There are a lot of things that degrade over time, but our beloved vanilla extract is one of the few flavors that can actually improve with age.
The shelf life for your bottle of vanilla extract will depend on a variety of factors. Higher-quality extracts have a longer shelf life, but even the most quality extract doesn’t last forever.
The length of time your extract will last depends on the specific formulation, the storage conditions and how you store the bottle.
Here are a few tips that will help your vanilla extract last as long as possible:
- Keep It Refrigerated After Opening
Most people store their bottle of vanilla in a pantry or kitchen cabinet. Having it ready to use as soon as you open it is convenient, but doing so can also shorten its shelf life. A refrigerator with an almost-0°F temperature will keep your extract at peak flavor for about six months after opening.
If you plan to store your vanilla in the refrigerator after opening, stick it in the freezer for two days first. This will let the bottle equilibrate to lower temperature, and it will also make it easier to pour.
- Avoid Exposure to Heat
Heat can damage sensitive oils in the extract, causing them to break down and lose their flavor more quickly than they otherwise would. If you use vanilla in baking, you can decrease its shelf life by heating your baked goods above 325°F (163°C).
Keep your extract away from hot ovens, stoves or direct sunlight if possible. Doing so will help maintain its flavor for longer.
- Don’t Overfill the Bottle
Overfilling your vanilla extract bottle will cause two problems. First, it can cause the extract to spill out of the bottle when you open it. Second, it will make it harder to seal the bottle correctly and prevent air from getting inside. If you find yourself with extra extract, pour the excess into an airtight container and store it in your refrigerator.
- Store It Away From Light
Light damages flavor compounds in vanilla extract by breaking them down into other compounds that don’t taste very good. The best way to store your extract is in a cabinet or other dark location where light doesn’t reach it.
- Don’t Overuse It
If you use your vanilla extract daily or multiple times per day, its flavor may never be as good as it was when it was new. Don’t use your extract more than three times per week.
- Heat It Up After Opening
After opening vanilla extract, heat it up to around 100°F (37°C) for 15 minutes, then let it sit at room temperature for an additional hour before using again. This will help prevent the unpleasant flavor molecules from leaking into other foods and beverages. [ 1 ]
- Check the Container Every Year
Your bottle of vanilla extract will eventually get old and start to break down. You can tell if the bottle is past its prime by checking it for defects or by smelling it.
- Replace Your Extract Every Year
The best way to check if your vanilla is still good is to smell it. If it doesn’t smell bad, you can store it, but if you have a sense that it’s no longer flavorful, replace it.
- Avoid the “Off” Flavor of High-Quality Extracts
Many vanilla extracts are made from vanilla beans that have been cured in an alcohol solution over a couple months or longer, with bourbon whiskey being a common choice for flavoring extractions.
How long can you age vanilla extract?
This is a good question. There is no set standardized time for how long vanilla extract will last. However, every bottle of vanilla extract has a lifespan, and how long that lifespan will be can vary from batch to batch.
Vanilla extract has a shelf life which can reflect how their production and production methods affect the end product. For example, you may find that one of the best brands of vanilla extract lasts longer than another brand because of the manufacturing techniques and processes they use during the packaging and bottling process (I have seen some bottles last up to 5 years and some last up to only 6 months).
The fresher the product, the better it will be.
How Long Will Vanilla Extract Last?
Over the years I’ve had a variety of vanilla extract to use and I’ve found that (with one exception) a bottle of Vanilla Extract from Taza Vanilla Company in Mexico lasts longer than any other brand. Their bottles last two or three years, but I’ve had an older bottle of theirs with a cork top that lasted over 6 years (the shelf life has no effect on the taste).
The one exception is Tahitian Vanilla extract that seems to last only 3 months, which is why I stopped using Tahitian vanilla and started using Mexican vanilla.
I also found that the higher-quality extracts, such as Bourbon Vanilla and Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, lasted longer. The bottle of rum extract I have (a fairly good quality brand) lasts over 12 months and I think it could last even longer.
On the other hand, some extracts don’t last as long. Sometimes you’ll open up a bottle of vanilla extract and think it smells bad (like an “off” smell or an old smell). This smell is sometimes caused by a damaged bottle or maybe a bad batch of vanilla extract. If a bottle of vanilla extract smells bad or tastes bad, you should discard it.
If the bottle is good, then you can do some things to extend the life of your vanilla extract. First, keep it in a dark place like a cabinet or spice rack so that it doesn’t get exposed to light. If you store it near the stove (like I’ve done), then you may notice that your extract lasts only 6 months instead of 12 months. Second, if you want to keep your bottle of vanilla extract for an extended period of time, then place it in the freezer. This will help prolong the shelf life as well as preserve the flavor better over longer periods.
How long should vanilla extract sit?
Years ago, I had a friend who told me she was doing research on vanilla extract and I explained to her the process of making vanilla extract. She liked the idea and ended up buying a bottle of Mexican Vanilla Extract so that she could use it primarily for baking.
When I checked up on her a few years after that, she said that she really enjoyed using vanilla extract in her baking but something was bothering her. She said, “I read in the book ‘from my kitchen to yours’ that you have to let vanilla sit for three months before using it in baking, but I’m not sure if my 3 month old bottle is ok. The smell isnt bad but it doesn’t taste like vanilla anymore. It almost has an off smell.”
I told her that she should try to use the extract and wait or talk with the person who gave her the recipe. I explained that the likely reason for her having bad results was because she stored it in a dark place or used it before it was 3 months old.
I think Mexico produces some of the best extract, so if you’re looking for a good quality vanilla extract, then you may want to look for one with Mexican Vanilla in the ingredient list.
How to store and age vanilla extract?
Most people store their vanilla extract in a dark cabinet or shelf away from direct light. Some people even store it in the freezer. I have found that if you put your vanilla extract in the cabinet, then don’t use it very often, then you may find that it has a shorter shelf life.
Some people have reported that they used a bottle of vanilla extract and found that it had an off or unpleasant taste. This is likely because they opened a bottle of vanilla extract and didn’t use the entire bottle within a few months. If you keep the remainder of your vanilla extract at room temperature or leave it near other spices (which can sometimes cause off tastes), then you may find that this reduces its shelf life to only 3-6 months.
Some vanilla extract is aged and some isn’t. In some cases, it’s even made by squeezing the vanilla beans on the day that they’re harvested, so it doesn’t have time to age very much.
I’ve found that the best way to store your vanilla extract is in the most convenient place for you. If you want to be able to use it quickly, then store it in a frequently used baking area or cabinet. Or if you are looking for the longest shelf life, then keep it in a dark place like a spice rack or place it in the freezer (but remember that frozen liquids can expand when they thaw).