For years, I resisted making my own vanilla extract, trusting my extract needs to companies that did an exceptional job of it. I didn’t believe that I went through enough of it to justify the extra expense of vanilla beans. This went out the window a year ago when I realized I’d blown through a $20 8-ounce bottle of vanilla extract in one vanilla-fueled frenetic holiday baking season. Ouch. Taking a cue from The Wednesday Chef, I decided it was time to make my own and I haven’t looked back since. Here’s how you can do it too:
1. Buy vanilla beans: David Lebovitz has a great explainer on vanilla beans and a bit about the industry worth reading before you get started, but if you’re eager to just get shopping, a simple Google search for “buy vanilla beans” will return more results than anyone will need. My recommendations are two-fold: If you can find a site with unfiltered outside reviews from customers (a clue is when not all will be glowing or 5-star), do so, and, Buy your beans by weight, not number because if the beans are smaller than average, you don’t want to feel shorted. A quarter-pound bag will yield enough for 2 to 4 16-ounce bottles of vanilla extract, depending on bean size. (My batch yielded 4 bottles, but the beans were on the small — but no less delicious — side.)
2. Get a bottle to store your extract: Get a couple extras, because this makes fantastic gifts. An old, well-sterilized vinegar or oil bottle will work here, or a small wine bottle, or even an old glass vanilla bottle. Or, you can buy new ones. An amber bottle will better protect the extract from light and heat, though I’ve used clear ones so that I can see how the steeping is coming along, and just store it in a dark cabinet. [I’ve gotten mine from Specialtybottle.com.]
3. Buy alcohol: Alcohol is used as a base for extracts because it doesn’t spoil and is easily infused with flavors. The gold standard of extracts is pure alcohol, but that’s not readily available everywhere. Instead, I use vodka, which is by definition colorless and flavorless. On a tip from a reader, I couldn’t resist making a bottle last year with half bourbon and half vodka, but I was shocked (shocked!) to find the bourbon an unwelcome distraction from the pure vanilla flavor in the vodka-only extract. I don’t know me anymore, either.
4. Get to work: I use 1 whole vanilla bean for every 2 liquid ounces of alcohol. So, for an 8-ounce bottle, I use 4 whole beans, for a 12-ounce bottle (pictured up top), I used 6, for a 16-ounce bottle (the one I made last year that sparked this conversation), I used 8 beans. I go solely by bean count; I don’t fuss about whether the beans are bigger or smaller because bigger doesn’t necessarily mean more flavor.
Split each bean lengthwise and drop in your empty bottle. If your bottle is short, you can first cut your beans down in size so that they’ll easily fit. Then, split each bean lengthwise and drop in your empty bottle. Fill to a 1/2-inch from the top with alcohol. Give it a few shakes and place it somewhere that you’ll see it, like a cabinet, but away from the light.
5. Be patient: For the first week or two, I give the bottle a little shake — and who are we kidding, a deep inhale of admiration — whenever I see it but I’m not sure there is any scientific evidence that this speeds the process along. Within 5 days, your extract will already be a medium amber color (see top photo). Most people recommend that you wait 2 weeks to use it, but I prefer to wait 4 to 6. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m all about getting the maximum impact from my investment and at 6 weeks, it’s a downright near coffee-colored luxury unmatched by anything you can buy in the store. It is worth the wait.
6. Plan ahead for next time: When last year’s bottle dipped near the 1/3 full mark, I started this next one so it will be good to go whenever the need arises.
* On reusing beans: A common suggestion is to simply refill your vanilla bean bottle with more alcohol as the volume dips, but I couldn’t bring myself to dilute something so I’d so patiently steeped to a deep intensity. I decided that I would instead reuse the “spent” beans. So, when my first bottle is full kicked, I’ll use those beans towards the next one, perhaps then only needing 6 fresh ones instead of 8. I’ll make sure to cut the new ones to a different length, so when that bottle is empty, I’ll know which ones are twice-spent and which are not.
363 comments on make your own vanilla extract
What’s the easiest way to get the beans out of the container?
I use a canning jar, so it’s pretty easy to fish them out.
A.) This looks incredible.
B.) Where did you get that gorgeous vodka bottle?!
Its called Jewel of Russia
I tried using Bourbon last year and ended up wasting awesome beans and giving vanilla infused Bourbon as a gift…maybe I will try again using vodka
I am a big fan of smitten kitchen! I just have a question on when you’d believe the extract would expire.
With that alcohol content, my guess would be “never”.
Thank you for this! I am going to order some vanilla beans. One question. When you say “pure alcohol”, what would I look for?
It is called spirit (spirytus), 95%. If you have a polish community/stores, as them about it.
Also known as Everclear. Last time I was looking, there are 2 different proofs, but the higher proof can be difficult to find, depending g on your state laws. Check a liquor store.
The 95 proof is often not available, but there is no need for it or the 75 proof for vanilla extract. The legal definition of VE requires 70 proof and the normally available 80 proof does a good job.
I might be tempted to do a comparison using one cup of 80 vs 150. I worked out the formula for how to change 80 to 70 proof once, could repeat for 150 .
what kind of vodka do you recommend?
Donna — I have no idea; I mean, I’m sure I could shake most of them out eventually, but my actual plan, as per the last note, was that I’d just add more and more vodka when it ran out.
Rebecca — Thanks and we seriously have no idea how to buy it. It was a gift, and Alex and I cannot remember whether it was from friends for his 30th or 35th birthday (he’s, uh, 40 now) but it never got used (where are our priorities?) and was determined good enough (I made him take a swig at 10 a.m., heh) so we went for it.
chaya — Any kind that you have, no need to use the fanciest.
Janet — I was thinking Everclear might be the closest thing we have here, but I could be wrong on this. Really, vodka works just fine and doesn’t need to cost a lot.
Caroline — Thank you. I would not expect it to ever expire. (But I’ve also not used one with beans in it for more than 2 years.)
Donna, You don’t need to remove the beans. They’ll never go bad in alcohol! And they look pretty in there, anyway!
I have brown gunky/goo at the bottom of a jar I made a few years back. Did the vanilla beans disintegrate? I can still see several whole ones…
If you split your beans it’s probably the caviar inside the bean. Just strain it through a coffee filter. Next time don’t split the bean pods. Then when your vanilla is done steeping remove the beans, then cut one end from the bean and squeeze out the resulting vanilla paste, use the paste for other cooking and baking.
Just shake your bottle up! It’s all vanilla goodness – I don’t strain mine – if a few vanilla specks get into my baking, it only adds depth to the flavor – think about the black specks you see in real vanilla bean ice cream.
I never realized it was possible to make vanilla extract without scary machines I don’t have in my kitchen! I can’t wait to try it!
Is there any point at which the beans are TOO steeped and the flavor tips toward oversaturated?
I usually do this with rhum. it adds a nice flavor to the vanilla.
I’ve just always used bourbon. I do use grain alcohol for my limoncello, so perhaps I’ll try that for my next vanilla batch.
I made vanilla and sold it at a farmers market for years along with my baked goods. Online vanilla is so cheap that I could sell a bottle for $10 which is still a deal compared to supermarkets. I remove the spent beans, let them dry out, then add them to my sugar bowl or in a bag of sugar to make vanilla sugar. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=105012240771&l=f3b8ce6e1c
I’m thinking grain alcohol and pure alcohol might be one and the same?
Not quite – pure alcohol would be 100% ethanol. The grain alcohol you can buy retail is going to be 96% at the highest. You could potentially source 100% ethanol through a lab supply company, but I doubt it’s necessary.
Don’t use 100percent alcohol it contains non ethyl alcohol it is poison. just use vodka
This is absolutely not true. If it is marked as 100% ethanol, or 200 proof, it is absolutely 100% ethyl alcohol (drinking stuff.)
Lab supply companies do also sell denatured ethanol. This is the stuff to which methanol and other (non drinking) alcohols have been added. The former (200 proof) ethanol can be food taxed, the later not.
You are certainly correct that denatured alcohol should not be consumed. But 200 proof ethanol is certainly safe, albeit likely unnecessary here.
The problem with 100 percent ethyl alcohol is that it requires a more complex distillation process that uses other chemicals in order to get to 100 percent. The simple distillation process yields 95 percent alcohol and does not require other chemicals.
Deb, which site do you get your beans from?
Will any vodka do, or do you have a recommendation? Thank you!
I have old beans that have become brittle. Are they still useable?
KGMOM: I used some crispy dry beans from Morocco that I had forgotten about. Soaked them for a week, then pulled them out and they were soft enough to split. Did so and put them back. It’s getting nice and dark. I’m sure you’ve figured this out by now, but hey.
Homemade vanilla extract is so good. I made 4 big bottles last year, and slowly have gone through them – one is still steeping, going on 11 months, and the one I opened at 9 months was amazing – so much better than anything in the store! And, that vodka bottle is so pretty.
i just made a batch last week and added just a few ounces or brandy to change the flavor. do you use madagascar beans? where do you order from?
Do you taste a difference in the finished baked good? In the past I’ve bought the best vanilla I could afford, but ever since I read this article I’m questioning everything. http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2013/12/taste-test-is-better-vanilla-extract-worth-the-price.html
yum! I’m definitely going to do this. Do you think there is a (significant) difference between Mexican beans and those from Madagascar?
Yesssss. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been doing this for about 5 years now; ever since I could no longer justify the $$$ of the extract I wanted to use.
For those asking about quality/brands, here are my 2 cents:
I use Smirnoff vodka… certainly not extravagant, but it’s no Aristocrat. (shudder). As for the beans… I get wonderful beans in bulk on Amazon.
I’ve given the extract as gifts in previous years; but mostly – it’s just for me.
In making limoncello, I use Absolut 100 Vodka. It’s hard to find, particularly here in bourbon country, but smoother than other vodkas. I’m thinking it will be great for vanilla too!
what if I can’t use alcohol but really want the potent vanilla extract . Religious reasons prevent me from using alcohol .
All vanilla extract uses alcohol. Just cut open and scrape out the inside of the vanilla bean for flavour.
Same. What can we use instead of alcohol? I usually use the vanilla beans but sometimes I want extract and I won’t use artificial vanilla.
