Does Vanilla Extract Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on July 28th, 2022

You’re preparing for your next major baking job and ensuring you have all the necessary supplies. A half-opened bottle of vanilla extract has been languishing in the cabinet for a long. The first thing that comes to mind is, “Does vanilla extract go bad?”

Fortunately, both natural and artificial vanilla extracts have a lengthy shelf life. Thus, the extract you have is most likely acceptable.

white ceramic bowl beside black glass bottle

Continue reading about storage, shelf life, and the distinctions between genuine and fake vanilla extract.

What Exactly Is Vanilla Extract?

Vanilla bean pods are the origins of the world’s most popular spice.

It’s reasonable to assume that vanilla extract is a must-have in every baker’s kitchen. For a good cause, this ingredient, first introduced in Indonesia in 1874, has claimed its throne as one of the world’s most popular and versatile flavorings.

Tropical vanilla orchids are used to make natural vanilla extract. The vanilla beans are macerated or percolated in a water-and-ethyl-alcohol solution. Sugar, caramel color, or corn syrup may also be included in certain extracts.

If you dip your finger into the extract for a short tasting, you’ll discover that it has a harsh and disagreeable flavor. However, when mixed with other ingredients, it produces a mild flowery, balmy flavor with a pleasant scent that complements any sweet delight.

It’s difficult to go wrong with vanilla essence in any dessert recipe. However, the extract’s many applications go well beyond baking. Vanilla extract is well worth its salt for enhancing savory foods, salad dressings, and flavoring hot and soothing drinks.

Vanilla Extract Varieties

When it comes to pure and costly Vanilla extract varieties, a buyer may choose from a broad range of extracts. So let’s learn more about them.

Bourbon or Madagascar

You can’t go wrong with this classic flavor when making vanilla the major component in cookies or cakes. It has the strongest vanilla flavor. As a result, it is often found in traditional vanilla ice creams.


When making Mexican cookies, use this kind of vanilla extract since it has a smooth taste and spicy touch. This extract is the key ingredient in every other snickerdoodle cookie recipe.


If you want to make a creamy custard with fruity and flowery flavors, always use Tahitian vanilla since it will make your custard more tasty and rich in vanilla taste.

Is it possible for pure vanilla extract to spoil?

Pure vanilla extract, in its most basic form, has an almost infinite shelf life if properly preserved. The major constituents in the pure extract are ethyl alcohol and vanilla bean extractives. Because these two are quite shelf-stable, the extract is unlikely to go awry.

If you go down the baking aisle, you’ll notice that most vanilla extract bottles have a “Best If Used Before” or “Best By” date.

In truth, this has more to do with legal actions than with a decline in quality. A bottle of pure extract may be used for years after it has expired.

This ingredient, like excellent wine, matures and develops a more subtle taste with time. This is due to the alcohol content, which slowly dissipates each time the bottle is opened. Consequently, its taste tends to get more powerful and concentrated with time.

However, vanilla extract only lasts a long time if stored properly. Though the extract does not provide favorable breeding habitat for germs, it is still possible for hazardous bacteria to infiltrate your bottle if it is left out unopened for an extended period.

As a result, if you discover a bottle of pure vanilla extract lying in your cupboard, it should still be suitable for use in most circumstances. However, if you detect an unusual odor or flavor, follow your instincts and get rid of it.

Let’s hear it from the experts to discover whether your bottle of vanilla extract is good for a long time!

Is It Possible for Imitation Vanilla Extract to Go Bad?

Aside from the price difference, the difference between fake vanilla extract and its genuine counterpart is most noticeable in shelf life. The imitation, unlike pure extract, has a limited shelf life.

All imitation extracts come with a “Best By” date, the manufacturer’s suggestion of how long the product will be at its best. This period is usually between 3 and 4 years.

The overall quality of fake vanilla will diminish after it has reached its expiry date. But it doesn’t mean you have to throw it away straight away.

You may continue to use it for another 6-12 months without issue. After that, add a few extra drops than normal to compensate for the decrease in potency.

