Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

The idea of a DIY vanilla extract has been floating around the food blog world for a little while. When I first read about the process, the instructions seemed so fastidious that I shrugged and clicked away. (This is, in passing, one of the challenges the recipe writer faces: providing the necessary dose of guidance, but avoiding instruction overload.)

Still, I was increasingly bothered by the imbalance between the wowing qualities of the vanilla beans I’d splurged on, and the dullness of the store-bought vanilla extract I had on hand. So, why not use the former to create a better version of the latter?

I was increasingly bothered by the imbalance between the wowing vanilla beans I’d splurged on, and the dullness of the store-bought vanilla extract I had on hand. So, why not use the former to create a better version of the latter?

Perhaps some of you will wonder, if I have fresh vanilla beans, why use extract at all? And the answer is that they don’t serve the same purpose. Fresh beans need to be steeped in a liquid ingredient (milk, cream, syrup…) to release their flavor, so they can only be used in recipes that call for such an ingredient, like sauces, ice creams, or custards. Vanilla extract, on the other hand, is ready-to-use and can be added directly, without steeping, to cake batters, cookie doughs, cocktails, etc.

And really, as I found out when I looked into it with a little more attention, making your own extract could not be simpler: place vanilla beans in a jar, fill with liquor, close, shake, and wait. The process is even simpler than preserving your own lemons and you’ll likely wonder, as I did, what took you so long.

Vodka is often mentioned as the ideal liquor for this because its neutral flavor won’t overshadow that of the vanilla, but I opted to use rum, which I like to use in my baking (canelés, crêpes and yogurt cake without rum are like a kiss without a mustache*) and find a perfect match to vanilla. I love the complexity of the resulting extract, but you can use whatever liquor you prefer, provided it is about 40% alcohol.

Commercial vanilla extract is generally sweetened, too, but I see no reason to make the process more complex, and the quantities of extract used in most recipes are so small that it’s unnecessary to make up for the difference in sugar.

And of course, need I mention that homemade vanilla extract makes a great gift for the food enthusiast?


* “Like a kiss without a mustache” is a literal translation of comme un baiser sans moustache, a French idiom that means that one thing is pointless without the other. Similar, but less perky: comme un violon sans cordes (like a violin without strings) or comme une soupe sans sel (like soup without salt).

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Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Makes 240 ml (1 cup).

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe


  • 3 medium vanilla beans, or 1 1/2 fat ones
  • 1 cup rum or vodka


  1. Have ready a 1-cup glass jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid; I used an empty (and clean, obviously) jar of jam. Pour boiling water into it, let rest for 10 minutes to sterilize, and pour out the water.
  2. Using a sharp knife, slice the beans open lengthwise to expose the seeds. Tuck the beans in the jar and fill with liquor. Close the jar, shake it a few times, and place it in a cool, dark cabinet; you may have to whisper a few words of reassurance if the jar is, understandably, a little frightened.
  3. Let the jar rest in there for 8 weeks, shaking it again once or twice a week, or whenever you remember to. The mixture will get darker and darker over time.
  4. You can start using your extract by the end of the eighth week. Use however much you need, and when you notice that you're running a little low -- that you've used, say, 20% of the extract -- top it off with more liquor (preferably of the same type) and shake again.
  5. And every once in a while, when you're using a fresh bean in a recipe, you can add the empty pod (rinsed off and dried if it's been steeped in milk or cream) to the jar (see note).


  • If you continue to "feed" it this way, the extract will keep forever; just remove some of the older beans if the jar becomes too crowded.
  • Remember that empty vanilla pods can also be placed in your sugar jar, olive oil bottle, or tea tin to flavor them, too.

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  • Swati

    Your blogs are well-written, contain the right amount of instruction (as you mention in this blog -:)) and a delight to read. After reading them, I feel I understand your way of thinking, reasoning, choice of certain ingredients. Its more wholesome, logical and sincere. Your blogs are a key to knowing the person you are ! Chocolate and Zucchini is simply wow. Keep it up girl.

