Vanilla Extract

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

When you make your own vanilla extract, the waiting time is long, but the labor involved is minimal. Essentially, you’re supersaturating booze with real vanilla to make the most potent vanilla tincture you can imagine. Although I’m calling for vodka here because it’s the most neutral in flavor, feel free to go wild with rum, whisky, amaretto, you name it: but if you do, expect that your extract will carry those flavors into whatever you’re baking or flavoring. Vanilla beans are fairly expensive; I buy mine at, where the quality is high and the price astonishingly low.

Makes1 cup

Preparation Time - TextAbout 8 weeks

Cooking Methodpreserving



Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian


  • 8 vanilla beans
  • 1 cup vodka


  1. Using a sharp paring knife, split the vanilla beans along their length, keeping a half-inch of the bean intact at the stem end so you have something to hold onto while scraping. With your knife tip, scrape the “caviar”-the sticky; fragrant seeds-out of the bean into a clean, odorless glass jar. Chop the beans coarsely, and add them to the jar as well. Pour the vodka over the beans, cover tightly, and write the date on the jar. Shake the jar, then wrap it in brown paper (or tuck into a brown paper bag), and store in a cool, dark place.

  2. Shake the jar daily for a week, checking that the tiny seeds remain submerged in the alcohol before you wrap the jar and put it back on the shelf. After the first week, continue to shake the jar a couple of times a week for the remainder of the steeping process. After 8 weeks, your vanilla extract is ready for use.

  3. The beans can remain in the extract for up to about 5 months without deterioration. However, eventually the solids will need to be filtered out via a small sieve, or else they will begin to dissolve.

  4. Wrapped in brown paper, this extract will keep indefinitely in your pantry.


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