Learn how to make vanilla extract with MORE FLAVOR than store-bought! This homemade vanilla extract will enhance your baking, it makes the perfect gifts, is super easy to make, and only requires two ingredients! Learning how to make vanilla extract seriously couldn’t be any easier and it is so rewarding!
You know a good vanilla extract when you unscrew the bottle and inhale. Imitation and lower quality pure extracts just lack the same depth and combination of fruity and earthy notes in their fragrance. Nothing beats quality vanilla extract. But top quality vanilla extracts are expensive. But guess what? You can make your own homemade vanilla extract that will taste BETTER than the best store-bought extracts and you’ll even save some money while you’re at it!
And you’ll probably want to make a larger quantity because this vanilla extract makes the perfect gift. Seriously, who wouldn’t be happy to receive a bottle of this? It makes the perfect hostess gift when you’re invited over somewhere, a great gift for your child’s teacher, a get-well-soon gift, a homemade Christmas gift, or for any occasion you want to send the message “I’m thinking of you.”
What You’ll Need:
- Vanilla Beans
- 80 proof alcohol
- Glass jars
- A funnel
We’ll discuss these in detail below.
Single Fold vs. Double Fold Vanilla Extract
Single-fold vanilla extract is what most reputable manufacturers of good vanilla extract make. In order to be considered commercial grade extract, single-fold extract is required to use 13 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon (or .8 ounces per cup) of vodka or whatever kind of alcohol is being used.
Double-fold vanilla extracts are what many professional bakers prefer to use because it provides a much stronger, more concentrated vanilla flavor that you can’t get simply by doubling the amount of vanilla extract you use. It’s wonderfully potent and gives baked goods and desserts a much richer vanilla flavor. Commercially sold double-fold vanilla extract is required to be made with with 23 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol (or 1.5 ounces per cup). And double-fold vanilla extract comes with an even bigger price tag than single-fold.
So the choice is yours depending on your needs. You can either make single- or double-fold vanilla extract and either way you go it will be cheaper than store-bought and taste better. And it’s so easy to do! And even if you opt for single-fold, if you’re willing to wait and allow the extract to age, it will only get better over time.
What Kind of Alcohol is Best for Making Vanilla Extract?
You can use any alcohol as long as it is 80 proof. The best and most popular choices are vodka, bourbon, brandy, or rum.
Vodka is the most versatile because it has a neutral flavor. If you’re using vodka don’t worry about splurging for the expensive brands because it really doesn’t make a significant difference. Go for a cheaper brand – it’s the quality of the vanilla beans that counts.
Which Vanilla Beans are Best for Making Vanilla Extract?
Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans are the most popular and what I use by far the most. Another option is Tahitian vanilla beans. A third option is Mexican vanilla beans. Each have their own subtle nuances.
- Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla – what most people associate with vanilla flavor. Full, creamy, sweet and mellow flavor with long-lasting flavor tones.
- Tahitian Vanilla – floral aroma with cherry-like, licorice and caramel flavor tones.
- Mexican Vanilla – both sweet and woody flavor tones with spicy hint of cloves and nutmeg.
Grade A vs. Grade B Vanilla Beans
You can use either. If you have the option, go with Grade B because it is specifically meant for extracting and generally yields the most flavor. Grade A vanilla beans are meant for cooking. Grade B is also typically cheaper than grade A, so that’s a win-win. But if you find a better deal on Grade A or Grade B isn’t available, Grade A will work great as well.
The Best Jars For Vanilla Extract
Use glass jars. I like to get a combination of 2 ounce jars and 4 ounce jars. 2 ounce jars are perfect for gift-giving and I use the 4 ounce jars for myself (or to give as gifts to people I REALLY like).
I also strongly recommend using dark glass jars to keep light out which will help preserve the oils and flavor of the vanilla extract. It’s a double layer of protection in addition to keeping the jars stored in a dark cupboard.
If you don’t have access to dark glass jars you can use clear jars but be sure to keep them stored in a dark place.
How to Fill the Jars
The best, easiest way is to use a small funnel. It’s inexpensive, makes pouring a lot easier, and helps avoid spilling any of that precious homemade vanilla extract.
How Many Vanilla Beans Should I Use?
Most recipes for homemade vanilla extract call for 2-3 vanilla beans per cup of vodka which I find is too weak. We’re going to use 5 per cup. This will result in a more potent vanilla extract that will make your baked goods and desserts soar. That will also enable you to use less extract in a recipe to get just as much vanilla flavor without any alcohol flavor.
How To Make Vanilla Extract
Let’s get started!
Slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise.
See those luscious vanilla bean flecks inside?
Scrape those out with a knife and add them to the jar of vodka.
