Homemade Vanilla Extract

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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73 Comments

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

    • Deliciously Organic

      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.

  3. Alicia

    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 :)

  4. Leslie

    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.

    • Deliciously Organic

      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.

  5. Andrea

    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!

  6. Debbie Germano

    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

  7. Sherri Hazelton

    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.

  8. Tatum

    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?

  9. Stacey

    This may be a dumb question, but when you talk about vanilla beans, you mean one of the large skinny bean pods-like things, right – lol. I only ask because I saw a recipe for this that had you slice open the pod of one to scrape out the beans, add to the alcohol, and then place the large pod in for aesthetics afterward. I think it called for 1 per 750 ml. I was planning on making these as holiday gifts and now am confused the best way to make it. Thank you!

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