Homemade Vanilla Extract with Alcohol

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Vanilla extract is one of the backbones to baking. It is so versatile and goes in just about everything. But it’s so expensive to buy the tiny bottles, so why not make homemade vanilla extract?

For people like me who can’t eat corn products, making my own vanilla extract is additionally important because most of the bottles that can be found in the store use a corn alcohol to extract the vanilla flavor from. Making this something that I just have to make for myself at home. (You can read more about a corn free diet here)

Luckily, vanilla extract is really easy to make at home. All you need are some vanilla bean pods and some sort of hard liquor. I typically use vodka, that I make sure is not made from corn, or you could use something wheat based, or probably even tequila.

vanilla beans
Photo from Unsplash

I know Wikipedia isn’t a great site to source, but they do have a list of vodkas and what they’re made out of for easy comparison. If you have a corn allergy/intolerance like me, avoid the ones that don’t specifically spell out what it’s made out of.

The vodkas I usually use are made from rice or barley.

One problem with making homemade vanilla extract is it takes 3 months for the flavor to be extracted, so it does take time. I have not tried this, but there is a method to speed up the process if you have a pressure cooker.

How To Make the Homemade Vanilla Extract

vanilla extract in a jar

Making vanilla extract is so easy. You only need vanilla beans and vodka. Recently, I was reading that you need a lot of vanilla beans to make this, like a dozen.

I don’t agree with that. I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for years, and each time I only use 2-4 vanilla beans. I’ve never had any issues with that amount! In this making of extract, I’ll be using 4 vanilla beans.

Slice the vanilla beans down the middle – don’t cut them all the way in half. Just make a slice through to the center. There are a ton of tiny seeds inside the vanilla pod, so by cutting to the center, you allow them to have direct contact with the alcohol. You can kind of see what I’m talking about in this picture:

vanilla bean

Add them to the bottle of vodka (you might have to pour out a bit of vodka to make room for the beans).

Close the bottle back up, and label the bottle so you know when the extract is ready!

vanilla beans in vodka
Vanilla extract that’s ready to use!

Allow it to sit for 2+ months (I usually wait 3 months). Once the time is up, I’ll typically pour some into a smaller jar for easier pouring into recipes. I also leave the vanilla beans in, not taking them out until I recycle the bottle. This way, the longer the extract sits, the more vanilla flavor!

vanilla extract label
Here’s a label you can use for your own extract if you’d like!

Looking for a recipe this vanilla extract could be used in? Try my homemade granola or if you’re feeling really adventurous, my oat milk ice cream!

Homemade vanilla extract pin - simple to make!