How to Know If Kahlua Is Safe for a Gluten-Free Diet
Jane Anderson is a medical journalist and an expert in celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and the gluten-free diet.
Cara Lustik is a fact checker and copywriter.
Kahlua may or may not be gluten-free. Kahlua’s manufacturer, Pernod Ricard USA, does not disclose the ingredients in its products. In addition, like most other manufacturers of alcoholic beverages, Pernod Ricard USA does not disclose the ingredients used to make its products, including Kahlua.
Reactions to Kahlua vary: the very popular coffee-flavored liqueur seems to be fine for some people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but causes problems in others who follow the gluten-free diet.
Although Kahlua’s manufacturer does not disclose the ingredients used to make Kahlua, the liqueur does contain alcohol that was distilled from one or more of the three gluten grains (wheat, barley, and rye).
Many authorities on the gluten-free diet say that alcohol made from wheat, barley, or rye is fine on the gluten-free diet because the distillation process used to make the alcoholic beverage removes the harmful gluten protein from the finished product.
However, despite this, many people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity find they can’t drink gluten grain-based alcoholic beverages without suffering from symptoms.
Why Kahlua Might Not Be Gluten-Free
Several years ago, Pernod Ricard USA used to say that Kahlua was considered gluten-free. However, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules on gluten-free labeling took effect, the manufacturer stopped saying that.
Instead, Pernod Ricard USA, now says simply that it does not test for gluten in the finished product. It does not appear that the liqueur’s ingredients have changed. However, following the change in the rules on gluten-free labeling, the company now is more cautious about claiming Kahlua is gluten-free.
Kahlua’s ingredients, as reported by the manufacturer, include: high fructose corn syrup/sugar, cane spirit, coffee extract (cane spirit, sugar, water, caramel), neutral grain spirit, water and wine. The caramel is not derived from gluten grains, but the neutral grain spirit contains wheat-based distilled alcohol, the manufacturer says.
According to a statement from a Pernod Ricard USA representative, Kahlua is made from distilled grains. The company mentions wheat, barley, rye and oats, but does not specify which are used to craft the liqueur.
Do All Types of Kahlua Contain Gluten?
Pernod Ricard USA also manufactures additional Kahlua-branded liqueur flavors, including: Chili Chocolate, Pumpkin Spice, Salted Caramel, and Mint Mocha. The company does not provide any information on the ingredients for these flavored liqueurs.
You can presume they’re made with a plain Kahlua base (and with alcohol distilled from gluten grains). However, there’s no way to know if additional gluten-containing ingredients are added, or if the ingredients used to make the liqueurs actually are gluten-free.
Therefore, everyone with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should steer clear.
Cocktails to Avoid
If you do need to avoid Kahlua, you’ll also need to avoid certain cocktails and other drinks that include the liqueur. Many people put a splash of Kahlua in their coffee or decaf coffee, especially following a festive meal. In addition, the following popular cocktails always or often include Kahlua as an ingredient:
- White Russian
- Black Russian
- Espresso Martini
- Frozen Mudslide
- Brave Bull
- B-52 Shot
- Long Island Iced Coffee
Note that some of these drinks may also include gluten-based ingredients beyond Kahlua, so even if you don’t have a problem with Kahlua, you’ll need to do your due diligence and check out all the ingredients in whatever cocktail you’re ordering.
Sadly, you’ll need to determine through trial and error whether or not you react to Kahlua—some people report reactions, while others say it’s just fine.
A Word from Verywell
You definitely should exercise caution if you haven’t tried Kahlua before, especially if you’ve noticed glutening symptoms following other gluten-grain-based alcoholic products, such as beer made from “de-glutened” barley, plus most varieties of gin and bourbon.
Fortunately, it’s really easy to make homemade coffee liqueur (there are plenty of recipes out there, so you can experiment until you find the best one for you). If you do tend to react to alcoholic beverages distilled from gluten grains, just be sure to use gluten-free vodka (vodka crafted from something other than the traditional wheat and/or rye) to make your homemade liqueur.
One last note: If you also react to the milk protein casein, several of Kahlua brand’s flavors—specifically, the Drinks-To-Go and the Ready-To-Drink products—do contain casein as an ingredient.
