Making this homemade vanilla extract recipe is fun and easy! You just need two ingredients: vanilla beans and the alcohol of your choice!
We like to make our homemade vanilla extract the old fashioned way. No additives, just two simple ingredients and time. Your patience will be rewarded with the most deliciously fragrant baked goods you’ve ever made. Make sure to prepare an extra batch for gifts!
If you’re a baker like me, you use a whole lotta vanilla extract! In fact, it’s hard to find a dessert recipe that doesn’t call it. Why? Because a dash of vanilla makes baked goods taste (and smell) extra yummy.
Store bought vanilla extract is easy to find, so why should you make homemade vanilla extract? There are many reasons, starting with the fact that many commercial extracts contain extra ingredients you may not want in your tasty homemade desserts. According to FDA guidelines vanilla extract may include glycerin, propylene glycol, sugar, dextrose or corn syrup. FDA guidelines only require that vanilla extracts contain at least one part per gallon of vanilla and a minimum of 35% alcohol, so that bottle of extract may not be as flavorful as the brew you can make at home.
Of all the pantry items you can make from scratch, homemade vanilla extract has to be the easiest! All you need are vanilla beans, alcohol and time. It’s as simple as placing the vanilla beans in whatever alcohol you prefer and waiting for the beans to infuse the liquor. I like to let my vanilla age for at least 6 months, but it can wait longer if you have more patience!
When I make this vanilla extract recipe, I use Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans that I purchase from Amazon. I’ll tell you the truth, the price of the beans is shocking. This is because Madagascar, the world’s largest vanilla bean producer, has a shortage which is driving up prices. So much so, that buying beans now to make your own vanilla extract is a worthwhile investment.
I’m still using vanilla extract I made in 2013! At that time, I bought one pound of vanilla beans (about 100-110 beans) and made extract for myself as well as bottles to gift. At that time the beans were a mere $65! Now, the same quantity of beans is almost $600! Unfortunately, the situation is looking bleak for bakers.
Which is why you should buy vanilla beans now to make this homemade vanilla extract recipe. Who knows when the shortage will end? But what I can tell you is my method will provide you with multiple batches of vanilla. That’s because I reuse my beans!
Many recipes will say you do not need to cut open the beans for infusing. And it’s true, you can infuse the beans without splitting the beans. But personally I like to see the little specks of vanilla in my baked goods. And once all that vanilla is used? I break open the remaining beans and pour in more liquor to make another batch. So my current batch of vanilla is a second soaking from 2015!
I must admit I’m getting to the end of my reserves which is what prompted this post. So, I poured the remaining extract from the bottles, combined all the old beans and poured more liquor on top to eek out every last drop of essence from those beans! I did this about a month ago from the remaining beans. Many beans were used in gifts and in recipes that called for whole beans… but with those 50 or so remaining beans and about two cups of aged rum, I now have more extract! It’s so dark and thick with beans and it’s only soaked for a number of weeks!. Now just imagine what my new beans will make!
Because of the price, I only purchased 30 beans this last time, but that makes 48 ounces of vanilla extract! And that’s homemade vanilla extract without additives. Just pure vanilla extract made from alcohol and vanilla beans! Plus once you’ve used your vanilla extract, you can refill the bottle to make another round!
Tips for making homemade vanilla extract
- Vodka provides the most clean vanilla flavor. The higher the proof, the longer you can let the concoction sit but also the longer you have to wait for the alcohol to mellow, smoothing out the flavor.
- My favorite liquor to use is aged rum. Rum is made from molasses, so the rum provides an extra flavor boost that compliments recipes that already contain brown sugar.
- The vanilla beans will release oils as they soak, so I suggest using mason jars to infuse the extract. By the time the vanilla is ready, the jar will look sticky as the oil rises to the top.
- Shake the jars every now and then to redistribute the contents. After the first week, I usually prefer to put them in a cool, dark cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind keeps me from getting impatient. But try to remember to shake the jars at least once a month.
- I like to let my extract rest for 6 months. It might seem weird that I’m posting this recipe in March, but it’s right on schedule for holiday baking season!
- Speaking of the holidays, for gifting, I like these amber bottles which help protect your homemade vanilla extract from light. For my own use, I reuse bottles that would otherwise go in the recycle bin. Either way, make sure you sterilize the jars first in the dishwasher or in boiling water they way you would for canning.
- Don’t try to drink this vanilla extract. In fact, don’t even put a drop in your coffee. It will make your face turn inside out from the strong, pungent flavor and intense oils! This recipe makes extra strength vanilla extract, so it’s best saved for your favorite cakes and cookies!
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 5 vanilla beans
- 8 ounces liquor (vodka, rum, bourbon)
- Using a pairing knife, split half of the beans. If you're making a single recipe, split 2-3 beans.
- Place the beans in a sterilized jar and cover with liquor.
- Put the lid on the jar tightly and give it a good shake every day for the first week.
- Place the jars in a cool, dark cabinet for at least 6 months,. Try to give them a shake once a month to redistribute oils.
- Strain vanilla extract into small, sterilized bottles if desired.
- Once you've used your vanilla extract, split the remaining beans and add more liquor for another soak!
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