Joy the Baker

How to Make Vanilla Extract

June 24, 2009

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Bust out the booze friends!  I’ve got a weekend project for you!

We’re making our very own vanilla extract!  Why?  Why make your own vanilla extract when you can just buy the stuff in a teeeeeeny tiny bottle at the grocery store for close to ten whopping dollars?  Hm… see what I did there?  I seem to have answered my own question.

Homemade vanilla extract only requires a handful of things.  Come on… we can totally rock this.

First let’s talk vanilla beans.  Yea… they’re a tad bit expensive, but totally worth their weight in… vanilla.

There are a lots different varieties of vanilla beans.  So many varieties all with their own subtle nuances… it can be a bit overwhelming.  There are beans from Madagascar, Mexico, Tahiti, Tonga… just throw a dart at the map and they just might produce vanilla beans there. Ok.  I’m exaggerating.   Different beans from all over the globe have different characteristics.  We could talk about this for days… seriously.  Here’s a brief brief brief run down of my favorites.

Madagascar beans are powerful, dark, full vanilla flavor beans.    Tahitian beans remind me of vanilla figs- fruity and floral.  The Mexican variety has just a hint of sweet creaminess.  How’s that for brief?

What beans are you going to choose for your vanilla extract?  Where are you going to get them?  Use exactly any bean you want!   Maybe you’ll buy them online here.  Use exactly whatever you can get your hands on.  Mix and match!  It’s your world.  It’s your extract.

This is going to be so easy!  Let’s get started!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I started two types of vanilla extract.  One jar is filled with vodka and  Mexican vanilla beans (on the left above) while the other jar has bourbon and Tahitian vanilla beans (on the right, silly).  I’m beyond excited!  I’m ready to bathe in this stuff.

Print this Recipe!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own vanilla extract:

- A mason jar, or some other clean, super sealing container.

- A high-proof alcohol like vodka, bourbon or rum.  We’re talking 80 proof.

- Three vanilla beans per cup of alcohol

- A dark spot to store the jars.

-  Two months.  That’s how long it takes to create vanilla extract!

Here’s how:

Use a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down the center of the vanilla beans, leaving about an inch at the top of the vanilla bean uncut.

Put the vanilla beans in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.  I used mason jars.

Cover the beans completely with alcohol.  It’s three vanilla beans per cup of alcohol, so if you use 2 cups of vodka split open six vanilla beans and throw them in the jar.

Tightly cover the jar and give it a good shake.  Store in a cool dry place for two months.  Give the bottle a good shake every week or so, just so you don’t forget all about it.

After two months have passed, your vanilla extract should be ready for your favorite chocolate chip cookie or pound cake recipe.  You might also want to put the extract in cute, tiny bottles and give them to your favorite baker friends.


289 Comments Add A Comment

  • I would have never thought to make my own extract… I have thought about doing vanilla sugar, after watching Inta Gartner scold me for not making my own… but never thought about the extract side of things… and what a great idea for gifts! I love it!!

  • I buy my vanilla beans from this ebay seller:
    http://stores.shop.ebay.com/Vanilla-Products-USA

    They are inexpensive, but really good vanilla beans! i use them to make vanilla sugar, vanilla extract and I substitute the seeds for extract in most of my baking!

    I just started a new back of extract about 3 weeks ago. :)

  • This looks so great.I really want to make some for Christmas presents! Thanks so much!

  • Great recipe! I can’t wait to try this. It makes such a difference when all of your ingredients, even the basics, are from scratch.

  • So….I have something to confess…..I think I just fell in love with you a little more, my dear :)

    One of my favorite things in this world is vanilla!
    I’m a sucker for those tiny bottles of vanilla that cost OVER $10! Recently, I’ve bought the Tahitian and Mexican vanilla’s from the Nielsen-Massey Vanillas company…and it’s kinda fun to smell them one after the other – such different smells!! I love your brief description of the different types :)

    I actually read this book not too long ago by Patricia Rain, Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance. I thought it was a quite interesting look at vanilla’s history and how it became such a phenom.

    I’m so excited to try this!

  • I’ve got some in my cupboard that I started about 6 weeks ago – it still smells like vodka but mostly of vanilla, now. I can’t wait to use it!

  • Oh, and by the way – I didn’t split my beans, just popped them in to soak whole.

    Once I was done I just dried them out and used for other things.

  • I’ve been wanting to try this, thanks for the how to instructions, I will def. put this project on my summer to do list! Thanks for the great easy info!
    http://www.katiskupcakes.com

  • I make my own Vanilla Extract – it’s all sorts of awesome.

    Like Maria I just make it straight in the Vodka bottle – It always makes me giggle when I take my Ingredients photo for a blog entry and there’s a cheap 70cl bottle of vodka next to the flour ;)

    I made mine around 3 years ago now and will probably need to make some more before Christmas – I never dreamed that I’d use it up that fast but it’s so great I also use some of it to soak the fruit for my Christmas cakes too.

    Thinking back I think I used 4-5 pods and left for at least 3+ months – I didn’t really time it, I just waited till it turned that delicious caramel brown colour. I also added a teaspoon or 2 of sugar just to help bring out the flavour.

    Warning: you will become hopelessly addicted to unscrewing the cap and sniffing!

  • This is SO very cool. I can’t wait to try it. I would really like to hear your answer to Larissa’s question (how long is the shelf life of this vanilla).

  • I make my vanilla in a vodka bottle. I think I used far more beans, though. I just kept chucking beans in there whenever I had an extra. I know you can use it after 2 months, but I found the flavor didn’t really fully ripen/develop in mine for 4-6 months. (It became so much more mellow.)

    Just a question — I would have thought that the strong taste of bourbon would overpower the delicate flavor of a tahitian bean. Is this not true? (How fun, playing with flavor combinations this way!)

  • This is one of those projects that is on my very lenghty list of Things I Want To Make. Have you made any other extracts?

  • Awesome post! Thank you! I am still absolutely in love with the Mexican vanilla my aunt and uncle bring back for me every year…but what a great gift idea!!

  • Thanks for this recipe…I love homemade things like this. Question: do you know how long the vanilla extract can be stored? Does it have a long shelf life like store-bought extracts?

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