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Homemade Vanilla Extract

by Deliciously Organic on November 5, 2009

It still amazes me how many preservatives and additives are in the little things we use in the kitchen.  Take a look at the ingredient list on bottle of vanilla in your pantry; there should only be three ingredients - vanilla beans, alcohol, and water.  Most vanilla extract sold in stores is not a pure product.  Some vanilla extract contains a petroleum product called, “ethylvanillin” and some Mexican vanillas don’t even use real vanilla beans but instead use “tonka” beans which can be toxic if consumed in high doses. Other ingredients found in vanilla extracts are: caramel coloring, sugar, and corn syrup.  If you are doing your best to bake with whole, organic ingredients then it’s a good idea to make sure your vanilla, spices, and condiments are coming from good sources also.

After chatting a bit with some of the ladies from Rodelle (a company that sells some amazing organic vanilla) they informed me that in order for vanilla to be classified as an “extract” you need 18-20 vanilla beans per 750ml of alcohol.  They also told me that in order to get the best flavor out of your beans you can chop them up before adding them to the alcohol, or let the whole beans ferment in the alcohol for at least 2 months.  Homemade vanilla lasts a couple of years if kept in a cool dark place and there is the added benefit of having wonderful fermented vanilla beans in your pantry to be used in your baking.

A few months ago I decided to make my own, so I bought 25 vanilla beans from Amazon (about $14 with shipping), and a bottle of organic vodka ($14).  I was able to make a large 24 ounce jar of pure vanilla extract.  (I normally would have paid over $60 for the same amount of organic vanilla extract.) The best part is that as you use your vanilla, you can top it off with some more vodka to make more!
Homemade Vanilla Extract

Serving Size: Yields 12 ounces

Homemade Vanilla Extract

To cut down on the fermenting time, you can chop up your beans and let the mixture sit for 3 weeks instead of 2 months. I prefer to use whole beans because then I have whole vanilla beans to use when the occasion arises.

Ingredients

  • 1 24 ounce mason jar (or other jar of your choice)

  • 10 vanilla beans
  • 1 1/2 cups good vodka (organic preferred)

Instructions

Place vanilla beans in the jar and pour vodka over the beans. Make sure the lid is on tight and store in a dark, cool place (my pantry is about 75 degrees throughout the year). If using whole beans, let the vanilla sit for 2 months. If you chopped your vanilla beans, let vanilla sit about 3 weeks before using. Shake bottle before each use. As you use up the vanilla, you can add more vodka to make the beans go further.

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Crumbs November 6, 2009 at 12:59 am

Inspiring! I have a question about the vanilla beans you bought: You were able to get 25 for $14? Perhaps I'm reading their site wrong, but on the Rodelle site I can only see 2 beans for $6.89 or 12 for $39.

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Deliciously Organic November 6, 2009 at 1:02 am

There is a link if you click "mail order company". It is a company called Top Vanilla that sells incredibly priced vanilla beans. Hope that helps!

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Crumbs November 6, 2009 at 1:44 am

I'm a fool. I see now that you went to Top Vanilla.

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Yujai November 6, 2009 at 4:47 am

This is great! I will try this after I finished all my vanilla powder and sugar. Thanks for the most!

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Sky Blue 1971 November 6, 2009 at 11:01 am

I'm about to make some Vanilla Extract also, you simply cannot beat a product in which you know every ingredient you put in it! Thanks for the recipe :)

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cookingschoolconfidential.com November 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Oh, what a beautiful picture! I just added vanilla beans to my white sugar, yesterday. One good bean can scent and flavor an entire jar (and I keep reusing the same bean until it is spent – so I actually get several jars worth out of it), making it heavenly.It's like magic!Cheers!

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Lezlee November 6, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Now this sounds really cool! I just bought a 4oz container from azure standard (flavorganics) for 8.50, but you're talking about 6 times that amount for much less! Is vodka the best? I suppose, since it doesn't have much scent?

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Katia Clark November 6, 2009 at 6:00 pm

That's amazing. Another project for sure.

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Mallory Cervas November 9, 2009 at 1:54 am

What is your definition of 'cool dark place'? I live in Houston so my house runs up to 78 in the summers. If i keep this in my pantry, is this too warm?

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Deliciously Organic November 10, 2009 at 1:41 am

Mallory, that will do fine for a "cool dark place". I live in FL so I completely understand…my pantry stays at 78 most of the year also. THe most important thing is that it is kept in the dark.

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Nicole November 19, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Hi! I think making food organic is great. I also think that making your own extract is the best idea since cake :-). I do have a question though could you use any kind of alcohol or is vodka the best?

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Deliciously Organic November 19, 2009 at 6:35 pm

You could also use an organic rum. Vodka is usually used b/c of it's clean flavor, but it also tastes amazing with rum.

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Nicole November 19, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Thank you for the tip I will try both and see what I like best. I bet it would taste great with a rum cake that way. :-)

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troynvic February 2, 2010 at 1:03 am

Do you discard the beans after 2 months or do you leave them in the jar while using the vanilla?

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Deliciously Organic February 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm

troynvic: You leave the beans in the jar…they last for years!

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Susie February 21, 2010 at 9:47 pm

I am unclear on whether the beans you bought were organic? I didn't see anything about it when I clicked the link. Thank you.