  • Vanilla is certainly the most obivous ethanol extract to try at home. And I agree – it’s really simple to do this. You can’t really get things wrong.

    But why stop with vanilla? I believe ethanolic extracts of spices in general are underutilized in the kitchen.

  • words of reassurance are a little known, but vital part of most recipes!

  • I absolutely agree, vanilla and rum go perfectly together. I have a bottle of vanilla rum on my kitchen shelf all the time, fed with discarded vanilla pods. Though I only use it to flavor my tea, as I find the strength of the aroma is not always the same, so it’d be a bit tricky to use for baking.

    @Martin – indeed. This winter I came across infused Rum for mulled wine using the same principle. Works great and sure is a method worth further experimentation!

  • I actually just placed an order for a pound of vanilla beans and am looking forward to making my own extract this weekend. :) What fun!

    I might make one with vodka and one with rum. One never knows.

  • I made vanilla extract with vodka a few years ago. It came out so good that we bottled some for friends for Christmas. I highly recommend the process you posted.

  • There’s a long thread about this on egullet. I have a little jar going but haven’t used any yet. It smells good, though!

  • Alix

    I neither drink nor use spirits in cooking, so forgive me if this is an incredibly dumb question — what if you split the difference (or couper la poire en deux?) and used half vodka, half rum?

  • Alix – That’s a good idea, and it should work very well.

    • Katie

      So I have a question- I don’t drink and so if I make this with vodka or rum… is it going to smell like alcohol or is it going to smell like the vanilla you get at the store? My friends don’t drink either and I just want to know it will smell like vanilla and not so much the alcohol. What do you think? I have already bought all of the little bottles and got my vanilla beans in the mail today. I am just hesitant for it to not turn out. Comments? Suggestions? Thanks!

      • Store-bought vanilla extract is also alcohol-based, so this is no different, really. I suggest you use vodka, which has no flavor of its own, rather than rum — when used in baking, only the vanilla flavor will come through.

  • Lo

    I love my homemade vanilla extract. I’ve been using Vodka, but I’ll have to try with rum next time. I think the homemade tastes much better in baking than commercially made extract.

    Hat Tip and many thanks to The Kitchen Witch (http://www.kwcookbooks.com/), an awesome store in the French Quarter in New Orleans, for my first bottle of homemade extract. Once I had it, I couldn’t go back to commercial.

  • While I used to toy with making my own vanilla extract, now that I discovered Zeron vanilla extract, I’m happy as a clam. It’s very good.

  • Thank you for this great information. I cannot wait to try it. I did know about making vanilla sugar (insanely easy) but did not think extract was do-able.

  • Joanne

    I’ve been given homemade vanilla extract as a gift, and it’s a lovely present from a dear friend. She uses inexpensive vodka for her extract, and I’ve been told that you can run cheap vodka through a Brita water pitcher to refine the vodka for a purer taste prior to steeping the vanilla. Not too certain about that though.

  • I have see the DIY vanilla extract recipes floating around a lot lately too. I like your instruction. I think I’ll finally give it go. With rum, of course. It just appeals to me more.

  • It is so funny that I just finished reading Antics of a Cycling Cook and Sam blogged about the same topic! Sam used vodka in his, I’m tempted to make it both ways and compare! Thanks for the idea.

  • This sounds simple and delicious.

    Right now I am using vanilla extract my sisters brought me from the Bahamas. When that runs out, I will have to try this.

  • Sharon

    Can you use vanilla extract – home made or otherwise to make a vanilla sugar syrup? I’d like to have some on hand to make Italian sodas for special treats and I’d rather make some homemade syrup than buy some of the artificial flavored ones that I’ve seen out there. Any ideas?

