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What is Rum Extract?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 16, 2024

Rum extract is a cooking ingredient made from rum. It has a concentrated rum flavor, without the high alcohol content associated with real rum. Depending on the company which makes it, this ingredient usually contains a small amount of alcohol, although alcohol-free versions are also available. Like other extracts, rum extract keeps essentially indefinitely as long as it is stored in a cool, dry place out of the light.

There are two basic kinds of rum extract: natural, and imitation. The natural type is made with real rum, and it has a full, rich, complex flavor much like that of actual rum. Imitation versions are made with artificial ingredients, and tend to have a much simpler, less interesting flavor. As a general rule, imitations are significantly cheaper than real versions.

People use rum extract in cooking for a variety of reasons. For one thing, the flavor is concentrated, so when a cook wants a rum flavor without disrupting the liquid balance of a food, rum extract can be used. It also tends to be less expensive than actual rum, and for people who do not drink, it may be preferable to buy a small bottle of extract for a recipe rather than a bottle of rum which will never be used. It also keeps for extended periods of time, making it a shelf-stable addition to the ingredient library.

If you have a recipe which calls for real rum and you want to use rum extract instead, you can convert the recipe. As a general rule, for every two tablespoons of dark rum in a recipe, one tablespoon of extract can be used. For every five tablespoons of light rum called for, one tablespoon of extract is usually sufficient. Because significant differences in liquid levels can emerge when doing these conversions, some cooks like to add water to make up for the missing liquid.

Cooks can also convert the other way, using real rum instead of rum extract. However, this can get complicated, especially in cakes, where the amount of liquid plays a critical role in how the cake bakes. Too much liquid can interfere with the finished texture of the cake, creating an unpleasant mess rather than the desired product. The higher alcohol content of true rum can also interfere with the cooking process.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By StreamFinder — On Dec 05, 2010

If you want to add even more of a kick to your cooking, try using orange rum extract. I usually have a bottle of orange Parrot Bay rum on hand anyway, so I don't use an extract, but I know they make them in this flavor.

Orange rum extract works very well for most kinds of cakes and cookies that call for rum extract, but I find that you can get an especially good taste in chocolate cookies. It's almost like a chocolate orange flavor, and the orange rum gives it a nice twist.

It is also very good for what I call a "Dreamsicle Cake," which is a vanilla/orange cake with a sweet orange glaze on the top. Just remember that if you use an orange rum extract, you can probably do without some of the orange flavoring in your cake.

By CopperPipe — On Dec 04, 2010

This was such a helpful article! I love making rum-flavored cakes and cookies, but I don't drink rum cocktails, so I always struggled with converting the recipes to be appropriate for rum extract. However, all the articles I ever find on the subject just debate the whole rum extract vs rum question without really telling me how to convert it. But thanks to you guys, now I have a handy conversion formula -- thanks!

By TunaLine — On Dec 02, 2010

One of my cooking staples is a bottle of butter rum extract. I have to have the real thing though, not the imitation ones -- you simply don't get the right flavor without the real, alcoholic rum.

But with a good butter rum extract, the things you can do to a cake are amazing! I often add it into buttercream for icing, and it makes a nice addition to any yellow cake. It's not so great for chocolate cake, just because the chocolate tends to overwhelm the butter rum flavor, but for any yellow or vanilla cake it's excellent.

It also works very well for butter rum cookies if you don't want to buy the whole bottle of rum for your flavoring.

So try it out if you're into baking, but make sure that you get pure rum extract -- you will definitely be able to tell the difference.

By hottung25 — On Jun 01, 2009

Imitation Rum is made from a synthesized chemical known as " n-propyl 2-methylpropanoate ". It starts from the aliphatic alkane known as Propane. China has been making 1000's of metric tons of it for decades. So most likely this is the source. Then the EPA says that only a very small amount is allowed in each bottle, because it is toxic in very large quantities.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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