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Homemade vanilla extract with just 2 ingredients! This alcohol-free extract is super simple to make and packed with flavor. Use it in cookies, baked goods, ice cream, cocktails, and lattes for a wonderful aroma!

Bottle of homemade vanilla extract with vanilla beans.

Vanilla extract is that magic ingredient that transforms cookies, desserts, and cakes from okay to amazing. It adds complex flavors, freshness, and a floral aroma.

This recipe has been a long time in the making as I wanted to make sure the flavor was on point (and test the shelf life).

⭐️ Why You Should Try It

  • It’s super simple to make: It takes less than 15 minutes to prepare and just 2 basic ingredients.
  • Cheaper than store-bought: Let’s be honest, if you want to get the high-quality vanilla extract, it’s definitely not cheap. This version comes out much cheaper than store-bought and tastes even better!
  • Packed with fresh vanilla flavor: This homemade extract is on par with the most expensive extracts you can find in the supermarket. Plus, a little goes a long way!
  • It makes a great gift: Looking for a thoughtful and unique gift idea? Consider this homemade vanilla extract! Package it in a beautiful bottle with a nice label. Your loved ones will appreciate the special gift.

📘 What is Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is a natural flavoring that is made by macerating vanilla pods in a liquid. It is then used to flavor baked goods, drinks, cocktails, and more. Vanilla extract can be alcohol-based or sugar-based.

Sugar-Based Extract vs. Alcohol-Based

Pros: As opposed to alcohol-based extract, which tends to always have an alcohol smell, this sugar-based extract only smells and tastes vanilla. Nothing else.

Cons: Sugar-based vanilla extract will only keep for about 6 months and must be stored in the refrigerator. On the other hand, alcohol-based extracts will keep almost indefinitely at room temperature.

If you are familiar with store-bought vanilla extract, this sugar-based version will add the same sweetness with even more vanilla flavor!

Ingredients like light brown sugar and vanilla beans.

🫙 Ingredient Notes

  • Sugar – You can use white sugar or light brown sugar if you want a subtle caramel flavor. I recommend staying away from coconut sugar as it would be overpowering.
  • Vanilla pods – Preferably fresh and soft vanilla beans for the best flavor. You can learn more about the different types of vanilla beans below.
  • Glass bottles – I personally used an 8-ounce glass bottle, but any glass container will work.

🥣 How to Make Vanilla Extract

1. Prepare the Syrup

Start by preparing a double-strength simple syrup:

  1. Add the water and sugar to a saucepan.
  2. Heat over low-medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Note: do not bring it to a boil, or you will end up with crystallized sugar.
  3. Remove from heat and let it cool.
Sugar syrup in a saucepan.

2. Slice the Vanilla Beans

While the syrup is cooling, slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Using a sharp knife, scrape the seeds and add them to your glass bottle. Next, fill the bottle with the sliced vanilla beans.

Which Vanilla Bean to Use

There are 3 main types of vanilla beans, each one having a slightly different flavor:

  • Planifolia: Or “Bourbon vanilla”, it is the most popular vanilla bean in the world. It’s mainly cultivated in Madagascar, but can also be found in India or Indonesia, for example. It has a woody and subtly spicy flavor.
  • Tahitensis: Grown in South Pacific, these vanilla beans are shorter than the Planifolia variety. They have a stronger aroma compared to the other two varieties, with a fruity flavor and notes of caramel.
  • Pompona: Also called “vanilla banana” due to its large size, this variety is cultivated in Guadeloupe, Martinique, or Brazil. It has a floral aroma with notes of plum.

I recommend using either Planifolia or Tahitensis as these are the easiest to find and usually the cheapest.

Sliced vanilla beans.

3. Let Infuse

Finally, refrigerate and let the vanilla infuse the syrup for at least 2 months, preferably 3.

I tested this vanilla extract at the 3-month mark in a few cakes and desserts and found it as strong, if not stronger than store-bought extract!

📔 Tips

  • Sterilize the bottles. To ensure maximum safety, I suggest sterilizing any glass bottles or jars. For plastic bottles, soak them in hot soap water, rinse them well, and dry them completely before use.
  • Shake it occasionally. If you are not using the extract regularly, give it a quick shake from time to time. I recommend removing the vanilla beans once they are just half submerged or cutting them into smaller pieces.
  • Do a smell test. If your vanilla extract looks cloudy or muddy, do a smell test. If it smells good, it’s safe to use. If it smells unpleasant (like ammonia), you should discard it. Be aware that considering the high percentage of sugar, the chances of the extract turning bad are extremely low. I have made this vanilla extract multiple times and it never turned bad, even after 6 months.

🍮 Where to Use It

Vanilla extract is incredibly versatile and can be used in a multitude of recipes:

Close up of a spoonful of vanilla extract.

❄️ Storing

  • To store: You can keep this vanilla extract in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Remember to give it a quick shake from time to time.

💬 FAQ

How many vanilla beans should I use?

For a rich extract, I recommend going with 5 beans per cup of syrup.

Which type of jar should I use?

Any glass jar will work. I recommend using a small 8-ounce bottle jar as it’s easier to use, but a mason jar will work as well.

How long does vanilla extract last?

This homemade vanilla extract will keep for up to 6 months in the refrigerator. If you are not using it regularly, give it a quick shake from time to time. I recommend removing the vanilla beans once they are just half submerged.

