Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How To Make Everlasting Vanilla Extract

homemade vanilla extract
Two ingredients, plus time, in a bottle = lovely, aromatic, everlasting vanilla

Whole vanilla beans are something I've really never used on their own, but I LOVE vanilla extract for all kinds of recipes, and love being able to make my own extract so easily. Plus, this is one less reason to ever go to the store. OK, besides the liqueur store...

All you need is some hard alcohol (I use 80 proof brandy, rum, or vodka), a vanilla bean, and a clean bottle. To be fair, you also need patience. This is no instant gratification recipe. While you can use the vanilla extract after as little as six weeks, at that point it will smell more like alcohol than vanilla. Give it a full three months for the best flavor. If you want to speed up the time it takes before you can use your vanilla extract, try using a greater proportion of vanilla beans in the bottle. This will have it tasting of vanilla sooner, though it will cost more.


alcohol for homemade vanilla extract
Really, anything works as long as it's hard

What makes it everlasting? When the bottle runs low, you just top the vanilla off with more alcohol and let it set for a couple months again. You can do this many times before the vanilla bean loses it's magic. While vanilla beans aren't cheap, one bean makes a lot of extract when used like this. I buy 1 oz of organic vanilla beans (about 9 beans) for $6 from Azure Standard, but you can also find them at health food stores in bulk.


homemade vanilla extract
This is the first bottle I made, which is a bit too small for how often I use vanilla. To keep me in vanilla extract, I have two 8 ounce bottles going in rotation.

Instructions:

Cut the vanilla bean into short pieces so it fits into the bottom of the bottle. If you leave the pieces long, you will have to refill it too often to be very useful (it's best if the alcohol always covers the vanilla bean).
Place one cut bean in each 4 to 8 oz bottle (you can use 1/2 bean if using very small bottles).

Fill the bottle with hard alcohol of your choice. I've used vodka, brandy, and both dark and light rums. To me, it really doesn't make a difference which type of alcohol I use; use whatever you have! Not tequila though because that would be disgusting.

Keep at room temperature, wait 3 months, then use as you would any store-bought vanilla extract. For best results, give the bottle a gentle shake every week or so, to fully distribute the vanilla flavor into the alcohol.

Refill when alcohol gets lower than the top of the vanilla bean (the alcohol preserves the bean, so it should always be submerged).

Because of the wait time after refilling the bottle, I keep two 8 oz bottles in rotation these days, so I never run out, or have to use vanilla that tastes like brandy. Every time I use some vanilla, I gently shake both bottles.

How long will it keep? Alcohol will preserve the vanilla indefinitely, as long as the beans are fully submerged and it's stored in a dark cabinet or in a dark glass bottle. When it gets low on flavor, cut up a new bean and toss it in. 

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85 comments

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January 26, 2012 at 8:35 PM

Wow! This is cool, I will definitely have to try it!

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January 28, 2012 at 12:56 AM

I've seen recipes for homemade vanilla, but this is the most affordable option. Thanks!

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March 9, 2012 at 8:48 PM

Any good reason to to go to the liquor store.... Thank you for sharing this awesome idea! vanilla extract gets really expensive.

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June 1, 2012 at 2:02 AM

My vanilla is at about the 8 week mark although I have used some it is not quite right yet. I have seen someone say to just top it up with a little alcohol each time they use it and that keeps it going.

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Jen
June 1, 2012 at 7:28 AM

I am getting ready to do a vanilla post myself. When my mom came to visit she was so impressed that I made my own vanilla that she begged me to make some for her for Christmas. :)

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June 1, 2012 at 8:16 AM

That's what I was told to do as well, Deanne, but I use vanilla too often for that to work for me. It would just taste like alcohol after a couple weeks of use + topping, so that's why I rotate between a few bottles, so I always have mature vanilla extract ready to use.

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June 15, 2012 at 9:40 AM

I've always wanted to make my own, but keep putting it off. Thanks for the recipe and for linking up at Tiny Tip Tuesday!

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June 19, 2012 at 12:55 PM

I've been making my own vanilla for a while now. It so much cheaper than the store bought stuff, and you're guaranteed to know exactly what ingredients are in your extract.

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July 6, 2012 at 8:26 PM

Great post!

Thanks for linking this up at the Carnival of Home Preserving!

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Kit
July 27, 2012 at 11:37 AM

This great to know. I have been keeping my vanilla pods in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar, but didn't know that you could make vanilla extract this way - so much nicer than the artificial vanilla essences you buy too.

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July 27, 2012 at 2:52 PM

Vanilla sugar sounds yummy! I love not having to buy vanilla extract ever again though.

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Lori
August 8, 2012 at 11:45 AM

How long can you use the same vanilla beans? After how long do they need replaced?