  • I don’t know, Clotilde. I think kisses are much better without mustaches…

  • I think the Barefoot Contessa mentioned this on one of her shows a while back, but I had completely forgotten about it…thanks so much for the reminder, and the rum is a fantastic idea!

  • I hate to make vanilla extract with vodka, in my experience it is way too harsh and does not complement the vanilla at all. I have tried a few things, and I my favorite liqueur is ordinary bourbon, although I expect any whiskey would do. I think it provides a rich smoky resinous counterpoint that perfectly complements the vanilla without overshadowing any of its fine delicate vanilla flavor. I know bourbon is a bit expensive in Europe, indeed I have tried to buy it no less than five times since moving to Switzerland, exactly for the purpose of making vanilla extract, but the price just offended my sensibilities. But if you are not a southern girl overburdened with a sense of what a bottle of ordinary Jim Beam ought to cost, I promise it will make the finest vanilla you have ever used. Oh, and some of that bourbon you’ll have left, add a splash to your next pecan pie or quatre-quatre, delicious!

  • It would be interesting to make vanilla extract with a variety of alcohol products and taste the results side by side. Would it be too much to have a selection to choose from? Similar to having 4-5 salts at the ready.

  • Love this post. I like that you don’t try to overcomplicate the process. Lots of people seem to be intimidated enough in the kitchen without stressing over how to put vanilla beans into alcohol!

    I also really like the idea of using rum. Thanks:)

  • I make my Vanilla Extract in the schnapps way (was inspird by the cookbook Black Pudding and Foie Gras) Vanilla Beans, Sugar, Vodka store in cool place for about a month.

    Tho I might try a nice medium Rum (not white rum or really dark) maybe a Havana Club

  • renee

    Is there a way to make the extract without alcohol? I’ve seen it at stores, but never a recipe.

  • Dory

    I have made all of my own vanilla for years. I keep a dark bottle stuffed with vanilla pods and keep it topped off with alcohol. I use brandy (cognac is too sophisticated for the supermarket stuff I use) and it tastes better than the supermarket stuff. I just use a little more if the mixture has been topped off recently, and a little less to taste, if the mixture is old and dark looking.

    For anyone who has not been making vanilla sugar it is even easier. Just put a few vanilla pods in a jar of sugar. You almost can’t do Scandinavian baking without vanilla sugar.

    This was a good week on Chocolate and Vanilla!

  • I love the idea. I had no idea you could make that at home. Thanks a lot.

  • lysambre

    Is there any way to make a vanilla extract without using alcohol ?

    I’m very sensitive to any alcohol mixed into my food and I don’t drink any, which is why I’m asking :)

    Thanks in any case ^_^

  • Couldn’t sound easier!

  • Kurt

    I am a chef based in Thailand for 20 plus years and now work also in Sumatra Indonesia where I have friends who export coffee and Balinese vanilla beans, while the beans are not as good as some from other areas of the world they are still nice and fairly inexpensive, I make vanilla extract using brandy, vodka, even some local made rice based rum/whiskys, I find that a small dash of sugar seems to enhance the flavor of the extract especially when you plan to leave the beans steep for 1-2 months as I tend to do. I have also done vanilla oil using rice bran oil, beans blended with oil then allowed to sit for a month before straining, color a bit dark but still gets flavor for dishes for Muslims or other non alcohol imbibers

  • Kai

    I’m breastfeeding, so I avoid all things with alcohol altogether, but I want to make this. I’m thinking perhaps I should use this only on cooked things, since I read somewhere that alcohol evaporates during cooking?

  • i love this kind of kitchen-crafting! I’ve been making my own vanilla for a couple of years now–and it really does keep forever. I’d be curious to try it with rum (i made plum rum over the sumer and have used that a lot in desserts and baking since). Right now, I use vodka.

    kinda off subject–but one thing i’ve been dying to make is rosewater. portland is bursting with these beautiful fragrant roses in the summer that last late into the autumn. by all accounts it’s a pretty simple process.