Scraping it out is optional because the flavors will distill into the vodka regardless, but I like the presence of the vanilla bean flecks that settle at the bottom of the bottles.
It makes it a dead giveaway that it’s the real stuff and just looks more authentic and higher quality.
Once you’ve sliced the beans and scraped out the flecks we’re ready to place everything in the vodka.
Use any glass jar with a fitted lid that you prefer. I used my quart-sized canning jar this time. Place the scraped out vanilla flecks and beans in the jar with the vodka and screw the lid on tightly. Make sure the vanilla beans are submerged under the alcohol otherwise any exposed parts can become slimy and potentially ruin your extract.
That’s it. Now your job is simply to give it a shake every now and then during the ripening process. It will become very dark within just a few days. Go ahead and take a sniff every now and then, it’s wonderful!
How Long Does Vanilla Extract Need to Age?
Aside from the quality of the vanilla beans themselves, the most important factor that determines the quality of your finished vanilla extract is how long you allow the vanilla extract to age.
While you “can” use it in as little as 8 weeks I don’t recommend it. As expensive as vanilla beans are you want to maximize the flavor of your extract and the flavor becomes vastly superior the longer it ages. Optimally you should wait at least 6 months and for the best results wait 12 months.
I have a batch that’s going on 6 years old, another that’s 3 years old, and another that’s a year old. It’s at that year mark and beyond that you really start noticing the difference in quality. Patience really pays off!
When the extract is ready pour it into the bottles. You can use any size you like.
As mentioned earlier, I like to use the standard 2-ounce and 4-ounce jar sizes as gifts.
Place the funnel in the jars and pour in the extract, leaving a little headspace.
Should I Add the Vanilla Beans to the Final Jars?
Something I like to do is trim the vanilla beans to the height of the small bottles and add two pieces in the 2-ounce jars and 4 pieces in the 4-ounce jars. That means the extract will continue to increase in flavor as it sits.
Plus it just looks neat for anyone you’re giving these jars to; it looks high end and professional.
But you can also use those extracted vanilla beans for another delicious purpose….keep reading below…..
Can You Reuse Vanilla Beans?
Yes and no. You can reuse them to make another batch of extract but keep in mind that they will have lost some of their potency and so the next batch will not be as strong. What I’ll do if I’m reusing them is combine the “old” ones with “new” ones to make a new batch.
Reuse Vanilla Beans to Make Vanilla Sugar
My favorite way to use “used” vanilla beans is to make vanilla sugar. Got some extracted beans left after dividing them up between the small bottles? Don’t waste them – make vanilla sugar! It’s so easy!
- Let the beans dry out for a few days until they’re totally dry.
- Place them in a container or ziploc bag of sugar. Seal it shut and let it sit a few weeks, shaking it occasionally.
- Discard the vanilla beans – your vanilla sugar is ready to use!
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on making your own vanilla extract and hope you’ve been inspired to give it a go!
You’ll be absolutely thrilled with the results!
For some more delicious DIY ingredients be sure to try our:
How to Make Vanilla Extract
- 5-6 Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans (grade B is specifically meant for extracting but if you have grade A those will work perfectly also)
- or Tahitian Vanilla Beans
- or Mexican Vanilla Beans
- 1 cup 80 proof alcohol (the best and most popular choices are vodka - for a neutral flavored extract - and also bourbon, brandy and rum)
- 2 ounce brown glass jars
- 4 ounce brown glass jars
- Metal funnel for pouring
- For "single-fold" vanilla extract (this is the extract you find in most stores) Use .8 ounces (or 22 grams) of vanilla beans per 1 cup of vodka (or other 80 proof alcohol)
- For "double-fold" vanilla extract (much stronger flavor preferred by most professional bakers) Use 1.6 ounces (or 44 grams) of vanilla beans per 1 cup of vodka (or other 80 proof alcohol)
- Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape out the vanilla flecks inside. Add the flecks and the beans to the vodka in a glass jar with a fitted lid. Make sure the vanilla beans are submerged under the alcohol otherwise any exposed parts can become slimy and potentially ruin your extract. Place the extract in a dark, cool place, shaking occasionally for the first few weeks. The extract "can" be used in as little as 8 weeks but it won't have remotely reached optimal flavor potency. The extract gets vastly better with age. For far better results use after 6 months and for optimal results wait 12 months or longer.
- Once the extract is ready, place the funnel on the glass jars and fill them with the extract. If you like, to get even more flavor out of the beans as the extract ages, slice the used vanilla beans to fit the length of the jars and place about 2 pieces in the 2-ounce jars and 4 pieces in the 4-ounce jars. That way the extract will continue to "ripen" as it sits.Makes 1 cup or 8 ounces of premium vanilla extract*See blog post about how to reuse vanilla beans
Originally published on The Daring Gourmet December 5, 2015