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Does Vanilla Extract Go Bad? – How To Tell That It Is Bad?

If you’re not sure whether or not your vanilla extract has gone bad, there are a few ways to find out.

1. Purchasing vanilla extract is one of the most confusing decisions in cooking – when is it too old? What is the difference between pure and imitation? Should I buy it in bulk or at the store? Is there anything I should watch out for when shopping around for this product?

2. To avoid buyers remorse, follow these 3 guidelines before taking your turn at the store: buy only what you need, be sure to check expiration dates, and don’t forget to compare prices!

3. As a general rule, pure vanilla extract is better than imitation.

4. Just because the label says it’s pure doesn’t mean it’s good quality so be sure to check the ingredients! Most imitation vanilla extract (also known as “imitation vanilla flavoring” or “vanilla flavor”) is made of wood pulp by-products, corn syrup and artificial color.

5. It may cost a couple of dollars more, but pure vanilla extract increases in quality as its price goes up. Using that logic, avoid bargain brands like Kirkland Signature and get the real thing which will last a lot longer!

6. When purchasing vanilla extract, look for one that is labeled “Pure Vanilla Extract” (or other similarly labeled products).

7. Vanilla extract can go bad if it has been opened or stored in the wrong environment.

8. To tell if a bottle of vanilla extract has gone bad, check the ingredients list to see if it has any additives such as wood pulp and artificial color. Also make sure that the label does not indicate an expiration date, as this will indicate a stale product and you may not want to use it.

9. Imitation vanilla extract often contains just three main ingredients – vanillin (that’s vanillin), ethyl alcohol and flavorings such as wood pulp by-products or corn syrup. If it’s made of multiple synthetic ingredients, chances are it’s not pure vanilla extract.

10. The best way to tell if you have a bad bottle of vanilla extract is to taste it. If it tastes stale, go ahead and toss it in the trash.

11. Make sure to store your vanilla extract in a cool, dark place that is free from light exposure (such as a drawer or cabinet). See how long does fresh vanilla extract last? Vanilla Extract is made with real vanilla beans that contain the most expensive part of the bean – the seeds – which are also used to flavor many other dishes – ice cream, cakes, cheesecakes etc. The husks contain the aroma quality and are discarded after extraction. Vanilla extract should be kept in a cool dry place and if it develops a strong alcohol smell, then it should be discarded. A vanilla extract that has gone bad will not affect a recipe adversely – though it may impart an unpleasant flavor. It can still be poured into something like a cake or pudding to help flavor the dish – but the best way to avoid vanilla extract going bad is to make sure that you keep it out of too much light and heat.

12. When purchasing vanilla extract, look for one that is labeled “Pure Vanilla Extract” (or other similarly labeled products).

13. Vanilla extract can go bad if it has been opened or stored in the wrong environment.

14. To tell if a bottle of vanilla extract has gone bad, check the ingredients list to see if it has any additives such as wood pulp and artificial color. Also make sure that the label does not indicate an expiration date, as this will indicate a stale product and you may not want to use it.

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15. Imitation vanilla extract often contains just three main ingredients – vanillin (that’s vanillin), ethyl alcohol and flavorings such as wood pulp by-products or corn syrup. If it’s made of multiple synthetic ingredients, chances are it’s not pure vanilla extract.

16. The best way to tell if you have a bad bottle of vanilla extract is to taste it. If it tastes stale, go ahead and toss it in the trash.

17. Make sure to store your vanilla extract in a cool, dark place that is free from light exposure (such as a drawer or cabinet). See how long does fresh vanilla extract last?

Vanilla Extract is made with real vanilla beans that contain the most expensive part of the bean – the seeds – which are also used to flavor many other dishes – ice cream, cakes, cheesecakes etc. The husks contain the aroma quality and are discarded after extraction.

Vanilla extract should be kept in a cool dry place and if it develops a strong alcohol smell, then it should be discarded. A vanilla extract that has gone bad will not affect a recipe adversely – though it may impart an unpleasant flavor. It can still be poured into something like a cake or pudding to help flavor the dish – but the best way to avoid vanilla extract going bad is to make sure that you keep it out of too much light and heat.

18. When purchasing vanilla extract, look for one that is labeled “Pure Vanilla Extract” (or other similarly labeled products).

19. Vanilla extract can go bad if it has been opened or stored in the wrong environment.

20. To tell if a bottle of vanilla extract has gone bad, check the ingredients list to see if it has any additives such as wood pulp and artificial color. Also make sure that the label does not indicate an expiration date, as this will indicate a stale product and you may not want to use it.

21. Imitation vanilla extract often contains just three main ingredients – vanillin (that’s vanillin), ethyl alcohol and flavorings such as wood pulp by-products or corn syrup. If it’s made of multiple synthetic ingredients, chances are it’s not pure vanilla extract.

22. The best way to tell if you have a bad bottle of vanilla extract is to taste it. If it tastes stale, go ahead and toss it in the trash.

23. Make sure to store your vanilla extract in a cool, dark place that is free from light exposure (such as a drawer or cabinet). See how long does fresh vanilla extract last?

Vanilla Extract is made with real vanilla beans that contain the most expensive part of the bean – the seeds – which are also used to flavor many other dishes – ice cream, cakes, cheesecakes etc. The husks contain the aroma quality and are discarded after extraction. Vanilla extract should be kept in a cool dry place and if it develops a strong alcohol smell, then it should be discarded.

No matter which kind of vanilla extract we’re talking about, the answer to whether or not it can go off is: probably not. Both types don’t make a good environment for bacteria to grow. That makes it unlikely that either will spoil in a way meat or dairy goes.

