How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

For some reason, it never occurred to me to make my own homemade vanilla extract.

I’m a big fan of Elise Bauer’s Simply Recipes blog. And how could I not be? Elise’s site is hands down one of the most reputable cooking blogs I’ve yet to run across. So far, every recipe I’ve made from Simply Recipes has turned out just as expected, with minimal futzing with times, temperatures, and amounts. Dependable recipes from internet cooking sites are rare, let me tell you!

The other day Elise’s post for making your own vanilla extract showed up in my RSS reader. I had a 200ml bottle of Absolut vodka sitting in my cupboard from a chai white russian experiment that never happened, so I thought that this would be the perfect project for it. I also have a ridiculous number of vanilla beans languishing in my freezer due to a crazy internet sale that I’d found a few months ago, and this would put them to good use as well. Trust me when I tell you that one pound of vanilla is a lot of beans.

How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

The directions are pretty straightforward: cut three vanilla beans in half and slice them down the middle lengthwise, leaving the last half an inch in tact at the end to keep the slices connected:

Elise's photo, not mine

In an airtight glass container, add the beans to one cup of high quality vodka. Place the container in a dark place for a few months and shake it every few days. This stuff will keep forever, so you may never need to buy vanilla extract again.

Can you guess what people will be getting for Christmas this year?

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Comments from other ninjas:

  1. Tom Colvin says

    Hmmm, I live half the year in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where I see huge bottles of vanilla extract for sale. But I have no idea at all about just why I’d ever buy a bottle? Any suggestions?

    Your recipe makes me think that perhaps I should DRINK the whole bottle, what with all that vodka in it!

    The other half of the year, I live in Manila, where I can buy tuna sushi for 50 cents a piece. I especially love those because of the WASABI. I KNOW how to use that.

  2. Nancy says

    OH, yum!! I am so doing this–thank you for posting this. I am increasingly unhappy with the corn-syrup-laced stuff you buy in the stores, and it will make a great gift for the holidays.

  3. Pam says

    Help! I made vanilla extract with Vodka, a little Black Rum and vanilla beans a couple of months ago and have been shaking it every few days. I have a couple of gallons that I was going to give as Christmas gifts, but when I got out the coffee filters last nite and began to strain to put into small bottles, it wouldn’t strain and has a very syrupy feel to it. What happened? And is it still usable? It really has a slimy feel to it. I am so disappointed. Can anyone help me with this problem? Thank you!

  4. steph says

    Pam! I have no idea what happened. Was the bottle sealed? Was it in a completely dark place? I don’t use black rum so I don’t know if that would have any effect (I don’t think it would). If you use alcohol, it should act as an antibacterial.

    How does it smell?

  5. Pam says

    Thanks for replying Steph. Yes, all sealed. I used 2 glass jugs and the original liter vodka plastic jug and have kept them sealed and they all feel slimy. I ordered the madagascar beans bulk off the internet – split some of them, scraped a few of them. I read many websites before I attempted this. Don’t know if it’s the black rum or maybe something with the beans… It smells beautiful but I don’t think I could bear to use slimy vanilla. I split up appx 100 beans between 4 liters – think it was too many beans?? Oh well – next time I will only use Vodka! Merry Christmas to All

  6. steph says

    Hrmm. Perhaps it was just too many beans, and the oil isn’t mixing with the alcohol. I really don’t know what would make it slimy. Perhaps it’s the plastic? Maybe try again in glass? Both alcohol and oil are corrosive to plastic, so perhaps that caused it.

    I’ll keep thinking on this and let you know if I think of anything else!

  7. Lillea Woodlyns says

    I’ve tried several ‘premium’ vanilla extracts but my homemade version, created exactly as you describe, rivalled them all! It’s so easy to do and saves so much money.
    .-= Check out Lillea Woodlyns

  8. Ondaderthad says

    As I posted before on the official commercial strength is about 20 beans per litre of spirit. (Vodka is best).
    I think your problem with “slimy” is because you split the beans. Vanilla has a thick pulp inside that causes it. It works well with whole beans but may take longer to get the full flavour. Maybe 4 weeks or more.
    Filtration of any fruit liqueur is always difficult. I pass it through some filter wool in a funnel several times. (same wool used in aquariums) then through a coffee filter paper pouring slowly to avoid having too much of the sediment.
    And .. it takes a long time.


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