Peppermint extract is a staple for minty recipes like candy cane chocolate bark, peppermint hot chocolate and mint milkshakes. After all, peppermint can be soothing and comforting (hello, mint tea).
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If you don't have fresh mint leaves on hand, peppermint extract will come in handy. But, for times you don't have either, you may wonder if you can substitute peppermint oil. Here's how to swap peppermint extract and oil in baking.
Generally, you should use a third to half of the amount in a recipe when you use essential oil to substitute peppermint extract.
Peppermint Oil vs. Peppermint Extract
Both peppermint extract and oil come from the same plant: Mentha ×piperita L. It's native to many parts of North America, according to the USDA. Though they are made from the same plant, the oil and extract of peppermint are not the same.
The main difference between peppermint oil and peppermint extract is the concentration. Plant extracts are diluted with alcohol and other liquid ingredients, so they are less potent. Oils are not diluted, making them far more concentrated.
Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that may have potential benefits. They're made by squeezing the plant until the oils are released, per the Cleveland Clinic. Because they are often pure oils, essential oils are commonly used for their aroma.
Too much peppermint can be harmful. Because it's so concentrated, the U.S. National Library of Medicine warns of peppermint oil overdose, which can occur when you take in more than the recommended amount (intentionally or accidentally). A peppermint oil overdose can lead to symptoms such as slow heartbeat and dizziness.
How to Substitute Peppermint Oil for Peppermint Extract
Peppermint extract is more commonly used in baking as it's more affordable and widely available. But, one of the cons of using peppermint extract is that the alcohol burns off quickly during cooking, taking some of the peppermint flavor with it.
That's why you need more peppermint extract to yield similar results as using peppermint oil.
Plant extracts such as peppermint extract can also have a more synthetic flavor, says Chinelo Awa, a professional cake maker in London and owner of Good Cake Day.
Awa recommends using peppermint oil in place of peppermint extract wherever possible as its higher concentration yields a stronger flavor. She recommends using about half the amount of peppermint oil in place of peppermint extract, noting that you can start with smaller amounts and increase as needed because you may need less.
How to Substitute Peppermint Extract for Peppermint Oil
There may be times when you prefer to use peppermint extract, especially if it's your only option. It's also more affordable and generally easier to find in most grocery stores than peppermint extract.
If a recipe calls for peppermint oil but you choose to use peppermint extract, Michael Johnson, a private chef from Brighton, England, explains that you'll need to adjust the recipe.
"It's important to remember that peppermint oil and peppermint extract are not the same and that peppermint oil is a lot stronger," Johnson says. "Peppermint extract is usually not as concentrated and contains alcohol."
You can replace peppermint oil with about three times the amount of peppermint extract, Johnson says. Like Awa, he recommends increasing the amount as needed as you may need more peppermint extract to yield similar results as potent peppermint oil.