This recipe for Homemade Vanilla Extract is super simple to make with only 2 ingredients. Make it in batches and store year round for a continuous supply of this flavourful baking staple.
What is vanilla?
Vanilla is regarded as the world's most popular flavour.
It is a very fragrant spice from vanilla orchid plants and is considered to be the 2nd most expensive spice, after saffron.
The vanilla pods are about the size of a long bean and are dark brown/black in colour.
They contain vanilla seeds which provide the flavour in vanilla extract.
Vanilla flavour/scent is a commonly used Western baking, perfumery, and cosmetics.
Why you'll love this recipe
This recipe for pure vanilla extract literally only uses 2 ingredients.
However you'll need a little patience as it takes some time for the vanilla to infuse the alcohol.
By placing the vanilla beans directly into the alcohol, there's less risk of contamination, and it streamlines the process. *(Note: for the photos, I used a smaller, different bottle).
Splitting the vanilla beans in half lengthwise exposes the vanilla seeds into the extract, concentrating the flavour.
It's a cost-efficient way to make a lot of vanilla extract, especially if you're a baker.
You can easily give these as gourmet Christmas gifts during the holidays.
How to choose vanilla beans
When choosing vanilla beans, select beans that are long, plump and full of seeds with a thin skin.
The beans should not be dry or brittle.
There are many different varieties:
- Mexican vanilla beans: have a flavor profile of clove and nutmeg
- Madagascar vanilla beans: have a sweet, creamy mellow flavor
- Tahitian vanilla beans: have a cherry-like aroma and flavor
You can use whichever you prefer.
Different forms of vanilla
- vanilla paste: has a thicker consistency than vanilla extract, and usually contains an invert sugar such as corn syrup, vanilla extract and vanilla powder
- vanilla powder: is ground up vanilla beans with starch and sugar
- vanilla sugar: is just granulated sugar infused with vanilla beans, which adds an flavourful aroma to the sugar
Ingredients you'll need
- vanilla beans: choose long, plump vanilla beans (Mexican, Madagascar, Tahitian or a combination will do)
- pure alcohol (with at least 40% alcohol by volume): you can use any alcohol but 80 proof alcohol vodka will give you a neutral, pure flavor
Other types of alcohol
For flavored vanilla extract, try using other alcohol such as:
- spiced rum (my personal favourite)
- bourbon whiskey
How to make homemade vanilla extract
Wash your hands well.
Open a brand new bottle of alcohol.
Remove by pouring out approximately 30 ml (1 ounce [oz]) of alcohol (to help with the displacement).
Carefully split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise with a small sharp knife, cutting only to expose the seeds.
Use a pair of tongs or chopsticks and take the split vanilla beans and place them right into the bottle of alcohol.
Place the cap back on and give it a few gentle swirls.
Store in a dark, cool location and give it a shake every few weeks.
When is it ready to use?
Homemade Vanilla Extract is ready to use when the alcohol turns a golden hue.
It's ready to use at the earliest by 3 months, or wait until 1 year.
Over a period of time (about 1 year), the extract will deepen in colour, turning a darker brown.
However, the longer the vanilla extract sits, the flavour will develop and become richer in tone.
How to use vanilla
Use it in ice cream.
Vanilla pairs well with other flavours such as coffee, chocolate, matcha, and caramel.
How to store vanilla extract
You can store the vanilla extract in the alcohol bottle that you used to make it.
Give the bottle a shake every few weeks to evenly distribute the vanilla and alcohol.
Store Homemade Vanilla Extract in a cool, dark place for up to 10 years, or longer if stored properly.
How to give them as gifts
If you're giving homemade vanilla extract as gifts, prepare clean glass mason jars by sterilizing them first.
Add a small funnel and carefully pour the vanilla extract into the glass jar.
Seal with the lid.
Add a label to the jar and tie a ribbon or string.
You can also include a recipe using the vanilla extract (such as a cake or cookie recipe).
What to do with the used vanilla beans?
Don't throw away those used vanilla beans.
You can add more vanilla beans to another batch of vanilla extract.
Or you can grind them up (using a coffee grinder) into a powder and make Vanilla Powder.
You can also tuck the vanilla beans into a jar of granulated sugar to make Vanilla Sugar.
What is double-fold vanilla extract?
It is twice the amount of vanilla beans used in the same amount of volume in a single-fold extract.
Basically, it is doubly-concentrated vanilla extract that bakers use to impart strong vanilla flavour.
Should I store homemade vanilla extract in the fridge?
No. Don't store vanilla extract in the fridge -- it may cause it to become cloudy.
How do I know if the vanilla extract has gone bad?
Give it a smell or taste test -- if there's any off scent or flavour, then don't use it.
Can I reuse vanilla beans?
Yes, you can reuse the vanilla beans to make vanilla sugar or vanilla powder, or simply add to another batch of vanilla extract.
Recipes to try with your own vanilla extract
Other recipes you may like
Be sure to check out these recipes:
Let me know if you try out this recipe -- tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment/rating below!
Homemade Vanilla Extract
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 10 whole vanilla beans split in half lengthwise
- 1 bottle (750ml) alcohol (vodka, rum or bourbon whiskey)
- Wash your hands well.
- Open a brand new bottle of alcohol.
- Remove approximately 30 ml of alcohol (to help with the displacement).
- Carefully split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise with a small sharp knife, cutting only to expose the seeds.
- Use a pair of tongs or chopsticks and take the split vanilla beans and place them right into the bottle of alcohol.
- Place the cap back on and give it a few gentle swirls.
- Store in a dark, cool location and give it a shake every few weeks.
- Ready to use at the earliest by 3 months, or wait until 1 year even better flavour.
The nutritional information provided should be considered as approximate and is not guaranteed. Please use your best judgment to ensure food is safely prepared and/or a good fit for your diet.