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August 8, 2012 at 3:32 PM

I think after using them a few times it will probably start to take longer and longer to infuse the vanilla flavor into the alcohol. I'm sure they can't actually be "everlasting", but I bought about 9 beans, and have several bottles of vanilla going, and have been using the vanilla pretty heavily for over a year, without diminishing flavor. I don't have a straight answer as far as time that they last, but I would just replace them after they don't seem to be doing the job!

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August 21, 2012 at 10:41 AM

How many bean strips per 8 oz jar?

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August 21, 2012 at 11:40 AM

One whole bean should be perfect in an 8 oz jar. Sorry I didn't make that clear in the article, I'll update it!

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October 2, 2012 at 2:16 PM

Wonderful! I will definitely give this a try.

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October 9, 2012 at 7:48 AM

totally just purchased 30 vanilla beans off of amazon for this for christmas presents (and for me) this year! I just need to find some jars now. :)

www.munchtalk.net

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October 9, 2012 at 9:48 AM

I just started a batch of Vanilla infusion a few days ago. It smells so good I wish it would go faster! What proof alcohol do you use? I am using my 100 proof vodka I use for herbal infusions right now but it sounds kind of extreme.

I would love it if you could share this on my new blog hop Natural Living Monday. I know my readers would too!

http://www.naturallivingmamma.com/2012/10/07/natural-living-monday-5/

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October 9, 2012 at 11:41 AM

That is going to be so nice. I've never made these for gifts, but it's a great idea!

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October 9, 2012 at 11:42 AM

I use 80 proof alcohol. You're right, it doesn't need to be as strong as for many infusions, but I'm sure it will work!
I will totally check out your blog hop, thanks!

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October 11, 2012 at 2:23 AM

I use so much vanilla in my smoothies and so far I've been avoiding alcohol based vanilla and just using the ground vanilla which is gorgeous but very expensive. I may just have to bite the bullet and give this a try as it would save me a fortune! Thank you.

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October 18, 2012 at 4:44 AM

my mom used to make her own vanilla...i remember her always running down into mexico to buy her vanilla beans for some reason!

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October 18, 2012 at 4:48 AM

Vanilla is way cheaper in Mexico!

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October 18, 2012 at 4:57 AM

I've been making my own vanilla for years now. It's so easy and tastes better than the store bought!

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October 18, 2012 at 6:28 AM

Wow! Great post with a wonderful recipe ~ (A Creative Harbor) ^_^

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October 18, 2012 at 4:02 PM

I like the idea of keeping smaller bottles for immediate use! :)

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October 19, 2012 at 12:06 PM

Will definitely have to try this!

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October 23, 2012 at 3:17 AM

I've been going to do this for quite a few years now.I keep forgetting, next time I visit my dad I will get a bottle of alcohol as he has a still sp ? and brews his own then it will be free other then the beans of course but I have a bottle full. I make a gorgeous recipe and I use half a vanilla bean in it. I throw it into the food processor and add all the other ingredients here is the recipe link it's raw healthy, sugar free, dairy free, gluten free chocolate truffles. They make great gifts for family and friends, every one will be asking for the recipe... http://simpleliving-sherrie.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/home-made-chocolate-truffles.html
I love your blog you seem to live as our family lives natural as possible !
Sherrie from Simpleliving :)

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October 23, 2012 at 8:04 AM

Yum, I've got to try your truffle recipe, Sherrie! Thanks for sharing it.
Man, I'd love to make this extract with moonshine!

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October 28, 2012 at 8:03 PM

Thanks for the warning about the six week mark; I was about to try this myself for the first time (though every recipe I've seen calls for vodka, so that's what I was going to get), and it just said to steep it for six weeks. I'll steep it for three months now, because I want vanilla tasting vanilla, not vodka tasting vanilla! ;)

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Mark Wetzel
October 28, 2012 at 8:23 PM

I have been doing this for several years. I found vodka works well for it.
Am gona have to try the rum or brandy ones, or both!!

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sn
October 28, 2012 at 8:33 PM

How do you make non-alcoholic Vanilla Flavoring instead of Vanilla Extract?
Thanks for your advice :)

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October 28, 2012 at 8:45 PM

I believe those are made with glycerine. Perhaps in the same way, just substituting glycerine for the alcohol? I haven't done it that way though, sorry!

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October 28, 2012 at 8:47 PM

I have a feeling 6 weeks may work fine if you use a higher proportion of vanilla to alcohol. I use one bean in an 8 oz bottle, but I have seen other recipes that really pack the beans in there. That sounds expensive, to me ;)

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Anonymous
October 28, 2012 at 8:54 PM

How long will the bottle last, I don't use it a lot but would like to make this? I am always worried about making things homemade as to how long it last before it goes bad.