The longer you leave a bottle of fake vanilla extract in the kitchen, the worse it grows and the less tasty it becomes. As a result, after a year or two, when no tastes remain, or the item displays serious indications of decay, it’s time to rid it finally.

A Look at the Shelf Life of Vanilla Extract

Here’s how long pure and imitation vanilla extract will last if kept properly and efficiently. Please bear in mind that in the event of imitation, you can get away with it for a few more months after this time has passed, but the initial potency may not be there.

Type of Vanilla ExtractShelf Life
Pure5 – 10 years
Artificial2 – 4 years
Mexican2 – 4 years
Homemade (pure)5 – 10 years

How Long Can Homemade Vanilla Extract Be Stored?

Because it is pure vanilla extract, homemade vanilla extract will last the same time as pure vanilla extract if created with the necessary quantity of pure alcohol.

Pure vanilla extract, whether manufactured or purchased, should last 5–10 years, depending on storage circumstances.

How Long Does Vanilla Extract Last at room temperature?

Store pure and imitation vanilla extract outdoors to extend its shelf life.

Outside, pure vanilla extract will last eternally. It will not spoil if kept in a cold, dark area and an airtight container. You may either retain the extract in the container from the shop or decant it into one of your own. If you must use your own, choose a dark glass container. The dark tint will inhibit light from reaching the extract.

Imitation vanilla extract has a limited shelf life. Although it will not spoil, use it by the best date to get the most out of it. To keep the imitation vanilla extract fresh, store it in an airtight container, just like true vanilla extract.

How Long Does Vanilla Extract Keep in the Refrigerator?

The taste strength of genuine and fake vanilla extract is affected by cold temperatures.

The vanilla extract should never be kept in the refrigerator. The extract will turn hazy due to the chilly air. If the extract is hazy, sediment may form on the bottom of the container. In addition, the extract degrades due to the chilly air.

The taste of vanilla extract is diminished when it is kept in the refrigerator. When the vanilla extract is chilled, many people find that it smells considerably stronger, like alcohol. At this time, tossing the vanilla extract and replacing it is preferable. Vanilla extract is a key flavoring in baked products, and using an extract that does not smell right may affect the dish.

How Long Can Vanilla Extract Be Stored in the Freezer?

The taste of genuine and fake vanilla extract will change when exposed to cold temperatures.

The vanilla extract should never be kept in the freezer. Instead, the pure and fake vanilla extract should be stored in a cold, dark area like the refrigerator. Unlike many other things in our kitchen, freezing vanilla extract does not prolong its shelf life. Freezing vanilla extract has the opposite effect.

In the freezer, both pure and fake vanilla extract lose their effectiveness. Furthermore, since vanilla extract includes alcohol, it is unlikely to freeze in the first place. If you put vanilla extract in the freezer, it will turn hazy. It would eventually lose its power, and we no longer wish to utilize it.

Pure and imitation vanilla extract has the longest shelf life when stored outdoors. To prevent shortening the shelf life of your vanilla extract, never store it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Can I Keep Vanilla Extract in the Refrigerator?

In a nutshell, no. Vanilla extract does not deteriorate the same way as bacon does, nor does it expire as rapidly as yogurt. Therefore, refrigerating or freezing your bottle of vanilla extract would be utterly futile in terms of safety and preservation.

Because this product has a high concentration of alcohol, which does not freeze at cold temperatures, storing it in the refrigerator is ineffective for long-term preservation.

Furthermore, low temperatures might cause the extract to become hazy and, as a result, affect its quality in the long term. Therefore, even if you want to preserve the vanilla extract for a decade, it should be kept in the dark, cold, dry cupboard as a shelf-stable item.

Is it necessary to keep vanilla extract refrigerated?

The vanilla extract should not be kept in the refrigerator.

It wouldn’t hurt your vanilla, but most baking ingredients should be used at room temperature. It will save you time in the long run if you keep it in a closet or pantry.

Keeping vanilla extract in the refrigerator is not required for safety reasons. In addition, bacterial growth is practically difficult in or on the extract.