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Susie February 22, 2010 at 6:38 pm

I emailed the top vanilla people about the organic status and the process of "curing". This was there response. Can't wait to try! The grower associations we partner with have obtained Organic Certification from the EcoCert office in Madagascar.Blanching: After harvest, the green beans are ready to be processed. The beans are placed into woven baskets and plunged briefly into vats of hot water, to stop the growth process. The cooked beans are then sweated, by being wrapped tightly in wool blankets and stored for one to two days.Curing: The blanched beans are then put out to cure in the sun a few hours each day, over a period of several months. The exact time of curing depends on a variety of daily conditions, including the amount of sun available and the humidity. Each day, after curing, beans are frequently worked by hand to improve their shape and texture. The beans are then re-wrapped and stored overnight indoors. This process occurs from the end of May until September.

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Deliciously Organic February 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Susie: thanks for the information!

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Johanna April 21, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Most store-bought vanilla extract is 35% alcohol. Do you find that using 100% alcohol alters your recipes at all? I feel like that would be very robust. :]

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Deliciously Organic April 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I haven’t found it to be any more robust than store-bought. I prefer the flavor of the homemade much more than store bought. It’s also just one more way for me to avoid any type of preservative and/or corn syrup in my baking.

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Pam October 24, 2011 at 7:07 pm

I have always wanted to try making my own vanilla and now I am inspired to do so. Thanks for posting!

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Alicia October 24, 2011 at 7:54 pm

I saw a similar recipe on another site a few weeks ago using dark rum and chocolate mint with only 4 vanilla beans. I decided to just go straight vanilla beans and no mint, but I still only used 4. I should get some more just to make sure I get a vanilla flavored extract. Thanks for sharing :)

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Leslie October 25, 2011 at 5:19 am

If you get on ebay, you can find vanilla beans for even less expensive. The place we get them from offers a pound of beans for about $25ish. And, they run specials from time to time that if you spend $25 or more… on a sliding scale they send you more, free beans. So, because we spent 25… we got a 1/4 lb for free. All in all it was about 125 beans. I’m not even through the free 1/4 lb yet, and I use them ALL the time.

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Chelsea November 11, 2011 at 9:18 am

If I was to chop the vanilla beans, is there a specific way they need to be chopped? Could I cut them in 3rds or do they need to be chopped into small pieces?

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Deliciously Organic November 12, 2011 at 9:49 pm

From what I understand, Rodelle they said they need to be chopped in smaller pieces (like 1-inch pieces).

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Anne-Marie A December 20, 2011 at 8:32 pm

question: why do you need a 24 once jar if only using 1 1/2 cups (12 oz) of vodka? does it expand?

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Deliciously Organic December 22, 2011 at 10:11 am

When you add 10 beans to the liquid the level rises in the jar. It really just gives the vanilla plenty of room, but if you wanted to use a smaller jar, like an 18 ounce, that would work well too. I wouldn’t use a 12 ounce jar because there won’t be enough room for the liquid and beans.

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Andrea March 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Once the vanilla extract is made could you take the liquid out of the beans and put into separate jars? Or does it lose flavor if not in contact with beans. ( I’m thinking of packaging up at gifts.) Thanks in advance! I’m loving your site and book!

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Deliciously Organic March 11, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Yes, you can take the beans out of the vanilla and bottle it up. For gifts, it’s nice to leave one bean in the jar (it looks cute) but it’s not necessary. :)

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Patty April 23, 2012 at 8:42 am

I recently purchased 4 vanilla beans and still need to get my vodka. Would the measurements still be the same for the vodka with a smaller amount of vanilla beans?

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Deliciously Organic April 23, 2012 at 9:51 am

If you have 4 vanilla beans I would try and keep the ratios that the recipe calls for. So I’d use a 10-12 ounce jar, 4 vanilla beans, and about 3/4 cup of vodka.

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Penelope Tsaldari September 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Just posted this to my FB… luv it!

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Deliciously Organic September 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Thanks!

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LuAnna September 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Where do you get organic vodka from ??

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Deliciously Organic September 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm

If you google “organic vodka” you’ll be able to see lots of different brands and where to purchase. Rum is also a great alternative.

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Cindi Stickle September 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I will be making smaller jars (4 oz or so) and give them as Christmas presents!!

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Deliciously Organic September 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Perfect!

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Debbie Germano November 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Hi Carrie, I ‘ve been making my own vanilla extract for a few years now and I just pop the beans into the bottle of vodka! It hides in a cool, dark cupboard for a couple of months and voila! I love that it is only 2 ingredients and so much less expensive! Keep up the good work, we really appreciate it! Debbie

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Sheila H. November 16, 2012 at 6:44 pm

After I got tired of spending 16 dollars per bottle, I am making my own half gallon for 30 dollars!! Thanks to Olive Nation for their great beans and prices!

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Sherri Hazelton March 2, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I have also heard you can use Brandy to make vanilla extract. Will probably change the flavor some because of the natural brandy flavor. Haven’t tried it yet because my husband drank the small bottle of brandy before I got to try it. :-) will try it soon. Also, he brought home a bottle of cherry vodka recently and I am going to try making some extract with that. One way to do the vanilla extract (without chopping) slit the bean open, scrape out seeds, add seeds and bean pod to alcohol. Just have to be careful seeds don’t get into what you are flavoring, unless you want a little extra vanilla flavor.

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Tatum August 1, 2013 at 11:00 pm

I’m new to making infused home goods, so I am needing guidance. How many times can u reuse the vanilla bean in this recipe? And how about for the sugar infusion? Does the same apply when using orange peels or lavender or other items like that when making other infused extracts? Lastly, do these extracts have to be used with alcohol or is vegetable glycerin OK?

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Madeleine April 5, 2014 at 7:34 am

Your recipe calls for a good quality organic vodka. What brands are good quality? How do you rate vodka? What brand did you use?

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