Each year for Christmas I try to come up with a theme for the recipes I share during the month of December.
And this year? Well this year in the spirit of Christmas, we’ll be making some homemade spirits! I know alcohol may not appeal to everyone, but for me it’s a festive indulgence to make these sweet liqueurs that I don’t treat myself to otherwise during the year. So for the next few weeks I’ll be sharing a few homemade liqueur recipes that can be used for entertaining or for gift giving, along with printable tags and cocktail serving suggestions.
First up – we’re making our homemade version of Kahlua. Kahlua is a coffee liqueur that’s a favorite to serve in drinks using milk or cream. The recipe is a simple base of sugar, water, and instant coffee heated together. You then let that base mixture cool and finish off by adding vodka and vanilla. If possible, it’s best to let the mixture set for a couple weeks to let the flavors mingle.
I’ve been happy using an inexpensive brand of vodka in this recipe but of course you are free to splurge on a pricier brand if you’d like.
Once your mixture is finished, you can transfer the mixture to a bottle or to a jar for storage. I did both! I was so happy to find one of those cute glass swing top bottles on one of my thrift store shopping trips and it worked great for storing my Kahlua. (You can find Glass Swing Bottles on Amazon). But I still had a little more than would fit in my bottle so I put the remainder in a glass canning jar.
For optimum flavor, store the mixture in a cool dark place for a couple weeks before using to let the flavors meld.
Here’s a treat for you, how to make homemade Kahlua coffee liqueur. I love coffee liqueur, it’s rich and aromatic, deep and strong, your favourite cuppa joe in a glass. The perfect tipple for the coffee addict.
The keen reader of this blog will be well aware that I just love making homemade liqueurs and hooch of all sorts. From my strawberry and lavender gin to homemade cassis, Kirsch, blackcurrant vodka and more.
There is something so super satisfying about making your own liqueurs. They make great gifts (especially at Christmas) and they are SO much cheaper than buying liqueurs in the shops.
What is Kahlua
Kahlua is a coffee liqueur that originates from Veracruz in Mexico. It was first produced in 1936 . It’s a heady mixture of coffee (obvs!) 100% arabica coffee, vodka, rum and sugar.
It’s used as a straight drink, mixed into all sorts of cocktails and in baking and desserts too where you want a really good coffee flavour.
Ingredients for Kahlua style homemade coffee liqueur
- Fresh coffee beans (not ground coffee and certainly not instant!)
- Rum (white or dark, whatever you have)
- Zest of a lemon
- Coffee syrup made from espresso and sugar
How to make homemade coffee liqueur
First you want to crush those coffee beans. This will release their amazing flavour and the kitchen will smell amazing. You can either whazz them vet quickly in a grinder/food processor but only for seconds as you don’t want to grind them completely.
Pop the smashed coffee beans into a nice big jar and add the lemon zest and pour on the vodka and rum.
Now seal the jar and set it aside in a dark cupboard for a week. This will give the coffee beans plenty of time to release that amazing flavour into the vodka.
After a week you will want to strain the coffee mixture through a double layer of kitchen paper or muslin. Why a double layer? Well, the coffee beans will have left tiny bits of fibre and shell in the vodka, there will also be tiny bits of lemon lurking in there.
Any bits however small will make your finished coffee liqueur cloudy. It won’t affect the taste, just won’t look great. So just have a wee bit of patience and let it slowly drip through the two layers of paper/muslin.
Now make the fabulous coffee syrup. Basically you are heating up strong espresso with sugar to thicken it into a syrup.
Add this to the strained coffee vodka and shake well. Finally, pour the liqueur into a sterilised bottle (see how to sterilise jars and bottles ). Voila, you now have your own homemade Kahlua style coffee liqueur.
How long will your homemade coffee liqueur last?
It will keep for up to a year in a cool cupboard. I very much doubt it will last anywhere like that long as this coffee liqueur is delicious.
