Does vanilla extract go bad?

In this brief guide, we will address the question, “does vanilla extract go bad” as well as other questions pertaining to the subject at hand like how much time does vanilla extract take to go bad and storage practices needed to prolong the shelf life of vanilla extract.

Does vanilla extract go bad?

Vanilla extract does not go bad, just like many other extracts; it does not spoil. It does not make a good environment for bacteria to grow, but by the course of time, the quality of the vanilla extract drops substantially, which can affect the quality of whatever food you are making.

Once properly stored, the vanilla extract could be kept for a long period of time and is safe to use. So, the simple answer to the question “does vanilla extract go bad” is that the lifespan of vanilla extract is indefinitely making it last for the longest period as well.

Vanilla extract can last for about 5-8 years depending upon storage conditions. But if you observe that there is something wrong with the extract, like the smell is off or there is some growth on the inside of the cap, throw it away. It is always good to quickly check the extract before using. 

What is a vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract is a solution made by extraction of vanillin compounds from vanilla pods. The extraction process basically involves washing and then soaking the ground vanilla beans in a solution of alcohol and water. Generally, the flavour compounds are soluble in alcohol, therefore flavours are pulled or carried away from the beans into the alcohol followed by the recovering process.

Vanilla extract is generally less processed and has a stronger flavour, whereas vanilla essence is a more processed product that’s made using artificial flavours and colours.

Vanilla extract is available in white or brown colour. Brown vanilla extract is extracted from the pod whereas the white one is synthetic. Vanilla extract is considered an essential ingredient in many desserts, especially baked goods like cakes, cookies, brownies, and cupcakes, as well as custards, ice creams, and puddings.

How to prepare homemade vanilla extract?

You can prepare vanilla extract at home using two ingredients: vanilla and alcohol, you can use vodka as an alternative to alcohol but make sure to use flavourless vodka. All you have to do is just pour alcohol over split vanilla beans in a container with proper sealing and let the concoction age over time. 

Homemade vanilla extract, if made with the appropriate amount of pure alcohol, will last the same length of time as pure vanilla extract.

Other FAQs about Vanilla Extract which you may be interested in.

How much vanilla extract in beer?

Can you put vanilla extract in coffee?

How to store vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract lasts pretty much indefinitely, you can store it for years. The aroma and flavour of the extract can change over time, as the alcohol evaporates and the remaining extract might have strong aroma (up to pungent level) but the vanilla extract will still be completely safe to use in desserts.

To avoid evaporation, bottles of vanilla extract should be closed or sealed tightly. it should be stored in a dry and cool place such as a cupboard or a specialized container which is away from sources of extreme temperatures like microwave ovens and stoves.

Don’t refrigerate or freeze the extract, as it might mess with its taste. Store in the kitchen cabinet (room temperature).

Can you get sick from expired vanilla extract?

Not really, vanilla extract will not make you sick unless it has been contaminated with a foreign product. The extract, in its natural state, does not provide a suitable growth medium for the microorganisms. The microorganisms are responsible for any food borne illness. 

Although vanilla extract has an indefinite shelf life, you may happen to see a “best by” date on the bottle. This raises a question in your head, “Why is there a “best before” date when the product has an indefinite shelf life?”

You’re absolutely right! As already mentioned, the product does have a “best before” date which simply means that it might lose its quality after this date.

How to tell if vanilla extract has gone bad?

Since vanilla oil lasts for an indefinite amount of time – safe to consume even after years, one should know when to discard it. 

Again, consuming this vanilla extract will not affect your health. You will only experience the change in taste and the absence of aroma in the extract. 

The most common signs are cloudiness, sedimentation, and the absence of aroma.


In this brief guide, we have addressed the question, “does vanilla extract go bad” as well as other related questions pertaining to the subject at hand like how much time does vanilla extract take to go bad and storage practices needed to prolong the shelf life of vanilla extract.