Is Tequila Gluten-Free?

Learn what to look for when shopping for tequila

A glass of gluten-free tequila
Is tequila gluten-free?. Getty Images/Rita Maas

Tequila made in the traditional way entirely from the blue agave plant is naturally gluten-free. However, some cheaper brands of tequila are considered "mixto," or not entirely from the blue agave plant, and these might possibly contain gluten — you'll need to contact the manufacturer to ask.

The Basics of Tequila-Making

The blue agave plant is a high-sugar plant, and all that sugar goes into making traditional tequila.

"Mixto" tequila, meanwhile, obtains at least 51% of its sugar from the blue agave, but can get the other 49% from other fructose and glucose sources.

Whenever there are other sources involved, gluten can sometimes enter the picture — for example, wheat can be used to produce glucose syrup.

Now, to be fair, it's very, very unlikely that a tequila manufacturer would use a gluten ingredient in this process — I've heard rumors, but I've never actually confirmed such a use.

But if you want to exercise an abundance of caution (getting glutened is never, ever fun), then I'd recommend you stick with traditional, 100% blue agave tequila. Yes, it's more expensive, but I believe it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health.

If the tequila bottle does not state "100% agave," then it's mixto. Mixto tequilas won't be labeled "mixto," however—they'll just say "tequila."

There are many more mixto tequila brands out there on the shelves than there are 100% blue agave tequila brands.

Some brands of 100% agave tequila to consider include:

  • el Jimador
  • Fortalezo Blanca
  • Espolon
  • Agavales Gold
  • Centenario Plata
  • Casa Noble Crystal
  • Lunazul
  • Olmeca Altos
  • Tapatio
  • Jose Cuervo Tradicional and Reserva de la Famila

Remember, a tequila that's made from 100% agave will advertise that fact prominently, so look for those that do so.

What About Mixers?

There are a variety of ways you can drink tequila, ranging from straight shots (the salt and the lime wedges are gluten-free, but you'll need to get gluten-free beer for the chaser) to margaritas. Tequila connoisseurs drink it neat and choose only 100% agave tequilas.

If you drink margaritas, it gets a little trickier to ensure your drink is gluten-free. First (as always), you'll need to make sure the tequila used is 100% agave—it's common to use a cheaper, mixto tequila in margaritas. 

Traditional margaritas consist of tequila, triple sec and lime or lemon juice. Triple sec liqueur is distilled from orange peels, and the popular name brands Grand Marnier and Cointreau are gluten-free. You also can use non-alcoholic triple sec syrup; Monin triple sec syrup is labeled gluten-free.

When you get into margarita mixes and flavored margarita drinks, it gets trickier, since there are literally dozens of possible ingredients ranging from pineapple and coconut to beets and hot sauce.

Therefore, you'll need to double-check each ingredient to be certain your margarita is safe to drink.

The Bottom Line

Realistically, even most cheaper tequilas will not contain gluten, even in trace amounts. But as I said, if you're particularly sensitive to gluten cross-contamination, you should stick to the higher quality (and unfortunately more expensive) 100% blue agave tequila—those tequila varieties should be completely gluten-free.

If tequila's not for you, there are plenty of other types of alcoholic beverages that I can recommend when you're following the gluten-free diet. These include particular types of gluten-free vodka, wine, gluten-free beer, rum and even some types of whiskey and gin. 

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