Homemade Vanilla Extract


Today's post isn't really a recipe but I think that it's something that not everyone knows but should know. Vanilla extract is dead easy to make! It's simply vanilla beans and vodka, or another type of hard alcohol such as rum or bourbon. You let it sit for several weeks and that's about it. It's cheaper than buying extract (especially if you make big batches!) and you also end up with vanilla seeds in your homemade extract, which always adds a fancy touch to any dessert.



Vanilla beans are craaaazy expensive if you buy one or two at the grocery store or at a specialty baking store. Like, $9 for two. Unbelievable! That's a ridiculous cost for two vanilla beans and you should not pay that much.

Vanilla beans bought in bulk (usually online) are a way better deal. I've used two different companies, Vanilla Food Company and Beanilla, for my vanilla beans, both of which sell bulk vanilla beans in various types and grades. Instead of paying $9 for two individual beans, I buy 50 beans (1/2 pound) for about $38 to $40. That's 80 cents per bean. Mind you, I'm buying extraction grade beans (grade B) rather than the grade A beans. Extraction grade beans are less plump and less pretty but are just as good as grade A, but they're sold at a lower price. 



I started my vanilla extract about two years ago using the method I've described below. I've kept it going by adding more vodka and vanilla beans as I've used it up and it's evolved into this deep, dark, fragrant liquid. 

Now that it's about as saturated as it can get, I've changed my method. When I get new vanilla beans, I simply cut them in half widthwise and pop them in my extract. When I want to add vanilla seeds (but not necessarily extract) to a recipe, I take out one of the halves and simply squeeze out the seeds and the bean goes back into the extract. By using the beans this way, I still get just as many seeds out of a grade B bean as a grade A bean without compromising flavour. Plus, I can use that de-seeded bean to infuse liquids or flavour sauces. I absolutely love vanilla beans and I make sure to get as much use out of them as possible.



Homemade Vanilla Extract

500 mL vodka (or rum, brandy, or bourbon if you prefer)


Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out. Divide the seeds and beans among individual jars or put them all in one large jar. 

Another way you might wish to try is to either cut just the tip of the vanilla bean off or slice the vanilla bean in half widthwise, leaving the seeds in the bean, and adding it to the vodka. This way, when you need to add a vanilla bean to a recipe, simply take out the bean and squeeze it down the length of the bean to squish out the seeds. You can still do this with the split and de-seeded beans but you will only get a small amount of seeds.

Pour the vodka (or other alcohol) in the jars and seal tightly. Make sure the vanilla beans are completely submerged in the alcohol.

Store in a cool, dark place for at least 8 weeks. Shake the jars every few days. 

After 8 weeks, the extract can be used, but it is best when aged for several months. Keep topping up the vodka and adding vanilla beans as necessary.


25 comments:

  1. Megan, these pictures are drop dead gorgeous. I can't say enough!

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  2. I'm really shocked there's no sugar in the extract, is it in the commercial versions? They're always so syrupy. My local online supermarket sells 4 vanilla beans for £4 - which is a pretty good deal - but I'm not sure what grade they are, I'll have to check.

    I love how the inside of the vanilla bean looks like caviar, great pictures - I must make this, I keep meaning to make vanilla sugar too!

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    1. I'm not too sure about commercial versions but I wouldn't be surprised! 4 beans for 4 pounds isn't too bad, so you're lucky! I'll bet they're grade A, most ones in stores are.

      I love using my vanilla sugar too! It's so easy and it's another great way to use up scraped beans.

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  3. I've been a following your blog for a few months and have never commented. But those macro shots of the vanilla bean are absolutely stunning! I love how you can see every seed. Your recipes are always gorgeous. Thank you for making me drool every time I pop by .

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm a big lurker when it comes to other blogs as well, I hardly comment! Thank you for commenting and saying such wonderful things :)

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  4. Just made my first order ever on Beanilla... guess why?

