Extracts – PlantX UK

Wondering what a culinary extract is? Well, it’s probably that mysterious bottle in your kitchen cupboard that’s been collecting dust for the past few years. Often neglected in the kitchen, buy extracts and you’ll have an incredible way to add exciting dimensions of flavor to your cooking. 

Fear not, PlantX has got you covered when it comes to vegan extracts. Everything between the old classics and the unsung heroes! 

Types of extracts

You’re probably familiar with vanilla extracts for baking and cooking, and if you’re a Marmite fan you’ll know the score when it comes to yeast extract. But how about barley malt extract, or molasses? Thought not!

Just to keep it simple, let’s split extracts into the categories of sweet and savory. Here are some examples of both types of extracts and what you might use them for.

Sweet extracts

Aside from the age-old classic of vegan vanilla extract for baking, there are myriad more exciting sweet flavored extracts to add a thrilling edge to your baking and dessert-making at home. Why not try almond, rose, lemon, coconut, maple, orange, or coffee extract in your sweet culinary endeavors? Turns out there are more flavor extracts for baking than you probably imagine!

A PlantX favorite of this category has got to be Molasses extract. Dark, dense, deeply sweet, and earthy, this Meridian Foods - Organic & Fairtrade Blackstrap Molasses is made from the ‘third extraction’ of sugar cane refining and is full of nutrients such as iron, magnesium, and potassium. 

You don’t find that in your run-of-the-mill caster sugar! You’ve also got Meridian Foods - Barley Malt Extract, a silky syrup extracted from organic barley to contend with for a sweet extract alternative to sugar. 

Savory extracts

When we hear these words, we can’t help but leap to the subject of yeast vegan extracts. They’re just so good! Some of our favorite brands at PlantX have perfected the art of the outrageously rich, salty, and velvety umami goodness that you find in a pot of yeast vegan extract. 

Try Essential’s Vitam-R Yeast Extract or Meridian Foods - Natural Yeast Extract With Salt & B12 if you’re after gluten-free vegan extracts that are rich in B vitamins.

Yes, ok, we get that there are yeast extracts out there, but what are they actually for? Of course, a hunk of hot toast with vegan butter and lashings of yeast extract makes for, let’s face it, the apex of snacking. 

However, there are many other uses. Add a tablespoon of yeast extract into a pasta sauce, stew, vegan chili, soup, gravy, or marinade if you’re looking to add an umami depth to your food. Yeast extract knows no bounds!

Frequently asked questions

What is an extract?

So, what exactly is an extract? In essence (if you’ll pardon the pun) an extract is a concentrated version of the flavors and smells of a certain food or liquid. The purpose of extracting is to harvest all the pungent, flavorsome elements of the raw material, and concentrate them into - usually - the form of a liquid. 

There are many methods of extraction, including distillation, softening, steeping, and pressing. Often, alcohol, oil, or water are used to help the extraction process. Unless you’re going to give extraction a go at home (good luck) you don’t need to worry too much about this, fortunately, people have done the process for you!

What quantity of extract should I put in my cooking?

The strength of vegan extracts varies widely, and generally, cheaper extracts have less of an impact on food than higher grade extracts, so you may find you need to add more to be able to pick up on the flavor or smell. We recommend going for the best quality extracts that your wallet will allow, as they will last longer and taste far superior. 

Don’t be fooled into buying ‘essence’ as opposed to extracts. Essence, like say, vanilla essence, is synthetically processed and contains artificial flavorings. Often, vanilla essence has no real vanilla in it whatsoever. 

Always go for vanilla extract if you can, as it will impart a more genuine flavor of vanilla through your baking. Nielsen-Massey’s Pure Vanilla Extract is a veteran favorite of keen bakers. 

Recipes will call for different quantities of extract depending on the size of the dessert or cake, but generally, 1-5 drops of the extract is a good amount to get some flavor going. 

When it comes to savory vegan extracts such as yeast extract, you can put a generous tablespoon into your cooking to generate that unbeatable umami-ness.

Can you put extracts into drinks?

Flavor extracts for baking are not the only direction you can take. You can buy extracts for jazzing up your drinks too! Whether you’re wanting to take your cocktail making up a notch or you’re getting creative with your morning coffee, extracts are a great way to do both. 

Why not add a drop of orange, cherry, or coconut extract to your tequila sunrise, or even sweeten your espresso martini with a drop of barley malt extract?

Vanilla, almond, and coconut are all vegan extracts that work brilliantly in coffee. Feel free to get creative and experimental with your extracts, but remember that they are strong, so in drinks, it’s best to stick to one or two drops in order to not overpower the other flavors. 

Are extracts vegan?

Of course, this depends on what you are extracting from. Something like Bovril (a meat extract) is not vegan, so pay attention to the ingredients list. Most extracts you come across will likely be vegan because they are primarily derived from plants, nuts, and fruit. 

There has been some talk of non-vegan vanilla essences allegedly including castoreum: a ‘natural flavoring’ derived from beavers’ castor sacks; an area that lies worryingly close to their anal glands... 

Don’t worry though, you’re seriously unlikely to come across any vanilla products with this ingredient in because of its limited production. However, it does make another good reason to steer clear of essences and go for the vegan vanilla extracts for baking and other foodie endeavours! 

What’s the shelf life of extracts?

The shelf life of extracts tends to be around 6 months to 1 year, however, some of them lose their flavor over time. If you keep your extracts well sealed in your cupboard you can use them beyond their expiry date as long as they have not developed a bad odor. 
Pure vanilla extract, unlike most other extracts, actually improves in flavor over time. So, don’t throw away that ancient sticky bottle you just uncovered while you were spring cleaning, it might be the best it’s ever been!