This homemade vanilla extract recipe is really simple to make and a great alternative to pricey store-bought vanilla or imitation vanilla.
I love to add pure vanilla extract to smoothies, dairy-free coconut yogurt, cookies, whipped coconut cream, and any other treat I want to have a rich flavor.
Vanilla also makes a great gift which is why I make it in small bottles.
Is Homemade Vanilla Extract Better?
This is the real question! there’s no question that homemade vanilla extract is better than imitation vanilla in taste and in quality. Imitation vanilla is made from coal tar, paper waste, pine bark, and even cow poop, according to Business Insider. I prefer real vanilla!
But I have found a few brands of pure vanilla extract that are tasty and amazing, so as far as quality goes, it’s possible to find a store-bought vanilla extract that is as good as homemade.
However, the price tag on those tiny bottles of pure vanilla extract is huge! So, I always prefer to make it myself if possible.
How Is Vanilla Extract Made?
Making homemade vanilla extract is very easy. All you need is a few vanilla beans, some alcohol (the kind you drink), and a little bit of time. The vanilla beans sit in the vodka releasing their amazing flavor for a few weeks.
What Kind of Alcohol Should I Use for Vanilla Extract?
Vodka is the most common alcohol for vanilla extract but you can also use bourbon or rum. I like vodka because the flavor is neutral and doesn’t interfere with the flavor of the vanilla beans.
Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe
6- 4oz amber glass jars
1- 750ml bottle of vodka
Wash the bottle with soap and hot water.
Slice your vanilla beans down the middle lengthwise (don’t worry about cutting through the ends).
Cut the vanilla beans in half or quarters and stuff them into the bottles (about 4 whole beans per 4 oz bottle).
Fill the bottles with vodka.
Cap them and shake them up (you will probably see some vanilla seeds floating around in there).
Let them sit in a cool dark place for about 6 weeks, shaking the bottle every few days.
- 24 vanilla beans
- 6 - 4oz amber glass jars
- 1 - 750ml bottle of vodka
- Labels (optional)
- Wash the bottle with soap and hot water.
- Slice your vanilla beans down the middle lengthwise (don't worry about cutting through the ends).
- Cut the vanilla beans in half or quarters and stuff them into the bottles (about 4 whole beans per 4 oz bottle).
- Fill the bottles with vodka.
- Cap them and shake them up (you will probably see some vanilla seeds floating around in there).
- Let them sit in a cool dark place for about 6 weeks, shaking the bottle every few days.
Can I Make Vanilla Extract Without Alcohol?
Yes! Just use food-grade glycerin in place of the alcohol. You can get a better idea of how to do that in this post on how to make a tincture (yes, extracts are tinctures!).
Which Vanilla Beans Should I Buy?
There are a number of different kinds of vanilla beans from different parts of the world. You may notice that the vanilla from each of these tastes slightly different. I have always used Madagascar vanilla beans and have been very happy with them.
Additionally, vanilla beans come in two grades – A and B. Grade B vanilla beans are less attractive, dryer, and less expensive than Grade A, making them a good choice for extract. However, you can use grade A if you like.
How Long Does Vanilla Extract Last?
The vanilla beans will last indefinitely (the alcohol preserves them) as long as they are covered by alcohol. So, just keep adding vodka! It might be a good idea to have 2 or 3 bottles in rotation so you can always have some vanilla while the others are soaking. The extract itself will also last indefinitely.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Have you ever made vanilla extract? What is your favorite thing to make at home instead of buy in the store?