What Is Peppermint Extract?

Peppermint extract adds a cooling, mint flavor to your baked goods, teas, and homemade ice cream recipes - especially around winter holidays!

Bottle of McCormick's peppermint extract

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

Peppermint-flavored candies and confections are abundant during the colder months across grocery stores, gift shops, and holiday markets. With a refreshing, cooling flavor, peppermint provides a nice contrast to a sugary treat or a decadent chocolate dessert. 

But if you're like me, you might have picked up some peppermint extract in hopes of cooking up some holiday sweets and completely forgotten about it. So naturally, you might wonder: is that peppermint extract still good? What's the difference between peppermint extract and peppermint oil? And what recipes can I try using peppermint extract? 

In this guide, I’ll walk through all of your burning questions on peppermint extract!

Peppermint Extract

Origin: Comes from peppermint leaves, as opposed to spearmint leaves, and is a mixture of peppermint essential oil and alcohol

Varieties: Natural, imitation, and artificial, all in liquid form

Common uses: Baked confections and teas

Substitutes: 1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil (make sure it is edible) or 1 tablespoon peppermint schnapps

 bottle of mccormick's peppermint extract

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

What to Know About Peppermint Extract

Typically, peppermint extract is made in one of two ways: you can dilute the essential oils with alcohol or steep the leaves in alcohol and strain them before use. Purchase peppermint extract at your local grocery store or make it yourself as a fun project!

There are three main forms of the extract: natural, imitation, and artificial. Natural peppermint extract includes minimal ingredients: alcohol, peppermint oil, and sometimes, water. Imitation and artificial extracts contain artificial flavorings. 

Spearmint vs Peppermint

Spearmint and peppermint are two different types of mint leaves. Peppermint has a significantly higher concentration of menthol, which gives the herb its signature cooling flavor and aroma. 

Because of the difference in menthol concentration, they are not ideal substitutes for one another despite having similar properties. As a result, spearmint is more commonly used in sweet and savory applications, while peppermint is more often found in sweet desserts, especially around the holidays. 

Peppermint extract in a teaspoon

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

Peppermint Oil vs Extract

Peppermint oil and peppermint extract are two very different ingredients. Peppermint oil is the pure essential oil derived from peppermint leaves. Peppermint extract is a mixture of peppermint essential oils and alcohol. 

Peppermint oil is quite strong, so you need to dilute it for most uses. The oil is about four times as strong as the extract. Peppermint oil has non-culinary applications, such as aromatherapy, so not all oils sold are edible. 

Where to Buy Peppermint Extract

You can purchase peppermint extract in most larger grocery stores. Alternatively, shop for the extract at an online specialty shop. 

Pay attention to the variety you're looking for, whether natural, imitation, or artificial. Make sure the label says 'peppermint,' as opposed to spearmint. 

How to Store

Store your bottle of peppermint extract covered tightly in a cupboard or pantry shelf away from light. Peppermint extract should last about 3 to 4 years. 

Peppermint Extract Substitutes

If you can't find peppermint extract, there are a few substitutions that work just as well. For 1 teaspoon peppermint extract, substitute:

  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil (make sure it is edible)
  • 1 tablespoon peppermint schnapps
Chocolate Peppermint Swiss Roll
Elizabeth Stark

How to Cook with Peppermint Extract

You can use peppermint extract as you might with vanilla extract by adding a small amount to baked goods or chilled desserts, such as ice cream. In my opinion, peppermint extract has a sharper flavor than vanilla, so I usually start with a smaller quantity and adjust as needed. 

Here are some of our favorite ways to use peppermint extract:

  • Add a couple of drops to some hot water for an herbal peppermint tea
  • Add to an ice cream base to make peppermint ice cream. Then, mix in crushed peppermint patties for a minty, sweet treat!
  • Spoon a couple of drops into your hot chocolate to make peppermint hot chocolate. 
  • Spoon a little extract into your cookie dough to make peppermint-flavored cookies.

Looking for more ideas to use up your peppermint extract? We've curated a few delicious, minty recipes for you to dive into!