Even though many people consider vanilla extract to be an essential ingredient in baking and cooking, they may wonder whether or not this popular extract goes bad.
The short answer is yes, vanilla extract does go bad, but it doesn’t mean that all of your vanilla extract went bad at once.
The longer answer is that vanilla extract usually lasts about two years after the expiration date on the bottle, but there are ways to extend its shelf life even further.
Does vanilla extract go bad
Vanilla extract is one of those ingredients that we tend to think of as being pretty stable.
It’s so common that most people assume that it will last forever, but the truth is that vanilla extract does have a shelf life.
Vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans, which are harvested from tropical plants and then processed into a liquid extract.
However, just like any other food product, vanilla extract has a shelf life.
As with all foods, the exact amount of time that vanilla extract will remain good depends on how long it was stored before you opened it up.
Generally speaking, if you buy vanilla extract and it’s still sealed in its original container, it should last for about two years.
That means that if you buy vanilla extract in January 2020, it should last until December 2021.
If you open up a jar of vanilla extract in April 2022, it might taste fine.
However, if you open up another jar of vanilla extract in June 2024, it could begin to deteriorate quickly.
This deterioration happens because vanilla extract is a natural product, meaning that it contains sugars and proteins that cause it to spoil more easily than more chemically-based ingredients.
For example, if you have some vanilla extract left in your fridge and it starts to smell bad, it’s likely that it’s going bad.
You can tell by looking at the color of the liquid.
If it looks clear and bright yellow, it’s probably okay.
If it’s cloudy and brownish, it’s probably no longer safe to drink.
However, if it’s opaque and murky, it’s definitely past its prime.
While vanilla extract does go bad, it’s possible to prevent this degradation.
First, make sure that you don’t leave vanilla extract out in direct sunlight.
Heat can damage the molecules that give vanilla extract its flavor, so keeping it away from heat sources like windows and ovens will help ensure that it remains tasty.
Second, make sure that you use vanilla extract within its expiration date.
Even if you bought vanilla extract in January 2020, you shouldn’t use it beyond February 2021.
After that, it’ll start to degrade.
Also, if you plan on using vanilla extract regularly, it’s best to buy a new bottle every six months instead of waiting until the old one expires.
Finally, while it’s true that vanilla extract does go bad, it’s also important to note that it won’t necessarily ruin your entire batch of baked goods.
In fact, even when vanilla extract goes bad, you can still use it as a flavoring agent without worrying about it ruining your recipe.
How long does vanilla extract last?
Vanilla extract is made from pure vanilla beans, which are harvested by hand.
They are then dried, fermented, and pressed into small cakes that are later ground up and mixed with alcohol before being bottled.
This process kills off any bacteria and prevents mold from growing.
When vanilla extract is stored properly, it can last for several years.
In fact, some brands recommend storing their vanilla extract in a cool, dry place if you don’t use it right away.
However, since vanilla extract is made from a natural product, it can degrade naturally over time.
According to one study, vanilla extract loses around 3% of its potency per year.
That means that if you buy a bottle today, you would have less than three-quarters of what was originally in the bottle when you opened it in five years.
This loss of flavor is caused by enzymes called polyphenoloxidases (PPO), which break down the flavonoids found in vanilla beans.
Flavonoids are antioxidants that protect plants against damage by UV rays and other environmental factors.
When PPO breaks down these compounds, the vanilla extract becomes weaker and starts to smell stale.
How can you tell if vanilla extract is bad?
You can’t actually taste vanilla extract going bad, so you won’t know until you try it.
However, you’ll notice some changes in the way your vanilla extract tastes as it ages.
This article explains what these changes are and why you should care.
Vanilla extract has a very strong, sweet smell when it first comes out of the package.
As vanilla extract ages, however, it starts to lose its aroma and become more bitter.
By the end of its shelf life, your vanilla extract will have lost most of its original scent, and it will taste like old vanilla extract.
Here’s how to tell if your vanilla extract is no longer good to use:
- If your vanilla extract smells strongly like raw vanilla beans, it probably still has some flavor. But if it smells like old vanilla extract, then it’s definitely gone.
- If your vanilla extract is still liquid, it might still be okay to use, but if it’s solid, then it’s definitely expired.
- If your vanilla extract looks cloudy, it means that it’s been sitting around for too long. The cloudiness will eventually subside, but only if you refrigerate it.
