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Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

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Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Making homemade vanilla extract is a simple and rewarding process that not only saves you money but also enhances the flavor of your baked goods. With just a few ingredients—vanilla beans and vodka—you can create a rich, aromatic extract right in your kitchen.

You’ll start by cutting your vanilla beans lengthwise to expose the flavorful seeds inside, then place these beans in a jar and cover them with vodka. After a few weeks of infusing in a cool, dark place, your homemade vanilla extract will be ready to use in all your favorite recipes.

Not only does this method produce a stronger and better tasting vanilla, it’s also perfect for thoughtful, homemade gifts. Whether you’re baking cookies, cakes, or any dessert, the deep flavor of your homemade extract will make a noticeable difference.

Exact Ingredients (+ Possible Substitutes)

To make your own homemade vanilla extract, you’ll need just a few simple ingredients.

Primary Ingredients:

  1. Vanilla Beans:
    • You will need 6-8 vanilla beans.
  2. Alcohol:
    • Use 1 cup (240 mL) of vodka, rum, or bourbon.

Step-by-Step Process:

  1. Split the Beans:

    • Using a sharp knife, carefully slit each vanilla bean lengthwise.
  2. Combine with Alcohol:

    • Place the split beans into a clean glass bottle.
    • Pour the alcohol over the beans, ensuring they are fully submerged.
  3. Seal and Store:

    • Seal the bottle tightly.
    • Store it in a cool, dark place for at least 2 months, shaking occasionally.

Possible Substitutes:

  • Vanilla Bean Paste:
    • Use 1 tsp. of paste for each vanilla bean.
  • Maple Syrup:
    • Substitute 1 tbsp. of maple syrup for 1 tbsp. of vanilla extract. It adds a nice sweetness.
  • Maple Extract:
    • Replace with a 1:1 ratio, but use less initially to adjust for flavor strength.

Here’s a quick comparison table for substitutes:

Vanilla Bean Paste1 tsp. paste per beanAdds flecks to the mix
Maple Syrup1 tbsp. syrup per tbsp. extractAdds sweetness, similar aroma
Maple Extract1:1 ratio with extractStrong flavor, adjust as needed

Feel free to try different substitutes to find what you like best!


To make homemade vanilla extract, you’ll need the following ingredients and tools:

  • 4-5 vanilla beans for every 8 ounces (1 cup) of alcohol
  • Vodka or another high-proof alcohol
  • A glass jar with a fitted lid
  • A sharp knife

First, use the sharp knife to cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. You can leave a small part intact if you like.

Next, place the vanilla beans into the glass jar. If the beans are too long, cut them to fit so they are fully submerged in the alcohol.

Then, pour the vodka or chosen alcohol over the beans, covering them completely. Secure the lid on the jar tightly.

Shake the jar well to mix everything.

Store the jar in a cool, dark place. Give it a good shake every week or so.

For the best flavor, let the vanilla beans infuse the alcohol for at least 6-12 months before using the extract. You can use it after 8 weeks, but longer is better.

And that’s it! Your homemade vanilla extract is ready to enhance your baking and cooking.

Tips, Tricks & Storing

Split or Chop the Beans: Cutting the vanilla beans in half or into smaller pieces helps extract the flavor faster. This allows more of the vanilla inside to mix with the alcohol.

Use Quality Ingredients: The quality of the vanilla beans and the vodka or other solvent you choose will impact the final flavor. Opt for high-quality vanilla beans and a good grade of alcohol.

Seal Properly: Ensure your bottle or jar is tightly sealed. This prevents evaporation and keeps the extract from becoming cloudy. Use a glass bottle or jar for best results.

Label Your Bottle: Always label your extract with the date you started the process. This helps you keep track of how long it’s been steeping.

Storing: Keep your vanilla extract in a cool, dark place like a pantry. Heat and light can affect its quality and cause evaporation.

Patience is Key: Vanilla extract needs time to develop its flavor. Let it steep for at least 8 weeks before using it. The longer it sits, the better it will taste.

Shake Occasionally: Give your bottle a good shake every few days. This helps mix the flavors and speeds up the extraction process.

Smell Check: Before using, always do a quick smell test. If the vanilla smells strong and rich, it’s good to go. If it smells off, it might be time to make a new batch.

Quantities: Normally, 6-8 vanilla beans per cup of vodka is a good ratio. Feel free to adjust based on your preference for a stronger or milder flavor.

Keep It Tidy: Use a funnel when pouring the vodka into the jar to avoid spills. This keeps your workspace neat and prevents waste.

Follow these tips and tricks to make the best homemade vanilla extract and keep it fresh for a long time!

Recipe Variations & Serving Suggestions

Recipe Variations

  • Madagascar Vanilla Beans: These provide a smooth and creamy flavor, perfect for classic vanilla taste.
  • Indonesian Vanilla Beans: These bring a woody and smoky flavor to your extract.
  • Mexican Vanilla Beans: Expect spicy cinnamon-clove undertones with these beans.
  • Tahitian Vanilla Beans: These add a fruity or floral aroma to your vanilla extract.

Serving Suggestions

  1. Baking: Use your homemade vanilla extract in cakes, cookies, and pastries to add rich and authentic vanilla flavor.
  2. Beverages: Add a splash to coffee, tea, or smoothies for a touch of sweetness.
  3. Ice Cream: Enhance your homemade or store-bought ice cream by adding a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  4. Sauces: Give your caramel or chocolate sauces an extra layer of depth by including vanilla extract.

Tips for Best Results

  • Storage: Keep your vanilla extract in a cool, dark place to maintain its flavor.
  • Aging: The longer you let your extract sit, the stronger the flavor becomes. Aim for 6-12 months for the best results.
  • Shaking: Shake the jar once a week to help distribute the flavors evenly.

Using Other Alcohol

  • Vodka: The most common choice for its neutral flavor.
  • Rum: Adds a sweet, tropical note.
  • Bourbon: Gives a warm, rich undertone.

Make your vanilla extract unique! Experiment with different beans and alcohols to create a flavor that suits your taste perfectly. Enjoy the process and your delicious creations!

Benjamin Happy Muncher

Hi, I'm Benjamin. I love cooking, long walks, and my girlfriend! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes that you can make in 30 minutes or less.