Vanilla Extract

Grade A Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans
Vodka (or any 35%+ alcohol)

To make vanilla extract, plan to use 4 to 5 vanilla beans per cup (8 oz.) of alcohol, or 25 to 30 for a half-gallon. The more beans you use, the better your extract will be.

Slice the beans lengthwise, leaving the top inch intact. Place the beans in a jar or bottle and cover completely with vodka. Label with the name and date, and store in a cool, dark place for 2 to 4 months. Shake the jar from time to time, and strain the extract through cheesecloth or coffee filters before using.  Store at room temperature indefinitely.

NOTE: If you plan to filter the extract in under 8 weeks, after slicing the beans lengthwise, cut them in half and scrape some of the seeds into the mixture to help speed up the extraction process.

The vanilla beans can be reused for up to one year; simply add more vodka and make sure that the beans are always completely submerged. After a year, remove the beans and allow them to air-dry for a couple days. Then, place them in an airtight container with two to three cups of sugar for a couple weeks or so, and enjoy using vanilla sugar in your baking.

2 Responses

  1. Vera Brandvold

    When I did this last year the vanilla got so strong. I used a recipe off the internet. Used 2nd grade beans and I Think 90 proof vodka. As it suggested Do you add any sweetener?

    1. Sarah Nasello

      Hi Vera,

      Pure vanilla extract, by its nature, is bitter in taste, and I do not use any sweetener – just good vanilla beans and 90 proof vodka. I have also used 100 proof vodka, which turned out more bitter in taste, but not enough to detect in food, especially baked goods.

      It’s hard to know what may have gone wrong, if anything, without knowing the recipe you used. It may have called for a different proportion of vanilla beans and vodka, and this can make a significant difference in the result. I always use grade A, Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans, and I follow a ratio of at least 4 to 5 whole beans per cup (8 oz.) of vodka. I let the vanilla steep for a minimum of 2 months, and even longer if possible. Our recipe includes directions on what to do if you need to speed up the process, but I find that time is the essence when making an extract.

      I hope this information helps you. I have been making my own pure vanilla extract for years with this simple recipe, and love the results. Happy baking!

Leave a Reply