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.
Making vanilla extract from scratch
Real vanilla extract is a crucial, yet expensive ingredient. The high price point, 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 vanilla extract at home:
- All you need are two ingredients.
- It’s much less expensive than buying bottle after bottle of the storebought 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!
What is homemade vanilla extract made of?
- Vanilla beans - You can find vanilla beans in specialty stores and online. Try to buy high-grade beans for the absolute best 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. The better the quality, the better your vanilla extract will be.
Unsure of what type of vanilla beans to buy? There are three common varieties. Each one has its own distinct notes, flavors, and aromas that are evident as the extraction process continues. They are:
- Tahitian vanilla: Rich, floral, and fruity.
- Madagascar vanilla: Creamy and rich.
- Mexican vanilla: Deep, smoky, and nutty.
Don't be scared to mix and match the different varieties in your extract! 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.
How to make vanilla extract
The 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 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.
Step 2: Pour the vodka over top. Pour the vodka over the beans in the 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 for at least 8 weeks. Make sure to shake the jar once a week.
When can I start using it?
While you can begin using homemade vanilla after 2 months, the best flavors won’t arrive until the 6 to 12-month mark. The extraction process is slow but so worth it in the end.
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.
Looking for more homemade basics?
- Healthy Homemade Almond Butter
- Pesto Sauce
- Homemade Fresh Ricotta
- Candied Rose Petals
- How to Make Brown Butter
As always, I love seeing your creations and hearing from you! If you try this DIY vanilla extract recipe, please share your creation with me on social media! You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest - for more delicious recipes sent straight to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter!
- 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.