Without even peeking into someone’s pantry, you can almost guarantee that there’s a bottle in there. In fact, chances are you have at least one half-full bottle in your pantry – maybe even more. Here at Savory Spice, we keep a few different types of pure vanilla extracts on hand, including Madagascar, Mexican, and Tahitian. We also offer Natural Vanilla Extract, a partially pure option that is a more economical choice for customers.
But we don’t stop with vanilla. From Almond to Orange, we stock a variety of extracts. Our extensive and diverse line of extracts has led to many questions over the years. We decided to answer the most common ones here, in effort to demystify these wonderful flavors and make them more accessible and, hopefully, more frequently used in your kitchen!
What are the Best Extracts for Baking?
The best extracts for baking are the ones that maintain a robust flavor, even after experiencing extreme temperatures (like when baking). Because our extracts are both bake and freeze-proof, you won’t experience a loss in flavor when baking or freezing your foods.
What is an Extract and How is it Made?
First, think of a coffee maker. Every time you brew coffee, you’re essentially making an extract. In this case, that means running a solvent (water) through a product (coffee beans) to extract the flavor compounds produces an extract (the brewed coffee). Unlike your roasted coffee beans, however, the flavor compounds and essential oils found in most botanicals are not water soluble, but rather oil soluble. Alcohol is used with water to extract solvents and to keep the essential oils from separating (as oil and water are prone to do). For this same reason, solvents are used to maximize the extraction of flavor compounds that aren’t water-soluble. When looking at many of our extracts you’ll likely see one of the following: propylene glycol or polysorbate.
What are propylene glycol and polysorbate and why are they used in extracts?
As previously mentioned, most essential oil and flavoring compounds are oil soluble and will not disperse in water. Propylene glycol (or PG) is recognized by the FDA as being safe for use in food and is a clear, slightly syrupy solvent that has a bitter and slightly sweet taste but is otherwise flavorless. PG is highly effective in dispersing oil soluble flavor compounds and, because most extracts are added to food in very small amounts, the flavor is rarely perceptible in food. The propylene glycol used in our extracts meets the food grade requirements established by various national and international agencies, including the U.S. Food Chemical Codex (FCC) as well as the European Council Directive for food additives. Polysorbate is an efficient emulsifier, used in small amounts to help essential oils and flavoring compounds mix evenly into the water and alcohol base, ensuring that the flavor of the extract remains consistent from the beginning of the bottle to the end. Polysorbate is approved by the FDA for use as an emulsifier.
How Do I Store Extracts?
If stored correctly and with a secure cap, most extracts can last for a year or more – with as much flavor as they day they were purchased. Of course, there are exceptions:
- The intensity and flavor of both Vanilla and Peppermint will continue to build over time. So don’t worry if you only pull your Peppermint Extract out of the pantry during the holidays; you can still keep it – tightly sealed, of course.
- Citrus extracts contain a naturally occurring flavor compound called D’Limonene. This compound is prone to oxidation, which will have a negative impact on flavor. Cool temperatures and dark environments will help to slow the oxidation process, for that reason we recommend keeping your citrus extracts in the refrigerator.
What Other Extracts Are There Besides Vanilla?
There are a wide range of flavor extracts, some of which you might know of or already be using - Almond Extract, for example is pretty common. Others might surprise you - Maple Extract anyone? Many, like Almond Extract or Peppermint Extract can be used with your traditional vanilla extract to boost or alter the flavor. In other cases, like that Maple Extract we just mentioned, the concentrated flavoring of extract can be used in applications where too much liquid might ruin the texture or impact the finished dish. Browse all extract flavors.
What is the difference between “Pure,” “Natural,” and “Imitation” extracts?
Our customers often comment that our extracts taste better and are stronger than most other extracts. This is because the best essential oils and other natural ingredients are used to flavor our extracts. Additionally, our extracts are all gluten-free and nearly all of them contain no added sugar.
There is currently no universal naming or labeling criteria for extracts (with the exception of vanilla), so naming conventions can vary from company to company. We believe in making our product names honest, accurate, and clear. To ensure that our naming conventions are easy to understand and completely forthcoming we use the following criteria in naming our extracts:
- Pure & Premium - Our pure and premium extracts are derived exclusively from the named product; for example, Pure Lemon Extract contains only alcohol, water, and pure lemon oils.
- Natural - Our natural extracts are made from plant-based ingredients, but sometimes that flavor is derived from other parts of the named source such as leaves or stems of a vanilla orchid instead of the bean. In other cases, a natural flavor could come from an entirely different plant, but it is always a natural source and never artificial.
How Do I Use Extracts In Recipes?
First off, if a recipe calls for an extract, you can typically swap it with any other flavor (or use a combination) without any issue. It will change the flavor but often for the better. For example, if your sugar cookie recipe calls for 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, you could use 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp of almond extract.
One word of caution when it comes to experimenting with extracts. Use a light hand. These flavors are intensely concentrated so it is absolutely possible to ruin your dish if you use too much. Remember, you can always add more but you can't take any out once you've added it.
Maple Fried Chicken
Best paired with the salty flavor of Good On You Vegan Chicken Salt in Savory Cornmeal Waffles, the Maple Extract in this fried chicken recipe adds a hint of sweetness to this classic favorite.
Coconut Cream Pie
We upped the coconut factor in this traditional southern dessert by using coconut extract in both pudding filling and the creamy whipped topping.
Lemon Lavender Scones
Infused with invigorating lemon and soothing lavender, these melt-in-your-mouth scones are a mood-boosting treat.
This syrup, featuring Natural Hazelnut Extract, is perfect for sweetening your coffee and plays on the flavors of a favorite chocolaty sweet spread. Try using this syrup as a topping for ice cream or in steamed milk for a fun twist on a classic cocoa.
Choose-a-Flavor Meringue Cookies
Can you add your own flavor to meringue cookies? You sure can. Pictured at the top of this article, these flavored meringue cookies are sweet, crispy, slightly chewy, and always a hit.
For more recipes featuring our extracts, visit our Extracts product page and browse the extract flavors. Select any extract and scroll down to see recipes that use that product.