Vanilla extract is one of those things that can get expensive to buy, and is so simple to make yourself! It is now on my list of “never need to buy again”.
Now if you compare real vanilla, whether store bought or homemade, to the imitation vanilla, the imitation stuff does come out cheaper. BUT, imitation vanilla is no more than chemically flavored water and doesn’t even belong on the shelves in my opinion. Our body has no idea how to process these chemicals, so let’s stick with real ingredients!
If you buy vanilla extract online in bulk, it’s over $30 for a quart. Buying the smaller sizes at a local store is even more expensive. I can make a quart jar of vanilla extract for less than $20. I can also make it even less expensive than buying it, and I’ll show you how to make vanilla extract that basically lasts forever!
So how can homemade vanilla extract “last forever” you say?
Well, vanilla extract is made with vanilla beans and alcohol – that’s it! For my extract, I reuse the same vanilla beans over and over, just adding more liquid to it as it gets used. It’s a continuous cycle which results in an affordable, amazing flavored extract that is made from REAL ingredients. As the extract ages, it only gets better.
What I do is place vanilla beans in a jar, cover with vodka (I only use alcohol for medicine…and to make vanilla!), and shake the jar when I think of it. After 8 weeks, it’s ready to be strained and used. If you do it this way, you can use the same vanilla beans again and start over with extracting the beans for 8 weeks. You can use the same beans over and over.
But what I do is not strain the liquid at all. I just leave the vanilla beans in the jar and dip the vanilla out as I need it. When the liquid gets low, I add more vodka to top the jar off like this…
I still shake the jar each time I use it to keep it distributed well. I believe I made this jar of vanilla 2 years ago, and it has such amazing flavor! I know some that only use half the amount of vanilla that a recipe calls for because homemade vanilla is so superior, but I tend to use what the recipes call for because I think it just makes the recipe all that much better.
On a side note, if you would prefer a non-alcohol version…
Some people may not use alcohol extracts at all, or find themselves extremely sensitive to alcohol. You can make a non-alcohol version with vegetable glycerin, but let me mention a few things first:
- The extracts at the store are made with alcohol so using glycerin will not result in the exact same taste as what you may be used to.
- Glycerin results in a sweet extract.
- Glycerin does not extract the properties of hard herbs (like vanilla beans) as well as alcohol does.
- Glycerin extracts don’t preserve as long as alcohol, but they do last 2-5 years.
- I don’t believe the “perpetual” concept will work with glycerin as it does with alcohol. I would recommend straining the vanilla extract and starting a new one with fresh glycerin as needed.
Ok, now that we have the tips out of the way, let’s get to the instructions!
Non-alcohol Vanilla Extract
- Place 8 vanilla beans (buy here) in a quart jar.
- Pour boiling water into the jar to fill 1/4 of the jar.
- Fill the jar the rest of the way with food-grade vegetable glycerin (buy HERE).
- Place a towel in the bottom of a crockpot, place the jar on the towel, pour water in the crockpot up to the rim of the jar.
- Turn crockpot on lowest setting and heat in crockpot for 3 days.
- After 3 days, strain the liquid and keep the beans to use again.
You don’t have to put the jar in the crockpot, but the heat will assist the glycerin in pulling out the properties. If you choose not to use a crockpot, you can keep the jar in a cabinet and shake occasionally for 4 weeks.
Traditional Vanilla Extract
(You can buy vanilla beans here.)
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 8 Vanilla Beans
- 80 Proof Vodka
- Quart Jar
|Place vanilla beans in the jar.|
|Fill the jar with vodka and cover with lid.|
|Let sit in cabinet for 8 weeks, shaking daily or at least once a week.|
|It's ready to use! Strain the vanilla or use the vanilla beans forever!|
Have you ever made your own vanilla extract?