Desserts

How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home – Crazy Easy!

Learn how to make vanilla extract at home. It is the easiest thing ever, saves you money and you get a lot more of it. Use it as you normally would in baking, cream desserts, or even drinks.

How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home bottled in 5oz bottles

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Can Vanilla Extract be Made at Home?

This is a definite, yes! In fact, sometimes you must make it at home. Case in point: when I first came to Germany, vanilla extract was not readily available here (maybe only in specialty baking stores). Recently (and after nine years of living here), I saw a really small bottle for sale at a local grocery store. It was REALLY small. Like maybe an ounce or two? and it was expensive!

I ended up making my vanilla extract at home at some point because, well, that’s just one thing I needed for baking and it wasn’t readily available here.

If you’re curious what the Germans use here instead of extract, well, the answer is – vanilla sugar. It is widely available and is sold in small little packets of 8g each.

Vodka vanilla extract in a glass bottle.

Ingredients for Making Vanilla Extract at Home

Just two ingredients are needed to make vanilla extract at home. They are vanilla beans and some kind of an alcohol – usually vodka.

Vanilla Beans

There are different kind of vanilla beans that can be used for making vanilla extract at home. The most common ones are: Madagascar, Tahitian, and Mexican beans. I just got whatever what was available at the store and that was the cheapest (I have no idea what type they were). Considering that vanilla beans are expensive, the cheapest is not very cheap at all šŸ˜‘.

If you are interested to learn more about the different types of vanilla beans along with some concise history, check out this page from Spices Inc: Spice Cabinet 101 Vanilla. I found it it to be interesting.

Alcohol for Vanilla Extract

To extract the vanilla flavor out of the beans, you will need some kind of an alcohol.

Vodka

Vodka is the most common alcohol to use in vanilla extract as it has a neutral taste. So you end up with a pure vanilla taste without any additional flavors. This is also the cheapest alcohol option for making vanilla.

Bourbon

Bourbon is a type of whiskey made from corn mash and is usually aged in oak barrels. Generally, the taste of bourbon is often described as smoky, spicy, and sweet with a touch of caramel. Keep in mind, when you make vanilla extract using bourbon it will have these additional flavors in there. This can be great, if that’s what you are looking to have in your recipe. (Also, keep in mind there are different varieties of bourbon and each has its own unique flavor which will be passed on into the vanilla extract).

Rum

Rum is another common liquor to use in making vanilla extract. Just like with bourbon, there are different varieties of rum available and each will have its own unique flavor notes. Depending on the type, it might have a sweet, oaky, smoky, caramel, and/or chocolate flavors. The lightest rum is the most neutral. Again, the flavor of your vanilla extract will depend on the type of rum you end up using.

Bottles for Vanilla Extract

There are many cute bottles that you can buy for storing the vanilla extract. Here are some awesome examples from Amazon (affiliate):

What I am using here are 5oz bottles from the Kikkoman Soy Sauce. They work perfectly for vanilla extract. They are small and handy and the label comes off super easy! I love being able to re-use stuff I already have to save money and, well, to help the environment (though glass is not as bad as plastic). We buy soy sauce quite a bit, so I started saving these and found a good way to use them.

You can also use a regular mason jar instead of bottling the vanilla into small bottles if that’s what you have. However, if you bottle the extract individually in small bottles, they make an awesome gift for those people who love baking!

How is Vanilla Extract made Step by Step (Vanilla Extract Recipe)

1. Take out the vanilla beans from the package and cut in half. Then cut the halves lengthwise in half leaving them attached at the top, if you wish.

2. Place the cut vanilla beans into each bottle. I ended up with 1 1/2 to 2 beans in each bottle. If you want your vanilla extract to be more concentrated, just add more beans to each bottle.

3. Pour the Vodka into each bottle. I used a small stainless steel funnel here since I had one that fit, but this is optional.

4. Let the vanilla beans infuse for at least 3 months to get all that flavor. The extract will become very dark brown in color.

How to make vanilla extract at home

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to make vanilla extract at home?

Here is the cost breakdown for the vanilla extract based on the amounts in this recipe:

Bottles – Cost me nothing because I reused the bottles I had from Kikkoman Soy Sauce.

