A staple within ANY mama’s kitchen is the coveted vanilla extract. This baker’s best friend makes any dessert positively sing. Combined with sumptuous cinnamon, you’re bound to have a healthy bake sale favorite for your kiddo’s next soccer game fundraiser.
So, you go to the grocery store, and there’s a teeny-tiny bottle available of organic vanilla extract, followed by a big bottle of imitation vanilla—but if your family is large like mine, that small bottle won’t cut it for your home.
No need to worry, I’ve got your back on this one.
Here’s my how-to on making a healthy homemade vanilla extract, complete with the process from start to finish. You’ll be shocked by how much homemade vanilla extract you get in this recipe process if you’re like me. If you put the extract in cute bottles, this can even make a fantastic gift for other bakers and crunchy mamas in your life. Vanilla has a host of amazing health benefits, too. So, let’s get to DIY-ing!
Simple Ingredients with Many Combinations
Making vanilla extract only takes two ingredients at its base—vanilla beans and liquor to host for the infusion to begin and the extract to complete. Taking your time to choose between your options will help you navigate how to perfect your extracts to suit your friends’ and family’s needs.
Choosing the Right Vanilla Bean
When it comes to ingredients for creating the perfect homemade vanilla bean extract, pay attention to what sort of vanilla beans you’re looking for. Each type of bean has a unique expression of flavor. Some of my favorite types of vanilla beans are Madagascar, Tahitian, or Mexican varieties. Here are some of the different options available—pick what works best for your family.
Madagascar Vanilla Beans: A classic take on vanilla flavor, these pods produce a creamy and sweet taste. If you are looking for a familiar and cozy sort of vanilla flavor, these are a classic choice.
Tahitian Vanilla Beans: These pods have a floral and nutty note, giving the vanilla extract a flavor that people compare to cherry or almond. Tahitian vanilla beans are amazing for desserts because they are so fragrant.
Mexican Vanilla Beans: These vanilla beans produce a woodsier scent compared to the floral Tahitian or the creamy Madagascar. Mexican vanilla beans make for an excellent spiced dessert. People have grown fond of using this extract for baked goods.
Get yourself a small bundle of vanilla beans of your choice—you will need from 1 or 2 vanilla beans per 6 oz of liquid.
Pick your Liquor Base
Now you will need to pick your alcohol base to create the extract. Remember, in order to properly coax the flavor out of the vanilla bean, you want to choose neutral-flavored alcohol. While vodka seems to be an easy choice because of its clarity, you can also choose alcohol like brandy.
Despite its name, bourbon’s spicy flavors don’t make for a bourbon vanilla extract. (Madagascar has an island called Bourbon Island, meaning that the bourbon vanilla extract comes from the island, not the alcoholic base!)
Rum may also make for a good choice if you leave the spices out. We want the vanilla to shine in a homemade vanilla extract!
Instructions & Ingredients for Homemade Vanilla Extract
Here is a list of ingredients and supplies you will need when making your vanilla extract.
- 6-9 Vanilla beans of choice (2 vanilla beans per 6 oz of liquid is a good rule of thumb!)
- 750 ML liquor of choice (I prefer vodka bases)
- Glass containers with cork or sealable lid
- Cutting Board
- Measuring cup
Now, we’re on to the steps for homemade vanilla extract.
Slice Your Beans Lengthwise
Using the sharp tip of your knife, slice through the vanilla bean lengthwise to expose the seeds inside. Leave the vanilla bean attached for easier removal later.
(Did you know? The seeds of the vanilla bean are what give the flecked appearance to vanilla bean ice cream. These seeds contain most of the flavor of the plant—just like jalapeno pepper seeds are the spicy part of pepper, the vanilla bean’s seeds are the richest source of flavor.)
Add Vanilla Beans to your Jar
The jar you pick can look different—anything from a mason jar to an essential oils bottle—it just needs to have a tight-fitting lid. This is a great chance to recycle some bottles from old projects, too.
Place the beans inside your jar or jars. Remember, 2 beans per 6 oz of liquid is a good rule of thumb, so if you have multiple jars, divide the beans among them.
Add the Alcohol Base
Measure out your alcohol—about 6 oz per 2 beans. Add the liquor of choice to the vanilla beans in the jars. You may want to get your funnel out for ease and accuracy.
Make sure the vanilla beans are fully submerged in the liquor—you can cut beans into smaller pieces if you have any exposed in the extract jar, to maximize the flavor extraction.
Waiting is the Hardest Part: Let the Extract Sit for 3 Months
By far the hardest part of this project is waiting for your extractions to complete. Store your extractions for 3 months in a cool, dark, dry place. Taking these jars out of your kitchen and into the basement, a closet, or another cool place is ideal.
Remember, the fridge is too cool for the extraction to take place effectively. Keep your extractions around the same temperature and in a few months, you’ll have an amazing, flecked vanilla extract.
Looking for More DIYs?
Real Food RN has more than just baking tips—check out my how-to guides on creating your very own household products here. There are plenty of amazing tips and tricks available for your home on my site, so check it out and see what I’m all about.