Does vanilla extract have alcohol?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “Does vanilla extract have alcohol?”  and provide information on whether non-alcoholic versions of vanilla extract are available, the difference between imitation and pure extract, whether you can substitute imitation for pure ones as well as their shelf-life.

Does vanilla extract have alcohol?

Yes, vanilla extract has alcohol. Vanilla extract has to be a combination of vanilla scent, flavor, and alcohol. It needs to have an alcohol value of 35 percent to be considered an extract. 

However, it is important to note that the alcohol present in the extract evaporates after the cooking process. As a result, you do not need to worry about the tiny bit of alcohol present in the vanilla extract. 

Are non-alcoholic versions of vanilla extract available?

Yes, there are non-alcoholic versions of vanilla extract available. However, technically, they would not be called extracts as they do not contain alcohol. Besides, they do not meet the FDA’s standards of being called a vanilla extract.

Instead, they might be called vanilla flavorings. However, there are certain vanilla extracts that use glycerin instead of alcohol. You can buy those kinds of extracts if you do not want alcohol in your foods.

What is the difference between imitation vanilla and actual vanilla extract?

The main difference between imitation vanilla and actual vanilla extract is that artificial vanillin is used to bring the vanilla-like flavor to imitation vanilla. Imitation vanilla extract would be labeled as an imitation on its label. 

This artificial vanillin can be prepared from cloves, pine sap, or wood pulp. The other ingredients added to imitation vanilla include ethanol, emulsifiers, propylene glycol, and water.

Also, the fragrance of imitation vanilla does not last long. When products containing imitation vanilla are kept in the oven, the fragrance can dissipate over time. 

Pure vanilla extracts are prepared using vanillin derived from actual vanilla beans. Besides, pure vanilla extract can contain corn syrup or sugar added to further sweeten them.

Can you substitute imitation vanilla for pure vanilla extract?

Yes, you can substitute imitation vanilla for pure vanilla extract. However, there would be no flavor changes.

Vanilla beans contain more than 200 different compounds that can give them an amazing taste and flavor. Vanilla extract has a complex flavor that cannot be contributed by imitation vanilla extract.

The flavor of vanilla beans changes when they are exposed to heat. For the preparation of certain dishes like custards, pastries, or puddings it is better to use pure vanilla extract.

Baked goods like chocolate chip cookies or carrot cake that do not require a particular vanilla flavor can be prepared using imitation vanilla extract.

How to prepare vanilla extract at home?

If you wish to prepare vanilla extract at home, follow the steps given below:

  • Slice 4-5 vanilla bean pods in half. 
  • In a bottle or jar, add the vanilla bean pods and then pour 8 ounces of vodka over them.
  • Close the bottle and store them in a cool and dry place. When you wish to use the extract, you can remove the vanilla beans from them.

What is the shelf-life of vanilla extract?

Imitation vanilla extract can last for a long time but it would need to be used within 6 months as there can be a loss in taste and aroma after 6-12 months. You can check its best-by date and use them up before the date ends.

This is because the alcohol present in the pure extract can start to evaporate after a few years. Once the alcohol starts to evaporate, the flavor of the pure extract can get a bit deeper or more intense.

Avoid refrigerating or freezing them once opened. Instead, you can keep them in a cool and dry place away from sunlight.

If you have bought the vanilla extract in a plastic bottle, make sure to transfer them to a glass bottle. Seal them properly if they are not being used.

How can you detect spoilage in vanilla extract?

Check the smell of the vanilla extract. If you find out that there is an off smell, it would be better to not consume the vanilla extract. Check the extract before you use them. 

In the case of imitation extract, there would be no flavor after a few years. You can stop using the imitation extract and buy a new bottle if you observe the flavor to be bland. If you observe moldy growth on the mouth of the bottle, do not use the extract.

Conclusion

In this brief article, we have answered the question, “Does vanilla extract have alcohol?” and provided information on whether non-alcoholic versions of vanilla extract are available, the difference between imitation and pure extract, whether you can substitute imitation for pure ones as well as their shelf-life.

References

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