Shelf Life of Vanilla Extract: Does It Go Bad or Expire?

We all agree that you don’t need to put a lot of vanilla extract for every baked goodie and dessert you prepare. And if you’re someone who doesn’t bake a lot, you might have an opened bottle of vanilla extract sitting in your pantry for a while. This got you asking yourself: “Does vanilla extract go bad?”

It’s good to know that authentic or pure vanilla extract does not indeed go bad. Close the vanilla extract bottle tightly and keep it in its required storage condition to last for many years. Apparently, you’ll be surprised that it can even last forever!

Read on to find the following questions with regards to vanilla extract:

  • How long can vanilla extract last?
  • How to tell if vanilla extract has gone bad?
  • How to store vanilla extract properly?
  • …. And other frequently asked questions about vanilla extract!

So, keep reading…

What Is Vanilla Extract?

Image of Pure Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is a liquid ingredient made by soaking the vanilla beans of the Orchid family in a solution of ethanol and water. The solution is left to age for several months to extract the vanilla flavor from the vanilla bean.

Vanilla extract is well-loved for its aroma, and it comes in two forms: pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla extract.

This favorite kitchen ingredient is essential in making baked goods such as cookies, brownies, custards, ice cream, pudding, cakes, and cupcakes.

The predominant flavor compound of vanilla extract is called vanillin. That’s the secret behind the pleasant aromatic flavor of vanilla.

Vanilla beans – the second most expensive spice in the world

Are you aware that vanilla is the second most expensive spice next to saffron? Vanilla are delicate plants that require special attention.

It needs three years for them to produce vanilla beans. Then producers will need to wait for another year for the bean to mature.

Then, the process gets more labor-intensive. The harvesting of the vanilla beans needs to be handpicked. The extraction of the natural vanillin from vanilla beans requires another long period. Thus, don’t be surprised why food products that use pure vanilla extract are expensive!

Since the pure vanilla extract is too pricey, manufacturers have come up with vanilla imitation or artificial vanilla extract, a cheaper version of pure and natural vanilla; wherein vanillin is synthetically obtained from lignin guaiacol or other substrates. (*)

If you want to make homemade vanilla extract, you just basically need vanilla beans and vodka.

How Long Can Vanilla Extract Last?

Any bottle of vanilla extract comes with a “Best By” or expiration date. These printed dates are only the manufacturers’ estimated period on how long their product can hold its best quality.

The shelf life of both pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla extract can last for an extended period. The only distinction between the two is that pure vanilla can hold its prime longer than imitation vanilla extract.

Pure vanilla extract

Pure vanilla extract can last for many years or even up to eternity. If kept in its ideal storage condition, it can hold its flavor and taste qualities.

Pure vanilla extract is alcohol-based. Don’t be surprised that it will naturally reduce in volume as time goes by. Thus, the vanilla extract becomes more intense. To prevent the alcohol component from evaporating, close the bottle tightly.

Imitation vanilla extract

Imitation vanilla extract or artificial vanilla extract can last for 2 to 4 years.

Note that imitation vanilla is synthetically made. Thus, its flavor, taste, and aroma are expected to decline faster than pure extract.

Homemade vanilla extract

Homemade vanilla extract can also last for a long time, just like pure and imitation vanilla extract. Just ensure that your vanilla beans are consistently submerged in the alcoholic liquid.

How To Tell If Vanilla Extract Has Gone Bad?

Does vanilla extract go bad? Spoilage related to vanilla extract is rare, and it is apparently possible that you can store it for an indefinite time.

However, it is always best to inspect your vanilla extract before combining it into your recipes to ensure it is still of good quality.

Here are a few tips on how to tell if your vanilla extract has already gone bad:

1. Check the printed date.

If you have a bottle of vanilla extract that has passed the printed date, inspect if it is still usable. Note that it’s okay to use vanilla extract beyond the date as long as it has not gone bad yet.

2. Smell and taste your vanilla extract.

If it doesn’t possess its usual pleasant aroma and taste, then that’s a sign that you should get a new bottle.

Using a less potent vanilla extract can’t give you the desired quality you want from your baked goods or dishes.

3. Check for sediments.

If there are sediments that have settled at the bottom of your vanilla extract but smells and taste good, just shake the bottle.

4. Check for the cloudiness of the liquid.

Your vanilla extract may get cloudy due to the low storage temperature. You may still use it, but the quality might not be as good.

How To Store Vanilla Extract Properly?

Storing vanilla extract is easy! Here’s all you need to do to help keep it last for a more extended shelf-life period:

  1. See that you should always close the bottle tightly to prevent oxygen exposure.
  2. Please keep it in a cool, dry, and dark space. You may store it at room temperature but make sure that it’s not somewhere too hot. Your condiment rack, kitchen cabinet, or pantry is usually the ideal storage place for your vanilla extract.
  3. Make sure to keep your vanilla extract away from any sources of heat. It must not be near any of your heat-producing appliances, such as the dishwasher or the oven.
  4. Never expose your vanilla extract under direct light, as it can ruin the taste and aroma.
  5. It is best to keep your vanilla extract in a dark bottle. Why? It provides additional protection against the deteriorating effects of sunrays.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I drink vanilla extract?

It is not advisable to drink vanilla extract. You may give it a taste to check the quality, but taking it in large enough amounts is discouraged.

Note that vanilla extract contains alcohol, and manufacturers use the ones with 35% alcohol content (70 proof).

The side effects are similar to alcohol intoxication. Furthermore, drinking vanilla extracts in large doses is not pleasing to the palate.

2. Can You Refrigerate or Freeze Vanilla Extract?

It is not necessary to keep your vanilla extract in the refrigerator or freezer. Storing your vanilla extract in lower temperatures will make it cloudy instead.

The ideal storage temperature of vanilla extract is 60-80°F. Yes, it should be kept at a cool to moderate room temperature.

3. Can You Use Expired Vanilla Extract?

The printed date found on the label of your vanilla extract will only give you an idea of how long it can hold its prime. It does not automatically mean that your vanilla extract is already spoiled once it has passed the date.

If you’re in doubt, inspect the content of your vanilla extract bottle and find out if the quality has already declined. But if everything seems perfectly fine, feel free to use it.

4. What Can I Do with Old Vanilla Extract?

If you feel bad about discarding an expensive bottle of vanilla extract, you can use it to freshen up your microwave oven, refrigerator, bathroom, closet, or any part of your house that smells odorous!

Vanilla extract can work wonders in getting rid of unpleasant or musty smells wherever you place it.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Pour a liberal amount of old vanilla extract into a cotton ball.
  2. Place the moistened cotton ball inside your refrigerator, microwave oven, or in a place where you need to place it.


Most baked recipes only call for a tiny amount of vanilla extract.

Whether you have pure, imitation, or homemade vanilla extract, they all can last for a long period as long as you have to store them properly.

Remember that pure vanilla extract can hold its quality longer than imitation.

Make sure to keep your vanilla extracts in their ideal storage condition. Close the bottle properly and place it in a cool and dry place wherein no heat or sunlight can destroy its potency.

There’s no need for you to keep your vanilla in the food storage any longer if it has already lost its qualities. We advise that you should purchase a new bottle.

image of does vanilla extract go bad

Up Next: Bitters’ Shelf Life: Do Bitters Go Bad or Expire?

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