Vanilla beans – Each vanilla bean was ā‚¬3.79 so 4 beans cost ā‚¬15.16.

Vodka – I bought Vodka which was on sale for ā‚¬5.99 (normally around ā‚¬8). I didn’t use up all of it for vanilla extract, but I’ll just include it in the cost breakdown to make it easier.

Total costs – ā‚¬21.15, which gives me the cost of ā‚¬1.41 per ounce or ā‚¬7.05 for a 5oz bottle [making it $6.99 for a 5oz bottle at the current exchange rate]

*side note: I just looked up the exchange rates and wow! It’s crazy how much the euro fell against the dollar. Incredible! Ha. The advantages of living abroad – you follow exchange rates.

Is it cheaper to make your own vanilla extract?

This depends on several factors, such as how much vanilla extract costs at the store, how much vanilla beans cost in your area (of if you can get them online), which alcohol you use and how much it costs, and if you decide to buy special bottles for it. In my case, (where vanilla extract wasn’t readily available at all), it definitely was cheaper to make my own.

What is the best alcohol to make vanilla extract?

The best alcohol for making vanilla extract depend on what kind of extract you want. Vodka will give you the most neutral taste. Other liquors like bourbon and rum have additional flavors that will impact your extract. See the section on Alcohol for Vanilla Extract (above) for details.

How many times can vanilla beans be used to make vanilla extract?

Once you start running out of extract, you can add more alcohol to the same beans and let them sit again to make more extract. It is recommended to do this once after the initial extract making. Using it more often than that would probably give you a very weak extract.

Why does my homemade vanilla extract taste like alcohol?

If your extract tastes like alcohol it has probably not had enough time to extract all the flavor. Let it sit a little longer. Another reason might be that the amount of vanilla beans used for the amount of alcohol was too little. Add another bean to the bottle and let it sit longer to improve the flavor.

How long does homemade vanilla extract last?

Homemade Vanilla Extract lasts indefinitely or as long as it takes you to use it up. Since the extract is made with alcohol it will not go bad. Just make sure that the beans are fully submerged in alcohol.

Vanilla extract made with vodka in bottles

Recipes to Use Homemade Vanilla Extract In

One of my favorite ways to use Vanilla Extract is for making homemade whipped cream. Check out my post on How to Make Whipped Cream for step by step instructions.

Also, use it in baking, like when making these Moist Blueberry Muffins with Yogurt.

Or even use it in drinks like this Addicting Cold Brew Coffee. Just add a teaspoon before adding sugar.

My other favorite dessert that uses vanilla extract is this German Quark Dessert with Strawberries.

Lastly, if you found this post on How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home helpful and if you make it, make sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating here! Iā€™d love to hear back from you and will do my best to answer and respond to every comment. And of course, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram if you make this recipe. I’d love to see the photos of the recipes you have made!

How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home

Learn how to make vanilla extract at home. It is so easy and you can make as much as you want of it.
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Homemade, Vanilla Extract
Yield: 3 5oz bottles
Cost: $21

Equipment

  • 3 5 oz glass bottles

Materials

  • 4 Vanilla beans
  • 15 oz Vodka

Instructions

  • Cut vanilla beans into halves and the halves lengthwise into halves leaving them connected at the top.
  • Add the cut vanilla beans into bottles.
  • Pour vodka into the bottles with the vanilla beans.
  • Store bottles for at least 3 months in a cool, dark, place.
How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home - Crazy Easy!

Learn how to make vanilla extract at home. It is the easiest thing ever, saves you money and you get a lot more of it. Use it as you normally would in baking, cream desserts, or even drinks.

Type: Dessert, How to

Cuisine: American

Keywords: Vanilla extract, Vodka, Vanilla beans, Alcohol, extract, baking

Recipe Yield: 3 5oz bottles

Preparation Time: PT0H05M

Total Time: PT0H05M

Recipe Ingredients:

  • Vanilla beans
  • Vodka

Recipe Instructions: Cut vanilla beans into halves and the halves lengthwise into halves leaving them connected at the top. Add the cut vanilla beans into bottles. Pour vodka into the bottles with the vanilla beans. Store bottles for at least 3 months in a cool, dark, place.

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