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.


286 Comments Add A Comment

  • Aw, this was a very good post. Spending some time and actual effort to make
    a top notch article… but what can I say… I put things off
    a lot and don’t seem to get anything done.

  • Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

  • Thank you so much for this little tutorial! I made my own with vodka and I’m hoping to try it with rum next. I want to taste test and see how different each alcohol makes the vanilla taste. Guess I’m going to be eating lots of cookies – for shame! :)

  • thanks :D i managed to exchange for a higher alcohol content[just to be on the safer side ><]. may i know if it's normal to have some lil particles floating in the vodka after putting in the pods?

  • hey, ithis is my first time making my own vanilla extract. i was wondering if i could use 32.5% [65 proof] vodka i recently purchased? i’ve made a mistake in buying the lower alcohol content due to me not checking the %.

  • Joy – I am going to try this soon, and I wanted to see if you have made it with bourbon, and if it’s as amazing as I imagine it would be? Do you have a preference? I saw another commenter said that light rum worked really well and had a smokier taste, so I can only imagine how delicious it would be with bourbon. . . .

  • Vanilla storea in the cupboard, like you would store bought, and it can last upwards of a decade! I have been making Vanilla for a while now, and like a fine wine, good Vanilla will mature as it ages.
    I typically use 15-18 beans in a 750ml bottle of alcohol, and within one month you have usable vanilla that is at least comparable to what you get in the store. Obviously, the longer you let it set, the better it gets.
    I typically make a version with light rum and a version with vodka.
    The different flavors of alcohol will give you different Vanilla results.
    I personally prefer the slightly richer, smokier flavor that rum gives it. The vodka typically provides a clear crisp Vanilla flavor.
    Once I started making my own Vanilla, I use it in EVERYTHING!!
    Instead of sugar in my tomato sauce, I toss in a tablespoon of Vanilla. I don’t like sweet tomato sauce, and the vanilla does the job of the sugar in cutting down the acidity of the tomatoes.
    Put a little in beef stroganoff for a lovely richer flavor.
    And french toast batter with homemade Vanilla? I could die and go to heaven with that!

  • After the 2 months, do we need to store it in the fridge? or will it still be ok just on the shelf like store bought?

  • Just ordered my vanilla beans!

  • does it go bad or does it have a long shelf life>

  • Great recipe Joy…can’t wait to try this. We have recently given up fruit sugar/fructose and many of our converted recipes call for vanilla extract so this will save us heaps. Thanks so much!

  • Making my first vanilla extract! I’m fifteen and a HUGE fan of Joy and baking in general, this is so great to know! Cannot wait till mine is done :)

  • I just started a batch yesterday! I’m so excited and can’t wait to use it!
    http://sewtheday.com/2012/03/21/making-vanilla-extract/

  • My daughter just told me about your site! It’s awesome! It just so happens that yesterday I was watching a program on Raymond Blanc, an amazing French chef with an incredible restaurant in England, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, anyway, I am rambling…. He made a vanilla paste that took less than an hour. He made a simple syrup with sugar and water, let it cool. He then chopped several beans put those in a blender and added the syrup. You can store it for months in a jar in the fridge. Enjoy!

  • I just opened a batch I made 14 weeks ago. I used 8 great beans with a pint of vodka. It doesn’t look as dark or smell as good as the store bought stuff so I’m a bit disappointed. Haven’t tried it yet though. Is it supposed to be really dark and smell really strong?

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