Homemade vanilla extract might just be the easiest thing you could ever make! It only requires two ingredients: vodka and vanilla beans. More rich in flavor and cost effective than store-bought vanilla, it's all you're going to want to use in your baked goods.
If you're new to Pinch of Parsley, let me give you a fair warning...we LOVE vanilla here. I use it every chance I get and think it is truly heaven sent. Vanilla extract is a common ingredient in our desserts, as it can quickly take any recipe from good to great.
If you love to bake, you should definitely try this recipe out! It's easy to make, only calls for 2 ingredients, and is cheaper & better tasting than store-bought vanilla!
Homemade vanilla extract only takes a few minutes to put together but does need time to age. I'm talking a minimum of 2 months but the longer you wait to use it, the better. For optimal flavor, the ideal amount of time is 1 year.
- Vanilla Beans: You can find vanilla beans either at your local grocery store or online. I personally have a hard time finding them in store, so I order mine on Amazon. I use and highly recommend these options: these Madagascar vanilla beans or these Tahitian vanilla beans. Either of these will yield 5-6 8oz batches of homemade vanilla! I recommend buying Grade B vanilla beans, as they are specifically sold for extracting purposes.
- Vodka: Traditional vanilla extract is made with vodka. I recommend using at least 80 proof vodka (40% alc/vol) and preferably one that you would drink/put in a cocktail. It doesn't need to be crazy expensive, I personally used Tito's Vodka. Be sure to avoid flavored vodkas! They take away from the purpose of creating pure vanilla extract. If you're gluten-free, make sure you're using a gluten-free vodka.
- Using a sharp knife or scissor, slice the vanilla beans down the center lengthwise so the seeds inside are exposed. If necessary, cut the beans down to fit the height of your bottle or jar.
- Place 1 oz of the prepared vanilla beans (an average 6-8 beans depending on the size of your beans) into a sealable glass bottle then pour 1 cup of vodka into the glass bottle, over the vanilla beans. A funnel can be helpful here.
- Seal the glass bottle and give it a good shake. Store in a cool, dark place (a cabinet you don't open too often is ideal) and let sit for at least 2 months, shaking every so often. However, the longer you wait to use it, the better, so I really do recommend waiting 1 year+ to get optimal flavor!
Recipe Variations & Substitutions
I love this homemade vanilla extract as is, but check out these two variations if you're interested:
Use a different alcohol. Vanilla extract is typically made with vodka but feel free to use bourbon, rum, or brandy instead.
Make homemade vanilla extract without alcohol by using 1 cup of vegetable glycerin. The instructions & extraction time remain exactly the same.
- Make sure the beans are fully submerged in the alcohol, otherwise they can become slimy.
- Don't use alcohol you wouldn't drink. It might seem silly, but I promise it'll result in a better tasting extract.
- For optimal extraction, shake the bottle every week.
- If possible, store the vanilla extract in amber bottles. Amber bottles provide optimal protection from light degradation and help to preserve the extract. If you don't have amber bottles, just be sure to store the clear bottles in a cool, dark place, as mentioned above.
- As you start to use the vanilla, refill the bottles with a little bit of vodka each time. If you don't have any more vodka or don't plan to refill, remove the beans completely so they don't get slimy.
- If you do choose to refill as you use, the beans will eventually need to be replaced. You will find over time that the vanilla flavor will become less intense (6 months to 1 year depending on your frequency of use). Simply remove the original beans, replace with fresh beans, shake, and then continue to use & refill.
80 proof (40% alc/vol) plain vodka is the traditional alcohol used in vanilla extract. You could also use bourbon, brandy, or rum.
When stored properly (in a cool, dark place and with the beans removed), homemade vanilla extract will last indefinitely. However, using it within 5 years will allow for the best flavor and aroma.
You don't have to, but you can! Use a tight mesh strain, a coffee filter, or a cheesecloth to remove the vanilla bean seeds from your extract. If you do plan to refill your bottle though, I recommend just leaving the seeds. Plus, they add even more flavor to whatever you're using the extract in.
You do not have to do anything with your homemade extract before you use it. Don't worry, you won't get a buzz from the vodka in it, as the alcohol will evaporate as you cook/bake whatever recipe you've used it in.
The minimum is 2 months, but I highly recommend waiting it out for at least 6 months to a year. The longer you wait to use it, the better your vanilla extract will be.
ABSOLUTELY! I spent ~$40 and was able to make 40 ounces (five 8oz batches) of homemade vanilla extract, which is equivalent to $1/ounce. Meanwhile, McCormick sells a 1 ounce bottle of vanilla extract for $5.99...AKA you'll end saving ~$200+ by making vanilla extract at home!!
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- Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
- Peanut Butter Pie