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.
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.
- 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, I buy bulk vanilla beans on Beanilla. I get the 8 ounce pack and divide it btween two 750ml bottles 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 (affiliate link) are best since they shield the vanilla extract from light.
- These clear jars (affiliate link) 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 (affiliate link) 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.
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.
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.
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.