It’s easy to make your own homemade vanilla extract rather than buying the expensive little bottles of (typically fake) extract at the store.
All it takes are a few vanilla beans, a tall bottle, and some vodka. Once it’s made, you can keep the recipe going for years by adding more vodka and vanilla beans.
Plus, you get an extra “ingredient” – the leftover vanilla beans. Just slice open the beans and scrape out all the seeds, they add wonderful flavor to your baking.
Making Homemade Vanilla Extract
Why Make Your Own Extract?
It Elevates Your Baking
Homemade vanilla extract made with real vanilla beans has a rich, complex flavor and incredible aroma.
The commercial vanilla extract that we buy at the grocery stores is usually imitation – made with artificial ingredients and flavors. At its best, the commercial versions typically use too few inferior beans to make a terrific extract.
When you make your own, you control the quality, quantity, & ingredients so you can get a robust and flavorful extract.
So, making and using your own homemade vanilla extract will elevate the flavor and aroma of your baked goods immensely.
It Makes A Thoughtful & Personal Gift
Bottling your homemade vanilla extract and giving them as Christmas (or other holiday) gifts is highly appreciated.
Those that I’ve gifted with homemade extract always prize it and the effort that went into making it. Many bring their bottles back and beg for refills when they start to run low (so it’s a gift that can keep giving too).
Just remember, for gifting you need to start the process about eight weeks prior to the holiday.
Ingredients & Supplies for Making Vanilla Extract
All you need to make homemade vanilla extract are vanilla beans, alcohol, and a bottle or bottles.
Madagascar vanilla beans have flavor and aromatic qualities that make them superior for making vanilla extract. Individually, they are quite expensive, but in larger quantities, they are much more reasonable.
Additionally, although Grade A Madagascar vanilla beans are the gold standard for baking, they’re not really necessary for making extract. Grade B beans are not as pretty (they contain splits and cracks) but are fine for making extract (same flavor and aroma).
So, I recommend buying Grade B Madagascar vanilla beans in whatever quantities you need for the amount of extract you’re making. The standard ratio of beans to alcohol for pure vanilla extract is 1 oz. of vanilla beans (by weight) per 8 fl. oz. (1 cup) of alcohol, as follows:
|Vanilla Extract Ratios|
You can also make vanilla extract from different types of beans. There are Ugandan, Mexican, Tahitian, and Indonesian vanilla bean varieties available. They all have unique flavors although Madagascar is typically regarded as the best.
Vodka is usually used to make extracts because it doesn’t add any additional flavors. Any good quality, 35%+ABV/70+ Proof vodka or liquor will work. Just remember that other liquors such as bourbon or rum will change the flavor profile.
Glass Bottle(s) with a Tight Seal
Any glass bottle(s) that seal tightly will work for this process; however, tall bottles are more convenient since you can just slide in the whole beans. For gifting purposes, I like to save attractive bottles throughout the year since this saves on the cost. Make sure to sterilize your bottles before using them.
Cost of Making Vanilla Extract
Making vanilla extract isn’t inexpensive, the beans can be pretty pricey. I think that I find the best pricing and quality by purchasing the beans online and purchasing in larger quantities. I can usually find Grade B Madagascar beans for about $1.00/bean and it takes about 7 beans for every 8 oz. of extract.
As far as the bottles, I like to save attractive bottles to use. But, if you need to buy them they can be found for about $2.50/8 oz. bottle. Finally, according to my husband, the vodka to make an 8 oz. bottle shouldn’t be more than $2.50.
That makes the price of an 8 oz. bottle of awesome vanilla extract about $12.00 if you’re watching your pennies. Not inexpensive, but if you’re gifting it, you’re friends and family will love you!
And, actually maybe not that expensive. I was shocked to find that an 8 fl. oz. bottle of McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract (which I don’t believe is an imitation – but doesn’t have the awesome flavor of homemade) is going for $32.29 on Amazon.
Making the Extract
Once you’ve got your beans, just put them in the sterilized bottle(s). For the batch shown in these photos, I was making a larger quantity using approximately 8 oz. of beans and 64 oz. of alcohol.
Add good quality vodka, seal, store on a pantry shelf, shake occasionally, and wait.