Non Alcohol based extract
Raymond Blanc demonstrated this on one of his tv programmes and if it’s good enough for him…. I did it this way for years but recently had one batch go fizzy presumably due to yeasts. Yields immediately usable potent extract with bits in!
KITCHEN TIP: TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR VANILLA PODS
announced 3 years ago , raymond’s tips
To get the most out of your vanilla pods. Bring to the boil 100ml of water and 100g of caster sugar and leave to cool to room temperature, take six vanilla pods, remove the hard piece at one end and chop into small pieces. Puree the syrup and vanilla pieces in a food processor until as smooth as possible. Store in the fridge for several months in a sealed container.
I’ve watched a video using glycerin instead of alcohol to extract vanilla. It’s thicker but also clear-colored like Vodka.
A vanilla bean pate uses no alcohol. Recipe usually includes beans, water, sugar, glucose/corn syrup.
I love love love making homemade vanilla extract. I prefer vodka, but bourbon does mix beautifully with Tahitian beans.
However, I’m surprised that yours was that good after only a few weeks. I’ve always let mine sit a minimum of 6-8 weeks.
I just throw my vanilla beans in a bottle of vodka ;-) for home use…I have to say I prefer white rum (Bacardi-ish) over vodka as it works well with any baking.
Love my home made vanilla extract!
All my used beans from baking and ice cream making get rinsed and dried and end op in that bottle. Or in my vanilla sugar of course.
I even had great results making extract with old, dried up pods that I found in the back of my cabinet (ouch!)…just split then, threw them in and wait!
Your comment about putting the beans in the vodka bottle made me laugh. Of course! That is so much easier than trying to pour vodka into a narrow necked bottle!
oh, btw mine is over 2 years old (I do top-up) and still perfectly fine!
Yes! I have a smaller bottle that I use from the spice cupboard when I’m baking – when that one is empty, I fill it from the 750 ml bottle, top off the 750 ml bottle, add another bean or two, give it a shake, and put it back in it’s dark corner in the cupboard. It’s ready by the time I have to fill up the small bottle again! The bottle is not too full for more beans yet!!
Lauren — I certainly haven’t experienced this; a more-intense vanilla might just mean that you need less of it in baked goods. That said, if you found the intensity off-putting, you could always dilute it with more alcohol if needed.
Anne — You might be right; I need to do more research and report back.
Annie — I last ordered Madagascar Bourbon beans from VanillaProductsUSA.com last year. I’m neither here nor there on recommending the company. The beans were fine; the flavor was great, they were on the small side (but there were also 30-something in a 1/4-pound package, if I remember correctly, which I may not) and they dried out quickly, to my disappointment. I should have rewrapped them better. But, they were just fine for steeping.
Lainie — I’d use any kind you’ve got. I don’t think there’s any need for vodka to be fancy. (The Russians on my husbands side mostly drink Absolut.)
kgmom — Mine got dry too; I think it’s just fine for extract, which will soften and steep out the flavors regardless. (I want to say it could take longer, but the color up top is from 5 days and pretty dried-out beans, so it really may not.)
sarah — I did, but I certainly didn’t full test it out by, say, bringing four varieties home and choosing my favorite. I just went with what sounded good, and was happy with them.
Anna — That’s interesting because I can almost ALWAYS taste fake vanilla extract in baked goods. Fake almond too, shudder. That said, I was never convinced that the $20 bottle of real stuff was better than the $8 McCormicks I always used growing up, I’d just switched to the “fancier” brand because I preferred the glass bottle. (But not it’s dribble-neck! The plastic bottles never dribble.) As for whether I can taste the difference in homemade vanilla vs. bottled stuff in a final cake, likely not as I usually only use 1 teaspoon at a time in cake or cookies. But I can tell from the bottle and taste that it’s much more intense and a far more aromatic product. It also costs much less.
Rachel — Good Mexican beans are some of the best in the world. If you can find great ones, you might prefer them too. But it’s all about taste in the end, and I don’t think most people would be unhappy with either. The flavors are slightly different, of course.
Sarah — I haven’t tried any of them, so I cannot say how well they work, but there are a lot of posts online about making alcohol-free extract.
Kel — The color up top is from 5 days, and it surprised me too with how dark it got. But I don’t use it before 6 to 8 weeks, as I mention in the post.
I make several different varieties. I use Mexican vanilla beans, steeped in vodka. I have a batch that uses beans from Madagascar, that I use bourbon for (which is my personal favorite), and then do a batch with Tahitian beans in rum that I use on fruity or tropical recipes. All are delicious and lend a unique flavor to my recipes!
In England, pharmacists will sell pure alcohol. That is where I obtain mine from. I have also made extract of cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and root ginger. They are used in a similar way to the vanilla and made the same way expect you need to be extra careful to use really fresh spices. And they will need brusing with the flat of a knife to allow the alcohol to draw out their flavour.
I foresee a time when vanilla extract will be marketed more aggressivley around the beans that go into it.
Pure alcohol doesn’t really exist, 95% is generally the highest concentration stuff in the chemical supply companies, it sucks moisture out of the area diluting it so the 95% stuff they sell is less than 95% once opened.
I worked in a lab where we used high concentration ethanol and anything above 90% we added anhydrous copper sulfate which went in as grey and as it sucked up the excess water turned blue letting us know we were back to the 95% or above concentration.
Gah- fat fingers…I’ll repost with the right spelling…
I have also made extract of cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and root ginger. They are used in a similar way to the vanilla and made the same way except you need to be extra careful to use really fresh spices. And they will need briusing with the flat of a knife to allow the alcohol to draw out their flavour.
I give up….bruising….It’s BRUISING.
I’ve been making my own vanilla for the past couple of years. Vodka was the first spirit that I used, but I’ve since used dark rum and brandy. I used different beans each time. No favorite, all were wonderful.
I’ve read that once the alcohol is no longer covering the beans, they should be removed. I usually just dump everything into a large measuring cup, remove the beans, and put the extract back in the bottle.
I pat the beans dry and let them sit on paper towels until completely dry, then use them for making vanilla sugar and salt.
I always use dark Jamacan rum. So good.
Brilliant. Especially since I have been using lots of vanilla beans lately (your roasted vanilla pears). I’ve been tossing the beans in sugar but with the latest batch I wanted to make vanilla extract. Thanks for the tips!
I meant to add that a local restaurant infuses bourbon with vanilla beans then mixes it with ginger ale to make Kentucky cream soda. Delicious!
The first time I made my own vanilla extract, I got two bottles so I could compare alcohols. I also planned to give a lot of it away at Christmas. I made one batch with vodka and the other batch with a white rum. Then I made some cookies — half with vodka vanilla and half with rum vanilla — and had family members vote on which one they liked better.
About half of them said they couldn’t tell the difference, but of the ones who could, about 3/4 of them preferred the rum vanilla. Since then I’ve made my vanilla extract with rum only and it’s wonderful.
Caveat: I grew up with an alcoholic who could put away a fifth of vodka daily, so I have a personal anti-vodka issue. So I was happy that the rum-based extract worked out so well. I don’t even like to have vodka in the house.
Maybe I’m overthinking this, but do you strain the extract before adding it to recipes? It looks like the little caviar bits start floating around in the extract, and I’m wondering if you can see them in the finished product of recipes with lighter batters. (Not that I mind caviar bits, but someone in my house has been known to ask for vanilla ice cream “without the black specks.” Sigh.)
I buy my vanilla beans at the local co-op. Great quality and super low cost ($1-2 per bean). Check out a co-op if there’s one close to you.
It is interesting! After I read that I went back to McCormick, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy the fake stuff. Based on your recommendation and the comments, I will definitely try making my own!
I made my own vanilla once, last year. I put everything into a mason jar with a screw-on lid. Easiest thing ever and it lasts forever! I need to make it again, as it’s insane how expensive the store bought kind is!
My brother makes his vanilla with various liquors ,but , he ages his mixture first then mixes it with simple syrup , then puts the whole mix beans and all in a blender to pulverize the beans, you just need to shake before using
I’m curious to know what the sweetness adds to any recipe and how to measure that. I’m also unsure if my extract is the right darkness or strength. It has been sitting for 6 months but really not sure of the way it should taste compared with mcCormicks brand, mine is dark tea colored or a light coffee kind of hue.
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I have made my own extract for a few years now…I use Smirnoff vodka and I get my beans from Olive Nation…I make it a gallon at a time (makes great gifts, or, if there is an apocalypse, I will not run out of vanilla :) ). It keeps for years because you aren’t using a cream type alcohol. I am currently using some from a jar I started in 2011…it just gets better with time. :)
I’ve been making my own vanilla for 3-4 years now. I do give it as gifts. One friend made some frosting half of the frosting with mine and half with store bought pure vanilla. The difference was amazing. So easy and fun to do! I have tried different flavored vodkas, I like plain the best.
I love making my own vanilla extract. It is therapeutic AND taste superior. The only bummer is the wait time
Here is my recipe http://cuceesprouts.com/2013/10/homemade-vanilla-extract/
I do this all the time too, so easy and much cheaper than store bought :) However, I recommend doing it with used pods: after you scrape the inside out for different recipes. There will be plenty flavour left and no need to waste the lovely seeds.
I love making my own extract! While I keep a bottle of vodka extract as a standard, I made some with brandy that was just amazing for certain dishes. I tried bourbon as well and wasn’t a fan either although I love cooking with bourbon. If you feel up to experimenting again, give brandy a try.
I am going to try making my own. I search and hunt and am tired of buying “pure” vanilla that has corn syrup and all other kinds of junk in it.
Should you remove the beans from the bottle after the 6 weeks or leave them in the bottle to continue to brew? Is there any time limit of how long you should leave them in the bottle?
Thanks, Great recipe!
I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for a couple of years now. I live in a country where it’s hard to find, and illegal to import (i.e. can’t have friends/family send me some!) so when I learned I could make my own, and how easy it was, I was ecstatic! I have always just used the vodka bottle – I put the beans directly into it. I also top off the bottle from time to time, usually when the tops of the beans start to show.
