Homemade Vanilla Extract
Make this homemade vanilla extract now and it’ll be ready for gifting by the holidays! Bourbon vanilla has the best flavor!
I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but I wanted to make sure you had this homemade vanilla extract recipe now, so it will be ready in time for Christmas!
I love making homemade gifts at this time of year. It’s fun to do and everyone always appreciates getting something so personal.
And I’ve been meaning to try my hand at homemade vanilla extract for a while now. So here it is!
Table of Contents
- What is homemade vanilla extract?
- What’s great about this vanilla extract recipe
- What does homemade vanilla extract taste like?
- Special equipment
- How to make vanilla extract
- How to use homemade vanilla
- Frequently asked questions
- A few more of my favorite homemade gift ideas:
What is homemade vanilla extract?
Did you even know you could make your own vanilla?
And it’s really easy to boot. You only need 2 ingredients and about 5 minutes of active time.
This works exactly the same way store-bought vanilla does. It’s the same thing!
So add it to all your favorite cookies, cakes, and candies, and give it away to all your favorite people so they can do the same.
What’s great about this vanilla extract recipe
- The flavor: This recipe is made with bourbon so it’s got a toasty, caramel-y flavor that’s like nothing else. This
- Few ingredients: You only need 2 ingredients to make it.
- Easy to make: Putting it together literally takes seconds.
- Great for gifting: This makes a beautiful, thoughtful, and inexpensive gift for the holidays.
What does homemade vanilla extract taste like?
This tastes pretty much the same as any vanilla extract you’d buy in a store. It’s alcohol, infused with vanilla beans. So there’s the alcohol burn and the sweet perfume of vanilla.
When you cook or bake with it, the alcohol evaporates away and just leaves all the flavor compounds behind.
We are going to make it with bourbon, which is aged in wooden barrels so it has a much more complex flavor. You’ll get hints of caramel, oak, butterscotch, and maybe even almond or maple.
Vanilla: Grade B vanilla beans are great for making extract because they’re a little less expensive. I purchased my beans from Tahiti in a pack of 25. Here’s a link: Tahitian Vanilla Beans. Use them up as quickly as you can; they dry out over time.
Bourbon: Bourbon is a spirit that’s distilled from corn, so it has a slightly sweeter flavor. It’s aged in oak barrels, giving it a deep amber-brown color and a complex, toasty flavor. A 750 ml bottle will make three 8-ounce bottles of vanilla extract.
- Knife and cutting board: For splitting the beans.
- Bottles: To hold the extract. I used 8-ounce glass Boston bottles, found here: Boston Round Glass Bottles.
- Funnel: Makes it easier to pour in the alcohol. My set of bottles came with one, but if yours doesn’t here’s a link: Small Funnel.
- Labels: My set of bottles came with adhesive chalkboard labels, but I chose to use these instead: Homemade with Love Gift Tags.
- Ribbon: 1 1/2-inch red satin ribbon, to tie around the tops of the bottles.
How to make vanilla extract
This fun little project happens in just 3 simple steps.
Step 1: Split the vanilla bean
Taking the extra time to split your beans helps to release their flavor faster and more effectively.
Use a sharp kitchen knife to open the beans up vertically.
As you can see, they’re filled with millions of tiny seeds. This is where most of the flavor lives!
Slip 2 to 3 split beans into each of your bottles.
Step 2: Pour in the alcohol
Use the funnel to pour bourbon into the bottles and submerge the vanilla beans.
Step 3: Let it sit
And then you just let it sit! That’s all there is to it.
Every so often, you can give the bottles a little shake just to swish things around and make sure it’s all infusing evenly.
The longer this sits, the better it gets. If you make it 4 to 6 weeks before you plan to use it, it will have a nice vanilla flavor. But if you let it steep even longer, the flavors will become even more intense and aromatic.
Pop on your labels and tie the ribbon into a big, beautiful bow!
How to use homemade vanilla
This can be used in the same way you’d use store-bought vanilla extract. Add it to all your favorite recipes to enhance them with the sweet, rich flavor of vanilla.
And if you’re looking for some ideas, here are a few of my favorite vanilla recipes:
Frequently asked questions
You can make vanilla extract with just about any type of alcohol.
Usually, it’s recommended to use something with a neutral flavor, so grain alcohol and vodka are popular choices.
I like to use bourbon because it has a little more complexity.
You could also use rum, whisky, or brandy instead. But I probably wouldn’t recommend gin since it has such a strong pine-y flavor.
Keep the bottles at room temperature, in a dark place. Light can degrade the flavor compounds over time, so it’s best to stash this in a cupboard.
It will keep indefinitely, but keep a tight cap on it because it does evaporate quickly.
You will get three 8-ounce bottles of vanilla extract from this recipe. If you like, you can double or even triple it for more gifts to give.
Each bottle holds roughly 48 teaspoons of extract.
The nutritional info in the recipe card below is for 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
A few more of my favorite homemade gift ideas:
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Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 6 (30 g) vanilla beans, (you can use up to 9 if you like)
- 750 milliliters (748.14 g) bourbon whiskey
- Split the vanilla beans vertically to release the seeds inside.
- Place 2 to 3 split beans in each of 3 8-ounce bottles.
- Place a small funnel in the neck of the bottles and pour in the bourbon until the vanilla beans are submerged.
- Cap the bottles and allow them to sit for at least 4 weeks, shaking every so often.
- Label the bottles, tie with ribbon, and give as gifts.