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October 28, 2012 at 8:59 PM

That's a great question, and I will update my article with the answer, but here you go: As long as the vanilla is covered by the alcohol, it will last indefinitely. Alcohol is a great preservative, and it will prevent the vanilla from molding or anything. I would store it either in a dark glass bottle, or in a dark cabinet if you don't use it regularly, to protect the oils in the vanilla from light damage.

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October 29, 2012 at 5:36 AM

couldn't you just drop a few beans into a 1/5 or 1/2 gallon of vodka instead of the smaller alcohol is generally cheaper in the larger amounts, and you could just use the original container - save cost. It sounds like it would be excellent to add to your homemade cough syrups/elixers.

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October 29, 2012 at 7:47 AM

You definitely could make the extract directly in the larger alcohol bottles. I would probably put the whole ounce of vanilla beans in a 1/2 gallon, probably just 3 or 4 beans in a 1/5. I thought about doing it that way, but we figured we might want some of our brandy and rum for other things occasionally. Also, I prefer pouring the teaspoon or so needed for recipes from a small bottle. You don't have to buy these small bottles, you can just save them from other things, so this method doesn't have to cost any more than just making them right in the larger bottle.

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October 29, 2012 at 2:18 PM

Me and my mom Really want to try this but we dont think my father would apriciate us keeping vodka in the house.....

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October 29, 2012 at 3:47 PM

You might want to try making a vanilla extract using glycerine instead. For people who can't have alcohol, I believe glycerine is a useful substitute. I've never done it this way, but you could google a recipe. Good luck!

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October 30, 2012 at 1:54 AM

Hi Mellow, I finally made my vanilla extract that I've been going to make for so many years I've lost count. I got a big bottle of pure alcohol from my dad as he has a still and I had some organic vanilla beans...so thanks to your blog it reminded me once again to make some. yeah finally :):):)

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October 30, 2012 at 7:58 PM

I have mine currently brewing. There are little particles of vanilla bean. Do you strain it when it's done? Where do you buy dark bottles? Thanks!

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October 30, 2012 at 9:19 PM

The particles are probably totally fine and would go unnoticed in anything you use it for. Think of vanilla bean ice cream, which has vanilla bean flecks to fancy it up... My extract has some sediment from the beans, but it stays at the bottom so it's never been an issue when I use it.
I don't strain it, I just use it until it needs to be topped off with more alcohol, and then I switch to one of my other bottles that's been brewing, in a rotation that keeps me always in mature vanilla extract.
The dark bottles can be repurposed from other extracts, or bought new online. I believe mountainroseherbs.com carries them.

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November 9, 2012 at 11:40 AM

So cool! I have wanted to try this for a long time but vanilla beans at the supermarket were so expensive. Then I saw that my local health food store carries vanilla beans in bulk for cheaper, so I can't wait to try it!

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November 9, 2012 at 2:47 PM

Bulk spices are such a great deal! Glad you found something that will work.

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November 12, 2012 at 4:11 PM

I have made some for gifts! Its so easy to make and tastes SO good in recipes!!! Thanks for kicking off the Gluten Free Fridays party this weekend! WOOT! We have some awesome recipes and they just keep coming!! So....Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! :) Cindy from vegetarianmamma.com

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November 18, 2012 at 1:38 PM

This is genius and definitely something I will make!

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November 20, 2012 at 6:23 AM

Awesome idea (perfect for holiday season too). How many times do you think you are able to refill the bottle before needing new vanilla beans? Thanks so much for this tutorial!

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November 20, 2012 at 8:14 AM

I haven't kept track of how many times I've refilled mine (some tally marks on the bottle would've been useful!) but I do think that it takes a bit longer each time, because the beans lose their potency after a while.

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November 23, 2012 at 12:52 PM

I love vanilla, and the flavour from vanilla beans is always so lovely. It's great to make your own vanilla extract where you can - then you know exactly what's in it :)

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November 23, 2012 at 7:49 PM

That's seriously how I feel about nearly everything these days! I feel like if I can't make it, we're probably better off without it ;)

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December 21, 2012 at 11:03 AM

I love this, and have been wanting to make my own for ages, but you've inspired me to get off my butt and do it. My co-op sells beans for cheap so I'm going to pick some up ASAP!

Thanks for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday :)

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December 27, 2012 at 6:04 AM

I too have always wanted to make my own vanilla! I even have the beans! Thanks for taking the mystery out of it for us! Thanks for sharing this at Raw Foods Thursdays!

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December 30, 2012 at 9:40 AM

I wasn't aware that you could make vanilla extract using rum, YUM!! Thank you for sharing at the Clever Chicks Blog Hop, I will be featuring you this week! Please feel free to grab my Featured button!