Nevertheless, if you open up the bottle or vial and the smell is off, or the consistency of the liquid have changed noticeably, discard it. In other words, if your senses are telling you that something is wrong with the solution, get rid of it.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that the flavor and smell of the pure extract and the imitation are slightly different. So if you’ve used the cheaper one your whole life and now you switched to the more expensive option, don’t get caught off guard thinking it’s bad because the smell is stronger and the taste richer.

If the extract seems to be okay, it’s safe to use. But that doesn’t necessarily mean its flavor will be good enough. That’s where the difference between the pure extract and the synthetic ones kicks in.

How Long Does Vanilla Extract Last

For vanilla extract imitation, it comes with a best-by date on the label, and its shelf life is usually between 2 to 4 years. Past that date, the solution won’t become unsafe to use, but its overall quality (taste, fragrance) will start to drop.

If it drops slightly, you can probably get away with simply adding more of the extract to make up for the flavor loss. But if the extract is more than a couple of years past its date, and the vanilla taste is hardly there, it makes more sense to discard it.

When it comes to the pure vanilla extract, it fares much better over time. Thanks to its high alcohol content it easily lasts several years ([VQ]) in excellent quality, and many sources say it can pretty much last forever ([CN]).

Of course, on some labels, there still will be a “best-by” date, but often that’s simply because the law requires it. So even if your extract is way past that date, it should still be quite alright, especially if you took good care of it.

How To Store Vanilla Extract

Proper storage of this product of the vanilla beans extract isn’t that difficult.

When it comes to temperature, room temperature or slightly below is perfect, so either the pantry or the kitchen works. Don’t refrigerate or freeze the extract, as it might mess with its taste ([VQ]). And make sure it doesn’t sit near any sources of heat.

Besides heat, the extract doesn’t particularly like light, so a dark cabinet or a spice drawer is probably the best option. Like with heat, prolonged exposure to light might cause the taste to degrade.

In a Nutshell

Unless you keep the bottle or vial of vanilla extract unsealed, it probably won’t go bad.

Vanilla extract imitation will retain quality (or most of it) for a couple of months, maybe even years past its date.

Pure vanilla extract lasts years, and many sources say it can pretty much last indefinitely.

Keep the extract in a cool and dark place.

Can you get sick from expired vanilla extract?

No, vanilla extract is a food, not a drug or a chemical.food poisoning is caused by bacteria, and there’s no bacteria in vanilla extract. In fact, if you have the right vanilla extracts you’ll be able to tell the difference between them just by smelling them (it’ll smell much sweeter and less chemical-like with pure vanilla).

In fact, if you have the right extracts they’ll also be able to tell the difference between them just by tasting them (it tastes WAY better of pure vanilla extract).

So don’t waste your money on “expired” extracts – especially if they smell badly or taste fishy – because they’re not going to do you any good.

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How do you know if vanilla extract has gone bad?

You’ll know if it’s bad if you taste it and you don’t like it or if it’s got a weird aroma that you can’t put your finger on. You can also tell by looking at the bottle/vial, too, as some of them have caps which are darker than others, and that means the extract has been sitting around for longer.

If the extract has gone bad, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean all is lost. If you’ve still got half a bottle/vial of bad extract, you can usually just add more (less-bad) extract to taste, and it’ll be fine again. This is especially true if you’re going to use it in recipes where the vanilla won’t be super-noticeable.

If it’s completely gone bad, though, the only thing to do is discard the bottle/vial – unless you’re really hard up for vanilla. In which case, if you don’t mind using an extract that tastes really weird or smells strange and off, then just keep using it. You can try adding some water to dilute it down or some sugar to sweeten it up or something like that if that helps.

How long does vanilla take to expire?

It does not expire. The shelf life of any pure vanilla extract is pretty much indefinite. Only oils, such as those used in the production of care products and cosmetics, have a shelf life.

Also note that since the vanilla extract oil is not a traditional food, it is not covered by US and European laws regarding expiration dates. Only spices (including vanilla extract oil) are regulated by laws and pesticide/microbiological issues are also regulated.

What if I want to store my vanilla extract for use at a later date?

If you want to store your vanilla for use at a later date, you should store it in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container. This will keep it from going bad and it will keep it more fresh than if you store it at room temperature. If you are short on space, though, you can also store your vanilla extract in a cabinet or pantry.

How do you make sure that vanilla extract doesn’t go bad?

You should make sure to use proper storage containers to prevent your vanilla extract from going bad, as well as keeping the bottles and vials tightly sealed. You should also make sure to store your vanilla extract in a cool and dark place away from any direct sunlight to prevent the vanilla from going bad.

Will expired vanilla extract make you sick?

The only thing that will actually make you sick if it’s gone bad is the fact that your nose and/or your taste buds will tell you it’s gone bad, and they’re not wrong, so don’t ignore them. It won’t kill you or hurt you or give you food poisoning or anything like that, but it might make the flavor less pleasant if it’s gone bad enough to be noticeable. You’ll probably just lose a little bit of the complexity of the flavor and maybe make something taste a little off if you use too much that isn’t in good shape.

Vanilla extract is not something that was meant to be stored, but instead something that should be used within a couple of months. The length of time it lasts will depend on how well you store it, but the most important thing is to keep it away from any possible heat sources. If your vanilla extract does expire, it shouldn’t go bad so long as you keep the bottle/vial tightly sealed. It might start to taste bitter or get a weird smell to it if the quality has gone down, though, so there’s a good chance you’ll find out before anything else happens if that happens.