  • My husband’s first comment to me this morning: Chocolate and Zucchini has something up about making your own vanilla.

    My response: (mental) You’re reading food blogs now?

    Reality: Congrats on getting picked up by lifehacker. Geeks everywhere are in love! :)

    Cheers, and thanks for the great post.

  • Mrs Redboots

    My grandmother used to make vanilla sugar by keeping a vanilla pod (we used to call them that, not beans – whether this is UK English as opposed to American English, I’m not sure) in a jar of sugar, which then became vanilla-flavoured.

    My other grandmother used to make chilli sherry in the same way you describe, using dried chillis (although I’m sure you could use fresh) and sherry rather than vanilla pods and rum. But same principle, and most delicious added to soups and stews (and yes, whoever asked, alcohol does evaporate when cooked).

  • Thanks so much for this – sounds fabulous! Were it not for your entry I would never have thought it possible to make my own vanilla extract. Yum!

  • This sounds like a must-try as soon as I get my hands on some premium-grade vanilla beans.

    A couple of years ago my local market spice provider told me that she was out of the good stuff because Coca-Cola had bought it all up to launch Vanilla Coke!

    La Mom
    An American Mom in Paris

  • I can’t wait to make my own vanilla extract. I’ve used the storebought for years, but sounds like that’s about to change. Thanks for the info!

  • vanilla + bourbon? (yum!)
    vanilla + tequila (um…)
    vanilla + soju (eww…)

    good staple recipe. I love back to basics postings. It makes us less dependent on the grocery store.

    Also, I once extracted clove oil from the bud in my organic chem class. This is response to lysambre. I think it is possible, although you may have to revisit the world of flasks, beakers, and bunsen burners to get what you need. Also, the endpoint was an oil (hydrophic) as opposed to alcohols (hydrophilic). Nerd Alert!

  • I keep mine in a 1 litre canning jar and continually top off and add a new vanilla bean once in awhile. I find its best after about 4 months at first. I’ve used rum and vodka in my refills and they both work. Also the old beans can be used for almost anything, although they are a little wetter. I’ve been thinking about getting some cocao beans and trying to make chocolate extract.

  • Janet M

    I have a bottle of vanilla brewing. My sister gave me a little kit to make it for Christmas (same process as you describe except they said to use vodka). So I’m patiently waiting. I’m also patiently (OK maybe not so patiently)awaiting the Limoncello I’m making to finish. I don’t know which I’m more anxious to try?

  • rory

    hmmmmmm, vanilla!

    Does anyone know of any NYC restaurants that donate money or a percentage of sales to local NYC charities?
    It’s a great time to help both the charity and the restaurant!


  • Rachel

    What a timely recipe – I’m nearly out of vanilla extract, and I have parked so many vanilla beans in my caster sugar jar over the years that I have trouble fitting the sugar in! And I have a neat little 1 cup bottle which I have been keeping as it seemed such a useful size – its sterilizing right now. I’m using white rum for my first attempt, and if it works, I’ll try Bundaberg overproof rum for a really powerful dark brew.

  • Clotilde this is fabulous idea. I have seen a recipe for home made vanilla essence in the new Ottolenghi cookbook but your instructions really give me the detail I was looking for.

  • msue

    I’ve made my own vanilla using vodka for a few years now. I stuffed some fat (split) pods into a vodka bottle and let time do the magic. It is so much tastier and much more fragrant than the commercial vanilla I already had on hand. Perhaps I’ll try a second small batch using rum or bourbon – just for the comparison, of course!

    Here is a C&Z forum thread from last year on the very topic.

    Clotilde, thanks for a fun post!

  • Our family has made vanilla extract with rum for several generations–it’s a tradition! :)

  • I’ve had a jar brewing for about four months now. I used vodka. My problem is that it still tastes and smells very alcohol potent. Any suggestions? I have four whole vanilla beans and three or four split (used) pods in the jar to two cups of vodka.