How to serve homemade coffee liqueur
I like to serve this tasty liqueur in shot glasses with a cube of ice. I know, simple and basic but there you go. You can also pop the bottle in the freezer (and your glasses too) and go for the full out chilled coffee liqueur experience.
or why not try this cocktail
Espresso Martini Cocktail
- 40ml vodka
- 20ml homemade Kahlua coffee liqueur
- 20ml espresso
- ice cubes
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add all ingredients and pretend that you’re Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail’ and shake it like mad. Pour into cocktail glass and enjoy.
Other uses for homemade coffee liqueur
I use this coffee liqueur a lot in baking and dessert recipes. It’s perfect for adding to a coffee ice cream recipe. For any coffee cake a good dash of Kahlua is a must! I use it in my delicious Coffee and Walnut Cake with Cardamom.
Looking for more fun and easy homemade liqueur recipes? Then check these out;
Finally, if you do try this recipe don’t forget to leave a comment/star rating below as I just love to hear from readers. Want more Larder Love? Then follow me on Instagram , Facebook , Pinterest and Twitter and sign up for my newsletter too of course.
Y’all know I LOVE a good cocktail, but sometimes I just can’t make it to the liquor store to get everything I need! So what’s a girl to do when she’s dying for a post-dinner Chocolate White Russian but there’s no Kahlua in the house? Make this Homemade Kahlua recipe and save the day!
Guys, I have tried a TON of Homemade Kahlua recipes, looking for that coffee liqueur recipe to turn out JUST right. And to be honest, I’ve struggled.
How to Make Kahlua??
Turns out, it’s not as straight forward as I expected. My preference for homemade liquor recipes is almost always to use grain alcohol or vodka, and I did try a vodka homemade Kahlua recipe.
And it just wasn’t . right.
It all comes down to . What is in Kahlua?
To put it simply: Kahlua is made with Coffee, Rum, Sugar, and Vanilla. which is why my grain and vodka based recipes didn’t taste just right.
So this is a RUM based Kahlua recipe!
What are some good Kahlua drink recipes?
- Chocolate White Russian ( y’all I LIVE for this drink! )
- Espresso Martini( A classic! )
- The Revolver ( for Whiskey lovers )
This coffee liqueur recipe is a great substitute for Kahlua and really should be made with rum, just like the original, but if you don’t have rum available, you CAN make this recipe for Kahlua with vodka, but know that it will taste a little different and the texture doesn’t get quite as thick, so you’ll want to reduce the coffee down to more of an espresso strength.
Whether you’re making it for gifts or just for a special treat for yourself, Homemade Kahlua is something that’s very easy to make and very delicious. All it takes is time!
Now is a good time to start making homemade Kahlua. It’ll be ready for the holidays! If you want to make gifts, you can divide it up into little jars and label them. These are six ounce jars and you could get about six jars of Kahlua out of the recipe. Alternately, you can pour all of the Kahlua into a nice decanter and keep it for yourself (or share) during the cold winter months.
- dark roast coffee beans
- vanilla beans
There are not many ingredients in homemade Kahlua so do try to use high quality coffee and vanilla beans. It will make all the difference in the world! And I would not recommend using vanilla extract in place of actual vanilla beans. You need the real thing here! It will taste so much better!
How to make Homemade Kahlua:
Add water and sugar to a medium pot. Heat and stir until steaming and the sugar is dissolved. That’s the only real cooking you have to do here- heat the water and dissolve the sugar! Then remove the pot from the heat.
Then add your vanilla beans (split down the middle) and the coffee beans to the pot. Lightly crush them so they infuse easier. Don’t grind them completely though.
Stir in the vodka and let it all cool to room temperature. Then pour the mixture (beans and all) into a very clean air tight container and let it sit in your pantry for three weeks. No need to refrigerate it thanks to the sugar and alcohol. No peeking or tasting. Just let it sit away from the light- in a cool, dark place. It needs time to age.
After three weeks, you’ll just strain off the solids and you’re left with delicious coffee-vanilla liqueur, otherwise known as Kahlua! Pour the Kahlua into jars for gifting or into one large decanter to keep for yourself.
A good White Russian is just a few pours away (to a glass of ice, add 2 ounces of vodka, 1 ounce of Kahlua and a splash of heavy cream). Lucky you, because homemade Kahlua has much richer and more unique coffee and vanilla flavors than the store-bought version. CHEERS!