I hope you are going to give this vanilla extract a try! It’s super easy to make, cheaper than store-bought, and PACKED with fresh vanilla flavor! You will never buy imitation vanilla ever again!

⭐️ Did you like this recipe? Let us know in the comments below, and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!

Bottle of homemade vanilla extract with vanilla beans.
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Recipe

Homemade Vanilla Extract (Alcohol-Free!)

5 from 8 votes
Author: Thomas Pagot
Learn how to make your own vanilla extract at home with just 2 ingredients! This alcohol-free extract is super simple to make and is packed with flavor. Use it in cookies, baked goods, ice cream, and more!
Prep Time : 5 minutes
Cook Time : 2 minutes
Infusion : 60 days
Total Time : 60 days 7 minutes
Servings 1 cup
Calories 16 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 vanilla beans

Instructions
 

  • Add the water and sugar to a saucepan and heat over low-medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved. This step will take 1-2 minutes. Note: do not bring to a boil, you would end up with crystallized sugar. Remove from heat and let cool while you prepare the vanilla beans.
  • Using a thin and sharp knife, split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Scrape the vanilla seeds and add them to a clean 8-ounce bottle. Fill the bottle with the vanilla beans. Note: if your vanilla beans are too long, simply cut them in half.
  • Next, pour the syrup into the bottle containing the vanilla beans. You want the syrup to cover the vanilla beans completely. Let cool completely until no longer warm.
  • Close the bottle with the lid and transfer it to the refrigerator. Let it infuse for at least 2 months, giving it a quick shake from time to time. 2 months is the minimum, I recommend 3 months for a concentrated flavor.
  • Use the extract in cookies, brownies, ice cream, drinks, etc! This vanilla extract will keep for up to 6 months in the refrigerator.

Notes

  • Sterilize the bottles. To ensure maximum safety, I suggest sterilizing any glass bottles or jars. For plastic bottles, soak them in hot soap water, rinse them well, and dry them completely before use.
  • Shake it occasionally. If you are not using the extract regularly, give it a quick shake from time to time. I recommend removing the vanilla beans once they are just half submerged or cutting them into smaller pieces.
  • Do a smell test. If your vanilla extract looks cloudy or muddy, do a smell test. If it smells good, it’s safe to use. If it smells unpleasant (like ammonia), you should discard it. Be aware that considering the high percentage of sugar, the chances of the extract turning bad are extremely low. I have made this vanilla extract multiple times and it never turned bad, even after 6 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 tsp | Calories: 16 kcal | Carbohydrates: 4.2 g | Sugar: 4.2 g
Course : Condiment
Cuisine : American, French
Did you make this recipe? Tag @fullofplants on Instagram and hashtag it #fullofplants
Share this recipe!

About the Author

Thomas Pagot is the founder, photographer, and recipe developer behind Full of Plants. He created the blog in 2016 as a personal cookbook for vegan recipes. Through years of recipe development, Thomas has successfully grown Full of Plants into a trusted resource for plant-based recipes.

Learn more ➜

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5 stars
Thank you for sharing Thomas !

Can it be used to replace vanilla essence? Thank you

5 stars
Fabule astuce que je vais mettre en place. C’est si simple !!!
Juste une question : A quelle période de l’année peut-on trouver de la vanille fraîche ?
J’ai moi aussi tester dans l’alcool est je n’ai pas apprécié.
Merci beaucoup.

Could you replace the sugar with honey or remove it all together?

I have seen honey jar with vanilla bean in it on store shelves, so why not? I guess it’s honey infused with vanilla in that way, like I do with my sugar. Such honey of course costs more than the one without vanilla pods. The high concentration of sugar in the honey should help keep the kind of vanilla-infused honey for some time. Frankly, I usually consume a honey jar for my herbal tea and as sugar substitute before its expired date anyway.

This is not extract. This is vanilla syrup.

Vanilla extracts are vanilla beans and alcohol. No quality extract has anything else. Again – if you want to be a food writer, have the self-awareness to be factual in what you publish instead of lying to your readers.

5 stars
I am sorry you are being attacked. I also make my own vanilla extract and love them. Thank you for sharing your new recipe with US. I am definitely going to make it.

5 stars
Lol, some people are unreal. I’m on the hunt for an alcohol and glycerine free vanilla extract recipe, and this is a great option! It always amazes me how nutty some readers can get about FREE content offered them on the internet. Keep up the great work, Thomas.

Thank you for this recipe, I am going to try it. I was not thinking and used my homemade extract in buttercream icing and I ruined the Batch. It tasted like alcohol. Vanilla alcohol. I would rather it taste like vanilla and be sweet.

5 stars
Hallo Thomas, thank you for your great recipes!
I’ll try this but don’t want to use white sugar. Is it possible to substitute white sugar with xylit (Birkenzucker)? Will it last as long?
And perhaps is it possible to freeze vanillaextract in icecubes?
Thank you for your answer!

5 stars
Thank you so much for your recipe! Where did you get your labels

5 stars
When I use vanilla in my desert recipes, I usually simply use the pollen scraped directly out of a pod or in the form of vanilla sugar. I make vanilla sugar myself in the simplest way by slicing a pod open, scrape off the pollen in it and put everything in my sugar jar, shake it to mix and store the mixture like that for use. It’s easier to handle for me this way.

5 stars
Amazing. This recipe bring a new way to cook for my family. Thank you.