How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract from Scratch

homemade vanilla extract

You only need 2 ingredients to this make homemade vanilla extract: Vanilla beans and vodka. The vanilla beans need to infuse with the alcohol for at least 6 months before using to achieve optimal flavour. Making vanilla extract yourself is so much more cost effective than store-bought varieties, and you can source all the ingredients plastic-free making the process more eco-friendly, too.

I first got the idea for making my own homemade vanilla extract after watching Kathryn Kellogg’s (@going.zero.waste) IG post sharing how she makes it herself.

I never thought about making vanilla extract before this. I’d been avoiding buying it since moving out as the store-bought versions came with a plastic seal, and I’d been living plastic-free as much as I could up until then (and still am).

So, for any recipe that called for vanilla extract – muffins, cookies, brownies, smoothies, ice-cream… Anything really – I just left it out.

This new revelation about making your own vanilla extract was a huge eye-opener for me. I didn’t think it would be so simple. All I needed were vanilla beans and a little vodka.

Sourcing the Ingredients

I sourced the vanilla beans from my local bulk foods store, the Source Bulk Foods, and bought some organic gluten-free vodka from my local Flannery health food store.

The alcohol needed to make this vanilla extract is an 80 proof alcohol, like vodka, bourbon, gin, rum or brandy. Avoid flavoured alcohols as they often contain artificial flavours and ingredients, which is not what you want when making your own pure vanilla.

Vanilla beans are quite expensive (mine cost around AUD $8 each), but 5-6 of them will make around 8 ounces (one CUP) of vanilla extract and you can reuse the beans. I’ve found that using 5-6 vanilla beans per 8 ounces of alcohol gives the best flavour and at a better price than double-fold vanilla extract recipes.

Since vanilla extract has walked back into my life, I’ve been able to transform my baking from a good dessert into a great dessert. Plus, if I’m going to be making anything that calls for vanilla, I’m going to need vanilla extract.

Who knew that a cheaper AND better tasting vanilla extract was only 2 ingredients away.

Why Make Your Own Vanilla Extract?

Homemade vanilla extract wins buy a landslide when compared with store-bought varieties. If you open a bottle of store-bought vanilla extracts and a bottle of homemade vanilla, you’ll notice the difference straight away by how it smells. It’s absolutely incredible and this aroma transfers to your cooking in quality of taste, too.

When you brew your own vanilla extract, you allow time for the vanilla and vodka to infuse, which ultimately gives it the quality smell and taste. While it does take a while to meld, anyone who’s ever made their own vanilla extract will say it’s definitely worth the wait.

Store-bought versions often lack the quality as they can be an imitation of vanilla extract, made with artificial or synthetic ingredients, or brands may sometimes cut back on the amount of real vanilla in each bottle to save on cost. So essentially you’re paying for weak bottled vanilla.

Before we get started in learning how to make this homemade vanilla extract recipe – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my email newsletter at the bottom of the page to keep up to date on the latest recipes, DIYs, gardening and health tips I share!!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla extract becomes darker in colour and develops a richer taste the longer it sits. This means when you make some today, it’ll be ready in 6-12 months from now. But trust me, the wait is worth it! 12+ month old homemade vanilla extract is absolutely incredible!

Ensure you store the infusing vanilla out of direct sunlight and give it a good shake at least once a week.

The best part of all about making your own vanilla is you can continuously add more alcohol to the bottle as you use it. It’ll continue to infuse overtime.

Ingredients:

  • 5–6 vanilla beans 
  • 1 cup gluten-free 80 proof vodka (or can use bourbon, gin, rum or brandy)
  • 8-oz glass bottle

To make:

  1. Slit the vanilla beans using a sharp knife so the insides are exposed – it’s not necessary to completely split the bean in half, just a little slit down the middle is enough. If the vanilla beans are too long to fit into your bottle or jar, cut the vanilla beans into smaller pieces and place in a bottle or jar.
  2. Pour vodka over the top so that the beans are fully submerged – use a little extra vodka if need be to make sure the beans are fully covered – then cap the jar/bottle and shake a few times.
  3. Store the vanilla solution at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. Shake the bottle at least once per week. Vanilla extract takes 6-12 months to fully infuse, so it will take some patience (but it’s so worth the wait!)
  4. Once ready, you can begin to use your vanilla! You can refill the bottle with a little vodka each time you use the extract. Just give it a shake after you refill and shake it again before each use. If you don’t have any more alcohol to refill the extract with, remove the beans from the jar after the first use. The reason for this is the beans become a little slimy if they aren’t fully submerged. Once you begin using the vanilla extract and add more alcohol to the mixture after each use, the beans will eventually need to be replaced. It’s very difficult to give a specific amount of time as some may need replacing more quickly than others. After about one year of frequent use and refilling, you may find the vanilla flavour becomes less intense. When this happens, remove the old beans and add fresh ones, then shake and continue to use/refill as needed.
  5. Use the same amount of homemade vanilla extract as you would store-bought extract in your recipes.

Homemade vanilla extract tutorial

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.

Have you made your own vanilla extract before? What did you think? Share in the comments below.

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa

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