Making Kahlua at Home
I have been making this recipe for years! Every year at the holidays I make up a batch to enjoy and to share, it’s a perfect handmade gift, to give those who like a little “toot” now and then (as my Mother-in-law would say….)
Gifting Homemade Kahlua
Making Kahlua from scratch
Making homemade Kahlua from scratch is actually very easy. My recipe is made with vodka. You can treat it just like you enjoy your coffee. Do you want a lighter or darker, sweeter or more bitter Kahlua? You take control by adding more or less of the coffee. You can even use flavored coffee to switch it up! I would recommend that you try the original recipe first, though, before tweaking it.
Ingredients in Homemade Kahlua
The ingredients are simple. All you need to make Kahlua from scratch is some vodka, sugar, water, vanilla, and your choice of instant coffee. Nowadays, you can find a variety of instant coffees to choose from. So that means if you want a darker or a lighter brew then you have options.
Aging and blending the coffee syrup smoothly with the vodka takes about a week of storage. So if you are planning a party with black or white Russians on the horizon, plan ahead. It’s so worth waiting to make one week Kahlua, it tastes so much better and way less expensive to make.
Step by Step Kahlua Instructions
- Dissolve sugar in 6 cups water in a saucepan on the stove. Bring to a boil and boil for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Combine coffee in 2 cups water, add to boiled sugar mixture. Cool.
- Add vanilla and vodka.
- Pour into a gallon-sized container. Age for one week before drinking.
Love it? Pin it!
Don’t forget where you found the recipe for this Homemade Kahlua with vodka! Pin it to your favorite Pinterest recipe board to find it easily!
How Long Does Homemade Kahlua Last?
Since it is stored in alcohol, as long as you have a good container, with a tight cap, it will keep fine. In fact, as it ages it just gets better as the infusion brings the alcohol and syrup together. Make sure to store it in a cool dark place, out of direct sunlight. You can actually store it for about four or five years.
Just make sure the container you store it in is properly cleaned and sanitized first.
Does it need to be refrigerated?
You can store it in the fridge, but it isn’t necessary. The alcohol content is still high enough to prevent any bacterial growth. Make sure the lid gets twisted down tightly.
White Russian Cocktails
Recipes that use homemade Kahlua
Of course, Kahlua is most popular for White Russian Cocktails. (Just ask Lebowski) and you can use it to make an adult style Kahlua milkshake by blending a shot, or two… with some vanilla ice cream. Be careful though, those go down pretty darn easy and you won’t realize until it is too late if you drank too much.
Kahlua Crinkle Cookies
Kahlua Crinkle Cookies are a reader favorite, here at An Affair from the Heart!
Let’s get to the quick and easy recipe for the BEST Homemade Kahlua!
Kahlua is a simple coffee liqueur and it’s easy to make at home. Pour yourself a glass of homemade coffee liqueur tonight. It’ll be ready in an hour. I’ll tell you how!
How to make Kahlua:
3 cups sugar
3 cups brewed coffee
3 cups vodka
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a medium-sized pot, simmer sugar and coffee until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool. Add vodka and vanilla extract; stir well. Using a funnel or a dipper with a pour spout, transfer mixture into clean containers. Refrigerate to store. And that’s it! You’re done!
Make a Quick White Russian: Two parts kahlua to one part milk, pour over chipped ice. You can put some whipped cream on top if you like. (I like!)
Make a Frozen Mudslide: Using about 2/3 cup kahlua, add a couple ounces Bailey’s Irish Cream and an extra dash of vodka. Now plop a scoop of vanilla ice cream into your glass and squeeze a dollop of chocolate syrup on top! (Could also put this combination in the blender.)
You can also put it in your coffee in the morning before you go to work. I’M JUST KIDDING!
See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.
This easy to make, homemade keto coffee liqueur recipe is the perfect copycat Kahlua syrup. Mix it into your favorite Kahlua based cocktails for a sugar free low carb keto riff on this classic mixer.
I’ve spent the last few years working to recreate popular cocktail mixers to be sugar free or low carb and keto friendly. Mixers are often the biggest culprit in why cocktails have more pesky carbs, you can read more about that in my guide on How To Drink Alcohol on a Keto Diet.
