Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Homemade "Real" Vanilla Extract

Becca here with a recipe that is a staple in my pantry.  Vanilla is one of my favorite flavors, and I love to use it when cooking.  In fact, I nearly always double it in a recipe I love it so much :)  After trying "real" vanilla extract (as opposed to imitation vanilla extract) a few years ago, there was no turning back.  The flavor is just SO much better, I think they're hardly comparable.  Both Aldi & Sam's Club normally have real vanilla extract for a much more reasonable price than buying it at the supermarket, but it still can be pricy (especially when you're doubling it in recipes, ha!) and it often has corn syrup, artificial color, and/or has extra water added to dilute it and make it more reasonably priced.  I first saw the idea of making your own vanilla extract here and decided to make my own.  I actually did this last fall, October 26, 2011 to be exact, but waited to post the recipe until I had tried the finished product.  While not difficult to make, for best results the vanilla need to sit for several months to 'cure'.  I'm happy to say that the finished product more than meets my expectations!  I think this would make great gifts packaged in a cute recycled jar with a homemade label.  So here's how to make your own:

Homemade Real Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Beans - I ordered mine from a vanilla importer on ebay, here and was very happy with them.  You'll definitely want to order online or, if you live somewhere with better variety in grocery shopping than I do (which isn't hard, I have about 2 options!) you may be able to buy them from bulk bins reasonably, but at my local Harps & Walmart it was approximately $13 for 3 beans.  Yes, only 3 beans.  I spent that same amount online & got 30 beans.  I used 7-8 beans per quart.

Vodka - I personally don't drink alcohol, and didn't think it was appropriate to take my 3 children along with me to the liquor store (ha!) so my husband drove through (is it strange to anyone else that a liquor store even has a drive through?!?) and picked this up for me.  I told him that I wanted the biggest bottle they had of a medium priced vodka, and to tell the sales clerk that I was using it for making vanilla so they might have a recommendation.  The bottle is long gone, so I'm sorry that I don't have the brand or size, but it was massive, at least half a gallon, about $20, and the sales clerk told Samuel that it was a very mild taste, which would be good for the vanilla

Glass container for storing.  You could use the vodka jar if you wanted to, I used quart canning jars with plastic lids.

1) Take the vanilla beans and cut down the center of them, exposing the inside.  This is the really fragrant part.  Use a butter knife to carefully scoop the insides out, and put it into your glass container you'll be making the vanilla in.  Repeat.  I used 7-8 beans per quart of vodka.  Be sure and throw the vanilla pod into the jar after you've scooped the insides out too! 

2) Pour in vodka to fill your jar will vanilla insides & pods.  Cover and set in a cool dark place (mine is inside of my pantry).  I wrote the date on top of the lids in dry erase marker so I'd remember when I made it.  Give it a shake every once in a while.  The vanilla is ready within a few months, and only gets better with time.  Although I haven't done this yet since I made a lot the first time, I have read about people just adding more vodka and a few new vanilla pods to the old pods when their jar gets empty, since the alcohol keeps it preserved & it will never go bad.

I don't have an exact price breakdown for you, but I do know that I made several quarts for less than the price of 1 quart of real vanilla extract from the store - without the corn syrup, water, and artificial coloring.


  1. You can also save a vanilla bean, push it into a jar of sugar (about sugar bowl size) for a week or two, and have vanilla sugar -- dreamy in just about anything!...I also buy vanilla paste from Homegoods/TJM for goodies where I really want to see the beans, like in vanilla pudding. It's about half the cost it would be elsewhere. Really, I just cannot get enough vanilla in my life so making my own extract is right up my alley. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    1. I actually did that with a vanilla bean in a pint size mason jar also, but I cut the bean open like I did with the extract, so the extra moisture made the sugar a bit hard after a little while, so I didn't post the 'recipe' here :) I should have left it whole I guess! I totally agree about vanilla though! Becca

  2. I cannot wait to try this. It will be hard to wait for it to cure. I've spoiled myself to buying the real stuff in Honduras for a lot less than we can buy it here, but I forgot to stock up this last time.