Learn how to make the BEST Homemade Vanilla Extract with only TWO ingredients. Homemade vanilla is easy to make, more flavorful than store-bought options, and makes a simple DIY gift for a friend.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Making vanilla yourself is a very simple process. The only downfall is that you need to plan ahead. After you experience the taste and aroma, I think you will agree with me that it is fully worth the wait. Homemade vanilla extract takes approximately 2-3 months to age and develop a deep, flavorful extract. I have found that it is easiest to make a fresh batch or two as soon as you open your last bottle. This will ensure you never run out of one of my most used staples in the kitchen. This vanilla will keep for over a year stored in a dark, cool cupboard.
Why Make Your Own Vanilla
There is a reason why ‘Real’ Vanilla extract is so expensive at the store – it does not contain the nasty fillers that ‘Imitation’ Vanilla does and therefore is SO MUCH better for you and your family! I read that imitation vanilla is usually extracted from wood pulp and contains a lot of synthetic ingredients. By making your own at home, you can cut the costs drastically and in the end have an awesome extract in your pantry that contains only TWO ingredients! The upfront cost of the vanilla beans may shock you a bit, but in the end you will have a WAY more delicious extract than the tiny bottle on the store shelf. This is also a very affordable homemade gift for a friend, and one they will definitely use and appreciate.
Homemade vanilla is a staple in my kitchen. I use it in recipes such as Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, pancakes, waffles, cookies, cakes, baked oatmeal, whipped cream, and more.
What supplies do I need to make vanilla at home
- Whole Vanilla Beans
- 40% alc/vol (80 proof) Alcohol – vodka is typically used in vanilla extract, although bourbon, brandy, and rum are also great options for an additional depth of flavor. Experiment with different alcohols to find your favorite flavor.
- A food-safe glass jar or bottle – mason jars are perfect for the extractions aging process. After aging you can transfer the vanilla to a fancy bottle or a clean maple syrup bottle and keep it simple. If you are repurposing a glass jar that has a smell after it has been washed, add some hot water and baking soda to the vessel overnight and give it a good shake a couple times. In the morning, wash again and the smell should be gone.
- A funnel
- Measuring cup – or if you are using a mason jar, they already have measurements on the side that you can use.
- Time – you can check the vanilla at 2 months, but I prefer to leave it age for at least 3 months if I can to develop a richer, more flavorful extract. If you can hold out for 6 months, it will be better yet!
Which vanilla beans are the best for making vanilla extract
Start with good quality whole vanilla beans. I have found three different varieties of vanilla beans to be the most common – Madagascar Bourbon, Tahitian, and Mexican.
- Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans – Rich in vanillin which gives them a sweet, floral, and creamy flavor. Grown using a bourbon curing method to develop the robust vanilla flavor. This process takes 6-9 months to complete.
- Tahitian Vanilla Beans– Chosen by some of the ‘choosiest pastry chefs’, for its floral and fruity flavors. It has an enticing flavor, high seed content, and juicier pod. Baking enthusiasts say it takes their treats to the next level.
- Mexican Vanilla Beans– Both sweet and woody flavor tones. It has spicy hints of cloves and nutmeg.
I learned that Grade B vanilla beans are perfect for extracts because they are a lot dryer and way cheaper than Grade A beans. Grade A/B would be a good option as well.
- Grade A Vanilla Beans– Also known as ‘gourmet’ or ‘prime’ vanilla beans. They contain the highest moisture content at 30-35%. These beans are most commonly used in cooking, baking, or ice cream. Grade A beans are preferred by professional chefs.
- Grade A/B Vanilla Beans– Gourmet grade with some imperfections. Lower moisture content of about 27%. Flatter and thinner, with a lower seed density. Typically used in baking, cooking, brewing, and extractions.
- Grade B Vanilla Beans– Primarily used in making vanilla extract. Much drier moisture content of 15-25%, which means less liquid to interfere with the extraction process. Yield the best flavor for extracting. Typically around a third cheaper than the Grade A beans.
I received my vanilla beans as a gift from THIS company. They also so graciously gave me a coupon code for you to use! Use code fitnclean20 at checkout. They have very high quality beans. I purchased from them before they ‘gifted’ me vanilla beans and would highly recommend them.
What type of alcohol to use
- Vodka – The most commonly used alcohol in extractions. You can choose from a potato vodka or a grain vodka.
How to make Vanilla Extract
Gather all of your supplies.
Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise for the best extraction. Then slice them so they will be fully submerged in the alcohol (I cut mine into thirds).
Measure the alcohol and add into the jar.
Add the beans.
Top with a lid and give it a good shake. See all of those beautiful specks! Feel free to strain your finished product if you do not want the specks, but in my opinion, those are what make homemade vanilla unique and beautiful.
Let it age. The longer the better. Shoot for no less than 2-3 months, but 6 or 12 month aged vanilla is even better.
When it is ready, strain if you would like, pour it into a dark bottle (to keep it fresh as long as possible), and give to a friend or enjoy yourself.
How long to age homemade vanilla extract
Age this extract for least 2-3 months (not that I haven’t needed to dig into a batch before it was fully aged, but try to hold out for the very best flavor). If you can age it for 6 months it is even better. If you are going to be gifting this to someone, start early to ensure the best flavor you can.
I like to keep a couple bottles aging in the cupboard, because I go through it so fast. I splash it into any sweet dish I make to help bring out the flavor.
Tips for making Homemade Vanilla Extract
You do not have to use expensive liquor in this recipe. I have found that the cheaper vodka and bourbons work just fine. You can experiment with different liquors, just make sure that they are at least 80 proof – a lower alcohol will not pull all of the goodness from the beans as the higher proofs do.
Use a glass holding vessel such as a Mason jar, a glass bottle, or even a glass bowl. I do not suggest using anything plastic. The alcohol may pull from the plastic resulting in your extract tasting bad.
Homemade Vanilla makes a perfect gift! Place in a cute basket and pair it with a tea towel, coffee mug, or a jar of jam. If you decide to gift this and it is not quite ready to use yet, just add a note that says, “Enjoy in February!” and your recipient will have something to look forward to!
Customize the amount you are making. This recipe is written for 6 vanilla beans and 8 ounces of alcohol. Just use these ratios to adjust the amount you are making up or down.
- 3 vanilla beans – 4 ounces alcohol
- 6 vanilla beans – 8 ounces alcohol
- 9 vanilla beans – 12 ounces alcohol
- 12 vanilla beans – 16 ounces alcohol
More recipes from scratch that you might enjoy:
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- 6 Whole Vanilla Beans
- 8 ounces of alcohol (vodka, bourbon, rum, brandy)
- Wash and dry the vessel you are using.
- Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise to expose the seeds inside. Cut the beans so they are fully submerged in the liquid.
- Combine the alcohol and vanilla beans in a food-safe glass jar.
- Shake to incorporate.
- Store in a dark, cool cupboard. Give it a shake once or twice a week.
- This will be ready in two or three months. The longer you leave it, the more depth of flavor.
If you are planning to make this for a gift, and it has not had enough time to steep, just add a tag to the bottle that says "Enjoy in February" or whatever month it will be ready.
Pair this homemade vanilla with a nice towel, jar of jam, and cute coffee mug for an extra special gift.
Leave the beans in the liquid after it is 'done'. They will continue to deepen the flavor of your vanilla.
Double or triple the batch.