffron due to its rarity and complex cultivation process.

Vanilla's applications extend beyond culinary uses. While the most common use of vanilla in the Arab world is in the manufacture of ice cream, sweets, and the flavouring of various foods, it also finds utilisation in the creation of fragrances.

The topic of vanilla extract and specifically, the halal status of vanilla extract, is a matter of deep concern and study in the Islamic community. Vanilla extract's relationship with ethyl alcohol has led to extensive research and debate among Islamic scholars.

How is vanilla extract made? 🧪

The making of vanilla extract

The vanilla plant is an exotic climbing orchid, producing cylindrical vanilla pods that measure between 13 and 15 cm. These pods are oily and black inside, filled with small black seeds. When treated, the seeds become rich and brown, emitting the distinctive vanilla flavour and smell.

Vanilla extract is produced by a complex process involving cutting the seeds into small pieces and steeping them in alcohol and water. The high cost of natural vanilla has led food scientists to create an artificial vanilla flavour.

How is alcohol used to produce vanilla extract? 🍶

Ethyl alcohol used in the production process of vanilla extract

Natural vanilla extract is derived from real vanilla beans, soaked in a mixture containing ethyl alcohol. This natural vanilla flavour is celebrated for its authentic taste. Artificial vanilla flavour, on the other hand, is a product of scientific formulation designed to replicate the flavour of vanilla at a lower cost.

The use of alcohol as a processing aid for vanilla extract is a technical necessity. The type of alcohol, its ratio, and its application in manufacturing are critical in determining the final product. Hard liquor or ethyl alcohol might be used, but the high temperature during processing ensures that most of the alcohol evaporates and there is a debate about how much alcohol is left in the remaining liquid.

For those who have reservations about even trace of alcohol, alcohol-free vanilla extract options provide an alternative. These products are processed using substitutes for alcohol, maintaining the flavour of vanilla without compromising Islamic dietary principles.

Medical science, The Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences, and the Nutrition Council of America have shed light on the role of alcohol in food processing. The small amount of alcohol used in vanilla extract is considered safe, as it doesn't pose a cause of intoxication. It's essential for extracting the pure form of vanilla flavour, a process rooted in technical reasons rather than nutritional needs. Therefore they deem it not haram to consume.

What is vanilla extract used in? 🍰

The uses of vanilla extract

The world of vanilla includes not only pure vanilla extract but also variations such as vanilla essence, vanilla sugar, vanilla protein powder, bourbon vanilla extract, and more. Each product might have differences in the type of alcohol used, the alcohol content, and the specific manufacturing process. The central element is the vanilla plant, but techniques and additional ingredients can alter the final product.

From the kitchens of Toronto bakers to gourmet chefs around the world, vanilla is a beloved ingredient. Whether it's natural vanilla extract or artificial vanilla flavor, the culinary applications are vast. Desserts, beverages (including any haram alcoholic beverage), and even savoury dishes can be enhanced with a touch of vanilla.

When cooking with vanilla extract, adhering to Islamic principles is paramount. Ensuring all ingredients, including vanilla, bear the halal seal, aligns with the ethical and spiritual teachings of the Islamic religion.

What is the Islamic view on vanilla extract? 🕌

What do Islamic Muslim scholars say about vanilla extract?

In the Quran, it is mentioned:

"O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you..." [Quran 2:172]

This underscores the importance of consuming only that which is pure and permissible (halal ingredients).

While ethyl alcohol is associated with alcoholic beverages, it is not considered impure (najis) in Islamic jurisprudence. The type and ratio of alcohol used in food manufacturing is essential. If it does not cause intoxication or if its trace is eradicated through processing meaning there is no alcohol level to be found, it doesn't render the food haram.

What do Muslim scholars say about vanilla extract? 👳🏽‍♂️

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, a prominent scholar, emphasised that a slight amount of alcohol in a substance doesn't make it haram if the ratio is so small that it doesn't cause intoxication.

“Do not think that any ratio of alcohol that there may be in a thing makes it haram; rather if the ratio is such that it will have an effect, in the sense that if a person drinks this liquid that is mixed with alcohol he will become intoxicated, then it is haram. But if the ratio is very small and has diminished and left no trace, and it does not have any effect, then it is halal.”

Therefore it is permitted to consume as part of a halal diet.

Various halal certification agencies, including IFANCA, have provided detailed insights and full confirmation on the halal status of vanilla extract. These affirmations are guided by the principles of Islamic food laws and are rooted in scholarly consensus.

So, is vanilla extract halal? ✅

The journey of vanilla, from the vanilla orchid to the dinner table, is intertwined with cultural, religious, and scientific considerations. The permissibility of vanilla extract, whether in pure form or as vanilla flavouring, is guided by the teachings of Muslim scholars, general census amongst those learned, and the general authority of Islamic affairs.

The final recommendation embraces the diversity of choices and personal beliefs within the community. Whether opting for natural vanilla extract, artificial flavour, or alcohol-free options, the emphasis is on alignment with individual faith, understanding, and adherence to the principles of the Islamic religion.

In conclusion, yes vanilla extract is halal as the ethyl alcohol used in the production process cannot intoxicate those who consume the final product, and therefore cannot be rendered haram.

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