15-Minute Homemade Root Beer
This simple 15-minute homemade root beer is so fun and festive to make! Plus, it is the tastiest root beer in all the land. Truth.
Growing up, homemade root beer was a staple. Well, a staple in that I remember my dad making it with us around Halloween each year. So I guess that’d be considered a once a year seasonal staple? Something like that?
We thought it was terribly exciting, meaning lots of shrieking and dancing around, to watch the dark root beer bubble and pop while the billowy white fog spilled from the container.
Brian, who happens to love root beer with his whole soul (I think it’s the one and only thing, besides BBQ sauce, that he’s actually kind of a snob, in the very best sense of the word, about).
His feelings about this homemade root beer? “Man, this is really, really good root beer.” I’ll take that.
Best Extract for Homemade Root Beer
A lot depends, of course, on what you use for extract. I’ve learned my lesson over the years that not all root beer extracts are created equal.
I won’t dissuade you from using widely-recognized brands out there, but I will tell you that my favorite of all favorites is Zatarains root beer extract. It is extremely delicious and has a very intense but well-balanced root beer flavor.
The slight carbonation and extra chilliness from the dry ice makes me think I could get behind homemade root beer more than just once a year.
Precautions When Using Dry Ice
While homemade root beer is ridiculously easy and food-grade dry ice is completely safe to drink once it is melted, please, please keep in mind that there are definitely precautions to take when using dry ice.
I’ve listed a few in the notes of the recipe and there is a lot of helpful information online. It’s nothing at all to be scared of but it’s important to remember that because dry ice is so cold, it can cause burns if touched directly so always use insulated gloves or tongs to transfer and take care when using it around small children that may not know they shouldn’t touch it.
Make the root beer in a large, ventilated room or outside so the carbon dioxide doesn’t build up as it works its magic.
Also, remember that dry ice evaporates quickly (a 5- to 10-pound block can evaporate within 24 hours; learned that the hard way when I opened my freezer and my stash of dry ice was just empty plastic bags!) so try to buy just the amount you need when you know you’ll use it quickly. <–speaking of that, it’s best to store dry ice in a styrofoam cooler or container well-wrapped to keep it cold longer, instead of in a commercial freezer since it’s so cold and can sometimes cause the internal thermostat to shut off.
I know, I know, the precautions are a little boring but it’s good to get them out of the way; don’t let them prevent you from trying this!
This simple 15-minute homemade root beer is such a fun, festive drink for the fall and Halloween season, but it is definitely delicious enough to make year round!
The root beer doesn’t keep well if you want to make it days in advance. Over time, the carbonation dissipates, so it’s best to make this right before you want to enjoy it.
15-Minute Homemade Root Beer
- 4 quarts cold water
- 2-3 cups granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you want it; 2 cups is perfect for us)
- 3 tablespoons root beer extract (see note)
- 1-2 pounds food-grade dry ice broken into pieces (use the smaller amount if you want it to dissolve quickly and the greater amount if you want it to foam and bubble while serving)
- In a large pitcher (I use glass), stir together the water, sugar and root beer extract until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Take a little taste to see if you need more extract or sugar.
- In a well-ventilated area, carefully add the dry ice to the pitcher using insulated gloves or tongs and stir with a long-handled spoon so that the dry ice doesn’t stick to the bottom and sides of the container. The root beer will bubble and the dry ice fog will spill from the container (cool!).
- Continue stirring until it is mostly melted, 10-15 minutes.
- Ladle into cups, avoiding any large pieces of unmelted dry ice, and serve.
Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (just like we made it growing up)
93 Comments on “15-Minute Homemade Root Beer”
Where can one go to purchase the Zatarain’s root beer extract? Besides Amazon?
That’s the only place I’ve been able to find it (someone mentioned they found it at Walmart, I believe).
I’d love to try the root beer but haven’t a clue where to buy dry ice.Ive never used it before.Do you by it at a grocery store??
Most grocery stores usually have a cooler of dry ice! If you talk to the store attendant, they will package it up for you.
We always use wooden spoons when stirring witch’s brew, as the handle on metal can get too cold as well.
Worst article. Talks about how you can make 15 min root beer and it takes 15 min of reading before you even start the recipe only to find out this recipe calls out root beer extract. I want to know how to make it frome scratch. What is root beer extract. Where does the root from root beer come in.
it was a very awesome help
Love it! We do this every year for Halloween and make witches brew.