Cheers,
Kathy Shea Mormino
The Chicken Chick
http://www.The-Chicken-Chick.com

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January 7, 2013 at 7:11 AM

This sounds amazing, I've never made my own, but I'd love to try! Thanks so much for sharing at Mix it up Monday :)

http://www.flourmewithlove.com/2013/01/mix-it-up-monday.html#more

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January 9, 2013 at 7:05 AM

I'm featuring this today :)

http://www.flourmewithlove.com/2013/01/featuring-you_9.html

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January 9, 2013 at 7:55 AM

Thank you so much for the feature, Lisa!

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January 12, 2013 at 10:38 AM

Great idea! I've never made my own vanilla but I love how easy it is! I'm thinking some vanilla beans are in order! Thanks for linking up to One Creative Weekend!

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January 25, 2013 at 12:08 PM

I've been dying to try this out, thanks so much for the tips! Stopping by from Pin Me, stop by if you get a moment Running Away? I'll Help You Pack!

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January 26, 2013 at 8:11 PM

Very interesting process! Thanks for sharing at this week's Pin Me Linky Party.

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February 6, 2013 at 5:59 AM

I've been meaning to do this :) Found this on Seasonal Celebration :)

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February 13, 2013 at 6:08 AM

A super idea and one I'm planning to put together this weekend. Thank you for sharing this with us and I hope very much to see you over at Seasonal Celebration today! Rebecca @Natural Mothers Network x

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February 15, 2013 at 6:44 AM

This is awesome! This might be a dumb question - but where do you get the bottles from??

Sarah
anythingbetween

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February 15, 2013 at 1:58 PM

Not a dumb question- I reuse bottles when I can, so I have some smaller size vanilla bottles that are reused from storebought vanilla. The larger bottles were bought by a friend of mine. She bought a case of them online somewhere and I bought two from her. I'm not sure what site she got them from, but there are several websites that sell bottles. Good luck Sarah!

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March 2, 2013 at 8:29 AM

This is wonderful to know! This is my first time joining in the Small Footprint Fridays, and it's amazing how many people are sharing about living a more sustainable life. Thanks for the vanilla recipe--I'm excited to try it.

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Anonymous
March 15, 2013 at 8:43 PM

Thanks for sharing with Simple Meals Friday! We featured this post today! :) I hope you join us again!
http://nourishingsimplicity.org/2013/03/simple-meals-friday-22.html

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March 16, 2013 at 9:08 AM

Thank you so much for the feature!

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April 1, 2013 at 12:11 PM

We have the vanilla beans just need the rum (or whatever) Thanks for sharing with us. Hope to see you again tomorrow at Eco-Kids Tuesday!!

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April 2, 2013 at 5:15 PM

I love really good vanilla. This seems like a great recipe. I go through so much of this stuff that I can't wait to try this.
Thanks for sharing.
Have a great week,
Bev
@ Eclectic Red Barn

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April 16, 2013 at 3:44 AM

I love this idea! I am going to try it soon. Thanks for sharing.

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April 20, 2013 at 6:58 PM

Thanks so much for linking up with "Try a New Recipe Tuesday." I will be featuring this recipe! Congratulations! :-) :-) Be sure to stop by and grab an "I've been featured" button from my sidebar. The post will go live on Monday evening around 11pm Eastern. I can't wait to see what you share this week! :-)

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April 26, 2013 at 8:02 AM

This is a great homemade vanilla. Your recipe is fabulous and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday. Have a great weekend and come back soon!
Miz Helen

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May 7, 2013 at 11:15 AM

I've never tried making my own, and it looks so easy. Thanks for sharing your tip at Fabulously Frugal Thursday!

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May 22, 2013 at 6:10 PM

I absolutely love homemade vanilla---it tastes SO much better than store-bought and lasts forever! I am about due to make some more here!

I'd like to invite you to share this post and up to two others at Farm Girl Blog Fest #33, which is live right now. You would be a great addition to the wonderful posts that are shared!

Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest #33

Hope to see you there!
~Kristi@Let This Mind Be in You

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Ellen
June 16, 2013 at 5:31 AM

I have had a bottle of vanilla extract going since 1994. It makes your baking much more flavorful. The only thing that I do different is that I also cut my beans long ways to expose the inside flesh of the bean to the alcohol. It speads up the process a little bit. It also allows some of the seeds to get into your cooking if you shake the bottle before using.

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June 25, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Wow, what a great post! Love the idea of making my own vanilla extract, even if takes 3 months! lol! Thanks so much for sharing! Found you at Tuesday's Table's linky party.

Christine :)
http://www.myepicureanadventures.com

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July 16, 2013 at 3:25 AM

Nothing like homemade vanilla! Visiting from Far Above Rubies.

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September 27, 2013 at 12:09 PM

I love this, pinning to my healthy eating board, followed you here from the Friday Flash Blog Hop.

Consider sharing on a new link up called Real Food Fridays, looking for co-hosts.
http://yourlife7.blogspot.com/2013/09/real-food-friday-7-link-up.html

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