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How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

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Homemade vanilla extract can save you so much money and it's made with just 2 ingredients - vodka and vanilla beans. Simply soak the vanilla beans in vodka for up to 12 months for the best vanilla extract you'll ever try.

homemade vanilla extract in clear glass jars

I use vanilla extract so frequently. It's practically in every recipe on my blog. Some of my favorite ways to use it are in a basic vanilla cake, vanilla cupcakes, and vanilla buttercream frosting.

But, the price for quality pure vanilla extract has gotten outrageous. This is why I had to learn how to make vanilla. And believe it or not, it's super easy and so much cheaper to make your own yourself.

I like to make a large quantity of vanilla extract because I use it every day in my baking. Small bottles do not last me long and I found myself repurchasing vanilla extract every couple weeks. That can really add up in cost.

Another great thing about making vanilla at home is you can make double fold vanilla extract for the price of a store-bought bottle of single fold vanilla extract.

What is the difference between single and double-fold vanilla extract?

  • Single-fold vanilla extract is required to use 13 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol. This is considered commercial grade vanilla extract. Nielson-Massey is an example of quality commercial brand vanilla and it's often my go-to when I must purchase extract.
  • Double-fold vanilla extract is what professional bakers use. It uses 23 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol. This rich vanilla flavor can't be duplicated by doubling the amount of single-fold vanilla you use.

For what you'll pay for high-quality single-fold vanilla, you can make your own double-fold vanilla extract at home.

Do keep in mind the cost of vanilla beans will go up and down throughout the year but it is still cheaper to make your own extract.

vanilla beans

Ingredients

  • Alcohol - I like to use vodka but you can actually use a variety of different alcohols. Look for the cheapest you can find at 80 proof.
  • Split vanilla Beans - Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans are rich, dark and creamy with an overwhelming sweet, buttery aroma. It's my favorite variety for homemade vanilla. You only need the Grade B beans. Currently, you can find bulk vanilla beans that are already split on Amazon. I buy 2 packs of 10 and put all of them in 750ml of vodka.
    • Tahitian vanilla beans are also a great choice! But, honestly, you can use any type of vanilla bean.

What you'll need to make pure vanilla extract:

  • Glass Jars: Amber colored glass jars are best since they shield the vanilla extract from light.
    • These clear jars are great also but you'll need to make sure to keep the vanilla inside a pantry or cupboard, away from light.
  • Labels: I love these chalkboard labels because you can wipe them off and reuse them. They're also waterproof!

What is the best alcohol to make vanilla extract?

80 proof vodka is the best alcohol to use. But other alcohols to choose from are brandy, bourbon, or rum. Each one will offer a different flavor extract.

Can I reuse beans after making vanilla extract?

I don't recommend reusing the beans to make more extract. The flavor has already been extracted from them. However, you can toss them in sugar to make vanilla sugar or scrape out the insides and use it in baked goods.

vanilla beans in a clear jar of vodka

How to make homemade vanilla extract

Choose your alcohol. I like to use vodka because it's the most versatile. If you choose to use brandy, bourbon, or rum, the vanilla will have a different flavor that may not be suitable for all recipes.

With the 750ml bottle, you can make the vanilla extract right in the same bottle. There's no need to spend money on glass bottles unless you really want to. If the bottle contains a speed pourer, the little plastic piece in the neck of the bottle, gently pop it out using a butter knife.

Cut the vanilla beans in half then slice the beans down the center to split them open. If the beans are too dry to split, cut them into 1-inch pieces instead. Place all the beans in the bottle with the alcohol.

Replace the lid and store the bottle in a cool place out of direct sunlight for 2 months. Shake the bottle every couple of weeks. The longer you let the vanilla age the stronger the flavor will be.

vanilla beans in a clear jar of vodka

How to store homemade vanilla

Keep the vanilla extract out of direct sunlight. I tuck mine away in the pantry for safekeeping.

If you decide to transfer the vanilla extract to smaller jars, these amber-colored jars are great for protecting the vanilla extract from light.

You can use the extract as soon as 8 weeks but it will become more rich and flavorful with age. For optimal flavor, let the vanilla age for about 6 months. If you have the patience, wait 12 months before using it.

How long does homemade vanilla extract last?

Vanilla can last indefinitely as long as it’s stored properly. But, it will have optimal flavor within the first 5 years. You’re never supposed to refrigerate or freeze vanilla extract. Keep it in a cool dry place like the pantry.

