How to make your own vanilla extract

Do you know what is in vanilla flavoring? That's a question going around social media right now and the answer is pretty gross. Vanilla flavoring is different than vanilla extract though, and the extract is far better for cooking and baking! Luckily there is an easy way to make your own vanilla extract and it only uses 2 ingredients. 

Homemade vanilla extract in glass bottle

This is super simple to make, and it is a perfect gift for the foodie or baker in your life! If you get started now it'll be ready in time for the holidays.

Now this isn't going to be the cheapest recipe you make! Vanilla beans are not cheap which is why if you go in the store you will see that natural or pure extract is vastly different than vanilla flavoring in price. Different by about $8 for a small bottle, or more. 

You can find vanilla flavorings in the dollar stores. They taste fine so I'm not trying to talk you away from buying them if that's in your price range. However imitation vanilla flavoring is made with a secretion from a beavers anal glands. Yeah, that's as gross as it sounds!

Here's an article that will explain it, and it also explains that sometimes it is reproduced with a chemical. Y'all know I don't like putting excess chemicals in my body!

All that weirdness aside, I make my own vanilla extract because it tastes better! You would not believe the difference in taste between homemade and store-bought. I can also make something called double-fold vanilla extract.

Double-fold vanilla extract is made with twice the quantity of vanilla beans but you use the exact same amount in recipes. A lot of professional bakers use double-fold vanilla extract because it gives a superior taste without having to alter the recipe. 

Of course it's more expensive to make and so it's more expensive to sell and most manufacturers simply don't sell it because of price.

However when you're making it yourself it makes it a whole lot cheaper than buying it, plus you can control the vanilla strength. So it makes it really easy to make strong vanilla extract that will lend its flavor to your baked goods even better.


Double-fold Vanilla extract recipe

So let's get started. Here's what you'll need:

4 Vanilla beans

6oz Vodka

Make sure you get 80 proof vodka. It will either say 80 proof or 40% alcohol. 

The first thing you're going to do is split the vanilla beans. This allows the vodka quick access to the seed, therefore pulling more flavor out of the bean. If your beans are too dry to split, chop them into 1-in pieces instead. I use 4 beans to 6 oz of vodka. 

Vanilla beans for extract, split and whole

Just split your beans, put them in a small bottle or Ball jar and cover with vodka. Cap your jar and put it in a cool, dark place. I like to shake the container every week, but you really don't have to. Your vanilla extract will be ready in 2 months, however it will get more flavorful the longer it sits!

Many people like to strain the extract and rebottle it at this point, I prefer to leave the vanilla bean in there. Remember, the longer it's in there the stronger the taste.

Don't forget to make a cute label or tag for your bottle so your gift recipient knows exactly what's in there! I can no longer find the small bottles in the picture below, but I like these flip top bottles from Amazon. As a much cheaper, but still classy choice, you can also get these sealable wine bottles.

Aged and freshly made homemade vanilla extract. Glass bottles.

Many people like to stretch their extract by adding more vodka as they use it. I will do this once when it gets about half full. I'll refill it with vodka and try not to use it for a few weeks. Although if you do need to use it during this time period, it's perfectly safe and flavorful! I just like to give it a little extra time to catch back up.

If you're not worried about it being double-fold strength, then you can add vodka 3-4 times as the bottle gets half full. No need for a waiting period after adding more vodka.

If you're going to make a lot of vanilla extract, like if you're using it for gifts or you're just an avid baker ... you might want to make it with a full bottle of vodka. If you're making this volume of extract you'll want to put about 18 beans into 750 ml of vodka. That's a lot of vanilla beans, which aren't cheap in the grocery store!

I like these ones from Amazon that are already split. You'll buy one pack for an entire bottle of vodka. Use about 18 beans for a whole bottle, this will give you a few bens left over for other recipes or your next batch. Vanilla beans keep for up to 3 years, so you'll have plenty of time to use them up! If you're not making nearly that much vanilla extract they also come in a 10 pack

Even when making large batches, I like to make them in individual containers and leave the beans inside even when giving as gifts. As mentioned, the longer the beans are in there the stronger the vanilla flavor gets. This homemade extract just gets better with time!

Vanilla beans and sugar in jar

I prefer the Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans like in that listing above, though all types of vanilla bean will work. When looking at vanilla beans online you'll see grade A or B. Grade A beans tend to have a higher moisture content. This is absolutely not necessary for extract. Grade B vanilla beans are perfect for extract and luckily, they are cheaper.

How to reuse vanilla beans

You can reuse the vanilla beans after you're done with the extract. My favorite way is to scrape out the seeds and use them in baking. No worries about the alcohol content because it cooks out. 

Vanilla coffee. 

You can also break the beans in half and stick a half in the cup as you pour your coffee. Let the bean sit out a few minutes first, so the alcohol will dissipate. If you're using a traditional coffee maker you can stick the whole bean in the filter basket with the coffee grinds.

Vanilla sugar. 

Allow the beans to air dry. Break two or more in half and place both pieces in a 6 oz. Ball jar then cover with sugar. Shake every week or so. It will be ready in about 4 weeks. This is very similar to how I preserve herbs in sugar.

You can use vanilla sugar pretty much the same way you use regular sugar and baking or eating. It also makes a nice finishing sugar, dusted over baked goods or fresh fruit. I love these 8 ounce swing top jars for making flavored sugar.

Vanilla bath salts. 

You could use the same method to make bath salts, simply replace the sugar for Epsom salts. Bury the broken vanilla beans in the Epsom salts and allow to sit for about 4 weeks. Make sure you take the beans out before using it in your bath. You wouldn't want to clog the drain!


Vanilla beans are one of the most versatile spices to work with, being able to use them for everything from baking recipes or simple syrup to body scrubs! I'm sure you'll find lots of ways to use your vanilla beans!

Fun bourbon hack: You can split a fresh vanilla bean and drop it into a pint bottle of bourbon. Cap it and allow it to rest for at least 3 months. At the end of three months you'll have a nice vanilla flavored sipping bourbon. 

I hope you've enjoyed this easy recipe. Stay away from anything produced from an animals backside and let me know how you like your vanilla extract!

~L 

Related reading: There are  11 herbs the can be grown indoors in winter, which ones will you grow?

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2 comments:

  1. Thank you for all these great ideas and recipes!

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    Replies
    1. You are so welcome! I'm glad you find them useful!

      Lisa

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