Quarantine has got me doing all sorts of random projects around the house. I made homemade shea butter moisturizer, I'm currently dehydrating some jerky, but what I'm most excited about is my homemade vanilla extract!
It's literally the easiest thing to make. All you need is vanilla beans and alcohol!
If you've ever had high quality pure vanilla extract, you know how delicious and life changing it is. But you also know how insanely expensive it is! Making it yourself might seem more expensive at first, but it will save you money in the long run! Because after you use some of your homemade vanilla, you can just add in more alcohol! Vanilla beans are the gift that keep on giving. After about a year of frequently using and refilling your vanilla (2 years if you're not a frequent baker), the flavor may start to lessen in intensity. At that point, just remove the vanilla beans and add in new ones!
One of my favorite store bought vanilla extracts is Rodelle Vanilla* and it's $16 for an 8 ounce bottle. As much as I bake, I go through 8 ounces of vanilla pretty quickly and $16 every time starts to add up. You need about 5 vanilla beans for 8 ounces of extract and that will run you $10-$20, but you can keep using the same vanilla beans to make extract for 1-2 years!
What should I store my vanilla in?
I recommend 8 ounce bottles because they're typically tall enough to fit the entire vanilla bean. You also want something with a super tight seal. I bought this Pack of 4 Bottles* because I was making a ton of extract and I love them! But you can also buy a Single Glass Bottle* if you don't bake as much as me.
I also got these super cute Chalkboard Labels* that I put on the bottles. They're waterproof and reusable and peel off easily!
What vanilla beans should I use?
There are two main types of vanilla beans that you'll see on the market. Madagascar vanilla beans are the classic rich and creamy vanilla flavor. Tahitian vanilla is a little less common and has a more floral flavor. I personally prefer Madagascar vanilla but you can use either!
Vanilla beans also come in either Grade A or B and both are great for making vanilla extract. Grade A beans are typically plumper and better for scraping out the seeds to use in baking, but for extracting Grade B are just as good (and cheaper).
I usually use these Grade A Madagascar Vanilla Beans* which are $25 for 10, which will make you 16 ounces of vanilla extract. They also sell them in a Pack of 5 which will make you 8 ounces of vanilla extract.
What alcohol should I use?
Vanilla extract is most commonly made with vodka, but you can use any any 70 proof (or higher) alcohol that your heart desires. Bourbon, brandy, and rum are all popular choices.
I just used what alcohol I had on hand, which was Tito's Vodka and Bulleit Bourbon, but you can go buy the cheap stuff just for cooking/extracting. Just make sure you don't use any flavored alcohol as it will mask the pure vanilla flavor that we're trying to achieve.
Making Vanilla Extract
You want to use 4-6 vanilla beans per 8 ounces of alcohol.
Using a sharp knife, split your vanilla beans down the middle so that the beans inside are exposed, then place into your glass bottle. If you beans are too long for your bottle, cut them in half so that they fit.
Pour you vodka or bourbon over top of the beans and make sure they are fully submerged in the alcohol.
You can start to use your vanilla extract in as little as 8 weeks but the flavor will be even better if you wait 6-12 months.
While you're waiting, store the vanilla at room temperature out of direct sunlight and give it a shake 1-2 times a week.
Once you start to use your vanilla, you can refill with a little more alcohol each time! Just give it a shake after adding more alcohol and before you use it! The most important thing is just making sure the beans are always fully submerged.
As long as your vanilla is stored properly, it's good to use indefinitely! But if you're unsure just do the smell test. If it still smells good, it's good to use! If it ever started to smell rancid, toss it (but I can't imagine why that would ever happen).
You'll notice that the vanilla bean seeds start to settle in the bottom of the jar. Don't worry about those ending up in your baked goods, they just add extra flavor! (I personally love how the flecks of vanilla bean look in things like vanilla frosting).
Once the vanilla is ready, you can pour some off into Smaller Bottles* and give your homemade vanilla as a gift! Then just refill your jars with more alcohol to keep using your beans.
I use my homemade vanilla extract in almost all of my baked goods. You can find those recipes here!
The best recipes for using your homemade vanilla extract!
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Homemade Vanilla Extract
- glass bottles
- 4-6 vanilla beans
- 8 ounces vodka or bourbon
- Using a sharp knife, split your vanilla beans down the middle so that the beans inside are exposed, then place into your glass bottle. If you beans are too long for your bottle, cut them in half so that they fit.
- Pour you vodka or bourbon over top of the beans and make sure they are fully submerged in the alcohol.
- You can start to use your vanilla extract in as little as 8 weeks but the flavor will be even better if you wait 6-12 months.
- While you're waiting, store the vanilla at room temperature out of direct sunlight and give it a shake 1-2 times a week.
Browse more vanilla recipes →