Once you know, you know: homemade vanilla extract is out-of-this-world amazing! With only 2 ingredients, it's super easy to make… and very cost effective, too.
One of the best and simplest things I've ever done is make my own vanilla extract.
Now, wait… Aren't vanilla beans super expensive?
Yes! They are.
But 32 of them and a 1/2 gallon of liquor is still less when you consider you can pay up to $20 over and over again for tiny little bottles of organic vanilla extract.
Plus, I'll show you the perpetual method of making pure vanilla extract so you can get the most out of your beans by using them over and over again!
What type of alcohol is best?
You can use vodka, bourbon, rum, or brandy — but make sure whatever you choose has at least 40% alcohol, or is at least 80 proof.
Vodka is the most common option, as its neutral flavor yields the most pure vanilla extract.
My favorite is bourbon, though. It's deep, rich, and delicious!
What are the best vanilla beans to use?
There are many different varieties of vanilla beans.
Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans (the most popular choice) are known for their sweet and creamy flavor, while Tahitian vanilla beans have floral, cherry, and chocolate notes (source). You can't really go wrong with either of those!
In addition to variety, there are different grades of beans based on moisture level, length, and quality. Grade A are the highest quality, being the most moist and over 6 inches in length. (Source.)
Grade B, on the other hand, are of lesser quality but also less expensive, and typically the best choice for making extracts. If you can't find Grade B, Grade A works well, too!
Single-Fold Vs. Double-Fold Vanilla Extract
Most commercial vanilla extracts are single-fold, meaning that they are made with 0.8 ounces of vanilla beans per 1 cup of alcohol. You can achieve the same result at home with 4 vanilla beans per 1 cup of alcohol.
Double-fold vanilla extracts are much more potent, more expensive, and made with 1.5 ounces of vanilla beans per 1 cup of alcohol. This would mean using about 8 vanilla beans per 1 cup of alcohol.
In this recipe, I've chosen to go the single-fold route, but feel free to adjust depending on your preference! Homemade vanilla extract is delicious (and better than store-bought) no matter what!
How To Make Homemade Vanilla Extract
With only two ingredients, making your own vanilla extract couldn't get easier!
First, split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. You can use scissors or a knife.
Scrape out the seeds with a spoon, and collect both seeds and beans in a clean 1/2 gallon jar. (Or, you can put the seeds and beans directly into your bottle of vodka or other liquor. Just keep in mind the ratio of beans to alcohol!)
Fill with liquor until the beans in the jar are completely submerged. Cover tightly, then shake gently.
Store in a cool dark place for at least 6 to 8 weeks before beginning to use, shaking it up every few days.
To make perpetual vanilla extract, simply replace any used extract with additional liquor. For example, if you use 1 teaspoon of extract in a recipe, add 1 teaspoon of liquor back to the bottle.
Over time, this extract will be increasingly diluted, so be sure to add a few vanilla beans, a few times a year, to keep it fragrant and flavorful!
If this perpetual method doesn't appeal to you, you can still reuse your beans to get the most out of them. Simply use up your extract, then add fresh liquor to your old beans.
The resulting extract won't be as flavorful, so again, you may want to add more vanilla beans. Find what works for you.
Pure vanilla extract has an indefinite shelf life, so don't worry about having to use it up quickly!
Note: Don't want to make such a large batch of vanilla? Feel free to scale down, keeping in mind the ratio of beans to liquor discussed above!
Video Tutorial: 1/2 Gallon Of Homemade Vanilla Extract!
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Once you know, you know: homemade vanilla extract is out-of-this-world amazing! With only 2 ingredients, it's super easy to make... and very cost effective, too.
- 32 vanilla beans
- 1/2 gallon vodka or bourbon, rum, or brandy (at least 80 proof)
Split the vanilla beans in half, lengthwise.
Scrape out the seeds.
Put the seeds and beans in a clean 1/2 gallon jar and pour in vodka.
Cover the jar, then shake it gently.
Put the jar in a dark cupboard.
Shake it up every few days.
Start using it after a few weeks, though after 8 weeks it will be good and dark. Use anywhere you would use vanilla extract from the grocery store!
Why Make Homemade Extract
I used to buy vanilla extract made from bourbon at Trader Joe's and really liked what it did for our ice cream, so when I set out to make my own, that's the kind I wanted to make!
Using homemade vanilla extract, our ice cream (and many other dishes) are out of this world. Like 500 times better.
Perhaps that is an exaggeration. But the point is, homemade vanilla offers much more flavor.
Here's an example of what it can do…
I made ice cream with some frozen cream (a bit freezer burned) and the Trader Joe's vanilla extract. Nobody liked it, no doubt because of the freezer burn.
Then, a few months later, I made another batch of ice cream with freezer-burned cream using my vanilla extract made from bourbon. The ice cream was amazing — the whole family thought so!
Homemade vanilla extract is so good, it can mask mild freezer burn!
Using The Homemade Vanilla Extract
Use anywhere you'd use store-bought vanilla extract! Here are a few of our favorite recipes!
- Best Ice Cream: Chocolate or Vanilla
- Dairy-Free No-Churn Blackberry Ice Cream (pictured above)
- How To Make Homemade Whipped Cream
- Basic Eggnog
- Instant Pot White Hot Chocolate
- Sourdough Chocolate Cake
Have you tried homemade vanilla extract? What is your favorite combination of beans and liquor?
This post was originally published and written by Wardee Harmon on 8/11/10. It was updated and republished on 5/22/20.
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