The Best Way To Store Vanilla Extract, Real Or Fake

Vanilla extract is a staple ingredient almost every home and commercial baker uses and can be quite pricey — especially the real stuff, so it's important to know how to store it properly. After all, you want that precious bottle to last to the final drops. Luckily, vanilla is one of 16 pantry items with the longest shelf life. As we often ask, does sriracha ever really expire? We also wonder the same about our bottles of vanilla extract.  

Proper storage can extend vanilla extract's already long shelf life (the real version lasts three to four years to indefinitely and the imitation version has a shelf life of about one year) and preserve its quality and taste. What is the best way to store vanilla extract, you ask? Well, here's the answer: The best way to store vanilla extract, the real or fake kind, is in its original bottle, tightly sealed, or in an airtight glass container away from direct sunlight and heat. The cool, dry, dark depths of your pantry or cabinet are ideal for your vanilla extract, real or fake, unlike the refrigerator or freezer. 

How to tell if real or fake vanilla extract has gone bad

Even though vanilla extract has a long shelf life, and proper storage will keep it fresh longer, it's still important to recognize the signs of spoilage. These signs may not be apparent, and you might not see mold growth. When we talk about vanilla extract spoiling, we usually mean a decline in quality and flavor.

First, give the vanilla extract a whiff. If the smell is off, too weak, and no longer sweet like it should be, both the quality and taste have likely declined. After taking a whiff of the vanilla extract, look it over. Does it look cloudy? Real or fake vanilla extract should be clear. It may have turned bad if it's cloudy and has a lot of sedimentation on the bottom of the bottle. If you're brave, give the vanilla extract a taste. If the taste is weak, chances are, it will make no difference in your dessert. While it's not moldy or spoiled in a rotten sense, it's no longer strong enough to affect the taste of your baked goodie. 

Given the copious amounts of vanilla extract we pour into our baking to make even the slightest difference, the long shelf life of vanilla extract seems to be an ironic twist. We're more likely to run out than see it spoil.