2 ingredients, 2 minutes to prepare and 2-4 weeks to let the magic happen – learn how to make vanilla extract at home!
(This post has been updated with new photos as of December 2016)
Vanilla extract features in so many recipes and for good reason – it has an incredible flavour and complements other ingredients so well. Only a teaspoon or two is required which means that the extract needs to be strong and of good quality.
Despite this, I haven’t always used pure vanilla extract. In fact, I often used to buy vanilla essence because it was cheaper and easier to come by. This usually meant that I either needed to use least 1 tablespoon to get any kind of flavour, or the tiniest amount to avoid a fake vanilla taste – both of which didn’t make my baking taste so nice, especially with the latter. It didn’t take too many fake vanilla tasting cookies to covert me into a vanilla extract
snob fan. Buying pure vanilla extract can be expensive and also hard to come by here in Brno, so I like to make my own.
Here’s why you should make homemade vanilla extract too:
- Not only is it cheap, it’s also easy to prepare and you know exactly what is in it – no nasty flavour enhancers, preservatives or additives which some vanilla essences definitely have as well as some bought vanilla extracts.
- Although it requires nearly zero effort to prepare, somehow there is still a sense of satisfaction when pouring a teaspoon or two of extract that you have made yourself – and it tastes amazing too.
- You really only need two ingredients which are:
The alcohol needs to be a high-quality liquor that is at least 35% alcohol to make the extract. Pure alcohol is of course the most ideal but it’s not always easy to come by. I use vodka, but you could also use rum, bourbon, brandy or a combination (though I’ve never tried this myself).
2. Vanilla Pods
You can buy an array of different type of vanilla pods, all with slightly different flavours. I’m not too picky about which pods I use, and generally buy whatever is available at the supermarket.
You’ll also need a jar or bottle to to store it in. You can easily double or triple the recipe below to make one large bottle and then refill with alcohol as you use it. You can also divide the extract into smaller bottles to give away as gifts – perfect for Christmas coming up.
The beans are split with a knife and then are placed into a jar with the alcohol. The jar/bottle is then shaken a few times every other week until ready to use. The time it takes before it’s ‘ready’ can vary and some people like to use it after 2 weeks, however I like mine to sit for at least 4 weeks before using to ensure a stronger flavour.
Here’s what the bottle looks like after 1 minute, 15 minutes and 1 day.
That’s all there is to it!
I hope homemade vanilla extract becomes a regular feature in your baking cupboard.
- 3-4 vanilla pods
- 1 cup good quality vodka (or rum, brandy, bourbon etc.)
- Glass jar or bottle
- 1. Slice the vanilla pods in half lengthwise to expose the seeds, leaving the top intact. Cut if needed, to fit in jar/bottle.
- 2. Place pods in the jar/bottle along with the vodka.
- 3. Seal the jar/bottle and give a shake.
- 4. Store in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks. I like to keep mine for at least a month before using.
- 5. Give the jar/bottle a shake every other day or so for the first 2 weeks.
- *You can top up with more alcohol as you use it to make it go further.
- *If you've needed the seeds from a vanilla pod for a recipe and don't know what to do with the pod, place it in your extract bottle for extra flavour. Alternatively, you can put it in your sugar bowl to make vanilla sugar.