I too have been making my own vanilla extract. However WARNING to all that vodka and other alcohols can grow mould! I found this one out the hard way, so check that the only thing floating in your bottle is vanilla beans.
would good ole moonshine work just as well
Bouron vanilla is not made with bourbon. It is made with beans from bourbon island in Madagascar. You can use bourbon if you like. But it does add a flavor. I’ve been making vanilla for years, and have tried many different kinds. My favorite so far is 11 beans per cup of spiced rum. Let age for 6 months. Vodka works great also. I have about 5 gallons going at a time. It makes a wonderful gift. Once people try it the will keep coming back for more.
I bought a pound of Madagascar vanilla beans from https://www.spicejungle.com a couple months back. Unfortunately, I did not read this post first. The site that I found said to put in the whole vanilla beans unsliced for eight weeks and after 8 weeks to remove the vanilla beans and remove one end and press the beans out into the alcohol. My question is, did I ruin my batch of extract by not slicing the beans first?
Awesome! My personal bottle of vanilla extract is not 4 weeks old but I definitely want to let it rest a couple weeks more. I want the stuff to be INTENSE. I used vodka, and a bunch of fairtrade bourbon vanilla beans. Reading the comments, it is kinda weird to know that here in Italy you can just go and purchase pure alcohol in any supermarket…ha! On the other hand, we can’t find vanilla extract for the life of us.
Thanks for all the tips!
Wouldn’t you say you can use the spent pods to add flavor to honey and sugar? or let them dry fully and pulverize them to make vanilla powder? They’re definitely not to be thrown!
Who knew? Just back from Mexico with a fancy amber bottle of vanilla. The bottle will now assuredly have another life when emptied.I am amazed and delighted by this post, the comments and suggestions are loaded with awesome info. More than usual even. Can’t wait to make my own and compare to the Mexican one.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka from Austin, TX is fantastic for this! It is so clear tasting that you don’t even know you are drinking alcohol…dangerous when you actually use it to mix drinks. I just put my beans right into the alcohol bottle itself and let it steep a few weeks. I only put in 4 big pods and it still has a ton of vanilla flavor.
jewel of russia vodka! does your bottle have the little onion dome lid? i received a bottle for christmas YEARS ago and we still have quite a bit left because it’s just too pretty to drink!
I get the double-strength vanilla extract from Penzey’s, so now I am wondering if it is actually double-strength — would I add twice as many vanilla beans? I suppose I will have to experiment to find out :)
Also, +1 for specialtybottles.com – they’re great.
The vodka in the picture is Sokrovishche Rusi (treasure of Russia) brand from Russia. Maybe that helps people find it?
May I ask what type of vanilla beans you chose from VanillaProductsUSA.com? I see Grade A which appear to be for baking and such and then Grade B that appear to be used for extracts becuase they are little more dried out. I will most likely only get these for the Extract so either would work?
Thank you very much for your time.
i was in Madagascar late last year and bought a lot of vanilla beans there the best in the world. I have a bottle of vodka from my Mother who died almost 9 years ago and her vodka will live on forever. Has made excellent vanilla extract. In Madagascar I paid $3 for 20 beans but add on the cost of the trip. I’m interested in the recipe for limoncello. Keep up the good work.
I’ve always used dark rum for my vanilla extract and it’s delicious. I top off my bottle when it runs low with no apparent decline in quality. Every couple of years I fish the beans out and put a new one in. Any time I scrape a vanilla bean for a recipe I put the spent pod in either the bottle of vanilla or a pot of sugar. Thank you for spreading the word about how easy and yummy homemade extract is.
It’s 9am from where I’m writing (Rome) and this is a good start of the day, I made my own vanilla extract a couple of months ago and I used your same proportion :-) You’re totally correct about the bourbon. I made mine with bourbon as it felt (soberly) opulent but the final result it’s exactly that, an intense vanilla aroma with a great bourbon, or viceversa.
Dribble neck doesn’t happen with plastic bottles because the molds leave the edge a little sharp. Look for a glass bottle with a sharper, squarer edge or a slightly rough texture to “slice off” the last bit of the pour.
Learned about the texture of the edge from a friend who bought the perfect pottery creamer with a fantastic dripless edge. Unfortunately, her husband overheard her talking about it, heard “rough” and sandpapered it smooth for her. Now it drips and he will never hear the end of it.
I do wonder if the reverse is possible. Perhaps you could rough up the edge on an existing bottle before filling.
I have been making my own vanilla extract for years. I actually found that Penzey’s has great vanilla beans at a reasonable price. And I’ve used all brands of vodka and it really doesn’t matter which kind you use…so no need to go top shelf. As far as I can tell, there is no shelf life expiration.
You won’t believe this, but I was sent a recipe for homemade vanilla extract about 18 months ago that used the whole bottle of vodka, and 50 vanilla beans! I knew I would be sharing it with my sister, so I made it. However, the recipe didn’t say to split the beans and to wait 6 MONTHS! It did turn out to be a dark amber color, but I’m sure not splitting the beans was the prompt for the long wait. The taste is great, and even buying that many beans in bulk was economical in comparison to buying a bottle from the grocery. I will hence give your recipe a try when this batch is gone, though!
On another note, I’ve never fixed anything on your blog that we haven’t loved, and was given your book for Christmas! I’m trying to find short beef ribs with bone in at present to go with the parsnip recipe.
The world of home made extracts has so much to offer! I’ve tried vanilla (totally worth the cost of beans as others are saying) and peppermint, by infusing vodka with mint leaves for about a month or so, then straining it and using it for cookies, cakes, and hot chocolate.
Where did you get that adorable tiny funnel???
I can’t find a bottle the right size; is there some technical reason the bottle has to be filled to 1/2 inch from the top? Or can I just use 12oz of vodka even if it means I have several inches of extra space at the top of the bottle?
I’ve been making this for years and agree that it’s the best! I split my beans and drop them right in the original vodka bottle. I’ve found that ebay is a good source for vanilla beans.
This would make for a beautiful foodie gift! In your opinion, does this taste better than the store-bought? Or is this just a cheaper option?
Heather — You can use any size bottle you have, just put in the amount of vodka you’ll need for the beans you want to use.
Maggie — I think it smells way better than storebought. Taste is harder to ascertain as it gets buried in baked goods, but I can only imagine it’s more intense as we use far more beans here than a commercial brand would for the same amount.
Sarah — It might have been this one though this 3-set might be more useful.
Mia — Love hearing more about this; I didn’t know! (The Neilsen-Massey are the worst dribblers, IMHO, a terrible thing given that they’re the most expensive.)
Linda — Thanks for the translation.
frabjous — No need to. This bottle pictured here is plenty intense even now at 2.5 weeks and will be even more so at 6.
Angela — I think I got the “best” ones. Still a bit on the dry side. I wanted to make sure I could use any extras for baking. As I said, I’m neither here nor there on the company. There’s probably better out there, but they shipped quickly, the website was uncluttered and easy to use, etc.
Valentina — No need to use them at all — just keep them in and make more extract.
Norma — No, just fish them out, slice them and all will be well in a month. Btw, I think the instructions that came with my beans said the same! Far more effective to split them, although you will of course have bean sludge at the bottom. Delicious bean sludge.
Jessica — Just leave them in. I now take them out — or try to remember to — when the extract line goes below the beans so they’re not exposed, as exposed ones will no longer be preserved. Then I pour the extract into an extract-only bottle and use the bean bottle to make more extract, adding more fresh beans. I know, as I mention in the post, that many people just keep topping off their extract bottles with alcohol but I don’t like diluting the stuff I worked so patiently to make intense, so I re-use them, but to make more.
Nathan and Laurie Yoder — Thank you. You can sign up for the newsletter here. The SK Facebook page is here.
Having never bought vanilla beans or vodka before, could you provide an approximate price breakdown and comparison?
I paid $21 for a quarter-pound of beans which provided me with enough for 4 16-ounce bottles. You can get the 1.75L bottle of vodka you’d need from an unfancy brand like Schmirinoff for $15-20. (No reason to use the best drinking stuff for this.) So, we’re talking $8 for 16 ounces, but you can also keep refilling it with more vodka (at least one time in full, and more times if you add another fresh bean or two) to make an almost indefinite amount of amazing extract. You mileage may also vary if you shop for a better price on beans (not hard to find) or if you get more in a quarter-pound than I did.
Would gin work in place of vodka? We have an almost full bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin and since we pretty much never drink anymore I would love to use that up rather than go buy another kind of alcohol for this.
The main thing is to use something flavorless, and gin definitely has a flavor (to me, I mean, a delicious one). That doesn’t mean it won’t make good extract, but it’s also possible that you might get a very faint gin vibe in a cake with, say, 2 to 3 teaspoons of vanilla and not many other flavors.
I finally am doing it! I waited 8 weeks with bourbon, and when I opened it up it it smells so strong like alcohol. I was expecting it to smell more like commercial vanilla. Did I need to wait longer or is that how it smells?
It’s hard to say.I mentioned in the post that “I couldn’t resist making a bottle last year with half bourbon and half vodka, but I was shocked (shocked!) to find the bourbon an unwelcome distraction from the pure vanilla flavor in the vodka-only extract…” i.e. I had the same experience. My advice would be to give it longer (maybe 4 more weeks?) and/or then just use it as extract. It may smell strong from the bottle but should still at least taste delicious in baked goods.
I have to tell you that any time I need a recipe for something, I ALWAYS check your website first. I’ve never been disappointed by your recipes (or blog posts in general). So when I got a crazy hint of an idea to make my own vanilla extract, I hopped on here and sure enough, you got the stuff. Thank you!
I had done vanilla extract like this until, one day, I watched Ina Garten do something that is nothing short of genius: she stores her vanilla beans in vodka, in a wide mouth jar. This means you always have extract on hand, always extra strong flavor, you can top it off with more vodka as you use it up and just add new vanilla beans to it when you want. You can remove some extract to give as gifts, or just keep it all to yourself. As for the beans, whenever you want to use one you simply pick it up out of the jar (wide mouth), cut off the very bottom and squeeze the seeds out into whatever preparation you’re making. Use the whole bean, or dry the empty bean and toss it into sugar for vanilla sugar (also a great little gift). I’m telling you, genius! I’ve been doing it this way ever since.
