The vanilla extract gives an extraordinary flavor and aroma to your bakery items, milkshakes, and many more recipes. But you don’t always bake such vanilla-flavored items, do you? Often, you’ll find yourself storing this extract for months or even years.
So, what shall you do if you suddenly realize that a recipe you’re preparing requires vanilla extract, but all you have is a months-old one in the pantry cupboard?
Well, if your dilemma lies there, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s dive deep and find out whether or not vanilla extract goes bad and how long it lasts!
Does vanilla extract go bad?
First of all, you need to know that pure vanilla extract is often extracted using alcohol. That automatically means that it will last an incredibly long time.
So, if you’ve made your extract at home, we don’t think that you should worry about it going bad any time soon. Feel free to use months old or even years old vanilla extract that you’ve been storing in your pantry.
That being said, be careful while you’re using years old store-bought extract. As you don’t know how it has been made, and you can’t guarantee that it is pure vanilla extract and alcohol. We’ll talk more about how long does pure and imitation vanilla extract last later in this post.
How long does vanilla extract last?
The richness in flavor is not the only important thing that varies between pure and imitation vanilla extract – shelf life does too!
Pure vanilla extract has a lot of compounds, hence, the rich flavor. Among those, the major compound in vanilla is vanillin.
Imitation vanilla extract, however, only has vanillin in it, that too synthetic. It comes at a lower price and good enough flavor. But remember, its shelf life is not indefinite!
If you don’t know how to differentiate between pure and imitation vanilla, make sure to look for ‘Pure’ words on the packaging. Moreover, if the extract has cost you cheap, it is highly likely to be an imitation one.
While pure vanilla extract keeps becoming stronger and more concentrated as years pass by as the result of alcohol evaporation, imitation vanilla extract will be of its best quality only for a few months or a year or two at maximum once it expires.
However, that doesn’t mean that imitation vanilla extract will spoil over time. Just expect it to degrade in quality as well as in flavor and aroma.
Pure vanilla extract
|Imitation vanilla extract|
Best-by + about 2 years
4 Tips to tell if vanilla extract has gone bad
Vanilla extract doesn’t quickly go bad. But if it’s an imitation one, you might need these tips to tell if the vanilla extract on your shelf has gone bad.
1. Give it a quick sniff
When it comes to spoilage, your nose can immediately notify you. Does your vanilla extract still have the same flavorful aroma as it did before? If yes, it might still be useful. If not, and if the bottle has an off aroma, you might as well trash the bottle.
2. Check the underside of the cap
If in doubt, check the underside of the bottle cap that you’ve been storing your vanilla extract in. If you notice something built up, the extract might not be of its best quality.
Moreover, check for mold development as well. Though vanilla extract is not very prone to molds, since it has an alcohol base, molds might sometimes surprise you.
3. Check for potency
If the aroma of the extract is fine, but the baked goods don’t have the same potent flavor and smell, your vanilla extract might have lost its potency.
If you don’t mind using the flat vanilla extract, go ahead! But if you’re not someone who can compromise on the flavor, we’d recommend you buy a new bottle or make one for yourself!
4. Check for any impurities
Do you see any impurities floating in the extract? A piece of food item, maybe? If you see such items, throwing away the extract might be the smartest decision to take.
However, if you don’t see any signs of degradation and change in aroma or flavor, you can simply take out the impurity and use it in your recipe.
Now that you can differentiate a jar of quality vanilla extract from the one that has gone bad, let’s talk about how to store the extract to make it last for longer, shall we?
5 tips to store vanilla extract
We’ve been talking too much about how vanilla extract should be appropriately stored. So, what’s appropriate? In this section, let’s discuss how you should store your vanilla extract such that it will last you for years without compromising in its quality and flavor.
1. Store at room temperature
While refrigeration and freezing will elevate the longevity of most of the food items, it’s different when it comes to vanilla extract.
Vanilla extract prefers room temperature or slightly lesser temperature, and thus, it is in the pantry or the kitchen cupboard where it is best stored. Freezing and refrigeration will likely decrease imitation vanilla extract quality, so steer clear of doing so.
2. Avoid exposure to heat and sunlight
Most of the food items are best stored when they’re stored devoid of heat and sunlight. Similarly, you should store your extract in a dark place in your pantry. Also, don’t store it on surfaces that are likely to be hot; for instance, on top of your dishwasher or near your stove.
3. Is the lid tightly closed?
This might be the most important tip for you to remember. The container in which you store your vanilla extract must be airtight. If the lid doesn’t close tightly, make sure you pour the extract in the one that does.
4. Make sure you don’t insert any food item inside the jar
Always pour your vanilla extract from the container. Doing so will prevent you from putting in tiny food particles inside the jar. Especially if your extract is stored in a jar, you might forget and insert a spoon inside of it.
Though vanilla extract doesn’t quite go bad, the food particles do. Thus, to prevent the entire jar of extract from degrading, don’t insert anything inside the bottle.
5. Avoid moisture
Despite being in liquid form, vanilla extract doesn’t go bad only because it has an alcohol base. Thus, introducing water to your extract container isn’t quite a good idea.
Moreover, though vanilla extract might not be quite affected by moisture introduction, molds might attack the undersides of bottle or jar lids.
Risks of consuming an expired vanilla extract
We’ve already discussed how pure vanilla extract maintains its quality almost indefinitely, whereas imitation one degrades in quality quickly. So, what might be the consequences of consuming expired vanilla extract? Read on to find out.
Firstly, the best-by date mentioned in the packaging is not a measure of the safety of the food item, but its quality. So, even if your vanilla extract has expired, it is probably safe to consume it.
Moreover, even though it’s an imitation vanilla extract, it will maintain its quality for years after expiring. So, when it comes to expired vanilla extract, you don’t have to worry too much about getting seek.
The most that can happen from using expired vanilla extract in your recipe is that you might experience unpleasant flavor and smell.
However, you should be aware and check for any contamination or impurities before using expired vanilla extract as using such extract might cause you to experience minor health problems.
One most important thing to remember is that your pure vanilla extract might become more concentrated, and you might experience a stronger flavor and aroma. Make sure you don’t mistake it for the extract going bad.
Can you freeze vanilla extract?
In simple words, there’s no point in freezing vanilla extract. Do you freeze alcohol? No, right? Likewise, there’s no need to freeze vanilla extract as well.
The alcohol base in the extract makes sure that your vanilla extract remains fresh and edible for long, even if stored at room temperature. Moreover, freezing or even simply refrigerating vanilla extract for long is known to degrade its quality.
So, you don’t have to go the extra mile to freeze your vanilla extract when you can simply enjoy its best quality and flavor for years, even when stored at room temperature.
Vanilla extract makes everything better! Just put a teaspoon or two of the extract and enjoy the heavenly fragrance and taste right away!
By now, you might have decided whether or not to use the extract that you’ve stored in the cupboard for months. Well, we say, go for it! Especially if it’s pure vanilla extract. However, make sure there’s no sign of spoilage or mold.
But if your extract is incredibly old, be it pure vanilla extract or an imitation one, we’d recommend you to purchase or make a new bottle of fresh extract. As we all know, the fresher, the better!