Baking: Extracts 101

Colder weather is baking weather – and baking weather means breaking out a range of extracts to use in your recipes. And today we’re going to talk all about ’em.

At the shop, we’ve built quite a collection of extracts over the years. And now, with sixteen AllSpice extracts total, they’ve become their own department. With everything from traditional vanilla extracts to fruity, floral, and nutty extracts, if your recipe calls for it, we likely have it.

Stars of the show. Most of the dishes we make, and recipes we bake, focus on a main ingredient or flavor (nuts, or lemons, or chocolate). But in some of those recipes, using a flavor extract is preferred to the actual ingredient itself. For example, chocolate extract might make a better-textured ice cream or beverage than the actual chunks or chips themselves. Extracts can also “bump up” the flavor of the main ingredient, as a dash of nut extract will help underscore the subtle flavor of chopped nuts in the banana bread or sweet rolls.

Supporting roles. In other instances, you want to have just a hint of a flavor (rum, or coconut, or vanilla) to underscore the main focus of the dish, so you’ll use a small spoonful (sometimes as little as a 1/2 tsp or less) of a concentrated extract to enhance the flavor of your dish. Putting a little Vanilla Extract into a batch chocolate chip cookies is a perfect example of this.

So, what are extracts, anyway? Extracts are made by mixing a concentrated flavor with alcohol – literally extracting the flavor of the source ingredient and putting it in a liquid base. Most of the alcohol burns off or evaporates during cooking or baking, leaving behind only the desired, concentrated flavor in your cooking.


Drop it like it’s hot. Extracts lose some of their potency when used in high heat applications like boiling, frying or sauteeing on the stovetop, and their alcohol bases can evaporate easily when exposed to high heat or prolonged cooking. Flavor extracts are recommended for use in recipes for baked goods, candy and ice cream, beverages, dressings, sauces, frostings, and other low-heat (or brief moderate heat) applications.

Do they expire? We recommend using extracts within four years of purchasing them. Like “i before e except after c” there are exceptions. Vanilla extracts typically last indefinitely.

Where do I start? We get it, there are a lot of options. If you’re building your pantry from scratch, we recommend starting with a Mexican Vanilla Extract, Almond Extract, and a favorite fruity extract – like Orange or Lemon Extract. You can add others as you find favorite recipes that call for them.