How to Make Vanilla Extract

5 from 1 vote

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A detailed tutorial on how to make the best vanilla extract – the cheapest way to the most flavorful vanilla extract! It’s simple and easy to make and perfect for gifting!

Homemade vanilla bean extract in a clear bottle.


 

Why homemade is better than store-bought vanilla extract?

Have you noticed the prices for vanilla extract at the stores? I stopped buying them a few years ago, when the vanilla beans shortage started and prices shot up through the roof!

And I have no regrets!!! Here’re 3 reasons why you’ll love it too:

  1. It’s so easy and simple to make!! Just 2 ingredients and a whole a lot of patience (time!).
  2. So much more flavorful and potent compared to store-bought vanilla extracts!
  3. And last, but not least, they last forever!!!

If you love baking and use vanilla extract often, you’ll definitely appreciate homemade vanilla extract. You can use it for everything that calls for vanilla extract, such vanilla cupcakes, vanilla ice cream, and more!

A freshly made bottle of homemade vanilla extract.

What you need:

As mentioned above, you’ll need only 2 ingredients, lots of patience and couple of tools to DYI this extract!

  • Vanilla beans – the star of the show! There’re different varieties and grades of vanilla beans and I’ll talk about the details below. As for quantity, I recommend going with the weight of the beans instead of bean counts. This’s important because each bean varies in size, and weighing the beans ensures consistent and quality flavor. Per FDA guidelines, 1oz of vanilla beans per 8oz of alcohol.
  • 80-proof alcohol – You can use vodka, rum, bourbon or brandy to make this extract. However, I prefer clean and neutral flavor of vodka over other spirits. While you really don’t need to splurge on anything fancy, I recommend mid-level vodka for the best results.
  • Airtight bottles/jars – You can use virtually any glass jars or bottles as long as they have tight-fitting lid (think mason jars, etc). You can even use a vodka bottle, if you want to. 😉 But I love these swing top glass bottles, because they’re easy to open/close, easy to pour, and perfect for gifting! When choosing the bottles, keep the following in mind:
    • Choose glass jar over plastic bottles.
    • Cork lids aren’t ideal as they’re porous and let alcohol evaporate.
    • Some people recommend amber color bottles, but I prefer clear ones, because I can see through the jar and keep an eye on the quality of extract. Just be sure to store the extract in a cool, dark place. More on storing below…
  • Funnels, labels, etc – Now, there’re a few non-essential items that make the process easier and beautiful! Yes, funnel is incredibly helpful for obvious reasons. And I use these chalkboard sticker labels to label my bottles.

Tip

Did you know higher quality vodka goes through better filtration, which yields smoother flavor? Yep, that’s true! And you’ll definitely notice that here!

My go-to brand is Absolute Vodka (not sponsored!).

Vanilla beans sliced lengthwise with exposed seeds.

How to choose vanilla beans for extract:

Vanilla Bean Varieties:

  • Madagascar vanilla beans – These vanilla beans are the most popular and all-purpose variety. They have rich aroma with buttery sweet flavor. You won’t go wrong with this classic variety!
  • Tahitian vanilla beans – This variety is becoming more and more popular and rightly so! These beans have fantastic fruity floral aroma with cherry-chocolate under-tone flavor. It’s ideal for fruit-based cold desserts, as it can lose its flavor in heat.
  • Mexican vanilla beans – These premium beans are more expensive due to low production in Mexico They’re rich with a hint of spice, like clove and nutmeg.

Vanilla Bean Grades:

There’re 2 grade of vanilla beans. I’ve made extracts with both grades and was happy with either one.

  • Grade A – Plump and moist, these premium quality beans are great for baking!
  • Grade B – These beans are also called “extract beans”. They are drier beans due to low moisture and less expensive than grade A beans.

Single-Fold vs Double-Fold Vanilla Extract:

Fold means strength, so it basically indicates the strength of vanilla flavor in the extract. Typically, store-bought vanilla extracts are single-fold extracts.