    I can't wait to get my hands on that vanilla beans and start my own production! Thank you for this awesome new favourite staple recipe, I'm a bit enthusiast.

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    1. Eeee!! That's awesome! I want everybody to use real vanilla beans and to experience the smell and taste that they bring. I never use store-bought vanilla extract for anything anymore. Vanilla beans, homemade vanilla extract, vanilla paste, vanilla powder, or vanilla sugar for me! As you can tell, I love vanilla. Hell, I named by blog after vanilla so it shouldn't be a surprise.

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    3. No surprise indeed, I got your love for vanilla!!
      I have something to ask you... since I don't like alcohol at all and I don't drink it as well, would you recommend to use this homemade vanilla extract in baking goods? I mean, would something made using this extract taste alocoholic? Is there a trick to avoid any taste different from vanilla? Or maybe I'd rather use vanilla beans or vanilla paste in place of the extract?

      Thank you once more! :-)

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    4. I don't like alcohol either!! I'm super sensitive to the taste and I can taste it pretty much everything. But don't worry, you can totally use this is anything that ends up being baked or cooked in some way because the alcohol will burn off. I wouldn't suggest putting it in whipped cream or other mousses that won't be cooked because the alcohol taste will still be there. But, you can still use the seeds from the bean in anything uncooked! But vanilla paste is an awesome substitute and I use it a lot, too!

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    5. Ha! So much in common then, that's cool! Thank you for your tips, you're really great!
      Now I just need to wait the shipping of my vanilla beans, I'm so excited!!
      If you don't know already, Beanilla does Black Friday sales, 10% off on the entire catalogue. And, there's also a sale on vanilla beans grade A from Madagascar so they cost very similar to extraction grade/grade B, if you want to order a bunch and add it to your stock! ;-)

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  5. When do you know when to add more alcohol or vanilla beans?

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    1. Whenever the vodka no longer covers the vanilla beans, add more vodka. And if the liquid is too light from adding more vodka, simply wait a week or two for it to darken or add more vanilla beans.

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  6. Can I use those cheap vodkas for this?

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    1. Absolutely! You should use cheap vodka for this because the quality of vodka won't make a difference when you use it in baked goods! Buy the cheapest one!

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  7. Can I use those cheap vodkas for this?

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  8. That's exactly how I make my vanilla extract too. Whenever I have left over vanilla pods I throw them in the bottle or in my vanilla sugar jar. Can't even imagine how much money it saved me so far.

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    1. Me too! The only time I ever throw out a vanilla bean is if I've infused cream or a sauce, but that happens rarely. I love getting the most out of such an awesome ingredient.

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  9. Hi! I'm loving your blog!

    I'm thinking of giving away vanilla extract (according to your lovely recipe) as Christmas presents. Would 100 ml per person (per present to be more) be too little? Or just enough? If I put it in cute little 100 ml bottles with 3 beans per bottle? Then I could get 5 presents out of this recipe. This is strong stuff when ready, right?

    Thank you! :)

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    1. It depends on the person and how much they bake! If someone only bakes once a month, 100 mL would be more than enough! But if they bake regularly, maybe two bottles? It's hard to say! And 3 beans per bottle sounds good because if you start it now with the recipe as I've given it, it won't be ready to use by Christmas. More beans means more vanilla infusing into the vodka! And yes, it is pretty strong but only after the 8 weeks, maybe a little more. It's hard to say how long it will take if you use more beans, though.

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  10. Gorgeous photography! I have had making homemade vanilla on my list and your beautiful post has me excited to finally do it. Do you have any sources for purchasing vanilla beans? I just recently found your blog and will be looking forward to your posts. Kind regards, Deb

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    1. Thank you! I'm so glad I could inspire you! In the second paragraph of this post, I give the links to two online stores where I buy my vanilla beans from, so you should check them out.

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  11. Wow, your photos of the vanilla beans are absolutely stunning! I'm planning on giving this a try with just the pods, after using the beans for another recipe.

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