  • I tried making vanilla essence with vodka and the inexpensive vanilla beans we get in Asia (grown in Bali) but the result was disappointing. A professional chef recommended McCormick’s Premium Quality Imitation Vanilla Extract which I tried (against all my instincts) and found very good. Even better, I now push a split vanilla bean into the bottle and the result is excellent. However, I’ll try your suggestion of using rum.

  • My friends and I formed a Tasting Club and this will be a great subject to compare the different combinations of making it.

  • If you can find it, Mexican vanilla extract is very especial.

  • elaine

    Uncanny good timing for this post, as I just received a shipment of gorgeous beans from http://www.organic-vanilla.ca!!
    This method also solves the storage dilemma, as I’ve ordered more than I can use before they lose their freshness. Love your blog. I’m making your yogurt cake today using the beans.

  • Anon

    Timely – I just made some!
    Couple of comments though – first, it’s probably a good idea to use more vanilla (more like 1oz beans to 1 cup alcohol), as all you’re achieving with the ratio above is vanilla-flavoured booze (also good, but not really an extract). Second, you don’t need premium grade beans – they just have more water in them, which is not of interest for extract! Use the cheap ones!

  • Janka

    We did our extract using vodka (Absolut) and I think 30 beans and 2 cups of vodka. So it’ll be double-fold. We used the whole beans – the seeds (scraped out) and the beans. It changes the colour and consistency with the time. We let it sit for 3 months. It’s syrup-like now and heavenly. It’s too harsh to drink as it is, of course, but because of the strength, we only need to use 2-3 ml where the recipe calls for one bean. We bought small 50 and 100 ml bottles with a droper. With this amount of alcohol, I doubt it has any effects if you’re breast-feeding… ;-)
    I love to drop some of the extract in my smoothies, hmmm…
    You might also try 1-2 drops in a glas of water = very slightly scented vanilla water ;-)

  • I have to try this! I made vanilla rice pudding yesterday with vanilla beans and the difference was incredible. I think this would make a lovely gift too.

  • Lucy

    OOOOoooooo lovely! Thank you!!!
    I think even I could do this… It would make great gifts for bakers…
    I did also read an article in our local paper about a chap who makes limoncello out of cheapo vodka. He reckons that sending it through a new Brita filter several times takes away all the nasty tastes. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for the vanilla too….

  • Barb

    WOW! How cool is that?! Making your own vanilla extract! I can’t wait to try this! I bet it’s the best tasting vanilla anyone ever had! Going shopping today… THANK YOU FOR AWESOME RECIPE!! Kudos!

  • I have been meaning to try out homemade vanilla. From what you say, Clotilde, it doesn’t seem too bad. I will definitely add this to my kitchen “To Do” list. Love the idea of making it to share with other foodies too! ^_^

  • Jen

    Oh, yes! Yum. I love making things homemade!

  • sudhakar

    Some of your recipes sound very expensive in terms of vanilla pods. It costs a few pounds just for a couple of pods in the UK, at least from the supermarket. Where are you all getting your bulk quantities from?
    I’ll need to get some booze from my mum’s vast collection. She has loads of whisky.


  • I had never thought of making vanilla extract myself but it seems so simple that I want to try now! Thank you for the recipe.

  • Sudhakar – I’ve written a post on the vanilla beans I order in bulk.

  • cara_mia

    Your “like a kiss without a mustache” reminds me of a saying my dad uses. “Pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.” (It refers to the New England tradition of eating apple pie with cheddar cheese.)

  • sudhakar

    Thanks Clotilde, that was very helpful.
    I think I’ll buy the one’s from the supermarket since I’m only going to make a jam jar of vanilla. I got half a bottle of Grant’s whiskey that my mum had lying around.
    I’m going to give it a go this afternoon and hopefully I’l have a good result in a few months.

