Homemade Vanilla Extract
This homemade vanilla extract will last you for years, save you money and is even better than store-bought! It is super easy and quick to prepare. All you need are 2 ingredients and a lot of patience waiting for the vanilla beans to infuse and turn into a well flavored extract.
Why Make Homemade Vanilla Extract?
These days vanilla extract is a key ingredient in many baked goods. It is a staple in most households and can turn any dessert from a boring normal dish into an amazing treat.
This makes it even more devastating when you are in the middle of baking, open your cupboard just to find out that you run out of vanilla extract! It is a nightmare! So you have to run to the store real quick and go buy a bottle. I don’t know how it is in the rest of the world but here vanilla extract is not that easy to get and it ain’t cheap. You get those tiny bottles and pay a fortune for them. I actually ended up buying vanilla paste most of the time. I love vanilla paste and you can get it at any grocery store, it does run out pretty quickly tough.
So, I needed a solution. I have always loved making things myself at home so I started researching how you make extracts.
The recipe could not be any simpler and homemade vanilla extract is very cost efficient, you can control the strength of the vanilla flavor plus it basically never runs out! Not to forget it tastes much better! In many store-bought vanilla extracts the companies cut back on the amount of vanilla beans or even use artificially produced imitations. Who wants that?!
That is why I decided to show you how it is done so you can also start enjoying the amazing flavor of homemade vanilla extract and make your baked goods even better.
Ingredients you need for vanilla extract:
Making essences is very simple. All you need is the ingredient you want the essence to taste like and alcohol:
- Vanilla Beans: Make sure you use good quality vanilla beans! The better the vanilla bean the better the flavor will be in the end so spend your money for them beans! Two very popular choices are Madagascar (a dark, smoky flavor) and Tahitian (rich floral flavor) vanilla beans. The good quality ones we can get at the store here are the Madagascar Bourbon-Vanilla beans which are the ones I am using.
- Alcohol: The most commonly used alcohol is Vodka. However, bourbon, rum or even brandy are very popular choices that work perfectly fine. I usually use bourbon as I have always been addicted to any kind of bourbon vanilla extract or sugar. What is important is that you choose an alcohol that does not contain any kind of artificial flavoring. As the alcohol flavor starts to disappear with the time and the vanilla takes over you will not have to go with an expensive bottle. A cheap alcohol is sufficient.
How to make Vanilla Extract at home
Next to the vanilla beans and alcohol you will need glas bottles or jars with tight seal that can hold 2dl (about 7 ounces) and a funnel.
Make sure your bottles / jars are clean and sterilized. Here is a blog post explaining you different ways to sterilize your bottles.
Next get your vanilla beans out and make a cut down the middle of each vanilla bean with a sharp knife. You don’t have to cut trough the beans completely but you can. The goal is to expose the vanilla seeds. I always slightly open the bean a bit with my hands to really expose those seeds.
Add the vanilla beans into the bottle. If the beans do not fit the bottle / jar simply cut them in half.
Using a funnel pour the alcohol into the bottle over the beans. Make sure the vanilla beans are completely covered in the liquid. If you do not cover them completely you risk them getting moldy.
Close the bottle and shake it.
All you have to do now is wait. Shake it every few days.
How to store vanilla extract:
Store the bottle at room temperature protected from direct sunlight.
How long do I have to let my extract sit till I can use it?
The longer you let the extract sit the better the flavor. The general rule for essences is to wait 6-8 weeks. However, I found that the essences still mainly tastes like alcohol at this stage. You do have the vanilla taste but not strong enough in my opinion. Therefore I recommend to wait 6-12 months to get the best vanilla flavor.
How do I refill my extract?
After every use refill the bottle with whatever alcohol you originally used and shake the bottle. A very important step is to always shake the bottle one you put in new alcohol or beans.
How long is vanilla extract good for?
As long as you keep your vanilla beans completely submerges in alcohol (called unused aged extract) it should last several years. Here you need to use your common sense: If smells and tastes good it is still good and usable. Just make sure to always fill up the bottle with alcohol when the beans are no longer submerged. As you keep filling up the bottle the beans will start loosing their flavor with time. If you feel like the flavor is not strong enough anymore then simply remove the vanilla beans and replace them with new ones.
Once you remove the beans (aged extract) it will last indefinitely. The problem here is that at some point the extract will be gone and you have to make new one. However, it makes the perfect gift as the person receiving it will not have to refill the bottle every time.
How can I intensify the vanilla flavor of my extract?
You can simply add more vanilla beans. The more you add the stronger your vanilla flavor gets.
Can I make extract without using alcohol?
I have never tried an extract without using alcohol before. There are tutorials online explaining you how to tough.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- Glas bottle / jar (2dl / 7 ounces)
- Sharp knife
- 5 vanilla beans good quality
- 2 dl alcohol check notes
- Make sure your bottles are clean and sterilized. Here is a link explaining you 3 ways how to do that.
- Make a cut down the middle of the vanilla bean with a sharp knife. You don't have to cut trough it completely but you can. The goal is to expose the vanilla seeds.
- Add the vanilla beans into the bottle / jar.
- Using a funnel pour the alcohol into the bottle. Make sure the vanilla beans are completely submerged in alcohol.
- Close the bottle and shake it well.
- All you have to do now is wait. Store the bottle at room temperature protected from direct sunlight. Shake it every few days.
- Once you use your extract make sure you fill up the bottle with alcohol after every usage. After filling the bottle and before using the extract always shake it well.
- Vanilla bean size: If the vanilla beans do not fit into your bottle/jar simply cut them in half.
- Alcohol: Vodka, bourbon, rum and brandy all work. Avoid any alcohol with artificial flavor.
- Vanilla bean seeds: You might find some seeds swimming around in your extract. That is completely normal. In fact you want those seeds in your baked goods as they have even more flavor.
- Waiting time: The general rule for essences is to wait 6-8 weeks. However, I found that the essences still mainly tastes like alcohol at this stage. You do have the vanilla taste but not strong enough in my opinion. Therefore I recommend to wait 6-12 months to get the best vanilla flavor.
- Use of the extract: You use it the same way you’d use normal vanilla extract
- How long is it good for?: The vanilla extract is good for years. As long as it still smells and tastes good it is still good. Make sure the vanilla beans stay submerged in alcohol or remove them completely.
- Intensify the flavor: By adding more vanilla beans the flavor gets stronger.