Learn How To Make Vanilla Extract at home using just two ingredients: vanilla beans and vodka! This cost-saving DIY method will last you a lifetime and can be used whenever a recipe calls for vanilla extract.
- ⭐ Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- ⚒️ Equipment
- 📖 Step by Step Instructions
- ❓ When can I start using it?
- 💡 Vanilla extract uses
- ❓How long does homemade vanilla extract last?
- ❄️ Understanding the cold infusion process
- 🍽️ Other simple recipes using vanilla beans
- Looking for more homemade basics?
- Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 💬 Comments
⭐ Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Pure vanilla extract is a crucial, yet expensive ingredient. The high price point of store-bought vanilla extract, unfortunately, can result in some home bakers settling for the inexpensive and less superior alternative, imitation vanilla extract.
If we want our desserts to taste their best, then we have to use high quality ingredients. That’s why I strongly recommend learning How to Make Vanilla Extract at home. While the initial cost of the two ingredients is a little high, your homemade vanilla extract will last you a lifetime, ultimately saving you money for years to come.
There are so many benefits to making your own vanilla extract at home:
- All you need are two ingredients and making a batch is the easiest thing - there's barely any active time.
- It’s much less expensive than buying bottle after bottle of the store-bought stuff.
- You won’t have to ever waste a valuable vanilla bean ever again.
- The quality and taste are much better than imitation vanilla extract.
- It will last you for years!
Using just vanilla beans and vodka, you’ll have a homemade extract that’s ready to use in as little as 8 weeks (although the best flavors show up around the 6-month mark). Afterward, use it in all kinds of baked goods, like these Vanilla Bean and Rose Baked Doughnuts and a French Pear and Hazelnut Frangipane Tart to really help those flavors shine.
The best part? It’s incredibly easy to maintain a homemade vanilla extract for years and years. As the batch starts to go down, just top it off with more vodka and an extra bean or two, and keep on using it!
- Vanilla beans - You can find vanilla beans in specialty stores, the grocery store and online. Try to buy high-grade beans for the absolute best vanilla flavor. You’ll know the vanilla beans are fresh and ready to use if you can easily wrap them around your fingers (skip the beans that appear to be dried out).
- Vodka - You need alcohol to make homemade vanilla extract because it extracts the flavor from the vanilla pods. Vodka is neutral tasting, making it the best option, but rum, brandy, or bourbon can also be used. Try to use a mid to high-priced vodka - or the best alcohol you can afford. The better the quality, the better your vanilla extract will be.
Vanilla varieties to consider
Unsure of what type of whole vanilla beans to buy? There are three common different varieties of vanilla beans. Each type of vanilla bean has its own distinct notes, flavors, and aromas that are evident as the extraction process continues. They are:
- Tahitian vanilla beans: Rich, floral, and fruity.
- Madagascar vanilla beans: Creamy and rich.
- Mexican vanilla beans: Deep, smoky, and nutty.
Don't be scared to mix and match the different varieties in your homemade vanilla extract recipe! It’s fun to create your own custom flavors and profiles that fit your personal preference.
For more information, check out Nielsen Massey’s website. They’re vanilla pros who go deep into the three different types, their qualities, and their preferred uses.
I find that making my own homemade extract is an incredibly fascinating and rewarding process that requires the right jar or container to store the extract in while it is infusing. When choosing a container, there are a few key factors to consider.
- First off, you want to consider the size of your batch. A container that is too small will not allow for adequate contact between the alcohol and the ingredients, while a container that is too large can lead to spoilage and waste. I would say start with an 8-ounce bottle or 12 ounce bottles.
- Consider the material. Glass containers are ideal for making extracts because they won't react with the alcohol or ingredients, and they're easy to clean. Additionally, glass allows you to see the color of your extract as it develops over time, just make sure not to use amber bottles that won't allow you to see the color of the extract.
- Think through the lid. Some people prefer to use a tight-fitting lid, a cork or a screw-top lid, while others prefer to use a lid with a dropper for easy dispensing. Whatever you choose, make sure it fits tightly and is made of a material that won't react with the alcohol or ingredients.
- Thinking about sharing as gifts? I love sharing smaller bottles of my homemade vanilla extract as Christmas gifts with decorative labels throughout the holiday season.
Looking to buy a container? You can find them online, at your local kitchen supply store or at a nearby thrift shop! Alternatively, you can always repurpose a container you already have.
The only other items you'll need to make this extract with ease is a cutting board, a sharp knife, and a small funnel to prevent any spills.