- If your vanilla extract has turned brown, then it’s probably gone. Browning is caused by exposure to light, heat, oxygen, and air, which is exactly what happens to vanilla extract as it gets older.
What causes vanilla extract to turn brown?
As a rule of thumb, any food that contains vanilla extract will eventually start to brown.
To make matters worse, most foods that contain vanilla extract will also pick up other flavors from the vanilla extract, which makes them taste even worse than just plain vanilla extract would.
Here are some examples of foods that will start to get brown with age:
It’s hard to say exactly how much time each of these items has left before they start to get ugly.
But it’s safe to assume that most of them will start to get brown within a few months of their expiration date.
Is it safe to use vanilla extract that has gone bad?
As with most things, the best way to find out if something is safe to eat is to ask someone who knows what they’re doing.
In this case, we asked our friends at Food Safety News for their opinion.
Food safety expert and blogger Melissa Hamilton told us that “if you have any doubts about whether or not the vanilla extract is still good, then I would just throw it away.”
She also added that “there’s no need to get rid of everything because some of it might be okay.”
Hamilton said that she often sees vanilla extract sold at garage sales, so she recommends buying only one-quarter of the original container.
This is enough for six months of usage, which means that you should buy a new bottle every three months.
She also suggested that when using vanilla extract, you should always be sure to stir it well before adding it to recipes.
“If you don’t stir it, it can sit at the bottom of the jar where it can begin to ferment,” said Hamilton.
In addition to vanilla extract, you may want to check out these other items that could go bad.
How can you prevent vanilla extract from going bad?
There are several things that you can do to extend the lifespan of your vanilla extract, such as storing it properly, buying high-quality vanilla extract, and avoiding exposure to light.
Store it properly
If you don’t have much experience with storing food items, you might be surprised by just how long vanilla extract lasts.
According to Zaalouk, vanilla extract tends to stay fresh for up to two years when stored properly.
This means that if you buy vanilla extract in January and use it until June, you should still be able to use it well into July.
However, when you purchase vanilla extract, make sure that you buy the right kind.
“Vanilla extracts are generally made from either pure vanillin or vanillic acid,” explains Zaalouk.
“Pure vanillin has a sweet smell and is often used in desserts.
Vanillic acid has a sharper taste and is more commonly used in savory dishes.”
You also need to know that while vanilla extract will stay fresh for up to two years, it will only last six months if you leave it exposed to sunlight.
This is because vanilla extract contains a compound called coumarin, which reacts badly with light.
So, if you plan on using your vanilla extract within six months, you should avoid exposing it to direct sunlight.
Instead, put your vanilla extract in a cool, dark place where it will remain safe from light.
Buy high-quality vanilla extract
When you buy vanilla extract, you should always look for the highest quality possible.
Although vanilla extract can last for up to two years when stored correctly, you can expect your vanilla extract to last even longer if you purchase a higher quality product.
According to Zaalouk, “high-quality vanilla extract is made from pure vanillin, which gives it a rich, sweet smell and a smooth flavor.
It’s important to note that pure vanilla extract isn’t available everywhere, so you’ll probably have to visit specialty stores to find it.”
In addition to being made from pure vanilla, high-quality vanilla extract will also be free of additives and preservatives.
“Some vanilla extract is mixed with other ingredients to help preserve it,” Zaalouk says.
“These additives can cause problems like discoloration, off-flavors, and poor storage stability.”
Avoid exposure to light
Finally, you should avoid exposing your vanilla extract to light.
As mentioned above, vanilla extract can become rancid when exposed to light, which causes it to lose its flavor quickly.
To avoid this problem, try storing your vanilla extract in a cool, dark place instead of leaving it out in the open.
What are some tips for storing vanilla extract?
If you have used vanilla extract, then you know that it has a strong smell.
This smell comes from vanillin, which is an organic compound found in vanilla beans.
When you cook with vanilla extract, vanillin breaks down into other compounds called esters.
These esters give vanilla extract its distinctive aroma.
Vanilla extract also contains alcohol, water, and sugar.
It is important to note that when vanilla extract is exposed to air, it loses its potency.
Therefore, it is best to use vanilla extract within one year of opening the bottle.
Once opened, vanilla extract should be stored in a cool, dry place where it won’t get hot or overly humid.
For example, a closet works well, but if you don’t have such a space in your home, then a cabinet or cupboard will do just fine.
If you are purchasing vanilla extract online, make sure that it is pure vanilla extract.
Most reputable brands offer pure vanilla extract, so look for the label “100% Pure Vanilla Extract.”
