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The Unconventional Source of Almond Extract’s Flavor

The strange place where almond extract gets its flavor

Almond extract is a popular ingredient in baked goods and desserts, known for its distinctive almond flavor. However, you may be surprised to learn that almond extract is not necessarily made from almonds. In this article, we will explore the fascinating truth behind what gives almond extract its flavor and the unexpected source of its key ingredient.

Almonds: More than just nuts

Almonds, although commonly referred to as nuts, are actually drupes. Stone fruits, also known as drupes, are characterized by the presence of a pit or stone in the center of the fleshy fruit. Other examples of drupes include peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, and, of course, almonds. If you look at an almond on a tree, you may notice its resemblance to a small, unripe green peach with a leathery and tough exterior. In fact, if you were to crack open a peach pit, you would find a seed that bears a striking resemblance to an almond and even has a similar taste (via Botanist in the Kitchen).

The ingredients in almond extract

Three key ingredients are needed to make pure almond extract: water, alcohol, and bitter almond oil. The almond flavor in the extract comes from a compound called benzaldehyde, which is found in the seeds of all drupes. This compound determines the intensity and character of the almond flavor in the extract.
Here’s where things get interesting. Almond extract manufacturers have the flexibility to use not only almonds, but also the drupes of other drupe fruits to obtain almond oil. This practice is commonly known as “drupe dupe”. Instead of relying solely on almonds, apricots, peaches, or other stone fruit can be used to extract almond oil. Surprisingly, brands of almond extract that use other drupes in addition to almonds have been found to have a more intense almond flavor, according to taste tests conducted by Cook’s Illustrated.

Taste Test Results

Cook’s Illustrated conducted a taste test experiment using different almond extracts. The results were quite interesting. The extract made with almonds alone was found to have a milder flavor compared to those made with a combination of almonds and other drupes. In fact, the brands that included drupes such as apricots, peaches, plums, and cherries ranked higher for their almond flavor intensity. It appears that the inclusion of these other drupes enhances the overall almond flavor profile of the extract.
What’s even more surprising is that in the taste test, the tasters could not distinguish between the pure almond extract and the imitation versions. This suggests that the imitation versions, which often use synthetic almond flavor compounds, are just as capable of delivering a satisfying almond taste.


The next time you reach for that bottle of almond extract to add a touch of almond goodness to your recipes, remember the strange place its flavor comes from. Despite its name, almond extract is not always made exclusively from almonds. The inclusion of other drupes such as apricots, peaches, and cherries can enhance the intensity of the almond flavor. So whether you choose pure almond extract or imitation almond extract, you can be sure that you’re enjoying the delicious essence of almonds in your culinary creations.
Remember, the world of flavor is often full of surprises, and almond extract is just one example of how culinary traditions and ingredients can take us on unexpected journeys.


Almond extract is made from a combination of water, alcohol, and bitter almond oil, which contains a compound called benzaldehyde.

Are almonds the only source for almond extract?

No, almonds are not the only source of almond extract. Manufacturers can also use the drupes of other stone fruits, such as apricots, peaches, and cherries, to obtain the almond oil used in the extract.

Why do some almond extracts use other stone fruit?

Incorporating other drupes in addition to almonds in an almond extract can increase the intensity and flavor profile of the extract. The compounds found in these other drupes contribute to a more robust almond flavor.

Do almond extracts from other drupes taste different?

Yes, almond extracts made from other drupes may taste different than those made from almonds alone. In taste tests, extracts made with a combination of almonds and other drupes were found to have a more intense almond flavor.

Can you tell the difference between pure almond extract and imitation?

In taste tests, tasters found it difficult to distinguish between pure almond extract and imitation versions. This suggests that the imitation versions, which often use synthetic almond flavor compounds, can provide a satisfying almond taste.

Are there any health benefits to using almond extract?

While almond extract is primarily used for its flavor, it may also offer some health benefits. Almonds and almond oil are known to be rich in nutrients, including vitamin E and healthy fats. However, it’s important to note that almond extract is typically used in small amounts, so its nutritional impact may be minimal compared to consuming whole almonds.

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