Homemade Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is an essential ingredient in baking. This is the perfect DIY project which only requires two simple ingredients, vanilla beans and liquor. And the best part is, if you start now, it will be ready for the holiday baking season come November.

Selecting which vanilla bean to use is the first step in making homemade vanilla extract. There are dozens of varieties of vanilla beans to choose from, all with their distinctive appearance and flavor, but I want to talk about the flavor profiles of the three most common, and readily available, ones you tend to see in stores.

Vanilla Bean Options

  • Madagascar: Classic vanilla flavor that’s both creamy and sweet. These are the most commonly used beans to make vanilla extract.
  • Tahitian: Has slightly floral notes, as well as, subtle cherry and almond overtones but with a strong vanilla aroma.
  • Mexican: Often described as woodsy with a just hint of spice.

homemade vanilla extract

Liquor Options

Once you decide upon which type of vanilla bean you want to work with, you must than select the type of alcohol you wish to use. You can use vodka, brandy, rum or any other neutral-flavored liquor you prefer. Keep in mind, iff you choose rum, avoid any spiced rums which can be overwhelming.

Infusion Process

Now it’s really all about patience. Homemade vanilla extract made from vanilla beans with their seeds can be ready in as little as one month. Without the seeds, the extract will need at least a full three months to properly infuse. For my method, I prefer to leave the seeds in for more flavor depth. Note: after about six months, there is typically very little change in the strength of the extract, even if the bean is still in the bottle.

homemade vanilla extract

Is It Ready?

  • The liquid should be dark golden or brown. The darker the color, the stronger the vanilla flavor. But note, it’s common for homemade vanilla extract to be lighter and more transparent than store bought vanilla.
  • You should see lots of little flecks that have settled to the bottom of the jar. When you shake it, the extract should look slightly opaque.
  • Thee should be a strong vanilla aroma. Although you may still smell some alcohol, when your vanilla extract is ready, you should smell the floral, sweet smell of vanilla shinning through.

Truth-be-told, there is really no exact science to determining when your vanilla extract is ready. Instead, you’ll want to check out the color and smell and gage for yourself.

So although it’s the middle of summer, if you’re going to make your own homemade vanilla extract, nows the time. It takes only a few minutes to whip up and just tuck it away in a place where you will easily be reminded to tend to it as needed. Before you know it, the baking season will be here and unlike everyone else, you’ll be ready!

About the Author

Andrea Potischman

I am a professionally trained NYC chef turned CA mom and food blogger. I post about real food, with doable ingredient lists that are family friendly.

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