  • This is such a fantastic idea. There is nothing better than the smell of fresh vanilla. I can’t wait to try making this myself.

  • Aisha

    This post got me trawling the web for a non-alcoholic version (although I can buy and use vanilla extract, I can’t buy alcohol to make my own).
    From what I’ve read, you can make a decent “extract” using food-grade glycerin (available in health food stores generally), which seems to be more effective than oil (re: kurt’s post higher up). Apparently in cooked/baked goods, the glycerin extract is just as good as the alcohol one.
    Here’s the link to a recipe I found.

    I haven’t tried it yet but I will probably use 3 pods instead of the 2 suggested when I do.
    Hope this helps all the tee-totalers, recovering alcoholics, breastfeeding moms, Muslims etc out there!

  • Does the resulting mixture have to be strained? After 8 weeks and weekly shaking there will be a lot of little beans floating around, or do they dissolve? I’m trying my first batch with rum. Great idea :)

  • Teaberry Janet

    OK, full disclosure: I got this from a menu at Marie Callender Pies, but I like it all the same, and it goes with “comme un baiser sans moustache”. “An apple pie without some cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.”

  • I first made my own vanilla a few years ago because real vanilla extract is unavailable in shops in the UAE where I was living – all they had was imitation powdered stuff. They did however have vanilla pods and cheap vodka available. Voila!

    I have not tried it with rum, however, and will now do so. Sounds wonderful!

    • Lorna

      As a fellow resident of the UAE I find it funny that you can buy alcohol (with a license) and vanilla beans to make your own extract, but cannot buy the extract anywhere! I’ve brought alcohol-based extract from home, but I’m always worried it will be confiscated (or worse!) so now I think I will start making my own-it would be worth the wait as the vanilla essence you can buy in Dubai is not very nice at all.
      Thank you for the simple instructions!

  • I’ve got some Mexican Vanilla right now that’s much tastier than any I’ve had before. I’m not an alcohol drinker so I don’t really ‘know’ the flavors of the individual types but I’m pretty sure the vanilla I’m using now has rum. When it runs out, I will be making my own using your method because I can never be without it again.

    Also- I can pears every fall. One of our favorite things to do is put some vanilla bean (or a cinnamon stick) in each jar. By the time we eat the fruit a few months down the line, the taste is AMAZING. Vanilla Pears are awesome! I need to make a good, simple desert with my vanilla pears because they need little adornment.

  • Zohra

    Is there any way to make it without alcohol?

  • Renee, Lysambre, and Zohra – I don’t think vanilla extract can be made without alcohol. If alcohol is an issue, then it’s probably best to turn to other flavor carriers instead, such as vanilla sugar or vanilla powder.

  • Susan

    I live in California and several years ago there was a warning about NOT using Mexican extract. There are no government rules about produce…thus the vanilla beans were suspect…as well as their base ingredients…
    Also, did anyone answer the question of straining? I assume one must strain the extract so the seeds remain in the bottle.
    AND…. one last thing…I’m new to this site….did you like “Julie and Julia”?

  • Susan – There is no need to strain the extract. Some seeds come with the extract when you spoon it out, which is good because they produce the tell-tale teeny black dots in the finished product, but most fall to the bottom of the jar or remain stuck to the pods.

    As for the movie, it hasn’t come out in France yet.


    Just wondering what type of bottles to use for storage of vanilla. I am looking to make some to give as gifts but I’m not sure of the proper way to bottle it or store it?

  • Hey NSGIRL, I store my extract in a regular mason jar; if you’re thinking of gifting, there are very nice ones out there that are more presentable.

  • Nsgirl – Like Sandro, I use a regular jar (mine is a former jar of honey with a screw-top lid) but any glass container with a tight-fitting lid would be appropriate.

