Is Baileys Irish Cream Gluten-Free?

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Baileys Original Irish Cream takes a cautious approach when it comes to gluten: the company says the ingredients it uses to make the popular cordial are gluten-free, but it urges people to talk to their doctors about whether it's safe for them to consume the product.

"The ingredients used in Baileys are gluten free," says the statement from British manufacturer Diageo plc. "On the basis of this and to the best of our knowledge there are no traces of gluten in Baileys. As we are not qualified to give medical advice persons requiring a gluten free diet should consult their medical adviser before consuming Baileys."

Of course, Irish whiskey — the alcoholic ingredient in Baileys Irish Cream — normally is made from three ingredients: water, corn, and barley. Barley is one of the three gluten grains. 

Now, many (but not all) authorities on the gluten-free diet say that distilled alcohol sourced from the gluten grains wheat, barley, and rye will be gluten-free since the distillation process removes the gluten protein. Some of us nonetheless have reactions to alcoholic beverages made from gluten grains.

Calories and Nutritional Information

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 fluid ounce (30g) of Baileys Irish Cream.

  • Calories: 98
  • Fat: 4.71g
  • Sodium: 27.6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 6.2g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 5.9g
  • Protein: 0.8g

You probably won't be surprised to learn that Baileys Irish Cream is fairly high in calories, carbohydrates, and fat, given that it's made from cream and alcohol. A 1.3 ounce serving of Baileys (about what you'd get from the average shot glass) contains 327 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 25 grams of carbohydrates (20 grams of which is sugar).

Baileys Irish Cream also is relatively high in carbohydrates when compared to other alcoholic drinks, although it ranks similarly to other cordials and after-dinner drinks. Baileys contains 11 grams of carbs per jigger (about 1.5 ounces). For comparison, Kahlua (coffee liqueur) contains up to 24 grams of carbs for a similarly-sized serving. 

Should You Drink Baileys?

If you're someone with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity who does tolerate alcohol made from gluten grains, can you drink Baileys? It looks like the answer is yes.

But, the company keeps the details on the rest of the ingredients it uses to make Bailey's Irish Cream under close wraps, which makes it difficult for you to judge the risk.

Anecdotally, Baileys is a mixed bag — some people report that it's fine, but others say they have had reactions to it. It's not at all clear whether those reactions were due to the distilled gluten-based alcohol, or to something else. Based on all this, you'll need to use your own judgment on whether to consume Baileys Irish Cream when you're following the gluten-free diet.

Potential Substitutes

Baileys offers another product which actually carries a "gluten-free" label: Baileys Almande Almond Milk Liqueur. It's not clear whether Baileys Almande contains alcohol distilled from gluten grains or not (again, Baileys doesn't disclose the ingredients, beyond saying it's "gluten-free" and "contains no dairy").

Baileys Almande almost certainly does not contain gluten grain-based alcohol, because U.S. law prohibits labeling any product "gluten-free" that contains wheat, barley or rye ingredients. So it may work for you as a substitute for original Baileys.

There's also a Baileys alternative that might work for you if you find you have problems with original Baileys but can handle distilled gluten grains: Carolans Irish Cream. In its FAQ, Carolans reports that it's gluten-free.

Note that the whiskey in Carolans is still made from distilled gluten grains (as mentioned above, Irish whiskey most commonly is made from barley). However, if you don't react to distilled gluten-grain-based alcohol, you should be fine, since Carolans has verified the rest of its Irish Cream ingredients to be gluten-free.

Other Options

Another potential substitute for Irish cream is rum cream liqueur — it doesn't have quite the same taste, but you can use it in the same way to spice up coffee drinks and to make martinis and other cocktails.

Two manufacturers — RumChata and Sangster's — make commercial rum creams (Cruzan discontinued its version). RumChata publishes this statement about its product: "No ingredients containing gluten are used in the manufacture of RumChata.

However, certain ingredients in RumChata are processed on equipment that may come into contact or may have been used to process ingredients containing gluten." We weren't able to verify if Sangster's (made in the West Indies) is considered gluten-free or not. 

A Word from Verywell

Many people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity can drink alcoholic beverages distilled from gluten grains without any problem. Some people, however, do get badly glutened from these beverages. Unfortunately, there's no way to know which group you fall into without experimenting. If you do decide to try Baileys Original Irish Cream, go slowly until you see how you react to it.

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Article Sources
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  1. Celiac Disease Foundation. Sources of Gluten.

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