  • Single-fold – 1oz of vanilla beans per 1 cup of alcohol.
  • Double-fold – 2oz of vanilla beans per 1 cup of alcohol.
Homemade vanilla bean extract in a clear bottle.
Double-fold vanilla extract

How to make vanilla extract:

  1. Sterilize the jars. This’s optional, but I feel better when I do. Simply submerge the jars in a boiling water for 5 minutes, or use dishwasher on sterilize setting.
  2. Slice the beans length-wise to expose all the seeds (aka caviar), you don’t have to cut through all the way. This step expedites the extraction process, but it’s totally optional. If you have time, feel free to keep the beans whole and steep it longer, like a year. Depending on how tall your bottles are, you may also need to cut it in half, so that all the beans are completely covered in alcohol. Place the beans in jars.
  3. Add alcohol and tightly seal the jars.
  4. Store in a cool, dark place for at least 2 months, or preferably 6-12 months. Shake once a week.
3 bottles of Homemade vanilla bean extracts.

How to store homemade extract:

Store vanilla extract in a cool, dark place away from light. Prolonged exposure to light may cause cloudy extract! You don’t need to refrigerate or freeze vanilla extract.

Add more vodka as you use the extract to keep the vanilla beans fully submerged. This way your extract will last for years.

The bottom of bottle with a label of a date.
Place a note on the bottom of the bottle.

Tip

When you notice your extract isn’t as potent, replace the old beans with fresh ones.

FAQ:

How many vanilla beans do I need to make an extract?

Depending on quality, grade and variety, each vanilla bean varies in size. Therefore, I recommend going by weight.

What’s the best vodka for making vanilla extract?

I recommend mid-level vodka. My go-to brand is Absolute Vodka (not sponsored, I just like it).

Why is my vanilla extract cloudy/slimy?

If the steeping extract has been exposed to light for a long period of time, they turn cloudy. It’s still ok to use it, as long as there’s no other signs of spoilage.
Extract may feel slimy when the oil is released from beans, but keep shaking the bottle very so often, and alcohol will break down the oils.

Can I make vanilla extract without alcohol?

Yes, you can make it with a food-grade glycerine in place of alcohol. I’ve never tried it myself, but here’s a recipe for non-alcoholic extract.

Is homemade vanilla extract safe for kids?

Yes, alcohol evaporates during baking. Plus, you won’t be using so much extract that would intoxicate kids. Also keep in mind, store-bought extracts are also alcohol-based.

How long can I store homemade vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract could last years, if stored properly. See “storing tips” above.

Homemade vanilla bean extract in a clear bottle.
5 from 1 vote

Homemade Vanilla Extract

A detailed tutorial on how to make the best vanilla extract  – the cheapest way to the most flavorful vanilla extract!
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
Servings: 1 cup

Ingredients

Instructions 

  • Sterilize the jar. This's optional, but I feel better when I do. Simply submerge the jars in a boiling water for 5 minutes, or use dishwasher on sterilize setting.
  • Slice the beans length-wise to expose all the beans, you don't have to cut through all the way. Depending on your bottles, you may also need to cut it in half, so that all the beans are completely covered in alcohol. Place the beans in jars.
  • Add alcohol and tightly seal the jars.
  • Store in a cool, dark place for at least 2 months, or preferably 6-12 months. Shake once a week.
  • You can add more vodka as you use the extract to keep the vanilla beans fully submerged. This way your extract will last for years. When you notice your extract isn't as potent, replace the old beans with fresh ones.

Tips & Notes

Note 1: I recommend clear glass jar with tight fitting lid (not cork top!) Clear glass allows to see the extract, but it’s important to keep it in a dark place away from light. Prolonged exposure to light may cause cloudy extract.
Note 2a: I use Grade A Madagascar vanilla beans and I purchase it from Amazon. Grade B works just as good too! Read the post above on different varieties.
Note 2a: I recommend going with the weight of the beans instead of vanilla bean count. This’s important because depending on grade and variety, each bean varies in size, and weighing the beans ensures consistent and quality flavor. Per FDA guidelines, 1oz of vanilla beans per 8oz of alcohol.
Note 3: You can use vodka, rum, bourbon or brandy to make this extract. However, I prefer clean and neutral flavor of vodka over other spirits. While you really don’t need to splurge on anything fancy, I recommend mid-level vodka for the best results.

Nutrition

Calories: 67kcal, Carbohydrates: 19g, Fat: 4g
Course: Condiments
Cuisine: American

Hi, I’m Shinee!

Welcome! I’m so happy you’re here! I believe anyone can cook restaurant-quality food at home! And my goal is to help you to become a confident cook with my easy-to-follow recipes with lots of tips and step-by-step photos.

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