Can I use peppermint essential oil instead of menthol?

Sort of/it depends. You’ll need to do a bit of research/math as well.

Different peppermint essential oil (USA / Canada)s have different menthol percentages. Making this swap will work best with a high menthol peppermint essential oil (USA / Canada)—you should be able to get this information from your supplier, especially if they are reputable.

Say a recipe calls for 3g of menthol, and your peppermint essential oil (USA / Canada) is 50% menthol. That means that 3g of peppermint essential oil (USA / Canada) will contain 1.5g of menthol, so you’d need to use 6g of peppermint essential oil (USA / Canada) in the recipe to have an equivalent amount of menthol in the final product. You are, of course, also bringing an extra 3g of other pepperminty things to the recipe that were not originally accounted for when the formula was developed. In small amounts this usually isn’t a problem, but it’s still a consideration.

Perhaps your peppermint essential oil (USA / Canada) is only 20% menthol. Now you’ll need 15g (3 × 20 / 100) of peppermint essential oil (USA / Canada) to get 3g of menthol, and 15g is a lot more than 3g; I’d start to be worried about this swap throwing off the balance of the recipe. Peppermint essential oil is often liquid (especially if it’s relatively low in menthol) and menthol is solid, so now you’re using a lot of liquid in place of a small amount of solid. If you replaced a little bit of butter with 5x as much olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada) in a recipe, that would obviously have some serious implications—the same thing happens with DIY body/bath/etc. recipes.

I’ll use menthol in a recipe where I want concentrated cooling, and little else. Peppermint essential oil contains menthol, but it also contains other things that make it smell like peppermint, and because you’ll always need more peppermint essential oil (USA / Canada) than menthol, your final product will smell a lot like peppermint.

So… use your judgement, basically 🙂 It can be done, but there are some considerations to be made.

Posted in: Substitutions