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Is Vanilla Extract Keto Friendly? [Imitation, Beans, and More]

Call me a little boring, but I feel salt and pepper are all you need when it comes to cooking. Naturally, when I want to flavor things, my coffee, for instance, I like to use a bit of pure vanilla extract and stevia. I wondered if vanilla extracts and other varieties were keto friendly, and this is what I found.

Pure vanilla extract, vanilla bean pods, and imitation vanilla flavor are an accepted spice to use while following a keto diet. Vanilla extract contains 1.6 grams of net carbohydrates per tablespoon, while a vanilla bean pod and vanilla flavor have less than 0.5 grams of net carbs.

Is vanilla extract and imitation vanilla keto friendly pinterest

Can I Use Pure Vanilla Extract On A Keto Diet?

Yes, you can use pure vanilla extract on keto, and this applies to imitation and vanilla bean as well. Most people will be familiar with the brand McCormick pure vanilla extract, and that’s keto-friendly as well. 

Due to pure vanilla extract being relatively low in carbohydrates, and the amounts most recipes call for is trivial, you wouldn’t be getting many carbs from pure vanilla extract.

I’m often asked the question, Is vanilla extract keto? The truth is, foods are foods, and no food is “keto.” 

Food may be considered “keto-friendly,” but no food, in particular, is mandatory and must be included on a keto diet. What makes a food keto friendly is typically the ratio between how large a serving is relative to how many net carbohydrates it has.

On the other hand, no food is strictly forbidden while following a ketogenic diet. Some foods are simply considered better than others due to their carbohydrate content, hence “keto-friendly.”

In the case of “keto friendly” the poison is in the dose (amount).

Keto is a metabolic state achieved through a reduction in carbohydrates, but what you choose to spend your carbs on is entirely up to you.

Again, some choices are better than others, but technically nothing is considered forbidden.

So is pure vanilla extract keto friendly? Pure vanilla extract is extremely keto friendly based on a typical serving size to how many carbohydrates it has as explained below.

How Many Carbs Are In Vanilla Extract?

 Most recipes you find online would likely use a teaspoon or two of vanilla extract, but for an entire tablespoon (13g) serving of vanilla, you’re only looking at 1.6g of net carbs. 1 

For reference, one tablespoon equals three teaspoons. 

If flavoring your coffee, you’d probably only be using 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract for a potent vanilla flavor and smell.

That only equates to .25g of carbohydrates at most for a 1/2 teaspoon serving of pure vanilla extract.

However, if you’re like me and tend to go overboard or love the BOLD flavor, then even a tablespoon of pure vanilla extract will only set you back 1.6 grams.

So yes, you can consider pure vanilla extract keto friendly

Is Vanilla Extract Healthy?

While most people associate vanilla with their morning coffee or dessert, vanilla extract is also known as being anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and even a mental health booster.

Here are a few health benefits that vanilla may offer.


Antioxidants are substances that may help protect your cells against free radicals. Free radicals play a role in many diseases including heart disease and cancer. 2 

Vanilla extract contains an antioxidant called vanillin, great for heart health. 3 


One study even shows that heating vanilla and vanilla extracts alters the antioxidant properties, transforming the vanillin to vanillin acid, which is an effective antimicrobial agent.4 

Vanillin acid has been shown to protect the body against mold, yeast, and bacteria. It’s for this reason that vanilla is used as a popular ingredient in herbicides to help against disease-ridden crops 5 

Also, when combined with cinnamon, it creates a synergistic effect in inhibiting bacteria like salmonella and E. Coli 6

No wonder cinnamon and vanilla extract go well together. Next time you want to indulge in a vanilla treat, try sprinkling in some cinnamon.


Inflammation is a natural response by your body to protect itself from harm. While inflammation may be a natural process, too much inflammation (chronic) is not a good thing.

Chronic inflammation is a danger that may be the root cause of many modern illnesses. Some examples of diseases or conditions that include chronic inflammation are:

  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Chron’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Tuberculosis

Vanilla extracts have the potential to reduce inflammation throughout your entire body and have even been used as a cold sore remedy 7 


Angiogenesis is when your body forms new blood vessels, which is the weapon of choice that cancer cells use to spread throughout the body. 

Vanilla contains certain properties that may enable your body to inhibit angiogenesis. Ethyl vanillin, a compound found in vanilla beans, is a natural inhibitor of angiogenesis.8

Improves mental health

Some patients experience a reduction in anxiety and depression directly from the aromatic powers of vanilla. In one study, cancer patients experienced 63% less stress while undergoing a stressful procedure. 

It seems that the aroma decreases your startle-reflex response by triggering a calming emotion. 9

Are There Any Negatives To Vanilla?

Not everything is always sunshine and rainbows. There are very few, if any, negatives, but one such negative of vanilla is the price.


Vanilla is expensive, at least real vanilla extract and vanilla beans.

