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The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Homemade Vanilla Extract

Shawn Gavin June 26, 2024

Discover the art of making your own vanilla extract with this step-by-step guide. Perfect your baking with a personalized touch that enhances every recipe.


 Introduction to Vanilla Extract Making

Vanilla extract, a beloved ingredient in baking, brings a warmth and complexity to recipes that is unmatched. By creating your own homemade vanilla extract, you not only ensure the quality and natural essence of the ingredient but also have the freedom to tailor it to your taste preferences. Whether you are using Bourbon, Tahitian, or the prized Madagascar vanilla beans, the process unlocks a spectrum of flavors that store-bought versions can seldom match.

 Selecting Premium Vanilla Beans

The choice of vanilla beans is crucial in determining the flavor and quality of your extract. Here’s what you need to know about the types of beans:
Madagascar Vanilla Beans: Known for their rich, creamy flavor with sweet, buttery notes, these beans are ideal for a classic vanilla extract.
Tahitian Vanilla Beans: These are best if you prefer a hint of floral and fruity flavors in your desserts.
Mexican Vanilla Beans: Choose these for a bold, spicy kick in your extract. Rich, chocolatey notes and other spices make these vanilla beans stand out for users. Pompona vanilla beans: thought to be one of the original species of vanilla beans, Vanilla Pompona has had somewhat of a collect renaissance since the mid 2020. These vanilla beans are large, oily and have aromatic qualities described as dried fig, notes of cherry, and floral blossoms.   

 Exclusive tip when making vanilla extract: it does not matter if users opt for certified organic, or high priced vanilla beans. Virtually all vanilla grown worldwide is grown using natural and organic methods during the growing and curing of vanilla pods. Methods such as agroforestry is used in the cultivation of high-quality vanilla beans in vanilla growing countries such as Madagascar, Uganda, Comoros.

Crafting Your Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract is the easiest recipe you will ever make

- a minimum of .83 ounces of high-quality vanilla beans per cup of 35% alcohol for single strength vanilla extract. For double-fold vanilla  (meaning double strength) users will need 1.63 ounces of vanilla beans per cup of liquid. 
- 8 ounces of vodka or another high-proof spirit (neutral-flavored is best, but rum or bourbon can add interesting notes).


Additional tip below about vanilla extract, do not miss out!

*The type of alcohol you choose to use will have a direct effect on the aroma and nose your vanilla extract gives off but it will most likely not play any part in the flavor of any recipe that requires actual baking as alcohol evaporates in the cooking process. They will however play a direct role in flavoring of non baked goods such as a boozy vanilla whipped cream, tiramisu, vanilla ice cream and more. 
- A clean, airtight glass jar amber colored or clear glass bottle are both okay

- Scissors or chefs knife for cutting your vanilla beans

  1. Prepare the Beans: We encourage users to simply cut vanilla beans into small .25 inch or smaller pieces using nice kitchen or gardening shears. Most home kitchens however probably slice each bean lengthwise to expose the rich, flavorful seeds inside. Choose what you like best and if you have any doubt, send us an email and we will tell you why we recommend cutting versus slicing your vanilla beans.  
  2. Submerge in Alcohol: Place the beans in the glass jar and cover them completely with alcohol. The alcohol extracts the flavors and acts as a preservative.
  3. Store to Steep: Seal the jar and store it in a dark, cool place. A minimum of 60-90 days is required, but longer steeping will develop a more robust flavor.
  4. Shake Occasionally and allow to age: Give the jar a gentle shake every now and then to mix the contents and promote even flavor extraction. You should allow for at least 60-90 days before using in order for your vanilla extract to develop. Longer than this time frame can be beneficial for home made vanilla extract but beyond two years will yield little to no benefit as the beans are now generally exhausted of flavor. Commercial and professional restaurant quality vanilla extracts   take much less time to extract because the vanilla beans are generally chopped into finer pieces, the beans are generally in a state of constant agitation and or vacuum pressure has been applied or not applied. 
  5. Filter your vanilla -Optional but recommended: lightly filter your vanilla extract using a semi fine strainer. Filtering your vanilla gives it a beautiful dark amber hue and removes the larger fibrous material that often detaches from the vanilla beans and ends up floating around while leaving the smaller visually appealing vanilla seeds. 
  6. Rebottle your vanilla extract and give it a cute label: okay you finished your vanilla extract and now you want to gift it to your friends. Maybe it is a thoughtful Christmas gift, a gift for your wedding guests, or you just made if for yourself. Whatever the case, do not forget to bottle it up and add a nice label. Ideas for your labels should include the type of vanilla beans used, the type of alcohol and even the product date or when it was bottled. If you are looking to make your own label programs like Canva, or vista print or other online websites can make designing your own labels quite easy. Nicely labeling your vanilla extract can make it look more appealing and shows you really put some effort into making something that is entirely yours and made with a little love, pride and thoughtfulness. 
 Personalizing Your Extract

The customization of your vanilla extract doesn’t stop at the choice of vanilla beans. Consider these additions to make the extract your own:
Blend Vanilla Types: Mix different types of beans to create a complex flavor profile. Madagascar vanilla beans with Ugandan vanilla beans, vanilla from Ecuador with Papua New Guinea. There is really no right or wrong. 
Experiment with Time: Adjust the steeping duration to control the extract's strength, from subtle to intense.
Infuse Extra Flavors: Add cinnamon, nutmeg, or citrus peels for an extract with a twist.

 Practical Uses and Tips

Use your homemade vanilla extract just like the commercial variety but expect richer, more vibrant flavors. It’s perfect for cookies, cakes, and pastries, and also makes a thoughtful, personalized gift for fellow food enthusiasts.
Storing Your Vanilla Extract
Homemade vanilla extract has an indefinite shelf life if stored correctly. Keep it in a cool, dark place like a pantry. The flavors will continue to mature and deepen over time, making your extract even better as it ages.

There are many reasons why one may choose to make their own vanilla extract but for us...
Making your own vanilla extract is a rewarding endeavor that not only enhances your baking projects but also connects you more deeply with the ingredients you use. Start with high-quality Madagascar vanilla beans or your preferred variety, and enjoy the journey to creating a truly exceptional kitchen staple.
By using natural, organic approaches and focusing on high-quality ingredients, you can craft a vanilla extract that stands out in both flavor and purity to countless other sad, artificial vanilla flavors that flood shelfs of grocery stores. Embrace the art of making this essential baking ingredient and revolutionize the way you bake at home, with family and of course always with friends. That is what cooking and baking is about, isn't it?

Interested in learning a little more about vanilla beans and vanilla extract? Check out our frequently asked questions about vanilla beans page or our  FAQ's about vanilla extract .