Peppermint Extract: A Guide to Its Uses and Substitutes

Peppermint extract is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of culinary applications, from baked goods to beverages. In this guide, we will explore how peppermint extract is made, its substitutes, and how to use it in your cooking.

What is Peppermint Extract?

Peppermint extract is a concentrated form of peppermint flavoring made from peppermint leaves. It is typically made by steeping the leaves in alcohol or by extracting the essential oil from the leaves. Peppermint extract is available in three main forms: natural, imitation, and artificial.

  • Natural peppermint extract: This type of extract is made with minimal ingredients, typically just alcohol, peppermint oil, and sometimes water.
  • Imitation peppermint extract: This type of extract contains artificial flavorings that mimic the taste of peppermint.
  • Artificial peppermint extract: This type of extract is made entirely of artificial flavorings and does not contain any peppermint oil.

How is Peppermint Extract Made?

Peppermint extract is typically made in one of two ways:

  • Steeping: Peppermint leaves are steeped in alcohol for several weeks to extract the flavor. The alcohol is then evaporated, leaving behind a concentrated peppermint extract.
  • Essential oil extraction: The essential oil is extracted from peppermint leaves using a steam distillation process. The essential oil is then diluted with alcohol to create peppermint extract.

Spearmint vs. Peppermint

Spearmint and peppermint are two different types of mint leaves with distinct flavor profiles. Peppermint has a higher concentration of menthol, which gives it a more intense and cooling flavor than spearmint. While they share some similarities, they are not ideal substitutes for one another due to their differing menthol levels.

Peppermint Oil vs. Extract

Peppermint oil and peppermint extract are two distinct ingredients with different strengths and uses. Peppermint oil is the pure essential oil extracted from peppermint leaves, while peppermint extract is a mixture of peppermint essential oil and alcohol.

Peppermint oil is significantly stronger than peppermint extract, typically four times more concentrated. Therefore, it needs to be diluted before use in most culinary applications.

Where to Buy Peppermint Extract

Peppermint extract is readily available at most grocery stores and online retailers. When purchasing peppermint extract, pay attention to the variety you are looking for, whether natural, imitation, or artificial. Also, ensure the label clearly states “peppermint” to avoid confusion with spearmint.

How to Store Peppermint Extract

To ensure optimal quality and longevity, store your peppermint extract in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or cupboard. Properly stored peppermint extract can last for 3 to 4 years.

Peppermint Extract Substitutes

If you find yourself without peppermint extract, several substitutes can work just as well. Here are some options for substituting 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract:

  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil: Ensure the oil is edible and dilute it as needed due to its higher concentration.
  • 1 tablespoon peppermint schnapps: This liqueur adds a minty flavor and a slight alcoholic kick to your recipe.

How to Use Peppermint Extract

Peppermint extract can be used in various ways, similar to vanilla extract. Add a small amount to baked goods, chilled desserts like ice cream, or beverages for a refreshing minty flavor. Due to its more intense flavor compared to vanilla, it’s recommended to start with a smaller amount and adjust as needed.

Here are some ideas for incorporating peppermint extract into your cooking:

  • Peppermint tea: Add a few drops of peppermint extract to hot water for a soothing and flavorful herbal tea.
  • Peppermint ice cream: Enhance your ice cream base with a few drops of peppermint extract and mix in crushed peppermint candies for a delightful minty treat.
  • Peppermint hot chocolate: Add a couple of drops of peppermint extract to your hot chocolate for a festive and warming beverage.
  • Peppermint cookies: Infuse your cookie dough with a minty flavor by adding a few drops of peppermint extract.

Recipes with Peppermint Extract

Looking for inspiration to use up your peppermint extract? Here are some delicious and minty recipes to try:

  • Peppermint marshmallows: These fluffy and flavorful marshmallows are perfect for enjoying on their own or adding to hot chocolate.
  • Candy cane cookies: These festive cookies are infused with peppermint flavor and topped with crushed candy canes for a delightful holiday treat.
  • Chocolate peppermint Swiss roll: This decadent dessert combines the richness of chocolate with the refreshing flavor of peppermint for an irresistible combination.
  • Peppermint bark: This easy-to-make treat is perfect for sharing during the holiday season and features a combination of chocolate and peppermint.


Peppermint extract is a versatile ingredient that can add a refreshing and minty flavor to various culinary creations. Whether you use it in baked goods, beverages, or desserts, this extract is sure to elevate your dishes with its unique and invigorating flavor.

How to Store

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

Spearmint Vs. Peppermint

Spearmint and peppermint are two different types of mint leaves. Peppermint’s characteristic cooling flavor and aroma are attributed to its significantly higher concentration of menthol.

Despite having similar qualities, they are not perfect replacements for one another due to the variance in menthol concentration. Because of this, peppermint is more frequently found in sweet desserts, particularly during the holidays, while spearmint is more frequently used in savory and sweet applications.

can i use candy canes instead of peppermint extract



What can I substitute for peppermint extract?

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.

Are candy canes and peppermint the same thing?

See, peppermint comes from a little plant called the same thing but they cook it in a distilled to extract the pure oil from it. But yes, peppermint and candy canes are one and the same. The cane is made from syrup and sugar with oil added in to it for flavoring.

Can I make my own peppermint extract?

To make an extract, tear up or coarsely chop and bruise washed mint leaves into a measuring cup (you’ll end up with about twice the volume of extract as you have leaves). Transfer the leaves to a glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Add about twice the alcohol (by volume) as you had leaves. Cover and shake.

Are mint extract and peppermint extract the same?

Mint extract is a mixture of spearmint and peppermint, whereas peppermint extract is just that. Whether you prefer the subtle flavor of spearmint or the in-your-face flavor of peppermint, we have a recipe to suit your taste.

Can candy canes be used as a substitute for peppermint extract?

Yes, apart from the alternatives mentioned above, candy canes can also be used as a substitute for your peppermint extract. Just follow the next recipe to convert these solid candies into liquid, and then you can use it just like peppermint extract. Take a medium-sized saucepan and add water and sugar to it.

Is it good to have peppermint?

The menthol in peppermint may work as a decongestant and make it easier to breathe if you are ill. Peppermint is also often used to relieve symptoms of nausea, especially during chemotherapy. Lastly, limited research has shown that peppermint may be helpful to reduce symptoms of IBS.

Do candy canes have Peppermint?

Candy canes contain sugar and corn syrup with peppermint flavor added during the cooling process. You can crush candy canes to add a mint flavor to the recipe without the alcohol content. Use one candy cane for each teaspoon of peppermint extract in the recipe.

Is mint candy a good substitute for peppermint extract?

Mint candy is a great alternative to peppermint extract when you’re in a pinch. The sweet, sugary flavor of mint candy can be used to give food and drinks an extra kick of flavor. It works especially well in baking recipes, as it melts quickly and evenly when heated.

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