Vanilla extract is a common ingredient in many baked goods and desserts. And for a good reason, because a small amount of it makes them taste so much better. But did you know that it’s super simple to make your own homemade vanilla extract? You only need two ingredients and it literally takes 5 minutes to prepare. The hardest part is to wait a few months till the magic of extraction happens.
Is making homemade vanilla extract worth it?
To make high-quality homemade vanilla extract you need real vanilla beans and they are expensive. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world. At current prices in Lithuania, to make 100 ml of vanilla extract costs me approximately 15 Eur. You can buy vanilla extract for a similar price, so is it really worth making it at home? In my personal opinion, the answer is yes, totally. While simply buying a bottle of the prepared extract is quick and convenient, when making it yourself you can control the quality and the strength of the vanilla flavor.
Single-fold vs Double-fold vanilla extract
Most affordable manufactured vanilla extracts are single-fold, made with a smaller amount of vanilla beans. This recipe makes a double-fold, stronger vanilla extract because I prefer a more intense vanilla flavor, and using two teaspoons of single-fold extract does not give such a strong flavor as one teaspoon of double-fold vanilla extract. This is where it gets pricy, but remember, this is your homemade extract, so you are in control. You can reduce the number of vanilla beans if you prefer or even increase it for an even more concentrated flavor.
Sugar in vanilla extracts
Manufactured vanilla extract without sugar or syrup is really hard to come by. Sugar is added as a stabilizer or to make alcohol smell and taste milder. I think that being in control of how much sugar you add to your desserts is important, so skipping sweeteners in vanilla extract is one more reason to make your own at home. You will not drink it, so don’t worry about the alcohol, you won’t feel it in cakes.
How to make homemade vanilla extract and how long does it take?
It’s so easy that anyone can make it. Simply split vanilla beans with a knife, put them in a glass bottle or a jar, fill it with alcohol, close the cap, and give it a shake. Now the hardest part: keep it in a dark place for 3-12 months till the magic will happen. The longer you wait, the stronger the flavor will be. Most recipes recommend that you can start using it after 8 weeks, but from my personal experience and for my personal taste, it’s still slightly too weak after 8 weeks and a lot, like a very lot better after 3 months.
What type of vanilla bean is best for making extract?
Different types of vanilla have slightly different flavor profiles, but those differences are truly subtle. So it’s not a big difference which one you will choose. I’ve tried both Bourbon and Tahitian vanilla beans and both made a great extract. My advice would be to use the one that is easier to find in your region and look for the best price you can get.
What is the best alcohol to make vanilla extract?
40% (80 proof) vodka because of its neutral flavor. While you can make vanilla extract with different types of alcohol, like rum, bourbon, brandy, etc, they will add extra flavor to the extract. You might prefer it, but the flavor I am looking for is pure vanilla, not brandy with vanilla. Also, you don’t need expensive alcohol to get a high-quality extract, you just need that 40%, so here is one more point for a simple vodka.
Tools you need to make homemade vanilla extract
Glass jar and/or a glass bottle
I prefer making vanilla extract in a glass jar and transferring it to a glass bottle after the extraction is done. Simply because sooner or later you will have to remove the beans and clean the dish you’ve used. And it’s a lot easier when the dish is a jar with a wide opening than a bottle with a narrow neck. On the other hand, it’s more convenient to pour a little amount of the extract out of the bottle when you need to use it for a dessert you are making. That’s why I take that extra step after the extract is ready to use.
Funnel or a pitcher with a spout
Optional, but helpful when pouring alcohol into the jar. When transferring the extract from the jar, a funnel is a must. You don’t want to spill part of this treasure you’ve been waiting to use for so long, do you?
How to store homemade vanilla extract?
The vanilla extract should be kept at room temperature and in a dark environment. Kept in a fridge, in heat, or in direct sunlight it can get cloudy and lose taste properties faster.
Being said that, does homemade vanilla extract need to be in a dark bottle?
Dark glass helps to protect the extract from sunlight exposure, but if you are storing it safely in a dark place, like in your cupboard, it’s not necessary.
How long can you keep homemade vanilla extract?
Vanilla extract is made with strong alcohol, which is a bad environment for microbes. So if stored properly, the extract can last up to 10 years. It may start losing its taste properties after that. But I am sure that you will consume it a lot faster: for me, a 100 ml bottle usually lasts for about a year.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Only two ingredients, some patience and time, and you will have your homemade vanilla extract that will make your baked goods taste so much better.
- Prep Time5 min
- Yield100 ml
- Extraction Time3-12 months
- 3-4 vanilla beans (15-17 g / 0.5-0.6 oz)
- 100 ml / 3.4 fl oz vodka (40% / 80 proof)
Using a sharp knife split vanilla beans in half to expose the seeds.
Put the beans into a glass jar.
Pour vodka into the jar making sure that the beans are fully submerged.
Close the cap, shake the jar, and store it at room temperature in a dark environment. Give it a shake from time to time. Alcohol will start extracting flavor and smell properties from vanilla beans and getting dark brown in a few days, but keep it for 3-6 months for optimal flavor, or for 12 months maximum.
Optionally, transfer the extract to a small bottle for easier use after extraction is done.