Step-by-step photos and instructions for how to make the best Homemade Vanilla Extract! All you need is vodka, vanilla beans and a few tips and tricks.
You’ll find that homemade vanilla is less expensive (store-bought vanilla extract can cost $4 an ounce) and more flavorful than store-bought, and it’s so EASY to make! It never expires and you’ll have plenty to use in cookies, cakes, scones, french toast, and more.
There are so many reasons I love making my own vanilla extract but let me highlight a few:
- Saves money: store-bought vanilla extract can cost up to $4 an ounce!
- Re-fillable: Once you run out of vanilla, refill the bottle with Vodka and use the beans for another batch (they will last for up to two batches). Also, the vanilla extract wont expire as long as it’s stored in a cool, dry place.
- Makes a great gift for friends, neighbors, housewarming gifts, or Christmas gifts you can get out of the way months in advance! Find my free printable labels for gifting vanilla, below. (Don’t miss all my Gift Ideas for Cooks!)
What you’ll need:
- Vanilla Beans: Grade B Vanilla Madagascar beans (or Tahitian or Mexican beans, if preferred). Vanilla beans can be found in the baking aisle or online. For best flavor you’ll want 4-5 vanilla beans for every 8 ounces (1 cup) of vodka. The quality of the vanilla beans is more important than the quality of the alcohol, so you don’t need to buy an expensive bottle.
- Alcohol: 80 proof Vodka, (or brandy, rum, or bourbon, if preferred, for different flavor).
- Glass jars to put the vanilla in. Mason jars would work, or these 4oz glass jars are perfect for gifting to friends and neighbors.
About the Vanilla Beans:
What Grade of Vanilla Beans is best for Extract?
Grade B beans are specifically meant for making vanilla extract. They will produce a stronger flavor and they’re generally less expensive. However, Grade A beans can be used.
What’s the difference between Grade A and Grade B vanilla beans?
- Grade A beans are typically more expensive gourmet beans, above 25% moisture (water), so they give up their flavor more easily. If a recipe calls for scraping the inside of a vanilla bean or infusing into batters or sauces (like crème brule), use Grade A beans.
- Grade B beans are less expensive and made with less than 25% moisture, which means they wont give up their flavor as easily, but when they do, the flavor is more concentrated, making them a great choice for long-term infusion, like making vanilla extract.
- By weight, there is the same quantity of vanilla in both Grades.
Madagascar, Tahitian, or Mexican Vanilla beans; Which is best?
- Madagascar Vanilla Beans: most common flavor used in vanilla extract.
- Tahitian Vanilla Beans: has hints of cherry and anise.
- Mexican Vanilla Beans: has hints of clove and nutmeg.
How to make Vanilla Extract:
1. Cut the vanilla beans: Use a sharp knife to gently cut slits in the vanilla beans, lengthwise.
2. Add to jar, and fill with Vodka. Place the vanilla beans in a jar (you may need to cut them in half to fit, so they will be submerged in alcohol). Use a funnel, if needed, to fill with Vodka. Secure lid tightly on the bottle and shake gently.
3. Let it Rest! Vanilla extract needs time to rest to really develop its flavor. The longer it rests, the deeper color you’ll notice, and more importantly, the better flavor it will have. I recommend waiting a six months before using.
- Use dark glass or clear glass bottles. If using clear glass, be sure to store the vanilla in a cupboard or dark place.
- Make sure the vanilla pods are fully submerged in alcohol.
- For best flavor, use 4-5 Vanilla bean per 8 ounces (1 cup) alcohol.
Free Printable Labels for Vanilla Extract:
Vanilla extract makes a great gift, so I’ve provided these simple FREE Printable Labels that are 2” squares, to stick on your bottles for gifts. I use my regular printer to print them off on this label paper.
Recipes Perfect for Vanilla Extract:
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 10 Vanilla Madagascar beans, Grade B , (or Tahitian or Mexican beans, if preferred)
- 2 cups Vodka 80 proof (or brandy, rum, bourbon, for different flavor)
- Vanilla Extract Printable Labels , optional
- Gather your jar(s), alcohol and vanilla beans. You will need 4-5 beans for every 8 ounces (1 cup) of alcohol. Use a sharp knife to gently cut slits in the vanilla beans, lengthwise.
- Place the vanilla beans in jar (you may need to cut them in half to fit, so they will be submerged in alcohol). Fill with vodka. Secure lid tightly on the bottle and shake gently.
- Add labels to jars, or write the date on the bottle. Allow to steep/brew for at least 2 months before using, (although 6-12 months is preferred for best flavor), shaking the bottles occasionally.
- When running low, add more vodka to the bottle and brew again, reusing the same beans for up to one more batch.
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