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You only need 2 simple ingredients to make your own homemade vanilla extract: vanilla beans and vodka!
After following the easy steps below, let the vanilla beans infuse the vodka for as little as 8 weeks. Homemade vanilla is WAY more cost-efficient than store-bought options too. Let’s make some!
Why Make Your Own Vanilla?
When you go to the store to buy vanilla you are faced with a dilemma: do you buy the smaller, more expensive bottle of REAL vanilla or the larger, cheaper bottle of imitation vanilla?
It’s a battle of values, right? Save money or eat real foods.
Even though it is more expensive, I most often (painfully) opt for real vanilla. I won’t pretend to be an expert on how imitation vanilla is made but from what I’m gathering, it’s for sure not natural.
I am also convinced that real vanilla just tastes better (six baking experts agree with me too).
Simply put, real vanilla tastes better, enhances your baking, AND makes great gifts!
Making your own vanilla really is SUPER easy. Seriously. It takes three ingredients:
- Vanilla Beans
Which Vanilla Beans are Best for Making Vanilla Extract?
You can find vanilla beans at most major grocery stores in the spice aisle. If you can’t locate them, try purchasing them online. Here are three popular options.
Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans – what most people associate with vanilla flavor. Full, creamy, and sweet flavor. I personally opt for this one.
Tahitian vanilla beans – floral aroma with cherry-like, licorice, and caramel flavor tones.
Mexican vanilla beans – both sweet and woody flavor tones with a spicy hint of cloves and nutmeg.
Vanilla beans labeled “Grade B” are specifically sold for extracting purposes. They are also cheaper. Because of this, I always opt for grade B. But, grade A will for sure work!
How to Make Homemade Vanilla
1. Prepare Your Vanilla Beans
For every 8 ounces of vanilla you want to make, you will need 4-5 vanilla beans. More for a stronger taste which some like for baking and less for a weaker taste. But, let’s be honest. Who wants that!?
Using a small sharp knife, slice one side of each vanilla bean open to expose the inside.
Place your sliced beans into a glass storage jar of some type. Keep in mind that you want to keep the 8oz-to-5 bean ratio in your container.
In order to fit them into my large mason jars, I had to cut and/or bend the beans in half. Do what you’ve got to do. My jars held about 3.5 cups of liquid so I put in about 15 beans per jar.
2. Submerge beans in alcohol
Now, fill your jars with alcohol. My booze of choice was a cheap, unflavored vodka.
You don’t need expensive vodka to make this work. Just as long as it’s 80-proof. Since I wanted to use up my 50 vanilla beans I ended up needing 2 HUGE bottles of vodka. I felt as though I needed to explain myself to the cashier but she didn’t seem phased by my purchase.
3. Wait. The Longer the Better!
Now for the hardest part of making your own vanilla, waiting!
You need to give the alcohol time to extract the vanilla flavor from the beans. (Get it, vanilla extract?)
Every week or so, give the jars a good shake. Some say wait about 6 weeks. Some say 6 months. The longer the vanilla sits, the more complex the flavor will be so I gave mine a good 5-6 months. Others give it a whole year!
4. Store Your Finished Vanilla
I added a little tag to my bottles and plan to give them away as little goodies in the future. (Spoiler alert–if you are a member of my family, you will probably see these on Christmas morning. Glad we had this chat.)
The Cost Breakdown
So how much money does making your own vanilla actually save?
Here is a breakdown of my costs:
- Vodka: $36 total ($18 each)
- 50 Beans: $34.93
- Bottles: $33.60
$104.53 divided by 13 = $8.04 for an 8-ounce bottle OR $4.02 for a 4-ounce bottle
Considering a 4-ounce bottle of quality vanilla can cost anywhere from $10-20 online or at the store, I’d say I saved myself A LOT of money in the long run!
Recipes to Use Your Homemade Vanilla
There are so many ways to use homemade vanilla. The ingredient is called for in the majority of baking recipes. Here are just a few we wanted to highlight for you!
Did you make this? Snap a photo and tag us on Instagram at @thrivinghome so we can see your creations and cheer you on!
- Vanilla Beans
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- Prepare your vanilla beans (for every 8 ounces of vanilla you want to make, you will need 4-5 vanilla beans).
- Slice one side of each bean open to expose the inside.
- Submerge beans in alcohol (place your sliced beans into a glass storage jar of some type. Keep in mind that you want to keep the 8oz-to-5 bean ratio in your container).
- Now, fill your jars with alcohol. My booze of choice was a cheap, unflavored vodka. You don’t need expensive vodka to make this work. Just as long as it’s 35% alcohol.
- Wait. Every week or so, give the jars a good shake. Some say wait about 6 weeks. Some say 6 months. The longer the vanilla sits, the more complex the flavor will be so I gave mine a good 5-6 months.
- Store your vanilla extract for long-term use.