In Texas, we call all soft drinks “Coke.” You didn’t hear anyone say “Pepsi machine.” It was always the “Coke machine.”
I am making it for a ward Campout. I was thinking that we may need several gallons. Any idea about how many ounces your recipe makes?
It makes about 1 1 /2 gallons, so that would be right around 190 ounces.
do you have to use dry ice to make root beer? Does it taste the same without it?
Yes, it’s necessary for the carbonation in the recipe.
Mel, I can’t have carbonation anyway, can I make it without the dry ice? Maybe just add extra water?
Hi Mary – I haven’t tried that…but it’s worth a try!
My grandmother made this when I was little (45 years ago) and never used dry ice. I cannot have carbonation now and just omit the dry ice, just use extract to the taste you prefer.
Can you make this with Root Beer Concentrate? I cannot find Root Beer extract at any of my local stores.
Yes, I think so!
I read online that concentrate is stronger than extract so you would probably want to use less concentrate than the recipe calls for. Use less and taste. Can always add more.
Is the dry ice just for fun? Or is a necessary part of making the drink? Sorry if you already mentioned this, my son kept interrupting me while I was trying to read.
It’s necessary for the carbonation.
Have you tried Hires root beer extract? Just curious
I haven’t, sorry!
My root beer kept freezing and then It didn’t really get fizzy… Any helpful tips?
Was it freezing solid?
Do you know if I can use sweet leaf or anything else in place of the sugar for those that can’t have sugar?
I’m not sure – sorry, Debby! I’ve never tried a sugar substitute.
Has anyone used Mckormik brand extract? How much do you use?
How long after the dry ice has melted will it stay foggy and bubbly?
Oh no! I accidentally bought “Root Beer Flavor” From LorAnn’s Oils instead of extract or concentrate. Is this completely different?
I think it will probably work, Katie!
Is there any carbonation?
Yes, due to the dry ice!
Cool, a little science in the recipe
Thanks Melanie, I love this Root Beer and have been making it for some 60 years. But I have always made it in a 5 gallon container. It’s really fun and it’s great for larger parties. Our kids have loved it and insist that I (or even one of them) make it at every outdoor family gathering. The grandchildren are fascinated and love to watch the fog and drink the Root Beer. Thanks for the recipe for small gatherings, like dinner! We’ll try it then too. Have fun in Utah and Montana!
Do you have to use dry ice? Does it effect flavor or just used for the special effect? I do not like cold soda or carbonation but love root beer.
Yes, dry ice is really important to get a classic root beer flavor/fizzy taste. I suppose if you don’t like carbonation you could try it without.
This was a very good recipe. I tried it and it didn’t take long at all!!! It is the best rootbeer I’ve tasted by far!!!
I have never made homemade root beer, so this is all new to me! I made this recipe, and I was expecting it to be a brown color…. like root beer. But it’s clear! Did I do something wrong??
Did you use clear extract? It will depend on the color of the root beer extract (I usually use the dark brown extract but I think it is available in clear, too).
Can you make this in a plastic container? Or will the dry ice damage the container?
I’m not sure – I know a lot of people make homemade root beer in a cooler, so it may work. You might try looking online to see if dry ice can be used in a plastic container. Sorry I’m not more help!
I use the McCormick brand. In my family we always make a big batch in our drink cooler. It’s easy…5 gallons water, 5 pounds of sugar, 5 pounds of dry ice and the entire bottle of rootbeer concentrate. Break up the dry ice and add slowly so it doesn’t overflow (or add the last gallon of water after the ice stops bubbling so much.) Stir and enjoy! If we do by chance have leftovers – the kids still love it the next day.
What size container of root beer extract?
How many different brands of extract have you tried? Did you like McCormick brand?
Mel, should I get Zatarains root beer concentrate or extract? The recipe says extract but the link is for concentrate and that brand has both. I don’t know the difference!
I buy the Zatarains concentrate. Hope that helps!
Hi. I am wondering if I can use my soda stream machine if I can’t find dry ice. Have you ever heard of Soda Stream? It’s a gadget that carbonates water. Also, for health reasons I have been using otganic pure liquid Stevia extract in place of sugar. Do you think that would cause a problem?
Those are great questions, Marilyn, but since I haven’t tried either (the soda stream or the stevia) I can’t say how they’ll work for sure. Good luck if you try it!
