This post was originally published June 19, 2015 and has been updated.
Seven years ago my friend Brooke gave me a jar of homemade vanilla extract. I haven’t bought any vanilla extract from a grocery store since then! I discovered that homemade vanilla extract tastes so much better in recipes and is WAY cheaper than store-bought.
So here are the simple instructions for making your own. All you need are some glass jars, vanilla beans, cheap vodka and time. I regularly give this as a gift and it might be my most-requested gift!
1) Get some vanilla beansI paid $14.95 for these 10 Extract Grade Vanilla Beans on Amazon. Forget buying vanilla extract by the ounce… this will be enough to make 5 CUPS of vanilla extract!
In general, I’ve found that with enough time (at least a few months), you can easily get 8 ounces of extract from two beans, if not slightly more. So that works out to one bean for 4 oz. jars and four beans for a pint-sized Mason jar.
2) Get your hands on some cheap vodka
Some other sites will tell you that you should use high quality vodka or rum. But I have had the best luck with cheap vodka. All it does is dissolve the oils in the vanilla and burns off when cooking, so don’t waste money on top shelf booze. I got a handle (1.75 liters) of “Aristocrat” vodka on sale for $12.95.
3) Slice the vanilla beans to expose more good stuff
You will get stronger extract faster if you expose the inside of the vanilla beans. I sliced into but not through each bean lengthwise to expose the insides. I also cut each bean in half to they would fit into my smaller jars.
4) Into the jars go the beans and vodka
Now just add the vanilla beans and vodka to some glass jars, seal and wait. I made a larger batch in this quart-sized Mason jar, but any size will do. Again, I recommend using about two vanilla beans per cup (8 ounces). I suggest waiting four to six months for a rich vanilla flavor.
It does help to shake the jars periodically. Before you use or gift the extract you can filter out the vanilla residue with a coffee filter or cheese cloth, but you don’t have to to this. I like the flecks of vanilla in my cooking but others may not.
I purchased these brown 4 oz. glass bottles on Amazon into which I transferred two pieces of vanilla bean and then filled them up with the extract. They were the perfect size for gifting!
Have you ever made your own extract? Please leave a comment below!