vanilla extract go bad

Does Vanilla Extract Go Bad? The Truth About Its Quality

Quick summary: No, vanilla extract can’t go bad. Both pure and artificial vanilla extracts have a very long shelf life and do not expire in the traditional sense. Pure vanilla extract, made from real vanilla beans, can last for many years, even up to a decade, while still being safe to use. Artificial vanilla extracts also have a lengthy shelf life, and while they might have a best-by date, they can still be used for several months to a year past that date.

If preparing cakes for your guests depends on the vanilla beans extract and all you have found is an old half-used package, and you wonder if it is edible? We bring you answers and resolve your doubts.

If you find a bottle of vanilla extract and you are unsure how long it stays in the cupboard, we must immediately solve all your worries – the product is almost certainly suitable for consumption. We want to directly get rid of the fear that something will happen to guests or family members if you use this extract for cakes. Vanilla extract actually has no shelf life, and it should be good for many years.

Please note there is a difference in the pure or artificial extract. Usually, the word ‘pure’ is written on the packaging, and you can distinguish it from imitation vanilla extract. Even if you don’t see it immediately by the name on the bottle, you will surely notice the price because imitations are drastically cheaper than the original.

How Long Does Vanilla Extract Last?

As we have already mentioned, there is a difference between pure vanilla extract and artificial extracts, but both types should be long-lasting and correct for consumption for years. Only the quality of the aroma will be diminished in the artificial ones.

Pure vanilla extract

Pure extract that is made truly from vanilla beans is a valuable and quite expensive food. But its taste and smell are perfect and, at best, cannot be spoiled. If you have pure vanilla extract that has been in your cupboard for ten years, you are free to use it for cakes. The base is alcoholic, so it can happen that if vanilla extract sitting long time, the alcohol partially evaporates, which may strengthen the taste a bit. However, everything will still be tasty and edible.

Artificial vanilla extract 

When you look at the price of pure vanilla extract, you also understand why there is a vanilla extract imitation. However, we must say that the artificial vanilla extracts are quite close to the original taste so that you can buy a cheaper variant for your desserts without remorse. 

Nevertheless, synthetic products such as vanilla essence or vanilla flavor have a best-by date that will be your guideline for product validity. After that date, you can certainly count on a few months longer or even up to a year if stored properly. Nonetheless, the taste quality will probably be so reduced that you will want to buy a new bottle after that. Yet, even an imitation extract should not be inedible after expiration. So, there should be no fear of food poisoning.

vanilla extract shelf life

Does Vanilla Extract Expire?

We have already determined that vanilla extract has no shelf life in terms of spoilage. At least not in a way that will be unsafe for your health or so bad that it will ruin your cake. Some deviations may occur in the aroma but should not be significant. In rare cases, if the product stays on the shelf for a long time, the following signs of unusability may occur.

Sign 1: Insect attack 

Yes, this is a possible scenario. Rare but possible. Vanilla extract is not the most attractive destination for insects as it has an alcohol base and generally a strong taste and smell. But if the bottle stays open for a long time, some ants may be found in it.

Sign 2: Foreign appearances are in the bottle

Apart from insects, if certain other substances have gotten into your vanilla extract, it may mean that the product is no longer safe to use. Also, if mold has developed due to other substances or liquids, throw everything in the trash.

Which Is the Best Way to Store Vanilla Extract?

There aren’t too many significant requests for vanilla extract storage other than the usual tips. However, adhere to them without exception, as unfavorable conditions could reduce the quality of the aroma, and this is the most important thing about the extract.

Tip 1: Avoid warm and bright places

Light, especially the sun’s rays, can negatively affect the quality of the fragrance. So always keep the extract bottle in cool and dark place. Also, avoid hot spots and keep it at room temperature. A kitchen cabinet or pantry will be pretty convenient. 

Tip 2: Keep the bottle tightly sealed 

Always close the bottle after use to avoid evaporated alcohol bases and prevent the influx of insects and other substances.

Tip 3: Do not refrigerate

If you thought that the refrigerator, as a universal good place for food, is most suitable for vanilla extract, you would be mistaken. The cold will not work well on the extract and may begin to break down certain compounds in the liquid. So room temperature is a much better choice.


How can you tell if vanilla extract has gone bad?

You can tell if vanilla extract has gone bad by its significantly altered aroma, often turning harsh or sour, and by the presence of any unusual discoloration or cloudiness. If the vanilla extract smells off or has changed in appearance, it’s best to replace it.

Is 20-year-old vanilla still good?

Yes, the vanilla extract is still good and should be edible even after 20 years if properly stored. However, first of all, try whether the aroma, smell, and taste are of the same quality because you could feel the difference.

Can vanilla extract grow mold?

No, vanilla extract is unlikely to grow mold due to its high alcohol content and proper storage conditions.

When should you throw out vanilla extract?

You should consider throwing out vanilla extract if it has an off smell, unusual discoloration, or if its flavor has significantly changed. While vanilla extract has a long shelf life due to its alcohol content, any noticeable deterioration in quality may warrant replacement.


The addition of vanilla will make any cake or candy irresistible. It is not uncommon for vanilla to be mostly the primary flavor for creamy cakes, ice cream, or biscuits worldwide. If you are an avid cake baker, you know that pure vanilla extract is pretty expensive. Fortunately, the intensity of the aroma is so strong that a minimal amount is needed when preparing desserts. The other luck is that vanilla extract doesn’t actually have an expiration date, and you can use it as long as you don’t use up the last drop.

See more: Vanilla extract substitutes

*image by dianazh/depositphotos

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