Once you open a bottle of vanilla extract, it should be refrigerated.
Make sure that the fridge is at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius).
Keeping vanilla extract cold will slow down the breakdown of the vanillin.
However, if you leave vanilla extract in the refrigerator too long, it could start to ferment.
When you purchase vanilla extract, you might see the words “extract” or “puree” on the label.
Although these terms are interchangeable, puree means that the vanilla bean has been ground up, while extract refers to the liquid mixture that results from making the vanilla bean’s essence.
Many people believe that vanilla extract must be made by grinding vanilla beans.
While this is true, vanilla extract can be made using any part of the vanilla plant.
In fact, vanilla extract can be made from the pods, leaves, flowers, roots, and bark of the vanilla plant.
Puree is sometimes referred to as vanilla paste because it is sold in small jars.
To create puree, vanilla beans are placed in a blender along with sugar and water.
Then, the mixture is blended until smooth.
The resulting puree is then poured through a strainer to remove any seeds or clumps.
Finally, the puree is bottled and sold.
You can buy puree in most grocery stores and specialty food shops.
Puree tends to be more expensive than vanilla extract, but it is worth paying extra for the quality.
When you buy puree, make sure that it is 100 percent pure vanilla extract.
Can you get food poisoning from vanilla extract?
No, you cannot get sick from eating vanilla extract.
However, if you have ever made a cake with vanilla extract, then you know that it has a strong odor.
This smell is caused by vanillin, which is a compound found inside vanilla beans.
As we mentioned above, vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans, so if you don’t like the smell of vanilla extract, then chances are you won’t like the taste of vanilla bean either.
Vanilla extract is also used as a flavoring for ice cream, yogurt, and other desserts.
So, if you or someone else end up eating a lot of vanilla extract, then you could become ill from eating vanilla bean ice cream or some other type of dessert.
In addition to having a strong odor, vanilla extract can also cause allergic reactions.
It is possible to develop a sensitivity to vanilla extract, especially if you are sensitive to any of the ingredients in vanilla extract.
Some people who have allergies to certain foods (like peanuts) report that they experience symptoms when eating vanilla extract.
If you do eat vanilla extract, then you should be aware that it contains alcohol, so make sure that you drink plenty of water while consuming it to avoid dehydration.
Also, because vanilla extract contains alcohol, you should take steps to prevent spills from getting onto your skin.
You can use a wet washcloth to wipe away any spills.
If you choose to consume vanilla extract, then you should only use a small amount each day.
Overdosing on vanilla extract can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Although vanilla extract is safe to consume, it is important to note that it isn’t necessarily safe to consume raw vanilla beans.
Raw vanilla beans contain a chemical called coumarin, which can irritate your digestive system.
For this reason, it is best to buy vanilla extract instead of buying vanilla beans directly.
Can bacteria grow in vanilla extract?
Bacteria are everywhere — they exist in our air, water, food, and soil.
Bacteria are microscopic organisms that can reproduce quickly and multiply very rapidly.
They are also known as microbes because they are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Some types of bacteria cause disease in humans, animals, and plants.
In some cases, the growth of bacteria in vanilla extract can affect the taste of the product.
However, if you are using vanilla extract for baking, the bacteria won’t make the cake taste any different than if you used regular baking powder.
In fact, some people think that vanilla extract has a stronger flavor than plain baking soda.
Vanilla extract is made from beans that have been fermented.
This process causes the beans to turn brown, which makes them easier to digest.
When you buy vanilla extract, it is more likely to contain mold spores and other contaminants than pure vanilla.
These spores can grow in vanilla extract, but they don’t necessarily make the extract taste bad.
It just means that you need to throw away the entire bottle if the odor becomes too strong.
Some people think that vanilla extract smells like ammonia when it starts to go bad.
This is probably due to the presence of a chemical called vanillin.
Vanillin is one of the primary components of vanilla extract, and it gives vanilla its characteristic smell.
Unfortunately, it also contributes to the off-flavor of vanilla extract.
If you use vanilla extract regularly, you should keep the bottles stored in a cool, dry place.
You can also freeze vanilla extract to extend its shelf life, but this only works for a few months.
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Recipe
- 1 freezer
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean split and seeds scraped
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Combine the cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook the mixture until it comes to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.
- Pour the mixture into the saucepan and cook over low heat until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
- Pour the mixture into a container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- When ready to serve, churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately or store in the freezer for later. Enjoy!