15-Minute Homemade Root Beer

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. The excitement over homemade root beer must span the generations because my kids go crazy for this stuff. You should have seen their reactions when we first made it. They’d never really been around dry ice and had no idea what would happen when it was carefully added to the sweet root beer mixture. Holy squealing batman. I admit I even let out a shriek, too. You know, for old times sake.

15-Minute Homemade Root Beer

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.

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. And that’s coming from a non-pop (I say pop, you say soda?) lover. Homemade root beer is in it’s own special world and has a forever place in my heart.

15-Minute Homemade Root Beer

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!

15-Minute Homemade Root Beer

This simple 15-minute homemade root beer is such a fun, festive drink for the fall and Halloween season, it might very well become a staple, albeit once a year, for you and yours. Oh, and if you land your hands on a big, creepy {but clean, of course} cauldron to make this in, methinks that would probably be the coolest thing ever. Despite how and what you serve it in, the special effects and pure tastiness will win you over.

15-Minute Homemade Root Beer

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Three Years Ago: Glazed Chocolate Chip Scones

15-Minute Delicious Homemade Root Beer

Yield: Makes about 1 1/2 gallons of root beer

15-Minute Delicious Homemade Root Beer

While dry ice is completely safe to drink once it is completely melted in the root beer, please keep in mind there are a few safety precautions to follow when working with it: use insulated gloves or tongs to transfer - never touch it directly as it can burn, add it to the root beer in a well-ventilated area so the carbon dioxide doesn't build up and don't let children (or adults) inhale the fog spilling from the pitcher, and be careful when breaking it up into pieces.

Because dry ice evaporates quickly and doesn't store well, it's best to buy only what you need and use it as soon as possible (store it in a styrofoam cooler if not using it right away as it is best not to keep it in every day freezers).

I use the Zatarain's brand of root beer extract. It has the best root beer flavor of all the ones I've tried. If using another brand of root beer extract, start with a smaller quantity and add more to taste as you need it.


  • 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 above)
  • 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)


  1. 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.
  2. 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!).
  3. Continue stirring until it is mostly melted, 10-15 minutes.
  4. 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)

45 Responses to 15-Minute Homemade Root Beer

  1. kt says:

    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!

  2. Marilyn Valenti says:

    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?

    • Mel says:

      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!

  3. Mamalala says:

    Made this in October and also for our Thanksgiving day drink. Simply love this special memory creating recipe. Thanks Mel!

  4. Jenny Conklin says:

    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!

  5. Sandee says:

    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?

  6. Melody says:

    I want to buy this brand of extract, Is it anywhere other than Amazon? Trader Joe’s prehaps?

    • Mel says:

      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!

  7. Heather says:

    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!

  8. Janna says:

    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!!!!!! 🙂

    • Mel says:

      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.

  9. This looks like such a fun treat! This must be a blast for your children.

  10. This is a fantastic idea! Totally trying, pinned!

  11. Paige says:

    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!


  12. Katrina says:

    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.

    • Mel says:

      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.

  13. Mary P says:

    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!

    • Mel says:

      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. 🙂

  14. Jane says:

    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.

  15. Helen says:

    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!!

  16. Laurel says:

    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!

  17. Pete says:

    On the behalf of your Minnesota readers, thank you for calling it ‘pop’.

  18. Jocelyn says:

    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?

    • Mel says:

      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.

  19. Emilee says:

    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.

  20. Kim in MD says:

    How fun! You rock, Mel!

  21. Catherine says:

    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?

    • Nikie says:


      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.

      • Mel says:

        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).

        • Melanie says:

          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?

        • Mel says:

          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).

      • Mama says:

        Here in Ohio, we buy dry ice at Dairy Queen.

  22. zella says:

    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.

  23. Hilary says:

    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!!!!!

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