However, you should store it in a cool spot, such as a closet or pantry. Over time, consistent heat will deteriorate the quality.

How to Determine Whether Vanilla Extract Is Bad

Vanilla extract does not spoil soon. However, if it’s an imitation, you may need these ways to determine whether the vanilla extract on your shelf has gone bad.

Sniff It Out Quickly

When it comes to spoiling, your nose may alert you instantly. Is your vanilla extract still as tasty as it used to be? If so, it may still be valuable. If not, and if the bottle has an unpleasant odor, you should throw it away.

Examine the Cap’s Underside

If in doubt, look at the underside of the bottle cap you’ve used to store your vanilla extract. If you see any buildup, the extract may not be of the highest quality.

In addition, keep an eye out for mold growth. Though vanilla extract is not particularly prone to molds, molds may sometimes surprise you due to their alcohol basis.

Examine the Potency

If the scent of the extract is great, but the baked items lack the same intense taste and aroma, your vanilla extract may have lost its strength.

Go ahead and use the bland vanilla extract if you don’t mind. However, if you aren’t willing to sacrifice on taste, we suggest purchasing a new bottle or making your own!

Examine for Impurities

Do you notice any contaminants in the extract? Perhaps a slice of food? If you come across such goods, discarding away the extract may be the best option.

If there are no symptoms of deterioration or a change in scent or taste, you may remove the impurity and utilize it in your recipe.

Now that you know how to tell the difference between a jar of good vanilla extract and one that has gone bad, let’s talk about how to preserve the extract to make it last longer.

Is it possible to become sick from expired vanilla extract?

No, it’s unlikely that you’ll get ill from expired vanilla essence. The bottle’s expiry date is more of a suggested “use by” date.

The manufacturer is not convinced that the taste and scent of the vanilla extract will be as good after this date, but it is still safe to use.

Is 20-year-old vanilla still edible?

Pure vanilla extract has an infinite shelf life and never goes bad. However, please keep in mind that the extract contains alcohol, and alcohol tends to dissipate extremely slowly after the first opening of the bottle. That implies that after a few years, the flavor of the extract may become somewhat more powerful.

Is it possible for mold to develop on a vanilla extract?

Mold appears due to a lack of drying and decreased vanillin levels. If your vanilla becomes moldy, stop using it since the scent will most likely have grown and will destroy all of your preparations. However, be cautious not to mix up the mold and cold traces!

Is it normal for vanilla extract to smell like alcohol?

As time passes, the alcohol fades, and the vanilla taste develops and intensifies. Use your nose; it isn’t ready if it smells strongly of alcohol. The extract will always have an alcohol fragrance, much like storebought vanilla extract, but it should smell like vanilla extract and not like a cocktail.

How To Store Vanilla Extract

Genuine and imitation vanilla extract is stored in the same manner.

Keep it in a cool, dark area away from heat sources (light might harm it). The best solutions are the pantry or a kitchen cabinet away from the oven.

The extract should not be refrigerated or frozen since low temperatures might harm it.

If you purchase the extract in a plastic container, you may decant it into a glass bottle or jar. Ensure the extract is properly sealed, as is customary with liquids when not in use.

Is Vanilla Extract Freezable?

In other words, freezing vanilla extract is pointless. Do you keep your booze frozen? Isn’t that correct? Similarly, there is no need to freeze vanilla extract.

The extract’s alcohol basis ensures that your vanilla extract stays fresh and edible for a long time, even when kept at room temperature. Furthermore, freezing or even refrigerating vanilla extract for an extended period damages its quality.

So there’s no need to go to the trouble of freezing your vanilla extract when you can enjoy its optimum quality and taste for years, even when kept at room temperature.


If you enjoy vanilla-flavored baked goods, the vanilla extract may be really useful; however, you must store it properly and be aware of the extract you have. If you still have doubts about a bottle of vanilla extract, don’t hesitate to throw it away, especially if it’s fake vanilla extract.


Editorial Staff

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