The extract can be ready after about two months when the vodka will have turned light brown and smell wonderful. If you bottle it for gifting at this point, I like to make sure I include some of the vanilla beans in each bottle – the mixture will continue to infuse and just get better.
However, if you continue to wait a few more months, it becomes even more incredibly rich. If you choose to bottle it for gifts at this point, it’s probably not necessary to add vanilla beans to the gift bottles.
Once you’ve created your own homemade vanilla extract, you just need to add vodka and beans as they’re depleted. You’ll never need to buy extract again.
Also, after extraction is complete, the vanilla beans are wonderful for making recipes like Panna Cotta that call for the seeds from a split vanilla bean!
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 1 Bottle w/Seal (for 8 oz. use an 8.5 oz. bottle)
- 1 oz. Vanilla Beans (app. 7 beans)
- 8 oz. Vodka (35% + ABV)
- Sterilize your bottle(s), allow it to dry thoroughly, and add beans. Many recipes instruct you to slit the beans, but I don't. Grade B beans have splits and cracks anyway, and I like to slit and use the beans later (after extraction is finished) in recipes. Also, if you slit the beans it will give you a cloudier extract.
- Pour the vodka into your bottle, submerging the beans completely. Seal the bottle with the lid or cap.
- Store your extract at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Shake once or twice per week.
- The vanilla extract can be ready in as little as eight weeks, but six months is better for the best flavor.
- If gifting, add a pretty tag and bow!
- If gifting and the extract is only eight weeks old, I like to include vanilla beans (app. 7 per each 8 oz. of extract) in the gift bottle. They will continue to enhance the flavor for up to a year.
Yes, thank you for the information. I ordered the vanilla bean kit from the site you mentioned so now all I have to do is add the alcohol. I figured I could at least do that part of it and the rest should take care of itself. I appreciate the information and hopefully in a month or two I’ll be able to post how it turned out.
Thank you for the reply, it does help but I have two last questions. I don’t mean to be dense but I’m not a cook and while I was waiting for a response to my question, I went on-line to see if I could get it answered. I found several recipes with measurements that people used but there are just two LAST (I hope!!!) questions I have about this that I couldn’t find. We are told to cut the beans lengthwise and extract the seeds but in the recipes I saw, the seeds were added BACK into the bottle with the beans. I don’t see a need to cutting the beans and extracting the seeds if the seeds are to be added back. Is removing the seeds necessary to facilitate better vanilla extract from the beans and does one need to remove the beans/seeds by straining them out after the distilling process is over? I wished all of this information was in one spot but it seems to be scatted around and these questions came up. I did find that a higher alcohol content would not extract the flavor any better so it was to be kept around 35%-40% (70-80 proof) alcohol. Thanks for posting the recipe on this. I was not aware one could make this. I had a sister-in-law that would drive to Mexico to get 5 big bottles of the real vanilla extract, the amount that could be brought in through customs, and when one adds up the gas (we all lived in Houston at the time) and time and what have you, THAT was some pretty expensive vanilla extract!!! I guess that separates the REAL cooks from the wanna bees, eh!? Thanks for posting!!!
Edward, sorry to be confusing in the instructions, but in this recipe, the whole beans are added to the vodka prior to distilling (the beans are not cut open and the seeds are not taken out). After the distilling process is complete, you can use the vanilla beans in recipes that call for them in baking. It’s when you decide to use a vanilla bean in baking that you cut it open and scrape out the seeds to use in your recipe. Does this make sense?
Has anyone experienced a mold problem with their beans. I went online to see where the best price was for these beans and seems there were a number of people who bought these beans and had moldy beans shipped to them or developed mold after receiving them. As far as the recipe, can someone tell me how many beans per oz. alcohol to use to make this, or does it matter!?
Hi Edward, I’ve been buying my beans for making this from beanilla, and have not had any mold problem. As far as how many beans to use, for my pantry stash I used 20 beans in 32 oz., while for gifts I used 5 beans in 8.5 oz. The gifts seemed a little weak, so I would probably up it to 6 in the gift jars if I was doing it again. Hope this helps!
I’ve made my own vanilla extract for years and simply drop the vanilla pods into the bottle of vodka (no need to dirty another container!)
That’s a great idea Mary!