I adore the scent of natural vanilla. It can be used in so many recipes and is perfect in my superfood coffee. I even use it as a base for my homemade perfume (recipe coming soon).
Unfortunately, as Food Renegade revealed, store-bought “pure” vanilla extract can often contain corn syrup or sugar. There is also a big difference between pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla which usually contains:
Water, Alcohol (26%), Natural Flavorings (Including Extractives Of Cocoa And Extractives Of Tea), Vanillin And Other Artificial Flavorings, Corn Syrup, And Caramel Color.
Homemade Natural Vanilla Extract
I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for years because it is not only less expensive, but the flavor is unbeatable. It is also one of the most simple recipes to make.
Vanilla extract could also be called vanilla tincture, as it is essentially a tincture of food grade liquor and whole vanilla beans.
With just a natural, non-GMO alcohol, some vanilla beans and time, you can create your own vanilla extract.
There are several types of vanilla beans. Any will work, but here’s the difference:
- Madagascar vanilla beans: Traditional, rich flavor and aroma
- Tahitian vanilla beans: More floral and fruity flavor and aroma
- African or Ugandan vanilla beans: More smokey, bold flavor
I personally prefer Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans, which have a rich and floral flavor and aroma.
You’ll also need a high-quality liquor that is at least 35% alcohol to make the extract. I prefer to use spiced rum, after finding out from Mommypotamus in this post that there is a non-GMO and corn syrup-free spiced rum. Papagayo rum is another great option. From what I’ve read, Four Roses and Wild Turkey bourbons are also non-GMO, but those are the only two I’ve been able to verify. You can also just look for an organic rum, vodka, or bourbon.
Please note that your vanilla will not be ready to use immediately. The vanilla beans need time to soak and flavor the alcohol, so it will take a couple months.
Now that we all know about the differences in organic alcohol and vanilla bean types, here’s the super-easy recipe:
Vanilla Extract Recipe
- 8 oz organic or non-GMO spiced rum brandy, bourbon, or vodka
- 7-8 vanilla beans
- A tall glass jar
- Slice vanilla beans in half lengthwise to reveal inside of beans. Cut if needed to make them fit into your jar.
- Place them in a tall glass jar.
- Pour the alcohol of choice over the beans.
- Cap tightly and shake gently.
- Store in a cool, dark place for at least a month, shaking occasionally. I prefer to leave 2-3 months for best flavor.
Ever made an extract or tincture at home? What did you make?
Discussion (96 Comments)
I use a lot less vanilla beans…one, sliced in half for every 6-8 oz of vodka and have great extract after about 2 months:)
Thank you for this. I just bought ONE bean thinking that would work and all the recipes I’m finding are saying 7-8 beans!!! Um…how is that saving money exactly? Vanilla beans in my neck of the woods are $8 each!
Lifting the veil on problematic consumer items that we all take for granted is awesome in itself. But having the information provided to make them for ourselves is truly awesome. Perhaps it is melodramatic but if there is a way to say save the world I believe these are some of the steps that might get us there. Thank you for what you are doing
I have a bottle of regular vanilla (made with just vodka and vanilla beans), and a second one made with spiced rum–that one’s got a few cinnamon sticks in it, too. So easy, and so delicious!
I definitely want to make this, as I have been buying a pre made vanilla paste to use in my homemade almond milk coffee creamer. I also just love the bottle, can you tell me where to find it?
Do the different alcohols make the flavors different? Also, you said that you use the extract out of the jar and replenish the alcohol. Do the vanilla beans loose their potency after awhile?
where did you get those bottles you pictured?
I am assuming the different alcohols provide different flavors to the finished product, or does the alcohol flavor dissipate? Also, Mountain Rose sells one ounce, however I cannot find anything that says how many beans are in one ounce? I know they do not weigh much, even tho I have been making many of my own things this one is new to me and I’m feeling pretty newbie here. Thanks for any and all help!
Katie - Wellness Mama
4 ounces should be plenty. The alcohol does leave a flavor slightly, though Vodka doesn’t leave much. Spiced rum leaves the best flavor in my opinion 🙂
Katy, thank you for this website! I refer to it almost daily.
Are you saying here that it takes 4 ounces of vanilla beans to equal 7 or 8 pods? At $10 an ounce through Mountain Rose Herbs, that’s a $40 bottle of vanilla! I hope I’m wrong. : )
Katie - Wellness Mama
4 ounces is about 25-30 beans, I just order that amount so I have enough on hand to make multiple batches.
How long do your vanilla beans last? How do you care for them until you need them again? Refrigeration required?
Elyse, you should triple-wrap the vanilla beans (i just used grocery bags), then store in a dark cupboard, no fridge required. I have some (I bought a whole pound+!) that are about 5 years old, and stored this way they are still great!
What type of spice rum do you recommend?
I’ve used several non-GMO brands, and most often use Appleton estates
Can you recommend a reliable brand to use for rum? Thank you.
I’ll normally use Appleton rum…
I was wondering the same thing. (how many pods per ounce)
Katie - Wellness Mama
It depends on the size of the beans, but typically 6-8 per ounce.
Per ounce?? That would be 24 beans for four ounces?!! Is that a mistake by chance?
Where did you get the glass container for the vanilla? Do you need an amber-colored container for storage, or does it not matter?
Katie - Wellness Mama
Any container will work. I think that one came from a thrift store.
Hi, this is the second time I’m going to make vanilla extract for Christmas gifts. I found all different types of bottles on Amazon. I chose some vintage looking ones that had a cap just like Wellness Mama’s. I had labels made from tinyprints, but instead of regular labels, I had the labels made up on some of their larger return address labels. (You don’t have to just use them for addresses!) With the larger return address labels, I had a better selection of size, design, and could put more info on the label.
Hi. Can this vanilla extract be used in body butters instead of essential oils for a nice smell?
Im also to interesting in knowing if this can be a replacer for the essential oils. It would be a lot cheaper scene my vanilla extract tens to set around longer?
For cosmetic use make vanilla infused oil. Soak vanilla beans in jojoba or almond oil.
I have been making vanilla extract for the last year, and it is awesome! I also buy my vanilla beans from Mountain Rose Herbs. I love to use their vanilla beans for sugar scrubs etc. too for my business (organic beauty) and you just can’t beat that smell. <3
What can you use instead of alcohol? I am on medication in which I cannot have any alcohol.
Glycerin. Buy food grade glycerin and use 7-8 vanilla pods for 500 ml. However it will take longer than alcohol based recipes.
Thank you Giorgia, I’ll give it a try!