Other great mixers are my super popular (and bar staple) Keto Simple Syrup recipe and my Keto Grenadine . While I love these recipes, I really wanted to try and recreate a sugar free coffee liqueur in the form of a low carb Kahlua.
Now, traditional Kahlua is a sweet coffee and alcohol infused liqueur that’s commonly seen in recipes like a classic White Russian (or my keto pumpkin spiced white Russian) and can be used in so many ways. It does contain a base spirit alcohol (like vodka) in the coffee syrup but you could easily modify this recipe to make homemade sugar free coffee syrup recipes instead to flavor your favorite morning brew!
With a handful of ingredients, a few helpful tips for which ingredients work best, cooking tips, and storage ideas, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to add this mixer to your bars stock! Grab all the details below, let’s dive in!
- Measuring Cups/ Spoons
- Small Pot
- Jars for Storage
This recipe is super simple to make at home, but I want to break down the specific ingredients I use so you get the same results.
Keto Kahlua Recipe Ingredients:
Brewed Coffee – For this, you can use standard drip coffee. I sometimes have leftover coffee left in my coffee pot pitcher and will save it for iced coffee. Leftover’s are perfect for reusing in this recipe. You can also use freshly brewed or even instant coffee. I suggest using a coffee you really enjoy for this however, because it’s the main flavor of the homemade coffee syrup.
Some recipes for homemade Kahlua call for adding a cup of water to the sugar when you create the simple syrup. I don’t personally do this, because the coffee is enough liquid and who wants to water down their liqueur. Hard pass for me.
Allulose Sweetener – Allulose has been my go-to for all my keto cocktail mixers. Why? Because it works great for making authentic tasting flavored syrups and doesn’t recrystallize or have a funky after taste to it once it cools (I find this is the case with other low carb sweeteners). I purchase mine in bulk or some brands can now be found at retailers like Target.
Can you use other sweeteners? Yes, but note you may not get the same outcome as I do here and it could be gritty and somewhat unpleasant. If you use erythritol or monk fruit, do not boil but just shake it all together with standard hot coffee in a jar to dissolve instead.
Vanilla Bean or Vanilla Extract – Use a good store bought vanilla of your choice. Traditional Kahlua is made with with a bean and aged. I don’t typically opt for this method because it’s more expensive for one and also takes more time. Save that for making a creamer or vanilla syrup if you prefer, but a simple extract here works just fine to help amplify the coffee notes!
Vodka – Now, if you prefer to just make a coffee syrup you can omit the vodka. However, this is a coffee liqueur so I add a few cups of a somewhat cheaper vodka. Put more into the quality of your coffee for this and go cheaper on the vodka (my humble opinion). The vodka will also act as a preservative and make this shelf stable.
If you have ever made any type of flavored syrup, then you know it’s just all the ingredients mixed and heated in a pot. SO EASY! I follow this method for making all my flavored syrup mixers.
Combine the coffee of your choice in a small pot and heat over medium low heat. Once the mixture starts to get hot (or maybe it already is) you can add in your allulose sweetener . Whisk it all until it dissolves.
Let it cook until it hits a light simmer and then remove it from the heat to cool a bit. After 10 minutes or so of cooling, mix in your vanilla extract (or the paste from a vanilla bean). Let the coffee syrup cool completely to room temperature before adding the vodka.
In the same pot, I pour a few cups of the vodka in and then quickly mix with a whisk. You can then pour it into a glass jar with a lid and store it on your bar, in the fridge, or on your counter just fine!
What Can I Use Keto Kahlua In?
Here are a few fun ideas –
- Sip on it as is over ice with a splash of cream.
- Add it to a special morning cup of coffee to sweeten it and add a little booze.
- Mix it with my Keto Irish Coffee Martini
- Make a White Russian with this as a replacement or try my Keto Pumpkin Spice Syrup with and this Kahlua for a low carb Pumpkin White Russian
- Mix into these Keto Irish Cream Brownies or into my Keto Marble Pound Cake for a coffee liqueur flavor instead.
Full recipe ingredients below with directions and nutritional information.