Love your book and your blog! Thanks so much
This idea is spot on! My wife has a bottle that she made with her mum back in 2008(ish). We still have it and use it, sparingly of course, ever now and then.
Great blog Deb!
Hey deb! I made mine a couple months ago and haven’t used it yet because even though the color is beautiful it smells very strongly still a lot of vodka… Is that what it is supposed to smell like? I guess I am just used to the store-bought stuff that doesn’t smell of vodka at all… Any advice?
Jenny — Missed this comment over the summer, but add another vanilla bean or two. You may not have gotten all the flavor you’d hoped for out of the ones you used.
Does the bottle HAVE to be glass in order for this to work?
I have homemade vanilla from March 2012 it’s fantastic, I have some made with rum, vodka, and bourbon each used for different baking needs. The rum vanilla I use in items such as tres leche cake, are rum cake. The bourbon in a pecan pie or no urban balls, even have a bottle of vanilla infused southern comfort for egg nog
Is there anyway to make the extract without alcohol?
I use 10 bean pods per cup of vodka and let it steep for six months. Makes a beautiful product.
When I tried making homemade vanilla, even though I made sure the jar was clean I got some weird floaty things (that’s the technical term – they were clear and a little jelly-like) in the batch. Is that normal? It smells like vanilla heaven but I’m unsure if it’s safe to use.
The David Leibovitz article you referenced talks about the violence and problems of the vanilla trade. How do you ensure that the beans you buy are ethically sourced?
Looking at this from another perspective – there is a new Rum from Baccardi that is called Oakheart. It has a wonderful vanilla aftertaste to it – and a lovely amber coloring. I wonder how easy it would be to make up given the instructions above. Maybe starting with an amber rum? And, regarding Vodka – my instructions for making Limoncello stress using a high quality Vodka that has less flavor so there is no cross flavor to mess with the lemon. I’ve tried with both and there was a flavor difference.
Thank you for this. I have a vanilla bean waiting to be used and now I know what to do with it. Interestingly, I used the other one for making hazelnut extract. Lucky me, I still have vodka, too. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before. So excited to try it!
Imen, Jen answered a similar question, saying that although she hasn’t tried them, there are several recipes online for making extract without alcohol:
I’m interested to try this out. 2 things though:
1) Reader-posted a taste-testing article that said all vanillas taste same when cooked in ice cream custards. Fact: Vanilla loses flavor when cooked. It’s supposed to be added AFTER custard is cooked. -1 for tester credibility.
2) Vodkas are NOT all flavorless. In fact, Absolut (your fav) has a particularly strong, and IMO, unpleasant flavor. The most neutral and smoothest I’ve tasted (but a bit $$) is Death’s Door, from WI. It’s my personal fave for all things vodka. But don’t trust me, do a blind martini-taste-test (clarification: blindfolded tester, not drink until you go blind).
I do this, but when I’m done with the beans, I let them dry a bit (just so they’re not dripping) and throw them into a canister of sugar for baking/icing. (In addition to baking, it’s also good in tea).
I’ve made my own vanilla for several years. I let the beans soak for 4 – 6 months before using it, giving the bottle a shake every once in a while. Also, I pour the finished product through coffee filters in a sieve before bottling it to get rid of the floating things.
call me lazy but why not just pour out a tiny bit of vodka, and pop in the beans straight into the vodka bottle? :) I’m also not agreeing that all vodkas are the same, but if some can’t tell the difference then that’s fine (and lucky if you’re buying cheaper stuff). I’m going to try this, perfect timing to make xmas gifts, thank you!
It’s been a lean year at our house due to some medical issues, and I’ve been struggling with what to do for family gifts this Christmas. You have once again saved my bacon. I’m making gorgeous bottles of vanilla extract for my sisters this year and I think I just have enough time to get them done if I start right away. Thank you!!
I’ve been extracting my own vanilla for 6 years and have never changed out my beans. I was told they would last a lifetime. I like to let it steep 3 months before using it.
I put a Tablespoon of Bourbon in an 8 oz bottle of Vodka based extract and like that complexity.
I also bought 25 bottles, made labels and Vanilla Extract was my holiday give away. I’ve been making for myself ever since. I recently replaced the original beans with new.
I order mine from Beanilla. They have several varieties. I’m considering Ugandan Beans this year. The description sounds awesome!
Any idea if and how we can make vanilla extract without alcohol?
We bought vanilla beans at a plantation in Tahiti. The owner says he uses rum to make the extract, and when it runs low, he just adds more rum. He’s been using the same bottle from his grandmother for 20 years!
As per my Cooks Illustrared mag, you can filter cheap vodka thru your Brita water filter to greatly improve the taste of cheap vodka. That would bring down the cost to give as gifts.
I use 8 beans per cup and soak ’em for at least 10 weeks before giving out to friends – I read somewhere that there is a minimum number of beans (probably by weight) that is legally required before it can be called pure vanilla? Of course, I’ve seen other recipes that only call for 2 or 3 beans per cup. I guess as long as you like it, it doesn’t matter! I do find that it takes at least 3 weeks before it smells like vanilla rather than alcohol!
I see some advertised as “very dry,” yet ideal for making extract. Should I avoid these?
This is possibly a weird question… I bought the same bottle you have, the 12 oz ones with the black lids. Is there any need to sterilize them beforehand? Did you just run the bottles and caps through the dishwasher? I get slightly paranoid when making things to hand out to people.
The commercial vanilla extract that I buy says it has sugar in it. Is that necessary when you make your own extract?
I live on a boat and get to St Martin a couple of times a year. Vanilla beans are ridiculously cheap there and I always buy a bunch for baking. I do wonder about their quality. Any tips on judging the quality of a mystery bean?
I’m a newbie to making my own vanilla extract and all the information online I’m getting is confusing me. THe pictures above show the vanilla PODS but the instructions refer to the vanilla BEANS. So do I use only the beans in the vodka to make extract, or do I slice the entire pod and then soak the entire sliced pod, with beans inside, in the vodka to make extract? Or remove beans and soak only the pod? Or add beans only to the vodka, not using the pod at all? HELP! I want to give this as Christmas gifts so don’t have much time to get it done. I was thinking I could just slice the pod and use several in a 750 ml bottle of vodka, then strain & pour the results into smaller bottles for gift giving. will that work?
My mom started making Cognac Vanilla after reading Camille Glen’s Heritage of Southern Cooking. I make it with Courvosier. It’s expensive, and does contribute an additional flavor–but I consider this a plus! The resulting extract is solidly vanilla, but with a beautifully mellow fruitiness that floats just beneath the surface. My tasters have said my baked goods taste “nostalgic”–I think the vanilla is a big factor! Plus the expense is offset when you reuse the beans.
Thanks to your recipe, I’m giving vanilla to some co-workers and my landlady for Christmas!
@Crystal above: For what it’s worth, I sliced the pods in half, leaving them connected at the tip, and dropped the pods into the vodka. Although I’m sure the vanilla would be delicious even if you strained it, I’d leave a few pods in each small bottle to maximize flavor. Don’t want to waste that goodness! :)
Hi! I saw someone asked last years about straining the vanilla of the bits and pieces and didn’t see a response. Did you strain it or leave the bits and pieces in the bottle?
I make a bourbon vanilla. While I agree it can be distracting, I found it was a matter of finding where it fit. French toast seemed to be one good place for it.
I think it’s time to pour – my vanilla looks and smells wonderful! I’m wondering if the little bottles I ordered for gifts need to be sterilized or just washed in soap and water?
I made homemade vanilla months ago with intentions to give as Christmas gifts. I still smell the vodka and the color is still light. I thought it would darker. Could I have done something wrong?
I’ve been wondering about straining the vanilla, too. I also have two of the twelve bottles that are a bit lighter in color than the rest. I’ll keep checking back. I am so excited that I found this recipe. Thanks!
im not sure about vanilla extract with alcohol, and there seems russian vodka involved from pictures haha, but if there is no smell of vodka and taste then its worth it.
I just tasted mine, on its 3rd week, and its actually pretty bitter, is that normal?
Greetings from Greece!
If your extract is still bitter — Give it more time.
alex — All extract has alcohol.
Straining the vanilla — Heavens no! Those bits are full of flavor, a total luxury.
Tegan — Don’t go by color, go by smell or taste. You can always give it more time (or tell people not to use it for a month).
crystal — Put the whole thing in. The pods also contain a lot of flavor, so you’ll get more from steeping the whole thing.
Brittle beans/pods — Will work just fine, might just take a little longer. (My last batch were very brittle. The vanilla is excellent a couple months later. Have more dried-out beans to use up and will be starting another bottle this week with them.)
I made the extract when it was first published here, but missed the instructions to slice the bean open. I paid $6 for one Madagascar bean in the spice department of the grocery store. Won’t do THAT again! I popped the uncut bean into a 6 oz. bottle filled with Absolut vodka and 6 weeks later had fine vanilla extract, thank you very much, Deb. The same uncut bean is now in another 6 oz. bottle of Vodka and it is turning color and smelling good, so I’ll post back when that same bean is not working anymore. And then I’ll buy a quarter pound of beans so I can use the extract with gay abandon instead of hoarding it like I do now.
I usually just make my vanilla in the vodka bottle. Pour out about a shot worth (drink it if you want to) then add the beans straight to the bottle. Occasionally people get confused about why I’m putting a teaspoon of vodka in all our baked goods…
A couple of years ago I got the bug to try this after reading about it on chow.com. Was directed to indrivanilla.com from several chow readers. Bought a half dozen beans with excellent service and found (because the transaction was taxed) that they were one city over here in Arizona. Ha, so much for ranging far and wide to find what you seek!
What arrived was nothing like the dry, withered, tan twigs that I’ve reluctantly bought locally when a recipe demands. These supple, fibrous pods were a dark brown that was almost black. Vacuum packed, they were moist and sticky and so, so fragrant. Really lovely. Highly recommended.
I used rum and a jar that I keep in a desk drawer that I open and close often and have not bought a bottle of vanilla extract since. An easy and satisfying project, but since so few things go into it I do recommend you get good vanilla beans. It was a bit of a revelation. Happy to recommend a source. Looks like they also have a Facebook page.
