Does Vanilla Extract Contain Alcohol?

Updated: Nov. 12, 2020

Here's what you need to know about vanilla extract alcohol content.

Vanilla extract is a must-have ingredient in cookies, biscotti, cake and so many more baked goods. While extract is a more convenient and affordable way to add flavor to recipes than a vanilla bean, the question of if vanilla extract contains alcohol might make some home bakers pause.

First, learn about which type of vanilla extract is best for your recipe.

Is There Alcohol in Vanilla Extract? 

By definition, yes there is alcohol in vanilla extract. According to the FDA, vanilla extract is a mixture of vanilla scent and flavor characteristic, and alcohol. To be exact, the FDA requires an ethyl alcohol content of at least 35% for a product to be considered vanilla extract.

Before you worry about getting a buzz from your baked goods, nearly all of the alcohol from extracts evaporates in the cooking process. So, your next batch of chocolate chip cookies is definitely safe to take to a school bake sale.

By the way, did you know you can make your own at home? Here’s how to make vanilla extract.

Is There Non-Alcoholic Vanilla Extract? 

Yes, you can find vanilla extracts that contain less or no alcohol, though they won’t be called “extracts” since they don’t meet the FDA’s standards. These products are commonly referred to as vanilla flavoring, instead.

If you’re shopping for vanilla flavorings, be sure to read the labels carefully. While some of these products are just alcohol-free versions of vanilla extract (typically using glycerin instead of alcohol) it could also indicate that there less natural and/or artificial vanilla flavor and scent than the FDA’s requirements.

Before you head off to the grocery store, be sure to know the biggest mistake you can make when buying vanilla extract.

What About Bourbon Vanilla?

If you get into niche types of vanilla, you may see bottles of extract labeled as Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract. We get it: Bourbon and vanilla sounds like a pretty good combination. But let us stop you right there: There is no bourbon in Madagascar Bourbon vanilla. (Shocking, right!)

This type of vanilla has the name Bourbon attached to it because, according to Nielsen-Massey, Madagascar (where the vanilla is grown) used to be referred to as one of the Bourbon Islands.

So you won’t get any bourbon notes in this type of vanilla, but you will get a strong, rich vanilla flavor.

Get Baking!
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