How to Make Non-Alcoholic Extracts

Homemade Extracts Can Be Alcohol-Free

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Non-Alcoholic Vanilla Extract. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Flavoring extracts are typically made with vodka, bourbon or some other type of alcohol, but they can be made without alcohol. The alcohol flavor may not be desirable if you are adding it to a recipe that doesn't cook it out. It's just as easy to make your extracts without alcohol and it is no more expensive. Here's what you do.

How to Make Alcohol-Free Extracts

To make your own non-alcoholic extracts, just substitute the alcohol called for in any extract recipe with three parts food-grade liquid glycerin and one part water.

Stir the two ingredients together until well combined. Then, proceed with the recipe as usual. You'll get the same great taste you're used to, without any of the alcohol.

Store your homemade extracts in brown bottles to maximum their shelf life. Extracts made with glycerin should keep for up to four years in your pantry. There's no need to refrigerate them.

Allow two months for your extracts to develop before you start using them. Homemade extracts make great gifts. Start a big batch now, so you'll be ready for the holidays.

How Does Glycerin Work for Extracts vs. Alcohol?

Extracts made with glycerine are called glycerites. They have more of a syrupy consistency than traditional alcohol-based extracts but work just the same in recipes. And they're both sugar-free and gluten-free.

Extracts have that name because flavor compounds are extracted by a solvent, which is usually alcohol. Alcohol performs this action faster than glycerin, and it extracts a different variety of substances than glycerin will extract.

This can result in a different flavor of the finished product than you may be used to with an alcohol extract. Both inhibit bacterial growth in the extract, which is why you can store them at room temperature. One difference is that alcohol denatures proteins and enzymes, while glycerin does not. That can be a factor when it is used for pharmaceuticals.

What is Liquid Glycerin?

Liquid glycerin is an organic compound of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen that is derived from animal fats or vegetable oil. Most of it is produced as a by-product of soap making. It's widely used in soaps, lotions, foods, medications and cosmetics. Because it has a sweet taste, it is often used as a sweetener. 

Where Can I Buy Liquid Glycerin?

You can find liquid glycerin at most pharmacies, but it probably won't be food-grade. For this reason, ordering it online is probably your best bet. If you're vegetarian or vegan, vegetable glycerin is available.

Ready to Give It a Try?

Here's a recipe for non-alcoholic vanilla extract. Just grab some vanilla beans, and you'll be well on your way to your first batch.

Are You Trying to Cut the Alcohol Out of All Recipes?

You may be avoiding alcohol for various reasons. If you or a member of your household is in recovery from alcohol addiction, you may want to ensure there is none in the cupboard, even in small quantities. Your spiritual tradition may require the elimination of all alcohol. Here's a list of alcohol substitutes that you can use to find the right replacement for any recipe.