Vanilla is quite hard to grow. In Madagascar, where the majority of vanilla is produced, flowers must be pollinated by hand and cured for several months. 

Making vanilla is quite time-consuming and labor-intensive, making it less alluring for places to take on such a task. 

The world production of natural vanilla is quite small and has been falling even though the demand has been rising. 

Pure vanilla reached as high as $11,000 per kg in 2016. 10 This may be why most products are switching to “vanilla-flavored,” since they cut costs by using synthetic vanillin.

Other than that, vanilla extract is safe and has no known side effects. 

What Is Vanilla Extract

Cured vanilla beans and vanilla pods only contain 2% of the actual vanilla flavor. 

Vanilla beans are soaked in an alcohol solution to “extract” all of their flavorful compounds. It’s reported that pure vanilla extract contains nearly several hundred additional flavorful compounds.

It’s these additional compounds that give vanilla its complex and deep flavor compared to imitation vanilla extract.

Madagascar is responsible for nearly 80% of the world's vanilla, with the remaining coming from countries like Mexico and Tahiti. 

 On the other hand, bourbon vanilla doesn’t mean what you think it might. First, it doesn’t smell or taste like bourbon, nor is bourbon anything used in the production. 

Bourbon simply refers to the vanilla beans that come from the Bourbon islands, most commonly Madagascar.

What’s The Difference Between Pure Vanilla Extract And Imitation

While you can use vanilla flavor in place of vanilla to get similar flavor and aroma, the imitation version is nothing like pure vanilla extract.

As mentioned in the previous section, pure vanilla extract Is a solution made by extracting the flavors of vanilla pods in a solution of alcohol and water, typically ethanol.

This process extracts hundreds of compounds that gives pure vanilla extract its complex and deep flavor.

By contract, imitation vanilla extract is made of artificially-derived vanillin.

Artificially-derived vanillin is made from a by-product of the wood pulp industry 11 

Interesting huh?

 An easy way to spot pure extract from imitation is color. Chances are if the product you have is clear, it’s not real vanilla. 

However, some vanilla flavor has added color to make it look like pure vanilla extract.

Ways To Incorporate Vanilla Extract Into Your Ketogenic Diet

Honestly, there are so many ways you can incorporate vanilla into your ketogenic diet. 

If you do any kind of cooking or baking, feel free to throw in a dash or two of vanilla extract; think coffee or your favorite ketofied baked treat.

I like to make my keto yogurt dessert, which has unsweetened Greek yogurt, a little bit of stevia, and a dash of vanilla extract. Once I mix it all, I top my yogurt with some fresh or frozen berries (usually blueberries) and possibly Walden Farms zero-calorie pancake syrup.

Another way to use vanilla is if you’re into aromatherapy and essential oils. Since vanilla has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, why not try some vanilla-scented candles or oils to calm yourself down.

How To Make A Keto-Friendly Vanilla Extract

Making your vanilla extract is quite easy. I’ll jot down a recipe below, but if you rather watch someone go through the steps, I’ve also included a video.

What you’ll need

  • 8 oz glass bottle or jar
  • 6-8 vanilla beans (vanilla bean pod)
  • Liquor (I like to use vodka or bourbon)
  1. Slice each bean lengthwise down the entire pod and throw them in the jar
  2. Pour a cup of the alcohol into the jar or bottle
  3. Wait. It usually takes about eight weeks to fully mature and soak up the flavor compounds.
  4. Gently shake the mixture once a week
  5. Either remove the beans or leave them in. The longer you leave it in, the flavor will gradually change, similar to a bottle of wine.
  6. Enjoy your homemade pure vanilla extract

Keto-Friendly Recipes Using Vanilla Extract

Want some keto-friendly recipes to inspire you in the kitchen? Here are some keto-friendly recipes that use pure vanilla extract (or imitation vanilla extract) 

Keto vanilla cupcakes

You’d be surprised at how tasty some keto baked treats are. This keto vanilla cupcake recipe from Low Carb Inspirations is delicious and versatile. Pure vanilla extract shines in this delicious sugar free treat.

Recipe courtesy of Low Carb Inspirations

Vanilla mug cake

Are you lazy like me in the kitchen? Want a sugar free recipe that you can whip up in 2 minutes and without a large ingredient list, a.k.a a sink full of dishes? 

This recipe comes courtesy of Keto Millenial

Keto vanilla ice cream

Are you looking for a simple ice cream recipe? Want one that DOESN’T require an ice cream machine? 

While this recipe calls for liquid vanilla stevia, I used 1 tsp pure vanilla extract and two packets of stevia instead.

Photo and recipe courtesy of The Big Man’s World


The Takeaway

So is vanilla extract keto-friendly? Almost all forms of vanilla, from vanilla bean, vanilla extract, to imitation vanilla extract is keto-friendly. 

Feel free to use pure vanilla extract in your morning keto coffee or to make your own homemade keto-friendly vanilla ice cream.


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