Vanilla extract is one of those ingredients that’s in nearly every sweet recipe. I used to just buy whatever vanilla extract was available at my local grocery store without a second thought. I never considered that making Homemade Vanilla Extract would be 1) so easy, and 2) so much better than what you can buy in a store!
No one *needs* to make their own vanilla extract. It’s a readily available ingredient at pretty much any grocery store. I always knew that real vanilla extract was head and shoulders above imitation vanilla (please, please for the love of sugar, don’t buy imitation vanilla!!!), and that certain brands of vanilla extract had better flavor than others.
The bottom line is that using Homemade Vanilla Extract results in better-tasting sweets! All you need to get started are vanilla beans, alcohol, and a glass bottle(s).
Choosing the Best Vanilla Beans
You can easily scale this recipe up or down for your needs! I use one vanilla bean per ounce of alcohol as a rule of thumb. When you’re purchasing vanilla beans, here are a few helpful hints as to what to look for:
- Your vanilla beans should be plump, soft (should be able to bend them without them breaking), and dark brown to nearly black in color. They will also smell fantastic!
- Beans from Madagascar are my favorite for vanilla extract, but use what you like!
- If you can’t see/smell the beans in person, make sure you’re buying from a reputable source. I always buy from companies that grow sustainably and use fair trade practices. The beans that I purchased for my last batch of vanilla extract are these here.
Alcohol for Homemade Vanilla Extract
I used vodka for my extract, but if you prefer you can use bourbon, rum, or brandy! 70 proof/35% alcohol is recommended. Any brand and quality will do (so no need to splurge on the expensive stuff)! I bought a big ol’ Costco-sized bottle of vodka, so that’s what I’ve been using for both my vanilla extract and Homemade Chocolate Extract.
Bottles for Homemade Vanilla Extract
The vanilla beans do take up a little space in the bottle, so I go with an 8.5 oz glass bottle like this one here for steeping 8 oz of vanilla extract. You can use the vanilla extract straight from this bottle, or split it between two smaller 4 oz. bottles like these here once it’s ready for use.
After 8 weeks in your pantry (with the occasional shake of the bottle), your homemade extract is ready for use! The longer you leave it sit, the more flavorful it will be. I know folks who make extract each Christmas, and then let it steep until the following Christmas!
Speaking of the holidays, gifting bottles of Homemade Vanilla Extract would make you a total rock star. Just sayin’. I’ll remind you closer to the holidays so you can start a stash in your pantry and surprise your family and friends. 😀
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Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 8 vanilla beans (see note)
- 1 cup vodka (8 oz; see note)
- Split each vanilla bean lengthwise and place in a glass bottle (see note). If they don't fit, you can cut them into smaller pieces.
- Pour vodka (or alcohol of your choice; see note) in the bottle with the beans. Make sure the vanilla beans are completely submerged.
- Place the bottle at room temperature in a dark place to do its thing. Pull the bottle out and shake it once or twice a week. After 8 weeks, the vanilla extract is ready for use. The flavor will continue to develop as long as you leave the beans in the bottle. Remove the beans when no longer submerged, as they could mold when not in the extract.Enjoy!