Made this in October and also for our Thanksgiving day drink. Simply love this special memory creating recipe. Thanks Mel!
This was such a hit! The kids absolutely loved seeing it made and then slurped it all down. Thank you so much for the idea! I had no idea this type of recipe existed! And I found the dry ice at my local HyVee, no problem. 🙂 You have definitely given us a new Halloween tradition. Thank you again!
I remember my grandpa making rootbeer at family gatherings when i was a kid. our favorite part was the slush left at the bottom of the cooler. (He used a 10 gallon coleman beverage cooler.) Planning to make a huge batch of this for our halloween festivities at homeschool co-op this next week. How many batches of your recipe can you get out of one 4 oz bottle of zatarains?
At least two but probably 2 1/2 or three.
I want to buy this brand of extract, Is it anywhere other than Amazon? Trader Joe’s prehaps?
I haven’t found it locally (not at Trader Joe’s for sure). I’m sure some well-stocked grocery stores would carry it but they don’t around here. Sorry I’m not more help!
I just bought a bottle at my local WalMart. Used it to make root beer pie..delish!!!
I bought the large bottle and also purchased the pump (i havent got the pump to work yet. It could be me). The root beer flavoring is excellent much better than what u buy in the grocery.
My only disappointment was the shipping. The bottle ran around $11. The shipping was $21. It was not over night, reg shipping.
The item arrived in a very large box 48″ square with tons of bubble wrap. Besides the costs of shipping, the large box & filled with bubble wrap, is a environmental disaster. I recycled both in my home.
I remember the PTA moms making root beer in a cauldron one Halloween in elementary school, but in my family homemade root beer has been a 4th of July tradition for almost as long as I can remember!
Hi Mel, just a quick question! I followed the link for the extract, and the product that comes up is a root beer concentrate….is that right? Is that the same as an extract (sorry if that’s a silly question!!!), and if I order the concentrate, do I still use the amount listed in the recipe?
Thanks so much for all that you do!!!!!! 🙂
Hi Janna – yes, it’s the same thing I used (the Zatarain’s concentrate) and works great in the recipe! If using another brand of extract/concentrate (even some McCormick’s are labeled as concentrate), you may want to sample as you go to get the right taste.
This looks like such a fun treat! This must be a blast for your children.
This is a fantastic idea! Totally trying, pinned!
my in-laws always make homemade root beer for family get togethers! I never knew it was so easy! We’ll have to try this soon!
Oooooooooo! (Said in the spookiest way possible. ) I’m a total root beer snob! Can’t wait to try this one. Just out of curiosity- what’s your hubs favorite root beer? I’m always wanting to try new varieties.
And just FYI- we can only get dry ice at Fred Meyer here in my town in OR.
Thanks for the tip on dry ice in your neck of the woods, Katrina. My husband’s favorite brand is actually one we don’t have access to anymore now that we aren’t in Wisconsin (sad) – Stevens Point Root Beer.
My son just came home, and brought some Point Root Beer with him, Rootbeer floats tonight, cant wait!!
I know you are such a busy mom, but I sure do miss your weekly menu updates. I don’t know what to make for dinner!
Hi Mary – are you talking about the weekly menu that used to be in the footer area of the blog? If that’s what you mean, it’s actually still there on the sidebar! Over to the right. If you are looking for something different, clue me in. 🙂
No, that’s it in the sidebar. It just hasn’t changed for a couple weeks and I miss the new menus
My tip is to use brown sugar. It adds flavor and color. I tried mccormicks and watkins brands of extract. My family prefers mccormicks.
How much McCormicks do you use for this recipe?
Silly question: Since I don’t have a container (that isn’t plastic) big enough to hold this much, could I halve the recipe? I have metal pans but that just doesn’t seem right?? Thanks.
Yes, you could definitely halve the recipe!