Aged vanilla extract in a clear glass jar

Tips for success

  • Stick to the recipe! The vanilla bean to alcohol ratio yields a wonderfully luxurious double-fold vanilla extract.
  • Letting the vanilla extract sit for 6 to 12 months will yield the richest vanilla essence.
  • If you are using split beans, you don't need to cut them because they are already sliced open.
homemade vanilla extract in clear glass jars

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Yield: one 750ml bottle
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Learning how to make homemade vanilla extract is the easiest thing ever. It requires only 2 ingredients and will save you so much money!

Ingredients

  • 20-24 Grade B Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans*, about 4 ounces - SEE NOTE 1
  • 750 milliliters 80 proof plain vodka, brandy, bourbon, or rum can also be used - SEE NOTE 2

Instructions

  1. Cut the vanilla beans in half and slice them down the center to split them open. (If you purchased the split beans I recommended, you don't need to slice them. They are already split open.)
  2. Combine the alcohol and vanilla in a large, clean jar and seal. Make sure the alcohol completely covers the beans.
  3. Store the jar in a cool dark place for at least 8 weeks, shaking a few times a week.
  4. When the extract is done, you can leave the beans in or remove them but the beans should always remain submerged in the alcohol to prevent them from going rancid.

Notes

  1. Grade A or B vanilla beans can be used. The only difference is the grade B beans will not look as pretty but this shouldn't matter since they are only being used to infuse alcohol. Grade B vanilla beans are also cheaper.
  2. You can use any alcohol you desire but bear in mind that this will also affect the final flavor of the vanilla. Plain vodka will yield the most versatile result.
  • The longer the vanilla extract ages, the better it will be. 6 to 12 months will yield optimal results.
  • If you purchase a 750ml bottle of alcohol, you can drop the beans right in the same bottle without needing to purchase additional bottles for storage.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1 teaspoon
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 12

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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Erin

Monday 19th of April 2021

I just made my first batch today I’m so excited !! But I’m curious, is it normal for the seeds to disperse? When I shook it it made it have a bunch of floaters filling my bottle? I never see that in recipes lol soon thought I’d ask!!

Jen Sobjack

Tuesday 20th of April 2021

Yes, this can happen and it's completely fine. Once the vanilla has matured, you can strain it through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter if you prefer not to have the seeds.

Dee

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

Jen, I ordered the split beans you link to on Amazon, specifically the 25 bean pack that I was planning on using in a 750 ml bottle. But the 25 bean pack weighs just 1-5/8oz. That's just a bit more than I'd need for 1 cup of double fold extract. Your recipe calls for 20-24 beans (of Vanilla Products USA Grade B Madagascar splits) in a 750 ml bottle. Can you clarify? Thanks!

Jen Sobjack

Thursday 15th of April 2021

Bean weights will vary depending on the quality. Drier beans will weigh less and it could take more beans to equal the amount needed and vice versa. If you want to be precise, use 4 ounces of beans with 750ml of alcohol. It sounds like you'll have beans leftover to make another batch and that's never a bad thing.

rc

Sunday 28th of March 2021

ahh, finally a blog post that really spells out the sensible choices for home-made vanilla extract...

I have been doing it exactly this same way, right down to the bottles and labels... I use organic vodka, 20-25 madagascar beans, organic when available, and a full year extraction.

Thank you for a clear and attractive recipe with photos and all !

Debra

Saturday 20th of March 2021

Thank you so much! I just made 2 bottles. I used 750ml vodka, I put in 25 grade b Madagascar beans. Did I over do it with 25 beans. I sliced and cut in half. Been shaking them everyday! Looking amazing!!! Im starting a 3 rd bottle now all for gifts.

Sharon

Wednesday 7th of April 2021

Is this a recipe for double fold or is this commercial grade?

Rita Broden

Thursday 18th of March 2021

I started my first 2 batches of single fold vanilla extract last July 1st, 2020. As instructed, I split my vanilla beans lengthwise and put them into the vodka bottIes and shook the bottles once a week. I have, since then, started 12 more batches of double fold extract. I will be steeping all of them at least 10 months, some of them 12 months. I have used vodka, rum, Everclear, and bourbon so that I can know first hand how each performs upon maturation. Also, on my last 12 batches I split the beans in half lengthwise and then cut them into small pieces and put them into the liquor bottles. The results from the smaller bean pieces are remarkable!! The Everclear batch is beautifully clear with a gorgeous color to it. The other liquors look cloudy compared to the Everclear. OH! I also shake my bottles every day now! Just sharing info!!!

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