If you’ve been following our Back to Basics posts for a few months now you’re pretty much a kitchen & baking expert. I mean, we can all now make brown sugar, different flavors of nut milk, and even oat flour all at home. How cool is that?
Today I’m bringing you another baking tutorial that’s truly going to blow your mind. We’ll walk through a step-by-step tutorial on how to make vanilla extract from scratch! Vanilla is essential for baking and making your treats taste good, but it can tend to be super expensive.
SO it’s time to skip the store-bought version and make some amazing, DIY vanilla extract right at home that can be used again and again. I’ve included different ways to customize the flavor and strength, and you can use it in all of your baking adventures. Let’s do it!
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What is vanilla extract?
If you’ve ever baked a dessert before, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve used vanilla extract in the recipe. Pure vanilla extract is simply vanilla beans soaked in a type of ethanol, aka alcohol. Over time the vanilla soaks into the alcohol and creates a lovely, aromatic and deep vanilla flavor used in everything from cookies to whipped cream!
Vanilla beans are typically from Mexico, Tahini or Madagascar — each of which has a distinct flavor profile based on the soil, climate, growing methods, etc. used to harvest the beans.
Why make it from scratch?
Because vanilla beans do not naturally grow in many parts of the world, they can be very expensive. Thus, real, good-quality vanilla extract can become very expensive as well. When you make homemade vanilla extract from scratch instead of using store-bought you:
- Can actually reuse the vanilla beans to continuously make batches (more on this below!) which is more cost-effective in the long run
- Control the depth of flavor in the vanilla extract.
- Ensure that it is real-deal vanilla extract instead of one filled with other chemicals and substances. This ensures amazing quality and taste!
Everything you’ll need to make homemade vanilla extract
You only need two ingredients and a few tools to make vanilla extract from scratch, and it couldn’t be easier! To make it you’ll need:
Choose your flavor profile
What’s great about making homemade vanilla extract is that you can choose exactly what goes into it, and therefore exactly how strong it is. A few things will change the flavor profile of your vanilla:
- Type of vanilla beans. As I mentioned, vanilla beans typically grow in Mexico, Tahini, and Madagascar. You may have noticed store-bought vanilla labeled “Tahitian vanilla,” etc. which refers to where the vanilla beans were sourced! Each area has a different flavor and aroma, so you can choose which you might like best.
- Number of vanilla beans. I typically use 6-7 vanilla beans for 1 cup of vodka because it creates a strong, deep vanilla flavor. This is known as a double-fold vanilla extract, which is more expensive in stores because (of course) it uses more vanilla beans. If you only have 3-4 vanilla beans, you can still use this recipe! The vanilla will just be less potent.
- Type of alcohol. For a classic vanilla extract flavor I use plain, 80 proof vodka. No need to use anything expensive! You can also use bourbon, rum or brandy for a richer, darker flavor and aroma. Ever had a dessert with “bourbon vanilla?” it’s exactly what it sounds like!
- Sitting time. As you can probably imagine, the longer your homemade vanilla extract sits in jars the more flavorful it will get. I highly recommend letting it sit and soak for at least 3 months.
How to make vanilla extract
Now for the fun part — let’s make some vanilla from scratch!
- Split the beans. Use a knife and carefully slit each vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise so that the inside of the bean pod is exposed. Add the vanilla beans to an 8 ounch glass bottle or jar.
- Add your alcohol. Pour your alcohol of choice into the jar and make sure the vanilla beans are completely submerged. Turn the jar over a couple of times to shake it.
- Store, wait, then enjoy! Store your jar of homemade vanilla in a cool, dry place away from sunlight for at least 8 weeks, and give it a shake every 1-2 weeks to mix it. After 8 weeks (or ideally at least 3 months) feel free to use it in your favorite recipes!
Reuse those vanilla beans
Although vanilla beans tend to be pricey, you can actually reuse them to continuously make more vanilla extract! Once you start to use the homemade vanilla you can continue to refill the bottle with more alcohol to keep using the same beans. Homemade vanilla extract ends up being more cost-effective than store-bought because you can make multiple batches over time!
How long does homemade vanilla extract last?
There’s no rush to go through your homemade vanilla quickly because it lasts indefinitely! Just be sure to store it in a cool, dark place away from heat.
More how-to guides
Check out all of our kitchen tutorials and how-to guides here!
I hope you love this tutorial on how to make vanilla extract! If you try it be sure to leave a comment and a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!
How to Make Vanilla Extract
Learn exactly how to make vanilla extract using just two ingredients and two simple steps! Homemade vanilla extract can last over a year and will make all of your baked goods taste amazing. Store a jar for later or gift it to friends and family for the holidays!
80 proof vodka, bourbon, rum or brandy
Slit each vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise so that the insides are exposed. Be sure not to slice all the way through the bean pod. Place each vanilla bean in an 8 ounce glass bottle or jar. If the beans don’t fit lengthwise, simply cut them into smaller pieces widthwise.
Pour the vodka (or bourbon, rum or brandy) into the jar. Make sure the vanilla beans are completely submerged. Give the bottle a couple of shakes.
Store the vanilla at room temp out of direct sunlight for at least 8 weeks, and give it a shake once every 1-2 weeks. The longer your vanilla sits, the better the flavor will be, I love when it sits for at least 3 months!
Once you begin to use the vanilla, you can either continue to refill the bottle with more alcohol of choice to keep using the same beans, or you can remove the beans and use the vanilla as-is.
To store: store your homemade vanilla extract in a cool, dark place away from heat.