I use the used beans and put them in a container with white sugar. A couple cups of sugar and all the beans. Shake it up let set, shake it again and taste. Store it with all the in it. Great with cereal, roll sugar cookie dough in it, hot tea the list goes on…
I have been making my own vanilla for about 5 years now. Once your vanilla is aged it is a good idea to store in in an amber colored bottle. You can get these online. It keeps the vanilla protected from the light and also makes it a nice way to present as a gift, with a nice homemade label.
Once you make your own, you will never want to use store bought again.
i would like to find out the best place to get the vanilla beans
HELP! I need to make thirty 4-5oz bottles for shower favors. I’m confused for the amount of beans to use (I know it varies on size, type, etc.).
I figure I need at least 120oz of liquid (30 x 4) so about how many pounds of beans would I need?
I’ve been reading all these recipes for making vanilla extract and everyone says to put the beans in a clean bottle and add the vodka. I just bought a nice looking bottle of Gordon’s Vodka, took some out and dropped the beans in the bottle. Voila!
the bottle shows off the beans beautifully and according to your recipe took 13 beans. it was so easy, now i am looking forward to using it in a few months
I hope this hasn’t been discussed already; sorry if it has. I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for a few years and LOVE it. White rum works best for me; I’ve preferred it to vodka and gin. I just leave the bean bits in the extract without filtering. I reuse the chopped up beans once and the resulting extract is definitely weaker but, still utterly delicious. However, once is enough. Now I have a large bottle (about ½litre) of ‘spent’ vanilla bean pieces with no more extract-liquid and I can’t bear to toss it (no mold present, now or ever). Is there anything I can do with these leftovers? They’re still rather full of seed paste- yes, I realize I should do a better job of splitting the beans open initially to avoid such waste. The seed goo within is considerably diluted, obviously, but it still smells heavenly. The only thing I can think of is to spread them out, dry them and grind into powder. I don’t even know if this would work and/or be useable in baking. Any thoughts or other ideas are greatly appreciated! Best wishes and Happy Summer to all!
What about drying the spent vanilla pieces, then mixing them with sugar? I’ve made vanilla sugar that way with a scraped piece of vanilla bean. When you want to use it, just sieve out the larger bits. If the sugar is too damp it will clump, but can grate and sieve it to get it useful again.
Or make a vanilla syrup? Add water to dissolve the sugar, simmer a bit, then strain?
After washing or sterilizing the bottles, do they need to be dried? Will water in the bottle affect the extract?
Hey! I have recently started following you and every post of yours inspires me to make stuff on my own. Thanks a lot! It’s a great post.
Well this article that i’ve been waited for so long. I need this article to complete my assignment in the college, and it has same topic with your article. Thanks, great share.
My cousins just put the vanilla beans in a newly purchased bottle of light rum and then put it at the back of the closet. It’s good to shake it once in a while until its steeped. I tried bourbon once not understanding that the bourbon was the Madagascar Bourbon type of vanilla bean. I didn’t like the bourbon overpowering the vanilla taste. I like the rum better, it has a smoother flavor.
In the US we have grain alcohol that is bottled at at 151 or 190% proof. Light rum and most vodka are 80 proof.
hi! I’m making my first batch of homemade vanilla extract and I had 2 questions. (1) I read somewhere that the vanilla beans should always be submerged in alcohol otherwise a fungus will grow. I expect that if you leave the beans in the bottle to infuse while you use, each time you use some, the beans will eventually be above the alcohol…has anyone heard of this or had this happen? (2) if I did filter it out and remove the beans, is there anything I could do with the used pods? I know with pods used just for the seeds, some people grind it up and make vanilla dust. could I NOT do it with these beans b/c they’d just taste like alcohol? thanks for any help anyone can provide!
Loretta, I always remove the vanilla beans once my extract is fully infused, but I don’t know whether or not the fungus rumor is true or not. The only reason I do that is because I pour it into smaller bottles once it’s infused and the beans won’t fit. I have had success re-using my vanilla beans to make vanilla sugar that I put in coffee, sprinkle on top of desserts, etc. I just dry the vanilla beans for a couple of days, then chop them into smaller pieces (1/4 inch or so) and mix them with sugar. The sugar will start to infuse with the vanilla flavor in a week or 2 and it’s a delicious thing to have on hand!
Loretta, I used this extract recipe and then after the bottle of extract was empty (I used 6 beans) I added them to the food processor with 1/2 C of agave syrup and blended. Then, I used a fine strainer to strain the liquid into a jar. Voila! Homemade vanilla bean paste. It’s delicious and was a crazy easy way to use the pods after making extract with them.
Vanilla bean paste can be used as a 1:1 substitute for extract. It keeps in the fridge for 6+ months (if yours lasts that long). I hope that helps!
thanks so much! will definitely be making the paste when I take the beans out. thanks!
Awesome idea! Thanks!
Hi , I was in a local wellness store here in South Africa and they sell a big bag of vanilla husks. We put the entire bag into a bottle of Bacardi (as we didn’t have any vodka and were impatient!). It is amazing, I use it in my baking and a shot of vanilla rum is pretty good too! But the best news of all is that the bag cost R15 which is about 1 US dollar. Not sure if you can get these in the US but definitely worth a look.
I have seen beens marked very dry. can these be used? Thanks
I have used fairly dry beans in vanilla extract and it worked fine, it just may take longer for them to steep.
Hello! First of all i LOVE this blog, it’s seriously one of my favorite food blogs and definitely one I turn to time and time again. Now I know this is an older post, but i’m hoping you see this comment! I am planning to make my own vanilla extract for the first time, and after reading quite a few ‘recipes’ I was wondering about the ratio. Some sights said to use 5-8 beans per 8 oz. cup of vodka, and others (this one included) say 3-4 for 8 oz. I actually don’t drink, so i’m buying vodka just for the extract, and my options are to buy a 200 ml bottle (just shy of the 8 oz) or get the next size up, 350 ml (which is way more than i’d need or use)… So i was wondering, would it be okay (and maybe even better ratio wise) to use the 200 ml with only 3 beans? or would I get better results with 3 beans and the full 8 oz amount?
Thank you so much!
The more you use, the faster it will steep. Vanilla beans are going to vary (some will infuse faster, some are bigger or smaller) so it’s okay to fiddle with the proportions. The main thing is that it’s not done until it’s done — you’ll need anywhere from 1 to 2 months to get it dark.
Hi!! Do you have any suggestions on where to buy beans in bulk… Fairly inexpensive? Thanks and love your recipes❤️
I don’t have a favorite shop so when I’m looking around online I always try to buy by weight, not number (this way if they’re scrawny, you don’t feel shorted) and look for sites with reviews, although of course they could be placed by anyone.
Myspicesage is where I got mine. In fact, I got mine FREE. Just look for specials & you can get them FREE if you order something else that you need.
I made this last year, and used half Madagascar and half Tahitian vanilla beans like my favorite, hard-to-get brand. Awesome! No more $30 bottles purchased on-line! Thank-you so much!
I made a similar version, with brandy. It schmoozed well with the vanilla.
This is the best! I’ve been making my own extract for about 4 years. I ran out earlier this year, I wasn’t paying attention to my stash, and had to buy some. It was as so hard to spend the money knowing I had a new bottle steeping. Thanks for the post Deb 😀
I bought vanilla beans while in Tahiti in 2000. I have been making vanilla extract with those same giant beans ever since. Same beans. It’s amazing.
Does the quality of vodka make a difference? If I wait 6 weeks to test/try my vanilla, how will I know if it is any good? I’m not sure I want to waste an entire recipe for a taste test.
It’s not about a taste test — look for color (dark!) and for the smell to be overwhelmingly of vanilla, like you’ll not want to get your nose out of the bottle, and not of a raw vodka smell. Vodka quality does not matter. We’re just using alcohol to preserve here.
These are vanilla pods, not “beans”. The beans are inside the pods (like peas in a peapod).
Traditionally, one could reuse once-used vanilla pods to flavour sugar – just put the dried pods into a jar and fill it up with sugar, then leave to infuse. Great for whenever you want your baking etc to have the scent of vanilla but not too strong a vanilla taste.
Also for making a home smell wonderful, without using coffee or baking bread: put a dry vanilla pod into a very low oven – but don’t forget to turn the oven off later!
So are you leaving the beans in after the six weeks until you finish using the bottle? Is there a point at which they’ve seeped as much as they should and you should take the beans out so it isn’t overdone?
I don’t think there is.
Ok so I just got some beans extracting and I’m soooo excited! Quick question- do you filter/strain the extract once it’s done? Mine has some chunks and I’m thinking they might not be appreciated come baking time.
I don’t strain at all and I disagree — they’re very welcome. They’re probably just little clusters of seeds that will disperse evenly in the batter or dough once mixed.
agree, very welcome addition to any confection.
I live in Italy where pure alcohol (96%) is readily available. I bought the beans online and received so many that I was thinking of doing two batches – one with vodka and one with pure alcohol. However I had a doubt about the pure alcohol version as on The Wednesday Chef’s blog it says to dilute it 1:1…is that really necessary? I would think using it undiluted would be better. Deb, what are your thoughts on this?
ps: obviously dilute it 1:1 with water…. !!
Wow — I’d totally missed that instruction on her site. Is pure alcohol 100% alcohol or is it 100 proof (which is more like 50%, I assume, as vodka is 80 proof or 40%)?
The pure alcohol I have is 96%alcohol! Which, as extracts usually have around 40% I understand (somewhat) diluting it, but I still think it might be better undiluted.
I’m about 2 weeks in of making this and I’ve noticed 1. Little beads of oil floating in the mix, and 2. A cloudy white growth around the pulp inside the split vanilla beans. Is it mold or ‘mother’ like in appler vinegar? (Looks a lot like mold). I am using mini vodka samplers that are all 40% alcohol, I cut in half and split a vanilla bean in each. Vanilla is completely submerged; I got the bean from World Market. It appeared dried but was greasy then I opened it. Help! Should I throw them out?
I have the same thing going on! Exactly same. Hmm.
Shouldn’t they be 100% alcohol?
I don’t think it should be 100%.