📖 Step by Step Instructions
he process is truly VERY easy. All you need are the two ingredients, a small paring knife, and an airtight jar. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: Slice the vanilla beans. Slice each vanilla whole bean lengthwise, being careful not to slice right through the bean. Open up the pod (like a book) to reveal the inside. No need to scrape out the seeds! Just place the full beans right in a jar with a tight fitting lid.
Step 2: Pour the vodka over top. Pour the vodka over the split beans in the mason jar, glass bottle or glass jar. Seal the lid on top and shake gently.
Step 3: Store and let the flavors extract. Keep the sealed jar in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight for at least 8 weeks. Make sure to give it a good shake once a week in it's room temperature setting and dry place.
❓ When can I start using it?
The extraction process if making homemade vanilla extract is a rather slow process, but it's truly so worth it in the end. To determine when the extract is ready to use, one of the key indicators is the color of the liquid. As the vanilla beans start to infuse into the alcohol, the liquid will gradually darken and take on a rich, amber hue.
Know that this process can take several weeks to a couple of months, so try to be patient and resist the temptation to use the extract too soon! Once the extract has reached a deep, dark color and the aroma is strong and fragrant, it's likely ready to use. While you can begin using homemade vanilla after 2 months, the best flavors won’t arrive until the 6 to 12-month mark.
To test the flavor, simply add a few drops to a dish and taste - if the vanilla flavor is strong and pronounced, your extract is ready to go!
💡 Vanilla extract uses
Vanilla shows up constantly in baking because it helps all of the other ingredients and flavors shine. You can put it to use whenever a recipe calls for vanilla extract, like banana bread cupcakes, pastry cream, lemon sandwich cookies, or butterscotch chocolate chip cookies.
Vanilla pairs especially well with baked goods that are creamy, warm, and sweet. It isn’t often used in more strongly flavored desserts, like chocolate cake, because the flavors would be competing with each other.
❓How long does homemade vanilla extract last?
Your homemade vanilla extract will last you for a lifetime - literally! Ina Garten’s homemade vanilla has lasted her over 35 years. Whenever you use a fair bit, just top it off with more vodka and an extra vanilla bean every now and then.
❄️ Understanding the cold infusion process
The cold infusion process is used to make all kinds of delicious beverages and recipes. Cold brew coffee or cold brew iced tea is the perfect example of this - to make, you simply add cold coffee over ground coffee beans and allow the two to infuse overnight before enjoying.
That's exactly what we're doing here when making homemade vanilla extract - we are steeping vanilla beans in alcohol over an extended period of time to create a rich and flavorful extract at room temperature. The cold infusion process has several advantages over the alternative method, which is to extract flavor using a hot infusion method.
- Effort: it requires less time and effort since you don't have to heat the alcohol.
- Taste: Cold infusion extracts tend to have a smoother, less harsh flavor than those made with heat.
Other examples of a hot infusion process is making simple syrup infused with different ingredients or making infused milk for a white russian cocktail or flavorful homemade quiche. With a little patience and the right equipment, you'll be enjoying delicious homemade vanilla extract using the cold infusion with the optimal flavor profile.
🍽️ Other simple recipes using vanilla beans
Extra vanilla beans on hand? Vanilla beans are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of delicious recipes beyond just making homemade extract. One easy recipe you can make with vanilla beans is vanilla sugar.
To make, simply split a vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Then, mix the seeds with granulated sugar or pulse in a food processor and store in an airtight container for a few days to allow the flavors to meld together. You can use this vanilla sugar to sweeten your morning salted caramel cold foam coffee, add into a vanilla doughnut recipe or sprinkle on top of mini blueberry muffins!
Another tasty recipe you can make with vanilla beans is vanilla-infused honey! To make, heat the honey in a small saucepan over low heat to warm, and add a split vanilla bean. Allow the honey to cool and store in an airtight container for a few days to allow the flavors to develop.
You can add vanilla-infused honey to sweeten your tea, drizzle over yogurt or steel cut oats, or use as a glaze for roasted vegetables or appetizers. With just a few vanilla beans, you can create a whole array of delicious recipes that will elevate your culinary creations to the next level!
Looking for more homemade basics?
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Homemade Vanilla Extract
- Large Tall Container - Air Tight
- 7-8 Vanilla Beans
- 8 oz Quality Vodka
- Slice each vanilla bean in half lengthwise to reveal inside of beans. If the beans are too long to fit in your glass jar you can cut them shorter.
- Place your split beans in a glass jar and pour alcohol over them. Cap the jar tightly and shake gently.
- You'll want to place this mixture tore in a cool, dark place for at least eight weeks, making sure to shake it once a week. The photos you see above and below depict my vanilla extract that has been stored for just over 2 months. Ideally, your extract will sit extracting for 6-12 months in order to attain the optimal flavor.
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