It only takes two ingredients to whip up a batch of homemade vanilla extract to use in your baking. Or make 4 or 5 bottles to give as gifts to family and friends for the holidays! Get your vanilla going in the Spring so that its ready to gift next Christmas.
I love to bake with vanilla. I add it to everything! When I first found out how easy and cost efficient it was to make your own, I was so excited that I ordered some vanilla beans and got to work setting them up for Christmas gifts. Patience is not my strong suit, but the longer homemade vanilla sits, the longer those beans have to infuse their flavor into the alcohol.
That Christmas, I not only had the most delicious vanilla extract to add to my holiday baking, but I also had three perfect homemade gifts for those people on my list who are hard to buy for! I mean, who wouldn’t want a pretty bottle of vanilla extract? It doesn’t add to the clutter in your home, and its something everyone uses!
What do you Need to Make Vanilla Extract?
- Vanilla Beans – Vanilla Beans are sold at a lot of grocery stores and natural foods stores as well as online. These are the beans I’ve used. There are different varieties of vanilla beans and you might be confused as to which to buy. Grade B are most commonly used for making vanilla extract. You want to look for beans that are soft and plump and preferably sealed in airtight packaging. The ones I used came in a vaccuum sealed plastic package and were perfect for making extract!
- Alcohol – I have only ever made vanilla extract using 80 Proof Vodka but I have read that you can use rum, brandy or bourbon. I’m thinking vanilla made with rum sounds DELISH so I’m using it for the alcohol in 2 of the bottles this time around!
- Bottles or Jars for Steeping – Since you want to keep the alcohol from evaporating and all of that amazing vanilla flavor locked up tight, you want to use a container with a tight seal. Look for something that will be easy to pour from and if you are planning to gift some of the vanilla. These are the bottles I used.
How Long Does Vanilla Extract Take to Make?
Because you want your vanilla extract to have a nice strong flavor, the longer it sits before being used, the more the alcohol becomes infused with wonderful, rich vanilla taste. 6 months is the minimum amount of time that is recommended. 12 months is ideal, and longer than that is even better! I used mine after 6 months and it did have an amazing smell, but after sealing it up for a few extra months, I was pleasantly surprised with how much stronger the vanilla flavor had gotten!
Patience is a virtue, and making vanilla extract is a great way to practice it.
Make sure to store your vanilla extract in a dark place like a cabinet, preferably one you look in often so that you can remember to give it a good shake now and then while its setting.
Is Homemade Vanilla Extract Better?
Yes! Vanilla extract is for one thing much less expensive to make that it is to buy. And it tastes immensely better. That was one of the things that surprised me the most when I made my first batch of homemade vanilla extract. I thought I knew what vanilla flavor was, but now I know, there’s vanilla and then there’s good vanilla. The flavor is almost sweet and you can taste it just by smelling it!
As for the cost, you might be concerned when you look at the cost of vanilla beans, but just keep in mind how much extract you can make with 5 of those beans compared to a similarly priced bottle of vanilla extract you would buy in store. And I’m not talking about imitation vanilla, I mean the real stuff.
How Many Vanilla Beans to Make Vanilla Extract
To make a nice rich flavorful vanilla extract, you will need 5 vanilla beans to make 8 ounces of extract. You could use less, but the beans will need longer to infuse into your alcohol and you could use more but the cost will go up (but the flavor would be stronger and it would need less time to set)
How to Make Vanilla Extract
- Clean the 8 ounce bottles you will be making the vanilla extract in completely.
- Cut all of the vanilla beans in half and then score each one lengthwise.
- Place 10 vanilla bean halves into each bottle.
- Fill each bottle with the alcohol you wish to use. Either rum, brandy, vodka or bourbon.
- Seal each bottle and store in a cool dark place for 6 months to about 2 years before using.
- Shake the bottles every 2 weeks or so to help the vanilla infuse into the alcohol.
Reusing the Vanilla Beans
As you use the vanilla extract, you can keep replenishing the bottle by topping it off with more alcohol. This way you get more vanilla extract for your money! Or if you don’t plan on buying more of that alcohol or are giving the bottle of homemade vanilla extract as a gift, just remove the beans. You want the beans to stay submerged in alcohol so that they last longer and don’t become slimy.
You can keep replenishing your bottle of homemade vanilla for as long as the flavor stays strong. Probably around 2 years depending. When the original beans are too weak, just take them out and replace with fresh beans!
Gifting Vanilla Extract
I’ve made some fun labels for you to give your homemade vanilla an extra special look perfect for gifting to friends and family! Just follow the instructions below, print your labels, apply them and maybe add a some red twine string to make them look fancy and festive!
Recipes to Use Homemade Vanilla Extract in:
- Homemade Greek Yogurt
- Homemade Honey Whipped Cream
- Chocolate Overnight Oats
- Banana Baked Oatmeal
- Granola Balls
If you try this recipe, I would love it if you use the 5 star rating in the comments below! It helps me so much!
I did this for gifts this past Christmas, everyone loved them!!
Such a great post! I have wanted to try making my own vanilla but have never gotten around to it. It looks so easy. Vanilla made with bourbon sounds incredible!
I have always wanted to make my own vanilla, this looks so easy and I’m sure delicious!
I can’t believe I’ve never done this before! I’m definitely going to… Thank you for the inspiration!
Hi I made some vanilla and it tastes like alcohol…any ideas?
How long did you let it sit? It takes at least 6 months to become a good strong vanila.