How Long Does Vanilla Extract Last After It's Been Opened

For many sweet dishes, vanilla extract is vital, so it's always a good idea to have some on hand. Luckily, when it comes to this delicious ingredient, a little goes a long way, so it's possible to keep one bottle for years. Just one question, though: Should we be keeping it that long, or is there an expiration date to stick to? 

For the most part, keeping things like extracts and spices fresh is as simple as storing them in a cool, dry place. Emphasis on cool — not cold. In fact, especially in the case of vanilla extract, Rodelle cautions against putting it in a fridge because it can "become cloudy." On the opposite end of the spectrum, it's also a good idea to keep the extract away from heat. According to The Vanilla Company, the cupboard you choose to store it in shouldn't be too close to an oven or stove — a point Rodelle concurs with. 

Storage instructions can help maximize the shelf life of vanilla extract, but there's also the question of natural or synthetic extract. Would a vanilla essence last as long as an extract made with pure vanilla beans? And, in the event that a bottle has outlived its expiration date, how can we tell if it's actually gone bad? 

Vanilla extract can stick around for years

One of the great things about vanilla extract is, as long as you're following storage instructions, it will stay good for years — and that goes for both pure and imitation extract. 

Speaking to the pure extract, Still Tasty explains that there actually isn't a window for just how long it can keep. What's more, Does It Go Bad? points out that even as it does get older, the alcohol content (a legally mandated must-have in pure extract, per Bon Appétit), will start to evaporate, bringing about a stronger taste of vanilla. Not bad for a side effect! 

Because of that, Does It Go Bad? notes that a pure extract can last around a decade. Having said that, if you already have the imitation alternative in your pantry, don't fret. Still Tasty notes that synthetic extract can last as long as four years, which is still no mean feat. 

Possibly the bigger question for most would be if vanilla extract, pure or not, can truly go "off." Luckily, that seems pretty unlikely. Does It Go Bad? says that a loss in quality is typically the extent of synthetic extract going bad — and while it's always a good idea to take a whiff, pure extract going bad is unlikely, at best. That said, with vanilla as delicious as it is — and with estimated shelf lives as long as these — that shouldn't be a problem for most!