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Does Vanilla Extract Go Bad? How to Check and Tell?

No matter if you are new to the baking world or an expert chef, sometimes in your life, you wonder about vanilla extract. It is the most common ingredient of most popular baking products, ice creams, and puddings. As a person who remains conscious about health and food safety, you often wonder “does Vanilla extract go bad?” Also, how a person can tell if an extract-in-hand is good to use or not? If that’s what you are wondering at the moment, then this post will give you a clear answer to the common questions about vanilla extract. Also, you will get an idea of how to store this product correctly.

First thing, First

What is a Vanilla Extract

It is a solution made by macerating and percolating vanilla pods in alcohol and water. When soaked in a mixture of alcohol and water, then over time, the vanilla flavor infuses complexities in this mixture and results in the extract.

Difference Between Vanilla Extract and Imitation

It’s relatively easy to differentiate pure vanilla extract from its imitation. In the baking department, you can read labels. The real deal will always have “Pure” mentioned on the label. Another thing to check is the price because the pure extract is still pricey.

#1. Flavor and Procedure

The main difference between extract and its imitation is the way both products are produced. Vanilla beans are used to create a pure extract, which has a brown shade. This brown color comes from essential oils. The pure extract has hundreds of flavor compounds that make it very rich in taste; vanillin is one of the leading and primary compounds.

Imitation only has one critical flavor compound- vanillin, and it doesn’t contain all other compounds that make pure extract a real deal. Therefore, flavor imitation isn’t that rich. Vanillin is a synthetic substance made in a lab, and thus imitation vanilla has a low-quality taste than the real one.

#2. Price Difference

Vanilla beans are expensive because their plants are picky and not easy to grow; thereby, the real one is costly. Not everyone can afford the real deal for everyday baking. Therefore, imitation vanilla extract with the synthetic substance vanillin is commonly used.

The price is the main difference, so if you buy an extract under $5, it’s an imitation because the real one comes with a hefty price tag.

Does Vanilla Extract Go Bad

The answer is dependent on the type of extract you have. If you have a pure one, it has an indefinite shelf life as long as you store it correctly. The good thing about pure extract is that its flavor gets better with age. The older it is, the better its flavor will be. So, you can say that the real deal doesn’t go wrong. However, one thing you need to note at this point is that extract has alcohol- which evaporates once you open the bottle. Therefore, when you use this product for years, then its flavor would become more intense.

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Does vanilla extract go bad if you buy an imitation? The answer is yes, and it will go bad after some time. The quality of imitation will degrade over time. On average, an imitation shelf life is six months to one year, but some products come with a longer shelf life if you store them properly.

For getting an exact idea, you need to check the best before date. Although many people use it after the expiration date, they shouldn’t forget that the longer you store an imitation, its taste will be the worst.

How to Tell if Vanilla Extract has Gone Bad

People often ask, “Does vanilla extract go bad if we tightly seal the bottle?” The answer is it shouldn’t go bad when you are quite careful in keeping this product. Whether you have a pure or imitation, it generally doesn’t go bad when you store it properly. Smell and texture are two important things to consider here.

#1. Smell

How to tell if the extract went bad? You need to look at this bottle carefully. Open the cap and sniff. If you notice no smell, then your product is not suitable for use. You can check the lid as well; if there is some growth inside the cap, then it’s a red signal you need to pay attention to.

#2. Texture

Whenever you need to use vanilla extract, check it before pouring its drops into any mixture. In case you notice that the solution is cloudy and something inside the solution, you shouldn’t use it at all.

The pure extract might not go bad as quickly as an imitation one. The quality of faux vanilla extract deteriorates over time, and at some point, you need to throw it away because it won’t have any flavor.

An easy test to perform is to open the bottle and smell it.

How Long Vanilla Extract Lasts

Pure Vanilla extract comes with an indefinite shelf life. On the other hand, you can use an imitation for up to two to four years. You need to check best before the date because some products are suitable for only up to six to one year.

Types of Vanilla Extract

When it comes to pure and expensive Vanilla extract types, a consumer can explore a wide variety of extracts. Let’s find out more about them.