  • Kareen

    My mother is from the island of Raiatea, where much of the Tahitian vanilla is produced. My entire life, we have used Tahitian vanilla in our cooking. My mother has jars of Tahitian vanilla, pods cut into quarters, just covered with rum (to preserve). When needed, we use 1-2 quarter pods, cut open to release the bean. Sometimes we leave the pod in the cooking/baking and fish it out later, or sometimes we remove just before the baking. I have never had an issue with anything taking on a rum flavor…..just lots and lots of vanilla.

  • Mei

    what is preferable – regular rum or dark rum?

  • Kareen – My vision of heaven includes unlimited supplies of fresh vanilla beans! :)

    Mei – It really doesn’t matter — whatever you have on hand (or like to use in cocktails) will work fine.

  • Brittany

    Love this idea as gifts for Christmas. Can anyone tell me where to get a bulk quantity of glass bottles with corks?

  • Denise

    Hi, I read that professional chefs use a double concentrated vanilla extract. Do you see any reason not to double the number of beans if you love vanilla?

  • Denise – I think you can pretty much put as much vanilla in there as you like.

  • SynT

    Hate to burst quite a few bubbles but #1 vanilla extract in the store has alcohol in it and I know of no person who does shots of the stuff. #2 Heat + Alcohol= no more alcohol because it disipates with heat. All you are left with is flavor.

  • Terra

    The best idea for this homemade vanilla flavoring that I’ve found is from Camille Glen’s “Heritage of Southern Cooking”; it’s Brandy or cognac. It adds a beautiful undertone that complement anything vanilla.

  • Je viens d’en faire une petite bouteille (je me demande pourquoi je ne me suis pas lancée avant). Le plus dur va être d’attendre les huit semaines réglementaires… J’ai hâte !
    Merci à toi pour cette recette simplissime :-)

    • Je suis ravie que tu te sois lancée. Bon, et si tu décides de goûter au bout de quatre ou cinq semaines, la police de la vanille fermera probablement les yeux. (Ah oui, et je suis contente d’avoir du coup la nouvelle adresse où te trouver ! :)

  • Tammy

    After my husband and I saw vanilla sugar at a little coffee shop we started making our own. Will the spent pods from the vanilla sugar work? I realize it may sweeten it a bit, but commercial vanilla extract is sweetened, so is it a “wash”?

    • I don’t think the sugar clinging to the pods matters one bit. However, if the pods have been in the sugar for a while, they may not be as potent as they once were, so it may take more than it normally would to make a strong-flavored extract. This is just a hunch, though, feel free to experiment!

  • I’ve seen a lot of recipes for homemade vanilla in my exploration of food blogs, but I’ve never attempted to make it, nor have I really wanted to. I always buy a very high quality vanilla anyways, so I never felt it was necessary. However, after reading your blog, I think I may give it a try. Thanks!

  • Since a friend gave me a bottle of homemade, I never use anything else (it was vodka-based). Not too long ago I got a lot of vanillapods as a gift (yay!) and now I’m making my own. Very happy to have a large bottle of that at hand (as in: just bought a regular sized bottle of vodka and put a lot of valilla in it :-) … ).
    Jessica, it’s worth a try!

  • My mom made some vanilla like this and, yes, it smells very strongly of alcohol (‘though you can definitely smell the vanilla, too), and it tastes disgusting in anything uncooked. (The alcohol is primarily what you taste. Truly terrible in yogurt! lol) It’s great in cooked recipes, though!

    (I have read that alcohol does not completely dissipate during cooking – just mostly – in case that matters to any of the folks who have posted with concerns about the alcohol content.)

  • Finding vanilla extract is not so easy here in Italy, or perhaps I haven’t been lucky. I was very happy to come across your instructions and made it yesterday using rum as you suggested. It is now sleeping in my cupboard and I can’t wait for it to be ready. Thanks!

  • Hi, me again! Just wanted to let you know I posted about making the extract and linked to your post. Have a good week end.

