10 Common Foods You Didn’t Know Contained Alcohol
You might not think it, but there is a vast range of foods and drinks that are considered non-alcoholic but contain a small amount of alcohol. Even more surprising is that it comes from the food and beverages you’d least expect it.
The alcohol levels are low, but this makes it almost impossible for us to avoid alcohol altogether since they are in our everyday products. Here are the ten common foods you didn’t know contain alcohol.
There is about 1.28% ABV in your burger buns or hotdog rolls. This is simply because of the fermentation process that occurs when the yeast and sugar mix in the dough. In most cases where yeast is used in a product, you can expect small traces of alcohol to be present.
Rye bread, which is also made using yeast, only contains about 0.18% ABV. The texture of rye flour does not react with yeast and sugar in the same way as white flour, making the ethanol (alcohol) levels significantly lower.
Interestingly, ripe bananas have up to 0.2% ABV. As fruit start to age, especially bananas, they slowly begin to ferment. This process also creates ethanol, resulting in very low levels of alcohol. The riper the banana gets, the higher the alcohol rises. This is especially true for bananas that start to form the brown spots on the skin.
Soy sauce has between 1.5% and 2% ABV depending on the producer. The sauce is made from soybeans, wheat, salt, and water, which is then fermented to break down the starch and sugar. This is similar to the process of making beer, and as a result, there are small amounts of alcohol.
Grape and Apple Juice
Just like with bananas, grapes undergo some form of the natural fermentation process, leading to about 0.09% ABV. Although yeast is not added to the juice before it is made, fruit contains wild yeast on the skin, which interacts with the sugar inside the fruit. Apple juice, which also ferments naturally, has about 0.06% ABV. This is slightly lower than grapes since there tends to be more sugar in grapes than apples.
White Wine Vinegar
As the name would suggest, the vinegar has completed a similar process to the winemaking process. It’s more challenging to know precisely what the ABV of vinegar is, but it is often around 2.6g per litre. The vinegar’s fermentation process mimics the winemaking process where the yeast consumes the sugar, which results in alcohol being produced.
When it comes to fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kombucha, or Kimchi, there are small amounts of alcohol in those foods too. The exact amount of alcohol in these is difficult to pinpoint since there are many aspects that can influence these levels. In some cases, the alcohol can be as high as 2%, but it is less than a ripe banana in other cases. There is less control and measurements when fermenting these foods at home, making it tricky to determine.
Most pure vanilla extracts, and even some artificial ones, have to have alcohol as part of their preservation method. In the USA, the law states that pure extract has to have at least 35% alcohol. While this may seem like a high number, it is minimal if you consider how little of the extract you use to cook or bake with.
Pies and Cakes
Since so many of our desserts (especially pies and cakes) contain vanilla extract, it is no surprise that these also contain alcohol. Even if these desserts are baked, the heat only destroys about 60% of the alcohol content. Fortunately, the amount of vanilla extract used in these goods is minimal, so there is no real harm in them.
It is hard to think that most sodas, especially sugar-free alternatives, have small amounts of alcohol in them. Some of the brands include Coca-Cola, Diet Sprite, Diet Dr. Pepper, Fanta Orange, and Mountain Dew. The amount varies from brand to brand, but generally, it is less than 0.01%.
So while you may think there is only alcohol in your obvious foods and drinks like wine, beer, and spirits, alcohol is found in a number of your favorite products. The amounts are minimal and harmless, but if you are conscious about consuming alcohol, this is some great information to have in the back of your mind.
Brown, Hillary. Health University of Utah. 07 15, 2015. https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2015/07/070115_fermented.foods.php.
Robinson, S P. "Alcohol concentration and carbonation of drinks: the effect on blood alcohol levels." pubmed.gov. n.d. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17720590/.
Toxicol, J Anal. US National Library of Medicine. 08 16, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5421578/.