You wrote your question over 4 years ago. I have been actively cruising the internet for information on beads of oil in homemade extract. It seems something NO ONE ever talks about. Have you figured out if it’s a normal extract from the vanilla bean? My 1st batch shows no cloudiness, just floating debris of cut beans & what looks like oil beads. Smell is definitely vanilla.
If your looking for all sorts of bottles in different shapes, colors, plain or more fancy have I got the place for you to find what you need. They are sure to have what you’re looking for especially if you want to make vanilla extract as gifts! The address is : http://www.specialtybottle.com/ There’s a bottle for any idea. I like to do glass etching to decorate the outside too!
I used vodka and now there are white particles in the liquid with the beans. I know it can’t be mold since the alcohol would kill mold?! Right? Did I mess this up somehow?
I think it’s mold. My guess is that since my beans were greasy and not ‘dried’ that may be causing the problem. Mine started growing black mold in addition to the white mold too.
Thanks! I’m REALLY excited now! I’m gonna make us some vanilla extract!! Have A fair amount on hand with vacuum sealed AA grade beans and some paste coming from on line. Hope to have the patience to let it work for a year
before using it!
I made a batch of this a year ago and loved it; this time I want to make a huge batch – can I just put the beans straight in the bottle of vodka? Is there a reason I’d need to divide it into smaller bottles? I figure as long as I put in the correct amount of beans to amount of liquid it should be fine, right?
Should be just fine. And you’ll have so much!
Do you need to take the beans out after it’s ready or just leave them in when you use it?
I leave them in. I think technically you’re supposed to remove them once you’ve used enough that they’re exposed to air but I never have.
I never take the beans out. If you want you can refill the container once and make more vanilla. I have found one set of beans can make one bottle and one refilled bottle. Give the beans time to percolate for best results.
This recipe is a great reason to finish off your Kraken rum and fill the cute, pirate-esque (there’s a finger hole on each side for swigging…) bottle with vodka. Coffee-colored at 6 weeks and a deliriously delicious smell!
I put 1 bean per ounce and plan to wait 1 year before I use or gift it! Want good strong extract! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience! Happy Trails
Have been instructed not to let the beans get up into the air as this can stimulate mold!
My friend makes moonshine. Is that too strong for extracting?
Totally unfamiliar with the taste and % — does it have flavor? FWIW, I looked to this recipe when making my own. Weiss notes that if you’re in a country where you can buy pure alcohol, use half of it and half water instead of vodka so if mooonshine is closer to 100% proof, you might take the same approach.
Hey…so I wanted to ask..I’m muslim and consuming Alcohol is prohibited in our religeon…Isn’t there anything I can do about it?
You may want to discuss this with the elders in your mosque. Vanilla extract is used in baking typically, and the heat forces the evaporation of the alcohol. So you are not really consuming “alcohol” per say. The alcohol is just a carrier. So if your religion advises against alcohol, maybe it is just drinking alcohol that they are against?
My question is regarding the alcohol used making vanilla bean extract. Did I understand correctly that you prefer just vodka versus mixing bourbon with the vodka?
I did, I really did. It was strange to me too!
Hi Deb, I added a bit of whiskey to my vodka because it did not cover the beans. Do you think this will damage the flavor of the extract? Thanks
I had a recipe made with water instead of alcohol. Can you send me a copy because I can’t find mine. PLEASE send it to my E-mail address.
My experience making vanilla (keeping in mind that all of us have different taste preferences).
I have made it with different number of beans and several different alcohols.
My preference so far is 20 beans in a 750 ml bottle of Kentucky Tavern Bourbon.
I let it steep for about a year and a half (just because I was using others that I had made).
I like it much better than the batches that I made with Vodka.
I tried tequila…mistake, not good! Gin, it’s ok. Moonshine (40 proof), ok but strong alcohol taste to me, but I am a non-drinker so might just be my taste buds! Rum, the dark rum is a bit better than light rum. It’s ok but again, not my personal fav.
I know that a lot of folks are against using vegetable glycerin, but there is glycerin in store bought vanilla, so I added glycerin to the moonshine vanilla and let it steep a while and it really improved the taste.
I agree with you about reusing (or topping off the beans). I like my vanilla to have a pretty strong vanilla taste and I use quite a bit in a recipe.
Vanilla beans have skyrocketed in price, so I am glad that I started several bottles a year or so ago!
Thank you for all of your recipes and advice!
I do NOT want alcohol in my vanilla extract. I’m looking for the recipe without the alcohol.
I love this recipe and used it about 18 months ago. I just found two bottles in my basement that have been down there for the last 18 months! They smell delicious. There isn’t any mold, etc. Any reason that I can’t use this vanilla?
It’s good for years! And go you. I wish I had a few spares because I’m about to run out.
Why can’t anybody help me? I asked for the recipe for NON-Alcoholic Home Made Vanilla but no one has answered me YET.
It took me seconds to Google.
The recipe that I had & lost was just water & vanilla beans. But I can’t remember how much water & how many vanilla beans. All I remember was that you boiled the water & added the vanilla beans. I also don’t remember how long or how long to let it sit until it is ready to use.
Again, 5 seconds and Google is your pal!
I SAID non-alcoholic vanilla with JUST water & vanilla beans.
Yes and the desserts with benefits page has just that, water and beans with a small
amount of salt. You’re welcome.
you’re very rude
I wonder if you could use the used beans in a vanilla pudding or crème pâtissière where you are steeping the bean and removing it from the liquid? I would freeze the used beans, at least, to save for experimental uses later! Also, I’ve read several articles about improving the flavor of cheap vodka by running it through a Brita filter.
Gosh I just use a bottle of Smirnoff. I pour a little off and stuff as many beans in as I can. It is delicious. We went on a trip to Reunion Island where they grow the beans. I bought enough for at least 3 bottles + gifts. I don’t know what I will do when those wonderful ‘beans’ are gone. By the way they are the pods of an orchid in real life. We went and saw them growing.
I’m in! At 25-30 bucks for 16 oz at Costco, this is a no brainer.
I still can’t get anyone to tell me how to make it Alcohol-FREE, Sugar-FREE or any Sweetening-FREE & Salt-FREE. I had a recipe but I now can’t find it.
Kathy Suhan, I posted this before for you! You must use a bit of salt to help preserve the extract. But there is no alcohol or sweetener in this
What a useful link, Ruth! I never thought it was possible to make alcohol-free extract, much less one that would keep unrefrigerated. It’s SO nice of you to take time out of your day to find this for those of us who haven’t been able to look up the recipe ourselves. Just wanted to let you know that your effort IS appreciated!
Thank *you*! 😏
What grade did/do you use to make extract?
Sorry I’m late to the party — I’m excited to try this! Just wanted to mention that not all alcohol is gluten free, so if you might be using your vanilla in a gluten free recipe, probably worth making it with a gluten free alcohol. In particular, a lot of — but not all — vodka inexplicably has gluten in it.
Good point–but it’s not inexplicable! Vodka is distilled grain spirits–not at all surprising that wheat, barley or rye would be in the mix and would leave traces of gluten.
Stolichnaya is labeled gluten free.
I make this every year for Christmas gifts. I try to do it between Memorial Day and Fourth of July to have it ready on time. I use Tito’s Vodka because it isn’t made with grain and has no after taste. It’s a great gift for any baker. More times I have forgotten to keep some for myself. Such an easy thing to do and you will never by vanilla extract again.
During a visit to the Big Island of Hawaii we toured the family-owned Hawaiian Vanilla Company’s farm, learned about cultivating vanilla, and had a delicious lunch. As a special treat, we brought home vanilla beans to steep in vodka. We really enjoyed the day and continue to enjoy the vanilla. http://www.hawaiianvanilla.com/
My mother made her own vanilla for years. I currently use a tall clear bottle which I started over 10 years ago. I think I have added vodka 4 or 5 times and a few fresh vanilla beans. As you say it became a beautiful amber color. I refill my tiny bottle when i need to. There is something so satisfying about my very own vanilla!
When making baked goods, do you use this just as you would store-bought vanilla? I read online that homemade vanilla is not as strong as store-bought so you need to use twice as much. Is that true with this recipe? Thanks!
answering a question about use of vanilla:
Generally I follow the recipe and use my own vanilla just as i would store bought. That said I love my vanilla and I never really measure it.. and I even put in an extra “bloop” because it adds so much to just about anything. In my opinion you can’t have too much – within reason.:)
Hi Deb. Do you find to have to use more of your homemade extract compared to what recipes call for (store-bought vanilla extract is more concentrated, right?)? Thanks!
I have been making my own vanilla for many years. How long can the beans stay in the vodka? Also, I have put the spent beans in a large jar of sugar to reuse for baking. Works great!
Hi, I’d like to make my own vanilla extract. How Long will the vanilla extract last and should I keep it in the fridge? Thanks!
Any vanilla bean buying sites you’d recommend?
Do you have an instant pot and, if so, have you tried making vanilla extract using that?
You wouldn’t need an instant pot as it isn’t cooked at all.
Great recipes. I’ve used several.
Vanilla – I’ve used vodka, light medium and dark rum. I prefer medium or dark over light and prefer the medium rum. I also double the beans, shaking every day I open the cabinet for something else.
After use I throw the used beans into wine, vodka, liquor, or sugar. It’s a nuisance in sugar as you have to pick out the beans when you use the sugar.
Couldn’t you just strain it?
How about a light cloth bag for the bean before putting it in the sugar, or maybe a metal tea ball?
I would expect it to be less effective, but that is only a guess. The only similar thing that I have done is to put a fresh bean into a bowl of sugar, eventually leaving the vanilla specks in the sugar.
You won’t know how it works unless you try it.
I’m thinking that not every grain of sugar has to contact the vanilla to impart the flavor in a batch, and the aroma will penetrate through a porous container to the sugar, without leaving bits of the bean.
I’ve been bottling my own vanilla extract for years and there’s nothing better. I use the “spent” vanilla beans to make vanilla sugar. Most of my extract gets stored for a year.
