How to Make Vanilla Extract

How ToVanilla

How to make your own homemade vanilla extract, it's easy! All you need are vanilla beans, vodka and a glass jar.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Why make your own vanilla extract?

Well let’s see. It’s easy to make. You’ll never run out of vanilla again. It might even be economical, given that you’ll never run out of it. It’s fun to watch the extract change colors? I don’t know. Sometimes we just make things for the heck of it.

In this case, Garrett gave me a dozen or so vanilla beans, sharing what he had been given by this generous company. Vanilla beans are produced in several countries, and Garrett has a good write-up on his site regarding the differences between the varieties – Madagascar, Bourbon, Tonga, Mexico, Tahiti, etc.

Did you know that each vanilla bean comes from an orchid that has been pollinated by hand? Once the vanilla seed pod has developed, it must be hand picked as well.

After picking the curing process takes several months. So if you’ve ever wondered why vanilla extract, and especially vanilla beans, can be so expensive, this is why.

How to Make Vanilla Extract

Commercial vanilla extract usually has simple syrup (sugar water) added to the extract to give it a sweet aftertaste. You can do this if you want, but if you are using the vanilla for baking, there really is no need.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 vanilla beans
  • 1 cup vodka
  • glass jar with tight fitting lid

Method

vanilla-extract-1.jpg

1 Use kitchen scissors or a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down each vanilla bean, splitting them in half, leaving an inch at the end connected.

2 Put vanilla beans in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid (mason jars work well). Cover completely with the vodka.

3 Give the bottle a good shake every once in a while. Store in a dark, cool place for 2 months or longer.

Lasts for years. You can keep topping it off with vodka once in a while as you use it, just remember to give it a good shake.

You can also make vanilla sugar by putting a split vanilla bean into a jar of white, granulated sugar. Great way to infuse the sugar with vanilla flavor for baking.

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Many people have asked about the bottle I used for making the vinegar. The bottle is from an empty bottle of Italian balsamic vinegar that I cleaned out. The brand of balsamic is Leonardi Balsamico which you can buy in Italian specialty stores or online. ~Elise

Links:

Wikipedia on Vanilla

Know Your Vanilla - A Guide to Vanilla Varieties - notes from Garrett

Adorable labels and instructions for your homemade vanilla extract from Style Me Pretty

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

117 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Linda

    I didn’t know vodka would work.

  2. Alicia

    Hi, tested this and it was wonderful. I was wondering if you can reuse the vanilla beans?

    Thanks!

    Show Replies (2)
  3. Shelley Isley

    I have 2 1/2 Tahitian Vanilla beans. How much vodka should I soak these in? Thank you!!

    Show Replies (2)
  4. gloria

    Where do you recommend getting the vanilla beans?? I have tried many of your recipes and have enjoyed them all, I would like to try making my own vanilla extract. Thanks

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Cappy

    To add a true island flavor to your extract make it with good rum.

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