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

  • In a very similar vein, I have a bottle of homemade vanilla vodka — open a bottle of moderately good vodka, toss in one vanilla bean, allow to brew. Delicious. (I just leave the bean in it as we consume, so the vanilla flavor gets gradually stronger over time)

  • Agh. I have a request, Can you please stop posting such beautiful and darned tempting photos on your blog! OK, well, don’t stop, but my god! You make me want to eat everything, bake everything, taste everything! Which would be ood if I also didn’t have a somewhat lazy personality. I may have to resort to *shudder* self improvement!

  • thanks for this. I can’t wait to try it.

  • Im excited to try this. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • This is great!! Thanks so much :)

  • You are my hero.

    So… got a recipe for almond extract, as well? :)

  • Bah! I’ve been meaning to do this for at least 2 months now…coulda already had me some finished extract! I gotta make a stop to buy some vodka. Will do this weekend fo sho.

  • Thank you for this! I can’t tell you how frustrating it is that no supermarket seems to sell vanilla extract in glass jars anymore, let alone *real* vanilla extract–not that imitation stuff. But the 2 month waiting period is a little sad! Oh well, I’m definitely doing this anyway! Thanks again!!

  • Thank you! I’ve been wanting to make my own, and we’re almost out…this was just the incentive I needed to try to for myself!

  • This is so very, very cool! Thank you.

  • Great idea! I can’t wait to give this a shot. Just curious, does all vanilla extract use booze?

  • So, hold up… I’ve been spending way too much on grocery store vanilla extract when making my own is *this* easy?!? Hot damn!

  • What an excellent idea. My friends are getting homemade vanilla for the holidays. I need to find some cute 1 cup jars. That way I can just make the individual gifts, leaving the beans inside.

    I’ve been buying my vanilla at Trader Joe’s it is very reasonable and the flavor is good.

  • My uncle used to make vanilla extract for me every holiday season. It was like gold! I would use it year-round in all of my baking, and would finish it up right around Thanksgiving– just in time for another batch. Thanks for the recipe.

  • I just started making my own vanilla extract this year. I’ve got a 750 ml bottle of vanilla extract that I started with 10 Tahitian vanilla beans and a cheap vodka (you can go with other alcohols and no need to go expensive on the booze) back in February of this year. It started out smelling like plain vodka, but now it smells like the richest vanilla, even without opening the bottle! If I had known it was this easy (set it and forget it), I would’ve done this years ago.

    From what I can tell, this extract lasts forever as long as you keep adding more alcohol and beans (yes, even used — just rinse them thoroughly if they’ve been steeped in milk), and it gets even better and more syrupy as it ages. Someone said they’ve had one bottle going for decades now.

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