This DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract is so stinkin’ easy to make and is full-bodied with rich, sweet, earthy notes. There’s no better time to start your own Homemade Vanilla Extract than this week! Just like a fine wine, it needs time to age and brew; developing it’s rich, intense flavor we’ve all grown to love, nothing “plain” about it!
DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract is Easy, Economical & Makes a Great Gift
START YOUR VANILLA NOW FOR GIFTING OR THE HOLIDAYS
Why on earth did I wait so long to make my own vanilla? Especially with the price of pure vanilla extract these days. If you’ve shopped for it recently (and recovered from sticker shock) you know what I’m talking about. I’ll take you step-by-step through the vanilla extract recipe teaching you how to make your own vanilla, so you will never run out again!
What is Vanilla Extract?
Vanilla extract is an infusion of vanilla bean pods in quality, food-grade spirits.
The beauty of DIY homemade vanilla extract is once you get it started, simply top it off and you will have vanilla forever. It is much more economical to make your own. I’ll talk more about the how-to later in the post.
Vanilla Extract Ingredients
Quality matters! I suggest you invest in quality ingredients; this is an investment that will pay off for years to come, you don’t have to purchase top shelf spirits or the highest grade beans, but buy the best you can afford.
What is the base for vanilla extract; plain ol alcohol, but which alcohol is best? The good news is you get to choose the answer to that question! Just don’t use rubbing alcohol, drinking alcohol is what we’re after here.
Alcohol Suggestions for Vanilla Variations (a minimum of 70 proof/35% alcohol)
- Vodka | Most Common, Neutral, Pure Vanilla Flavor
- Light Rum | Smooth, Sweet, Rich
- Bourbon | Complex, Deep Flavor
- Brandy | Unique, Deep Flavor
What Vanilla Beans Should I Use? (source)
The Madagascar Bourbon vanilla bean is the most popular and Indian vanilla beans are the most consistent. The most economical beans are Madagascar Bourbon Beans, still expensive, but keep in mind this is a long term investment. I’ve purchased my vanilla beans primarily from Costco (when in stock) or Amazon.
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What Grade? A or B
I used Grade A beans because they were the best deal at the time, however; Grade B beans work extremely well for extracts and are quite a bit cheaper. Bottom line, the bean you use is up to you! This is actually a fabulous deal.
Vanilla Bean Variations:
- Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla – rich and creamy
- Mexican Vanilla – bold, dark, smokey
- Indian Vanilla – full, chocolate
- Indonesian Vanilla – mild, well balanced
- Tahitian Vanilla – floral, cherry-chocolate
- Tonga Vanilla – earthy, fig, raisin
For my first batch I used vodka and Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans. I plan on continuing to experiment with other spirits and will post my results and updates here, so come back often
Start in October for December gifts! But if you start later, just put a “use after” date on your label. The longer it sits and “brews” the better!
DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract
Supplies for Making Homemade Vanilla
- Approximately 5-7 Grade A or B vanilla beans per 8 oz of spirits (I used 5-Grade A beans per 8 oz of alcohol)
- Choice of alcohol; vodka, bourbon, light rum or brandy (use a minimum of 70 proof/35% alcohol)
- Tight sealing clear glass bottle, love the dispensing cap on these! Other bottling options; swing top, boston round or a rounded swing top
- A small funnel.
- A sharp tipped knife, this is my all around most favorite and most versatile knife!
- A little bit of patience! You need a minimum of 8 weeks for good results, 12-16 weeks is better, 6 months best, however, one year is ultimate! Besides, the longer it “brews” the darker, richer and more full-bodied it will become!
- Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise, using the tip of a sharp knife, stopping just before the end of the bean, so as to not split it in half, you are exposing the “meat” of the vanilla bean.
2. Place desired number of sliced vanilla beans into bottle(s) of choice. If necessary snip your beans in half so that the alcohol covers the entire bean, this will prevent mold.
3. With funnel placed on top of the bottle, slowly pour your alcohol over the beans until they are covered and bottle is full. I’m a little anal, measuring my vodka, I love these measuring cups.
TIP | If your funnel isn’t flowing, simply lift it slightly off the mouth of the bottle breaking the seal, allowing it to flow easily.
4. Place lid on and tighten, shake passionately for a minute or so. Got it?!
5. Finally, using a chalk or metallic marker write vanilla type, start date on the bottom or side of the bottle and place in a cool, dark part of your pantry. Place a reminder on your calendar to shake it weekly for a minimum of 8 weeks.
Too slow? See below for a suggested Instant Pot recipe.
The Sniff Test | Most importantly, you’ll know you can start using your vanilla when it smells like vanilla and not the original spirit.
Making Vanilla in the Instant Pot
I’ve been asked if I’ve ever made vanilla extract in my Instant Pot and my answer is, not yet. In many ways I’m slow to change and like the old, traditional methods. The upside to making vanilla extract in a pressure cooker, is it’s done in less than 24 hours and you use a fewer beans to liquid ratio — that alone might inspire me to try it!
Vanilla Lasts a Lifetime
WHAT? Yep, as long as you stick to a few rules it should last you a long time, if not a lifetime. You have several options:
- Everytime you use a tablespoon or more of your vanilla top it off with the same liquor (original vodka, use vodka, etc). Shake well a few times and you are ready to go for next time, plus you ensure your beans stay covered and moist. No waiting involved, but not the most convenient in my opinion.