#1. Madagascar or Bourbon

When you want to make vanilla your main ingredient of cookies or cakes, this traditional flavor is something you can’t get over quickly. It offers the most pungent taste of vanilla. Therefore, you often taste it in classic vanilla ice creams.

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#2. Mexican

When you want to make Mexican cookies, you should add this type of vanilla extract because it has a smooth flavor with a spice pinch. Every other recipe of snickerdoodle cookie has this extract as the main ingredient.

#3. Tahitian

If you plan to cook creamy custard with fruity and floral flavor, always buy Tahitian because it will be your custard somewhat more delicious and richer in vanilla flavor.

How to Store Vanilla Extract

When it comes to storing vanilla extract, you need to choose a pantry far away from heat, moisture, and sunlight. It doesn’t mean you can keep it in a refrigerator or fridge because low temperatures will damage this product. You need to pick a cold and dark place in your pantry. Some people store vanilla extract in a cupboard close to the stove, fridge, and dishwasher. This is indeed a bad idea you need to avoid at any cost. Whether you have a pure or imitation version of extract, you can use it for a long time if you store it properly.

In case vanilla extract comes in a plastic bottle, you should shift it in a glass bottle or jar- the best way to store this product. Once you use this product, make sure that the extract is sealed tightly.

How can you store vanilla extract?

You need to store this product in a dark and cool place without sunlight. It is best to keep it in the pantry or kitchen cabinet away from heat and moisture. Some people like storing extracts in the fridge because the cold temperature maintains their flavor for months if not years. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t do it because low temperatures will damage its quality over time, and you should check the expiration date on the bottle before using it.

Can you freeze vanilla extract?

Yes, but once you put it in a freezer, it needs to be used within three months tops. Freezing will make this product go bad very quickly because alcohol will evaporate fast. You might want to add a few drops of it in your milk or coffee for fresher taste as well.

How long does vanilla extract last?

How long does vanilla extract last to use it after opening? You should be aware of the fact that flavor begins to disappear as time goes by. However, you can store this product in its original container for at least one year. It means when you open it, you can use its extract for up to one year without any problem or doubt. You can even expand its shelf life by storing it in a dark and cool place if not using frequently. The quality of imitation decreases over time because the alcohol content evaporates quickly. Its flavor will be the worst after six months or so when stored improperly in a heat place.

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How do you know if pure vanilla extract is bad?

The fact is every product goes bad after a certain period of time. It means you need to check the best before date on the bottle, and you should never use it if expires. Sometimes, the flavor of your extract begins to change with time. If you notice that it becomes less pungent or smell weaker, then you should use it as soon as possible or throw it away.

How long do I store vanilla extract?

You have to store pure vanilla extract properly because its quality or flavor starts deteriorating after a particular period of time. You can store this product for at least one year, but when open it is ready for use within three months.

Can you get sick from expired vanilla extract?

Although there is no scientific evidence that you can get sick from vanilla extract, some people claim they got sick after using this product and therefore, you need to be careful. Buy the best one if you have a pure product.

What should I do if I notice some discoloration in my vanilla extract?

It is safe to keep your vanilla extract for at least one year and you don’t need to throw away it. The discoloration in this product does not indicate its potency. It all depends upon the quality of Vanilla extract you have bought; it might be bad or of poor quality.

Should vanilla extract smell like alcohol?

Pure vanilla extract has a strong odor, and the main ingredient is alcohol, but it does not mean that it should always smell like alcohol. In fact, if you notice your vanilla doesn’t have any smell at all, you have to throw it away because something might be wrong with this product.

How many vanilla beans should I add if I make ice cream?

It depends upon the quality of vanilla extract you use in combination of ice creams. For instance, if you use a pure product and make sure that there is no imitation in it, then add one tablespoon of this extract to every quart of ice cream mix.

From the analysis above, you should have a clear idea about vanilla extract and its usage. It is a sauce or liquid composed of vanilla beans that are used as flavoring. You can use this product in every recipe to add sweet and heavenly taste to anything at all. It can be an ice cream, cake, cookies, pancake mix, brownie, cookies with chocolate chips, sauces, etc. Vanilla extract is the most common flavor in delicious food around the globe and contains an alcohol base with plant material extracts.

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