  • Muriel

    So happy to have found this recipe! It never occurred to me to make it myself. I live in Dubai at the moment and as vanilla extract is alcohol based you can not buy it here. Will go to the spice souk tomorrow to buy some more vanilla pods. Will use rum as I agree rum and vanilla go very well together.

    I have made my own vanilla sugar and even salt. Just scrape the seeds into a jar of course sea salt. It’s an amazing combination and works very well with delicate cuts of steak or lobster. Vanilla is such a lovely flavour and since I have discovered it works well with savoury dishes too I use it even more often.

  • hey, do you think i could use gin instead of rum or vodka? please reply!

    • I’m not a fan of the flavor of gin so I wouldn’t, but technically, it should work.

  • Andrew

    Hi, Clotilde! I followed your recipe for vanilla extract, and I can’t thank you enough for teaching us how to make this. It’s a real money-saver. Recently, I made some vanilla ice cream, and I rinsed and dried the vanilla bean I used to make the ice cream base. I put the bean in my jar of vanilla extract, and I noticed that there is now a white ring at the top of my jar. Is this anything to be concerned about? The rum I used to make the extract should kill any bacteria, right?

    Also, is it okay if I refill the extract with light rum even though I made the extract with dark rum? Thanks so much!

    • Hm. If there is a white ring, it means some kind of bacteria or yeast has found a way to develop in your extract. It’s possible that the beans you put in still had traces of cream or milk on them. I have no idea what the bacteria might be, and it’s possible that you would be fine using it anyway, but this is the kind of situation where my motto is, “when in doubt, throw it out.” No vanilla extract is worth getting sick (or making someone else sick) over. Sorry! :/

      As for the quality of the rum/type of alcohol, it’s absolutely fine to switch and substitute over time as you top up the jar.

  • luke

    one thing that makes me wonder is, how come any extract made this way smell strongly like alcohol and none of the extracts i bought on stores did ? (not artificial afaik.) is there any workaround?

    • It is possible that commercial extracts get some kind of deodorizing treatment to remove the smell of the alcohol — I’m not sure.

  • Max

    One tip is to up the vanilla amount! About 6 beans per cup of liqour, and you will get more intense flavor (that is, you use less extract, which results in less risk to get boozy flavors).

  • anis doernis

    –for containers, you can also use washed-out slotted-top soy sauce bottles(kikkoman for example), just pull out the plastic slotted stopper and replace it after putting the beans and alcohol in. make your own label all colorful and tahitianlike, y voila!!

  • Angie

    I’m with Max! Using more vanilla beans per cup of liquor means stronger (and faster-developing) vanilla extract! I made mine in a 750 mL bottle of gold rum, and it is so full of vanilla beans and scraped pods, I don’t know if I can fit any more! Time to start another bottle, I guess. So as not to waste the empty pods, I always add them to my extract for added punch. Mine is way cheaper than store-bought, too, because I get my extract beans for fifty cents, and my baking beans for less than a dollar… here’s the website where I found them: http://www.indrivanilla.com I add both my homemade extract and vanilla bean to everything now… such a depth of flavor! I love it!

  • Anne McDermott

    In ‘Ottolenghi – the Cookbook’ Yotam Ottolengh and Sami Tamimi make vanilla essence with four vanilla pods, 500ml of water and 120 caster sugar. Seeds are scraped out and seeds and pods are boiled with the water and sugar to reduce it by 2-thirds. Then put into a jar, seal and keep in the fridge for up to a month. Another approach. Think I’ll try both – I DO like vanilla!

    • Thanks for sharing this, Anne! The great things about making the extract alcohol-based is that it keeps forever…

      • Anne McDermott

        At the rate they use it in their London restos and bakeries, I doubt they ever have a problem with it not lasting. But at the rate I use it, the alcohol method would be more sensible. My fridge already is full of various preserves in jars anyway!

  • Zoe

    Hi, I’m just wondering if I could use this same technique to make cinnamon extract? (I love cinnamon more than anything in this world!)

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