Wow! Who knew? This looks like lots of fun! (And I grew up with “pop” but that didn’t fly when I moved to “soda” land, so now I say “soda” 🙂
So, I have kind of sworn off commenting… because of the whole my comments are a pain for you thing. But I had to comment on this. My husband.. also a root beer snob, has been making this for years and is somewhat famous for being the homemade root beer guy around our little town. He makes it for scout camps and father’s and son’s camp outs and many kid and family functions… and we always make it at Halloween. We usually make 5 gallons at a time and it disappears fast. Making homemade root beer really does equate with rock star status.. for you and him !! Recently we have been selling it on Friday nights at home football games to help raise money for the drill team (a good cause for our daughter). Last time we made it we make 20 gallons…. and ran out!! Very popular stuff!! I am so excited you posted a recipe with smaller portions .. Yeah!! And with your endorsement of Zatarains here I can’t wait to try that brand. You have never steered us wrong and this may elevate our root beer making to a whole new level!! As always, you are speaking my language… I’m pretty sure we were friends (maybe our husbands too) in some past life !! — I know everyone thinks that about you because you make us all feel like your best friends!! But I had to say it anyway 🙂 Love the root beer post!!
We love homemade rootbeer around here. My husband requests it for all summer BBQ gatherings. He whipped up 10 gallons for fathers and sons and they all loved it so much they had him make more for a ward party. It was nuts!
We’ve never even heard of zatarains before. our small store carries one basic brand. My husband will be so excited to try a taste test a new brand!
On the behalf of your Minnesota readers, thank you for calling it ‘pop’.
Hi there Pete..how about if we call it soda/pop ..courtesy of New York and Jersey girls!! lol
What a terrific idea! If I can’t find the dry ice, is there some other way to achieve carbonation, perhaps by substituting seltzer water for the water?
Hi Jocelyn – you could certainly try. There are lots of forums and websites dedicated to homemade root beer, believe it or not. Some people carbonate theirs with yeast but the root beer has to sit for days and cure to get fizzy.
you could also use club soda instead of water to achieve the “fizzy-ness.”
My grandpa used to make two big barrels of homemade root beer at our family reunions. As far as I know, he didn’t pass on the recipe before he died, so I was excited to see this recipe that I’ll use to remember my grandpa. Though I had to laugh at the precautions at the beginning. We were always careful about not touching the dry ice, but I remember sticking my whole face in the cool fog coming out of the barrel of root beer. Oops. It was the 80s.
Haha, I know – me, too! I had to take the responsible route this time. 🙂
How fun! You rock, Mel!
So fun… but where do you buy dry ice? Growing up out west, I remember it being available at grocery stores. I live on the east coast now, and I’ve never seen it for sale here. Help? Anyone?
Same! It’s very hard to find on the east coast, and I’ve tried a few times to get it for root beer, but no one likes to sell it so homemade root beer is just something we drink in the summer when we visit family! Look online. Sometimes places like Airgas supply will sell it.
Catherine and Nikie – try going to a local ice cream shop and asking if they have it/sell it. A friend of mine suggested that years ago when I couldn’t find it in the midwest. I never ended up using the tip but she says that’s where she goes if she can’t find it at the grocery store (Walmart usually carries it, also, but I’m not sure if that’s the case out east).
LOVE THIS! I am determined to find dry ice so I can make this for my son’s dinosaur party next month! Did you used to find it at Walmart when you lived in MN? I’m in SW MN, not northern, but I thought I would at least try that first b/c our grocery store doesn’t sell it. Where in Walmart do you find it? Like next to the ice cream? Is it in a box or a bag, or how do i know what to look for?
I did a large part of my grocery shopping in Grand Forks, ND when I lived in MN and they had dry ice at the Walmart there. I can’t remember exactly where it was at – I think I asked the people at the self-checkout and the cooler was located up at the front. You might ask the folks at customer service – I’ll keep my fingers crossed they have it! It’s usually something an employee has to unlock and get (it’s locked up everywhere I’ve bought it) and it comes in a square or rectangle plastic bag (they’ll usually put it in brown paper bags for carrying out).
Here in Ohio, we buy dry ice at Dairy Queen.
Wow, Mel Thanks! Each time I’ve made root beer, I’ve been disappointed. It must have been the extract! Thank you for the recommendations and your wonderful instructions. I have a feeling the sales of Zatarains is going to go up this week. For ours, I’ve placed another container inside our cauldron because I didn’t know if it was foods-safe or if the dry ice would crack the plastic. Thoughts? Thank you for your wonderful blog.
That’s probably a good idea. I’ve only ever made it in a glass container so I’m not sure if it would crack the plastic or not.
This is just about the coolest thing ever!!!! Thank you SO MUCH for this post! I have a feeling this might be a new Halloween tradition for us!! My 4 kiddoes are going to flip over this! Thank you!!!!!