On the rare occasion that I’ve gotten subpar beans I go ahead and let the mix mature, remove the beans and then add new beans, top with a little more vodka and store in my normal fashion The result is always good and turns into a sort of double vanilla batch
Have I mentioned the smell..? Heavenly! I’ve been caught more than once with my nose to the bottle
Making your/my own extract takes very little effort and makes a much appreciated gift during holiday season
First time extract maker here. I see other recipes for home extract call for scraping the little beans from the pod and then putting those little beans and the scraped pod in the bottle before you add the vodka. Deb, it looks like you skip this step. Is it necessary? (Happy if it isn’t. Who needs the extra work?)
how long does vanilla last in jar with vanilla beans?
indefinitely as far as I can tell. I have a jar of extract that I’ve been using for 2 years and it seems to just get richer with each passing month
Have you found a way to get a drip free type of bottle? I find even the higher end store bought bottles have a regular cap which drips. Same with the flip caps with a hole in the middle.
I have made Home made Vanilla for a long time but I use Rum instead of Vodka, to me the taste is much better. Have you ever used Vanilla bean powder to make vanilla ?
When I saw how the price of vanilla extract had soared I decided to start a hobby of making vanilla extract for friends. The government (FDA) requirement is 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of 70 proof alcohol. That works out to being about 47.5 grams of beans per pint of vodka. I aim for 48 grams per pint jar. That is about 22 vanilla beans. It is hard to be accurate in this since the beans have dried a little by the time I get them, sometimes a lot.
I know have twelve pints steeping, the plan is that six will steep for a year. The other six will be blended about July 1 after steeping for two months.
Two pints were made by weight but with very dry beans. I expect them to have a very strong flavor. If so I have a few options: (1)can just blend it with the other jars; (2)can add a little vodka to weaken the flavor;(3) can add up to 5 Tbs water to weaken the pint of 80 proof vodka to 70 proof, in practice I would never add more than 4; (5) can just add a recommendation that if the recipient thinks it is strong, use a scant tsp.
This is very helpful, thank you.
Like you, I burned through a bottle of very expensive vanilla in a month. I googled various websites about making this, who knew it would be so simple? I have now created my first bottle and am looking forward to decanting it just in time for xmas baking (several websites said 6 weeks is okay, 6 months is amazing). Ordering more vanilla beans and bottles and Xmas gifts will be sorted! If the vanilla I make tastes as good as my fingers smell from splitting the beans, yummo!
Is vanilla extract generally made in smaller bottles. Rather than say 1 quart bottles.
Could it be made in quart and then divided in to smaller bottles?
Certainly. I only had pint canning jars so I used six of them. When the time came I strained, filtered and blended all of the bottles and decanted into two 8.5 oz swing tops and 15 4oz bottles for gifts. I used the strainings to make a special Vanilla XXX for myself — it’s an experiment.
Hello! My friend went to Africa (Mauritius) and brought me back a cylinder with 8 bourbon vanilla beans. Since they are already infused with bourbon, how do I make extract out of them?!
Google it! It’s just the name of the kind of vanilla beans!
So then I still need to infuse them with alcohol, right?
As Ruth said, bourbon is just a variety, doesn’t have booze in it. You’d make the extract the same way as is written here.
Thank you!! Now I get it…
The method of pollinating the orchid and producing vanilla outside Mexico was developed on the French Île de Bourbon, now named Reunite, thus the name.
I’ve been making my own extract for years. But, I keep two kinds on hand. One that is made with plain vodka and the other is made with dark rum. The one that is made with rum has been going for several years now, and every few months I add more beans to it, along with some more rum. I use it in my chocolate or other strongly flavored cakes and bundt cakes. The one made with vodka is used in white, sponge and chiffon cakes. I also make lemon and lime extracts when I’m given fresh organic citrus. I love the idea of giving it as gifts, but honestly, I use it up to quickly to do so. I will however, start some new extracts going and put them in the back of the cupboard so they can have a change to infuse and develop longer.
Thanks for the recipe!
can you or should you dilute this with water?
Costco Vanilla Extract has water in the ingredients.
No adding Water!
Vanilla extract is for all practical purposes vodka and vanilla. Vodka is ethyl alcohol and water. It already has water in it.
I accidentally didn’t cut open my vanilla beans, they’ve been sitting in my vodka bottle for a year (yes, year! ). I’m still not entirely happy with the strength of the essence, I feel like it is too alcoholic. Is it too late to attempt to take the beans out and slice them open?
I had the same situation recently. I had intentionally left my vanilla beans uncut. I didn’t want “floating objects” in the bottle. Months later I could still smell vodka over the vanilla. So I took the beans out, let them dry slightly and cut the beans open which was easy to do. Scraped the insides and dropped them into the bottle. The next day I could smell the vanilla much better. In addition I put 2 more beans into the bottle. So I say go for it.
Thanks so much for that tip, I’m going to try it!
I finally have an empty bottle that I thought would be perfect for trying to make vanilla extract for the first time. I was astonished when I looked online for where to buy whole vanilla beans and saw the prices! Does anyone have any favorite places to buy these? At some of the prices I saw, it doesn’t seem worth it to make my own extract…
I just bought some on Ebay today. Get the grade B vanilla beans. Bought 50 Madagascar and 25 Tahitians. Still way cheaper to make your own.
Good luck to you. I could have gotten past this problem by simply buying another large bottle of extract, but I bought pounds of beans, gallons of alcohol and, in the interest of science, made Vanilla Extract for friends and friends of friends.
Website called My Spiceage. Sometimes they will give them free if you order something else that you might need.
How nice of you to search the web for others, Ms. Suhan!
Do you have a link to the beans you bought?…the number/descriptions of results were overwhelming.
trader joes has vanillas beans!!
I’m on board! Bought the vanilla :
Bought the bottles both for making and presenting:
Bought the funnels:
And these really cute personalized labels:
Am not sure this will save me any money, but it is an adventure.
Will send pictures when things get cooking.
Oh, Here is the cute label:
Ignore that link, obviously don’t know how to do that.
Here’s the right link:
I have done this with Penzey’s vanilla beans and rum instead of vodka. I let that steep for a few months and gave a few bottles as christmas gifts a few years ago. People are still raving about those extracts! I didn’t hear any critique about the rum flavor so maybe that works out better than bourbon.
any replacement for the vodka ?
I’ve been doing this for years….much better flavor than store bought. The only difference is…I warm my vodka first then for over split beans, It seems to get the flavor buds in action sooner!
I made this!! It was amazing. Made a big batch. Gave it for gifts at Christmas in 2017. Bought 2 oz amber colored bottles at Amazon. I put 1 small piece of bean in each gift bottle. Then reused the beans that were left. I only made 8 more oz cause I wasn’t sure it would work. It too was very good vanilla. It’s now used up and the beans are used up too. Time to make more!
Hey so if you want a cleaner taste, run your vodka through a coffee filter a few times. Just get a cold brew cone or something and pour. The coffee filter pulls out the impurities and you get a better tasting extract!
Also useful to know: you can do this with really cheap vodka and drink it after. Apparently this is the difference between expensive vodka and cheap vodka and it’s easier and cheaper to run a 12 gallon bottle of vodka that costs $12 through coffee filters a few times than to buy a 750ml bottle of $65+ dollar vodka! People have done taste tests and it really makes a difference.
I’m curious about the alcohol- I don’t quite understand. Is this safe for kids? I’m blown away, because this sounds so easy to make.
If you are concerned about the possibility of substance abuse, there is always that chance. But if your kids are not overly mischievous, there should not be a problem. Vanilla by the tsp isn’t bad but vanilla by the shot is pretty disgusting., IMO.
How long does the vanilla last?
Forever, if you don’t lose the cap.
Big fan of Smitten Kitchen! Curious if you could jump start the process by heating up the vodka a bit to steep the vanilla in?
I have seen that recommended by Cooks Illustrated, America’s Test Kitchen. However there are two reasons I would be very careful about doing that if I did it at all. Alcohol boils at 173°F, but just like water evaporates below 212, alcohol will begin to evaporate below its boiling point. Thus I would not heat it @bove about 120-130.
Secondly, I have read that vanilla contains more than 200 aromatic compounds, many of which dissipate in the baking process. With no further information about that I am reluctant to heat the vanilla at all before making the extract.
I waited 10 weeks for the first batch and am waiting 12 months for the second. I think that is good enough without adding yet another unknown to the process. I am sure the commercial enterprises have many trade secrets learned through experimentation, but they aren’t sharing.
Will the alcohol evaporate??
If you keep it in a not hot place with the cap on when not in use it should be good for years, otherwise yes the alcohol and the H2O will evaporate.
Where is the best place in Canada (Toronto) to purchase vanilla beans. I have been told there is a shortage due to fires in Madagascar.
It was a cyclone in Madegascar.
I don’t know about Toronto, but here in the US, vanilla beans are too pricey for a retail establishment to have many in inventory. If they did have them the markup would be excessive. Mail order is the best choice for me both for price and freshness.
Thanks for tip regarding specialtybottle.com
I ordered the 8.5oz quadra and it’s perfect to make vanilla.
Great customer service too!
Question: for those of you making these as gifts how are you leaving instructions on waiting a few weeks to use it? Just wanted to crowdsource some ideas.
You can make a little note that says “This smells awesome now but check back in 8 to 12 weeks — store me in a cabinet or dark place — and it will be even better.” Or something more articulate!
I don’t. I age it and when I think it’s ready, I bottle it and give away.
I told them to not use it for 3 months and then it would be ready to go.
I just made my second bottle of vanilla, the first one was cloudy looking, so I threw it out. Now the beans in the bottle are looking slimy – I pulled one out and the bean pieces are one slimy glob.
I used a sterilized jar and vodka. Any ideas of what happened? Is it still okay to use?
I’m not sure. Do you have a picture?
The federal definition (requirement) for vanilla extract is 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans par gallon of 70 proof alcohol. There are other specifications like the moisture content of the beans which I can’t measure. I use 80 proof vodka.
I find that this means a little less than 8 beans per cup of 80 proof vodka.
I steep in pints, about 16 beans, well 14 because I put in the beans and then add alcohol, and it is ABV.
Offhand I would guess that your formula is half strength for flavor.
I took a picture but can’t figure out how to upload it.