- Or wait until you’ve used half of your vanilla or your beans are exposed, then top it off with original liquor; letting it hang out again in a dark pantry for 2 weeks or longer before using. This works well if you have two bottles of vanilla, then you can alternate between the two; my preferred method.
- For either method, be sure to occasionally (maybe once or twice a year) throw in a fresh vanilla bean.
- Used a vanilla bean in a recipe — don’t throw that bean away, toss it in your bottle of vanilla. Waste not!
Vanilla Gift Giving Ideas and Tips
- Gift giving bottles, I love these little square swing top bottles! I’ve used these amber Boston round bottles as well.
- I bought these cute chalkboard labels to put on my bottles, but these craft labels sure are cute as well!
- I love to tie my bottles with bakers twine in red or tan as well as regular twine. Raffia is awfully fun also.
- A tag is nice; tie one on (no pun intended) with these simple instructions:
- First, keep vanilla in cool, dark place in pantry.
- Second, shake passionately before use.
- Third, replenish with “vodka” (or whatever spirit used) when used halfway. Let sit for 2-4 weeks before using (only if you left a few vanilla beans in the gift extract), shaking weekly.
- Finally, provide “use after” date if giving before vanilla is done brewing, put your start date and name!
Gifts from the Kitchen | Family, Neighbors, Co-Workers, Teachers & Friends
I made up a batch of my immune boosting Elderberry Syrup and Chewy Hot Fudge Sauce along with a bottle of Vanilla Extract, tucked it into a cute container (bought at Target in the dollar section) or these berry baskets are fun too.
I added some coasters like these mason jar lid coasters or these mini pallet, wrapped it in clear cellophane and tied with a pretty ribbon (Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s or Costco for deals) and a sprig greenery! It’s so cute and EASY!!
A great idea is to make up a large bottle of vanilla, allow it to brew for a year (it’ll be next Christmas before you know it) and have amazing vanilla for yourself, plus enough to share with friends, family, neighbors, teachers and co-workers.
I use vanilla in most, if not all of my sweet recipes; I hope you will browse through. Or at least give my Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies or my Giant Pan-Banging Chocolate Chip Cookies, a great gift cookie!
Enjoy this recipe for DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract? Please leave a comment and rate the recipe in the recipe card.
- 8 oz alcohol; vodka, bourbon, light rum or brandy (use a minimum of 70 proof/35% alcohol)
- Enough tight sealing bottles for the amount of vanilla desire. Bottling options: clear glass bottle, swing top, boston round or a rounded swing top
- A small funnel.
- Approximately 5-7 vanilla beans per 8 oz of spirits
for good results, 12-16 weeks is better, 6 months is even better, but the ultimate is one year The longer it "brews" the richer & more full-bodied it will be
- If desired; a cute label for packaging (see gift giving options)
- Using the tip of a sharp knife slice bean gently lengthwise, stopping just before you get to the end.
- Place desired number of sliced vanilla beans into the bottle of choice, snip your beans in half if the alcohol doesn't cover the entire bean as this will prevent mold.
- With funnel placed on top of the bottle, slowly pour your alcohol over the beans until they are covered and bottle is full. *Tip | If your funnel isn't flowing, simply lift it slightly off the mouth of the bottle breaking the seal and allow it to flow easily. Place on lid and tighten, shake passionately for a minute.
- Write date started on the bottom or side of the bottle, using chalk or metallic marker as well as type of vanilla. Put a reminder in your calendar to shake it weekly for at least 8 weeks, preferably up to 4-6 months.
- Once your vanilla no longer smells of the spirit you used and smells instead like vanilla it is ready!
Making your Vanilla Last
- Everytime you use a tablespoon or more of your vanilla top it off with the same liquor used the first time (i.e if it was originally made with vodka, use vodka). Give it several passionate shakes and you are ready to go for next time, plus you ensure your beans stay covered and moist. No waiting involved, but not the most convenient.
- Wait until you've used about half of your vanilla, then top it off with same original liquor, but let it hang out again in a dark pantry for 2 weeks or longer before using. This works well if you have two bottles of vanilla, then you can alternate between the two, this is my preferred method.
- For either method, be sure to occasionally (maybe once or twice a year) throw in a fresh vanilla bean. And always if you've used a bean in cooking or baking -- don't throw that bean away, toss it in your bottle of vanilla.
Vanilla Gift Giving Ideas and Tips
- Gift giving bottles, these are the cutest! I love these little square swing top bottles! Might have to get myself some! I've used these amber boston round bottles as well.
- I bought some cute chalkboard labels to put on my bottles, but these craft labels sure are cute too!
- I love to tie my bottles with bakers twine in red or tan as well as plain twine. Raffia is awfully cute also.
- A cute tag is nice as well to let people know what to do with their vanilla, tie one on (no pun intended) with these simple instructions: 1. Keep vanilla in cool, dark place in pantry. 2. Shake every now and then. 3. When half way used, replenish with "vodka" (or whatever spirit you used); let sit for 2-4 weeks before using (use this tip only if you left a few vanilla beans in the gift extract).
For Instant Pot Instructions, see original post
BIG BATCH VANILLA | Easily make a BIG batch by purchasing a large bottle of alcohol and correct number of vanilla beans directly into the original bottle. The only downside is when transferring to smaller bottles for use or gift giving it's difficult to also transfer beans.
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Serving Size:1 teaspoon
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 30 Total Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 0mg Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Protein: 0g