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How to Make Vanilla Extract

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Make Your Own Natural Vanilla Extract
Wellness Mama » Blog » Recipes » How to Make Vanilla Extract

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:

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:

Make Your Own Natural Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract Recipe

Homemade natural vanilla extract with only two ingredients is amazing and fragrant for baking, cooking, or coffee.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Calories 6kcal
Author Katie Wells

Servings

8 oz

Ingredients

Instructions

  • 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. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Vanilla Extract Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 6
% Daily Value*
Carbohydrates 0.3g0%
Sugar 0.3g0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Notes

I  use my vanilla extract straight from the jar and just replenish the alcohol as I go. You can continue using the same vanilla beans until you notice the extract losing its flavor. 
If you need a sweeter vanilla extract for a recipe, just add a little raw honey or maple syrup for a corn-syrup and refined sugar free option.

Like this recipe? Check out my new cookbook, or get all my recipes (over 500!) in a personalized weekly meal planner here!

Ever made an extract or tincture at home? What did you make?

Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

99 responses to “How to Make Vanilla Extract”

  1. sheryl klassen Avatar
    sheryl klassen

    i have been making tintures for years. vodka is what i have normally used. however i have found with tinture of clove for problems with the mouth, everclear is a better solution. it is a bit harsher. but does the job for the bacteria in your mouth much better. thankyou so much for the information. will definately try the spiced rum for the vanilla!!!

  2. Rita Krogh Avatar
    Rita Krogh

    Love your ideas,fab! Very inspiring and invigorating. I am planning on making a vanilla extract but I have pure alcohol,would that do?

  3. JAN Avatar

    5 stars
    Katie, how often do you add the alcohol to the vanilla for replenishing? I had heard you could do that, but I use about 1-2 TB per day in my morning Paleo tea (yum!) and I figured if I added the 2 TB it would taste too much like alcohol the next day. No? So, now I have my bottle almost gone (thankfully have another started, but not ready so I needed to buy some again. – bummer). But for next time, just curious on this replenishing idea….Can you give specifics from experience?

  4. Natalie Avatar

    We love to make our own vanilla extract in our nest…we know exactly what’s in it then. Happy Nesting.

  5. Karen Avatar

    shoot! How does everyone deal with the exuberant shipping prices for all these companies like TT and MRH? I’d love to order the stuff to make all these natural recipes but ouch!

    1. JAN Avatar

      Karen, if you have a group of friends to form a bit of a co-op, and you can find several things to order at Mt. Rose Herbs, you will save on shipping and sometimes even the prices of items as after a certain number of lbs, the price goes down. My little group usually orders about once/3-6 months and that’s how we save on shipping. Just an idea.

        1. Laurie Ross Avatar
          Laurie Ross

          Hi Karen,
          If I understand correctly, Jan was recommending that you find your own co-op by finding other people who would like to order together. Sounds like a good idea. I might try putting up something on Craig’s List to find people in this area. Good luck!

    2. Ellie Avatar

      There are other places you can check out. Beanilla.com is one. Right now I believe they are having a sale 25 beans for $25 (Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans) and FREE Shipping. Amazon and Ebay also sell beans and I have read comments on other sites of folks recommending them as well as saffron.com and marxfoods.com. Good luck to you! I’m in the research stages, myself and thought I’d share. 😀

      1. Karen Avatar

        Awesome-thank you Ellie!!!! I did order some from Amazon. They do not smell like traditional “vanilla” at all 🙁 I put them in my bourbon but so far haven’t gotten any vanilla smell (been about a month) Will it taste like commercial vanilla extract when finished?

        1. Karen Avatar

          It’s been three months and I can’t get a vanilla smell/taste at all 🙁 I even cut some of the beans to get the caviar out. I do have some beans left so I may try it with vodka and see how that goes. What I don’t understand is why vanilla beans smell nothing like traditional vanilla. I don’t like the smell/taste at all.

  6. Sherryl Avatar

    5 stars
    I will definitely have to try this recipe! I get my vanilla beans from saffron.com. They have wonderful saffron as well as wonderful vanilla beans. They have excellent products and matched customer service. Give them a try, I prefer them over all of the other places that I’ve bought beans from. They also have a wealth of info on both saffron and vanilla.

  7. Debbie Avatar

    I made vanilla six months ago and it still smells like alcohol and it is only lightly brown. I used the organic madagascar vanilla beans and vodka. What could be wrong?

    1. Rebecca Avatar

      I’m having the same issue. All I smell is alcohol when I open the jar. I’m going to add more vanilla beans and see what happens….

      1. Debbie Avatar

        I am going to add more beans also………….more time has passed and it still smells of alcohol 🙁

        1. Sarah Avatar

          If you put it in your coffee can you get Buzzed from the alcohol ? Or even drunk? I understand the alcohol will bake out if you cook with it but if you drink it does it still have the effects of Vodka?

        2. Michelle Avatar

          If you open the jar and put it in the sun some of that alcohol smell will evaporate without
          loosing the vanilla taste that was so patiently waited for. Think of the how sun tea works and
          try the same thing. Good Luck

  8. Brooke Avatar

    Don’t forget to reuse the vanilla beans after the first batch! I usually use mine about 3 times before I throw them out/compost them. It helps keep the cost down and makes it easier to keep making vanilla extract. There really is no reason to buy it from the store…except for convenience, but certainly not for taste or health.

  9. Amy Avatar

    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:)

    1. Julie Avatar

      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!

  10. Matt Grantham Avatar
    Matt Grantham

    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

  11. Kyle Avatar

    5 stars
    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!

  12. sherri clark Avatar
    sherri clark

    5 stars
    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?

  13. Amanda Avatar

    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?

  14. Lisa Avatar

    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!

      1. Laurie Avatar

        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. : )

          1. Elyse Avatar

            How long do your vanilla beans last? How do you care for them until you need them again? Refrigeration required?

          2. Heather Avatar
            Heather

            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!

        1. Lori Avatar

          Per ounce?? That would be 24 beans for four ounces?!! Is that a mistake by chance?

  15. Mike Avatar

    Where did you get the glass container for the vanilla? Do you need an amber-colored container for storage, or does it not matter?

    1. Janene Avatar

      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.
      Have fun!

  16. špela Avatar

    Hi. Can this vanilla extract be used in body butters instead of essential oils for a nice smell?

    1. Pierce Watkins Avatar
      Pierce Watkins

      5 stars
      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?

    2. Olya Avatar

      For cosmetic use make vanilla infused oil. Soak vanilla beans in jojoba or almond oil.

  17. Emily Avatar

    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

    1. Lynn Avatar

      What can you use instead of alcohol? I am on medication in which I cannot have any alcohol.

      1. Giorgia Avatar

        Glycerin. Buy food grade glycerin and use 7-8 vanilla pods for 500 ml. However it will take longer than alcohol based recipes.

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