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How to Make Vanilla Extract
Written by Cassie
January 20, 2021

How to make Vanilla Extract –

Two Simple Ingredients

A few years ago, I needed to buy Vanilla Extract when my husband actually went to the store with me, and I asked him to grab a bottle of the real stuff. He looked at the giant bottle of artificial vanilla (super cheap), and then at the teeeeeny bottle of real extract (a good bit more), and told me I was crazy! “We’re not real-vanilla-rich!” We still laugh about that, and say it when something is extra expensive.

This was when I had the thought, can I DIY this? As we usually do, I pulled out my phone to search “how can I make my own Vanilla Extract?” What I found left me curious – is it really that easy??? I wonder how much money I could save if I made my own? Maybe you’re asking similar questions – let me save you the trouble! Check at the end, I’ll even do some math for you!

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Make Your Own Vanilla Extract:

Ingredients

Vanilla Beans

Let’s look at the most expensive part first – you’ll have to buy Vanilla Beans. When I started making vanilla extract, I was amazed at how much these beans cost! I even checked into growing them myself. It turns out, the process of growing vanilla beans is long and complicated, and I decided it was worth it to buy it from someone else. I’d just have to watch for deals. Here is the best deal I could find! Grade B is usually used to make Vanilla Extract (Grade A is more expensive, and you can use it for other kinds of recipes, but is not necessary for extract).

 

Vodka

Any alcohol extracts the vanilla flavor from the beans, but vodka is a favorite because it is clear and flavorless. You can get as fancy as you want here, but because my main goal is to save money, I went to my local liquor store and found the cheapest vodka they had! One bottle was about $15, and I used it to fill about 3 quart jars.

Tip: the unofficial third ingredient is time! There is not an exact amount of time, but the longer you wait before using your vanilla extract, the stronger the flavor will be! You will want to set it aside for at least three months, but now that I plan ahead, I leave it for almost a year!

 

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract:

Other Supplies

Jars

When I calculated the total cost of making vanilla, I did not include the cost of quart jars because we have so many of them on hand already! But if you don’t already have them, here are the wide-mouth quart jars I like to use for things like this.

Lids

We use these jars to store all kinds of things in the kitchen, and usually use these plastic lids. However, because vanilla extract is mostly alcohol, I opt for the metal lids that come with the jars, or that you would use for canning. Plastic can leach chemicals you don’t want in your food when in prolonged contact with alcohol!

Bottles

This is totally unnecessary for home use, but it’s my favorite part! When my vanilla has had at least 3 months in the jar, I separate the liquid and the beans into these cute bottles. A small funnel also comes in handy!

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract:

Assembling Ingredients

Once you have the ingredients and supplies, putting them together is so easy!

I use a pack of 10 vanilla beans in one quart jar of vodka. This is not an exact science! You could use more beans and get a stronger flavor more quickly, or use less and wait longer. I’ve even heard of people leaving it in the jar, and when the liquid gets a little low they top it off with more vodka for a never-ending jar of vanilla extract!

 

Cut

Cut the beans lengthwise to expose all those flavor-packed vanilla beans inside. You can cut some or all of them in half the other way as well, especially if they are going to stick out of the liquid. You want all of the vanilla beans fully submerged.

 

Jar

Place the cut vanilla beans into the jar, and add the vodka. I usually do these in sets of three, so I’ll split a bottle of vodka evenly into three jars and then add the vanilla beans.

Put the lid on it (preferably metal, as I mentioned above) and set it in a cool dark place! I set mine in the back of a top shelf in my kitchen cabinets.

 

Shake

Every time you think of it, take the jar down and give it a good shake! This will help the vanilla distribute to the whole jar, and make the extraction process go a little faster.

 

Wait

And now you wait! Since I started using this recipe, I buy the ingredients in January and put it in the jars. Then in December I split it into the smaller bottles and have them ready to give away as Christmas gifts!

 

Bottle

Once you’ve waited a while (I suggest at least 3 months) you can split it into those cute bottles I mentioned earlier! They even come with their own foil lid covers, you just put it over the cap and use a hair dryer to shrink it and seal the bottle closed. It looks so professional! Your friends who enjoy baking will be so impressed with this personal and useful gift!

For an added touch, you can put a chalkboard sticker label on the bottle!

 

Breakdown of the Cost

The first time I made Vanilla Extract, I calculated how much it cost per 1 quart jar. This varies, of course, depending on the current prices of your ingredients.

$15 – Vanilla Beans
$5 – Vodka
$4.50 – 5 bottles
Total – about $25

I split one jar of extract into 5 smaller bottles, so each small bottle cost me about $5 to make! Even with the fancy little bottles, this is cheaper than buying real vanilla extract at the store. It just takes planning ahead, and buying more than you would use all at once. But the shelf life on this stuff is excellent! It just keeps getting better as it ages!

 

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