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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

DIY: Make Your Own Vanilla Extract!

Vanilla is a delightful flavor that most of us probably use quite often in the kitchen. If you buy the real stuff, it can be expensive! I've recently learned that it can be made fairly inexpensively. All you need is a couple vanilla beans and some vodka! 

My husband and I really don't drink (if anything, a small glass of wine with family) so buying a whole bottle of vodka just seemed silly. I told my mom about making vanilla and she offered some of hers. That being said, she helped drop the cost of this project for me! The cost of vanilla beans can seem high, but if you're making vanilla, it seems to even out. I paid almost $7 for two vanilla beans at my local Food Lion but you can find them online at a wholesale price. I included an affiliate link below for your convenience!

I first found this nifty DIY on A Beautiful Mess. These girls gave a quick tutorial here. She reused a maple syrup bottle which I think looks adorable! I have real maple syrup in a similar bottle that I wanted to use but it wasn't empty when I wanted to try this! Maybe next time. 

Gather your supplies! 
  • Vodka
  • Vanilla Bean(s)
  • Bottle or jar
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Scissors
  • A funnel can be helpful

All Natural Madagascar Vanilla Beans

I love this little bottle with a cork stopper. It originally had bread dipping oil in it that my aunt had given to my mom as a gift. I've recently developed a borderline obsession with saving jars and bottles so I made sure she saved it for me! 


Cut the beans down the middle long-ways. Some sites have recommended scraping the beans out from the inside. If you do that, you'll need to filter your extract before using it in a recipe to keep the beans out. But then again, it probably doesn't make a difference.

Two beans cut length-ways will give you, obviously, four strips. 

Now measure out your vodka. You will need 4oz for every vanilla bean. (Psst, 8oz=1 cup). I had two beans so I poured a whole cup.

This is where the funnel comes in handy. Shove the beans into the bottle and then pour in the vodka. And this is where I warn you to measure how much your bottle/jar can hold beforehand! My bottle held just under a whole cup. It was maybe 1/10th of a cup too much or some absurdly small amount. I doubt it will effect the extract. I've actually read that you can continue to add vodka as you use the vanilla and it will continue to "brew" more extract. It was also advised on one site to keep the liquid line above the beans so they don't dry out. 

And now, we wait! This picture was taken as soon as I finished. It only took about an hour to begin showing color but it will take about a month before you should start using it. I've got a little bit of store bought extract left so by the time I use that up, I'm sure the homemade stuff will be ready. 

This was taken about 2-3 weeks later.

This is after more than a month. It's dark amber and ready to use! I don't bake a whole lot (trying to keep sweets out of the house!) so I haven't used it yet but I'll try and whip something up soon to tell you all how it was!

  • The brand of vodka isn't very important. It's said that you can basically just get the cheapest one because you're not going to be drinking it so the quality doesn't matter. The alcohol is the necessity. 
  • It will take at least a month before you can use the extract. It takes time for it to age. 6 months is best from what I've read. It can last indefinitely but the beans should probably be cut to shorter lengths so that the liquid does not drop below the tops of the beans.
  • "I don't want to put vodka in my cupcakes!!" ....is what you might be thinking. Don't worry! The alcohol will burn off when you cook whatever treat you're making! Not to mention, the amount of vanilla usually used in a recipe is fairly small in comparison. 
  • Making lots of bottles of vanilla extract would make great gifts! Just keep in mind you'll need to make them at least a month in advance!
  • According to BlogHer, vanilla may be in short supply very soon! So, stock up! 
  • Some helpful websites: Vanilla Review and Amadeus Vanilla Beans

Do you always buy real vanilla extract or do you go with imitation? Can you tell if there's a difference?

Till next time,

Disclaimer: I may be compensated for any purchases made through affiliate links. 

I've linked up to Make Your Own Mondays 10/14/13 with Nourishing Treasures!

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