The extract is clear, just the beans are cloudy/slimy.
The same thing happened to me! My extract sat for nearly 6 months. It’s clear and lovely, but the beans were slimy. I threw them out (sigh), but when I was cutting up the new beans, I wondered if maybe the slime is just an artifact of the stickiness of the beans. Like… maybe they just form a gel for whatever reason (maybe the sticky part isn’t soluble in alcohol or reacts with the alcohol in some way?). My guess is that it was probably fine and I just threw the beans away for no reason. Oh well. I’ll reuse them next time.
I put 7 vanilla beans in 750 ml bottles of cheap vodka in early October. The vodka has turned a nice clear light brown color and the smell is Devine. I did split the beans prior. There are flakes of vanilla bean floating around and that is ok. I made these as gifts as they are and only added a tag to the bottle neck. I bought the beans at Costco in VA USA. They were sold in tubes of 5 beans per tube for $15.00. This was the best price I could find. I made 5 bottles so it was somewhat costly. Hope the price of beans goes back to normal. Probably won’t do this again unless it does. Happy new year to you all!
I have been thinking about your problem since I first read it, quite a while ago by now. Were the beans completely immersed in alcohol?
Yes. I split the pods, the beans inside are a slimy glob. The extract is clear and looks good. But I don’t know if the beans are spoiled. So far they haven’t detached and aren’t mixed into the liquid.
Did you answer the question about the slime being on the beans. Is this batch spoiled?
I really don’t think the batch is spoiled, but what can I really say since i’m not there. I’d smell it, wait till it’s 3,4 months old, filter it and see if it looks and smells right.
No. I never got an answer. It’s still clear and smells good, so I’m going to try it. The slimy beans are still in the pods even after shaking.
I am sure you will get a vanilla flavoring from your method. I use 7or 8 beans per cup of alcohol, which was 22 beans for 750 ml. It made a medium dark mix which is steeping till summer. I have had about three quarts steeping since June and this 750ml since late October.
Can one overbrew this? We are going away for 3 months, will it be ok to start one now?
Absolutely and no, cannot overbrew.
Thanks, you’re the best.
It is usually suggested that you shake it or turn it over every few days for the first month or so, but more time is not a problem, time even makes it better.
does it needs to be made at home? the hunt game
Well you could make it anywhere (the office?) what is needed is a cool dark area where you can let it age and turn/shake it occasionally.
GOODNESS GRACIOUS, I have never seen a thread where every single person has such abysmally low levels of reading comprehension.
Every other comment is someone moaning on about how they “dun wanna yoos da alcoholz!!!!!1” Then, someone posts a link to another recipe (might as well be telling SK to go sit and spin on a KitchenAid mixer; RUDE) through the long and impossibly hard process of *GASP* typing a few words into Google. Inevitably, the same dung-sniffing disgrace to home cooks everywhere replies with “BUT I SAY NO ALKOHOLZZZZ!?!?!?!?!?!?”
Some of you entitled, bipedal rocks won’t understand this, but guess what? YOU CAN GOOGLE ALCOHOL-FREE VANILLA EXTRACT RECIPES! I know! Truly a life-changing, generation-defining moment of breathtaking discovery.
Also, just a heads-up: you all need to calm down. It’s just vanilla extract, not a multi-billion dollar piece of equipment CERN is building to painstakingly graft onto the Large Hadron Collider. Your whole existence is not going to collapse on the molecular level and be sucked away into the Void if you end up using store bought vanilla or even vanilla-infused sugar. Now, go change your rage-soiled underwear and either buy the stuff for this recipe, or scavenge some other kind of vanilla-related paraphernalia.
Your post is unfortunate.
The ability to spell check or write reasonably well is not indicative of manners or aptitude for kindness and graciousness.
Yes, some of the posts here are frustrating, but rather than contribute to that, you may wish to ignore or make a positive contribution. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
On the other hand, if you’re a troll, well, you’re going to write whatever you’re going to write and, as a result, you get the world you create and not the world you may want. Namaste.
Can I mixed concentrate vanilla extract wit water after 6 or 8 weeks
You can mix it anytime you want.
Officially, vanilla extract is made with 70 proof alcohol which is 35% alcohol and water. If you used vodka in the beginning, you probably had 80 proof.
Thanks a lot for you advice
In my excitement…..I didn’t fully read the directions and didn’t split the beans. Do you think it will still work? Should I split more beans and add? I bought small amber 4 oz bottles. Yes I couldn’t wait. :)
I would take them out and cut the beans open, scrape out some of the caviar and rebottle.
Rethinking this I would just cut the beans lengthwise and put them back in the bottle. Shake the bottle every day or two for a month or two.
I made vanilla using your method and waited 6 weeks. I noticed some white floating things attached to the vanilla beans and throughout the bottle as well as some odd red round like sap droplets floating and attached to the beans as well. Is this normal? I cleaned my bottles well before using. I used vodka and vanilla beans that I split open before dropping into the bottle. I’m thinking I should probably toss the vanilla, but it crushes me because of the cost. I thought I would check first if you have had experienced this?
I have been doing my vanilla extract for years now. I don’t split the beans. It therefore takes months before it is ready to use. Once the bottle is half empty, the extract is so concentrated, that I fill it up with vodka, and it is immediately usable. You can do that 2 to 3 times before you should go to the next batch. I always have at least 3 batches in production and a few months apart. I am currently trying one with rhum, as someone I met told me that it was incredibly good, but otherwise, I use vodka. Once you have started to make your own extract, you will never go back to store bought vanilla extract.
I use the seeds of the beans in cakes, vanilla ice cream and other vanilla deserts once I am done with one batch. They keep in the bottle for a long time! Nothing is wasted.
I am a big fan of your cook books. Your recipes are fantstic!
Mireille…what is your ratio of beans to vodka?
I am using my 1 year old bottle of housemade vanilla. It is great! I bottled an additional quart in February for holiday baking in the winter. Thank you for this!
I made vanilla last year with your guidance. It was splendid in every way. I quickly acquired more vanilla beans and a new bottle of vodka have a larger, second bottle, steeping in the liquor cabinet. The cost of the beans and the cost of vodka and the amount of vanilla you get out of this, way more cost effective than buying little bottles from other sources. Never going back, but, I confess I did decant into an old Nielsen Massey bottle for ease in my pantry cupboard.
Can i mix different types for vanilla beans when making extract?
So do you keep the unused beans in your kitchen for a year? Don’t they get old and dry?
Or are you making 4 bottles with your 1/4lb beans in one go?
I, uh, keep them. I’ve had some for years. I’m sure I’m not storing them properly but they still smell and work fine. I keep them in a seal plastic bag stuffed into a sealed jar.
How many times do you reuse the beans?
I usually add more with each batch.
My mom has been doing this for years and we’ve never looked back…it’s so pretty too.
Awesome idea! I will try soon. Love seeing the live stream on Instagram.
I have always loved making my own vanilla extract, though good beans now cost a pretty penny! :) I find homemade vanilla extract to have a flavor that is more rich then the extract I used to buy in stores, and can never go back to store-bought now; the flavor tastes off to me.
Do you ever strain any? I don’t mind flecks in anything but I use copious amounts of vanilla in my isi cream whipper and I am worried some bean pieces might slip in. Seeds wouldn’t be a problem but I can see pieces of the actual bean in my first batch when I shake it (too vigorously? Does shake mean swirl?) and I don’t really want to clog up a pint of cream.
I don’t strain it but you could as you pour it into a recipe you want to be fleck-free.
Deb, in one your weekly emails this year, did you include a link to a story about how vanilla beans are actually grown and it dove deep into the fair trade market? It was really interesting and identified some truly fair trade vendors. I could have sworn I saved the link but I’m at a total loss. Do you have it? Or did I dream up this article?? Quite possible.
I want to start on some vanilla extract for Christmas this year but would prefer to buy the beans from one of the vendors identified in the article. Thank you and stay well!
Aha! I guess if you Google something over and over you’ll finally find what you’re looking for. Here’s the article. I think you posted it. Regardless, it’s very interesting. https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2019-economics-of-vanilla-markets-madagascar/
I made 2 bottles. I use one for baking and when it gets low I refill with the second bottle then top that bottle with vodka and let it keep steeping. I couldn’t bring myself to “water” down my bottle while using it. I actually have 3 quarts going with vodka and one quart with rum. I haven’t used the rum yet because I don’t care for the smell of it. Soon I will bite the bullet and try it
Can you please link to which glass bottle you ended up using? So many choices on that wonderful bottle site!
when it is time to use the vanilla….do I strain the particles thru a filter? Do I remove all the vanilla beans that have been steeping in the vodKA?
Nope, I leave it in. Particles are fine — it’s like vanilla bean paste.
A comment about using Bourbon. The “Bourbon” in “Bourbon Vanilla” is not the name of the alcohol habitually used to make Madagascar Vanilla Extract. “Bourbon vanilla” is a place name, the name for all vanilla grown in Madagascar and other islands in the Indian Ocean.
This is an odd question, but here goes: At least 10 years ago, a work friend gave me some vanilla beans that an ardent boyfriend had given her. She was taken aback, as they are so expensive; also, she didn’t want to encourage this guy. She asked me if I would like them, to which I replied, “Yes!” I put them away and – hard to believe – forgot about them (argh.) I found them a year ago or so. They are totally dried up, can’t be split…but now I’m wondering if a bath in vodka would be worth my time. Seems to me they might be just the ticket for a batch of homemade extract. Thoughts?
I have absolutely found old beans and as long as they don’t seem slippery/slimy or smell off, I’d give it shot.
Hi ya, I’ve been steeping my beans for 1 year now. And when I open the bottle to sniff that glorious smell all I smell is alcohol, not vanilla. I used plenty of beans?
Is it brown?
Yes, Carmelly brown
I’ve been comparing recipes for homemade vanilla. Some say to scrape the beans out of the pods and put the beans in the bottle with or without the pods. Some say to leave the beans and alcohol for as long as a year. I was hoping to have it ready to give by Christmas but I guess that’s out, unless… can I make it in small batches and instruct the recipients to let it sit for however long, or is it best made in a big bottle?
Absolutely, smaller bottles are fine.