Want to try making your own vanilla extract?
It’s super simple and the results are just as good as store-bought – maybe even better!
Earlier this year I tried turning an unwanted bottle of vodka into vanilla extract. As a baker, I go through a lot of vanilla extract, and it’s not cheap. I was skeptical about making my own though. Would it taste as good? Would it be as strong? Vanilla extract is so expensive, there must be some secret to it, right?
Oh, I just love when handmade projects turn out so much better than their store bought counterparts!
So rather than just showing you my homemade version, I thought I’d do a proper comparison with store-bought.
I picked up this 100ml bottle of nice vanilla extract at my local supermarket for £4.99 (about $8). It’s sitting beside the 300ml bottle of my homemade vanilla extract.
In terms of cost, making my own vanilla extract definitely wins out. Vodka is cheap (probably about £1.50 per 100ml), and while vanilla beans are expensive they will make a lot of extract (plus other cooking projects!). I bought a pack of 2 vanilla beans for £4 … and it has already made three times the amount of vanilla extract – and I plan to keep topping it with more vodka as I use it up. I would imagine I can get at least 500ml of vanilla extract from those beans.
Comparing the color, the store bought extract is slightly darker than my homemade version.
The store-bought version is also slightly thicker than my homemade version. That’s because they included sugar in the store bought vanilla extract.
Ingredients in the store bought version are Vanilla Bean Extract (Water, 35% strength Alcohol), Sugar.
Ingredients in my version are Vodka (29.5% strength) and 2 vanilla beans.
I didn’t include any sugar in my homemade version because I mainly use the vanilla extract in sugary baked goods.
TASTE & SCENT
But really the cost and appearance don’t matter – it’s all about the taste!
The store-bought smelled like regular vanilla extract – a strong alcohol scent and something slightly pungent about it.
My homemade vanilla extra smelled like – pure vanilla! It smelled a lot sweeter and more ‘pure’ than the store-bought version. It was a strong, but smooth, vanilla scent.
Since I’m a little biased, I also had Zak do a blind testing of the two extracts. I thought for sure he would pick the store-bought one, simply because it looked darker & richer. His verdict? The store bought version was thicker, but smelled bitter. The homemade version smelled like he wanted to eat it!
Then as a final test I thought I’d taste them (well, they were already poured into glasses…). I don’t recommend doing this! Tasting commercial vanilla extract is really REALLY strong and tastes horrible! On the other hand, the homemade version tasted like vanilla. Still not very drinkable as-is, but you could easily add some sugar to the homemade version and create a vanilla liqueur. Yum.
I’m never buying vanilla extract again. Seriously, making your own vanilla extract is So Easy and the flavor is much more smooth.
Homemade vanilla extract would also be a great holiday gift to start now in preparation for December. Buy a big bottle of vodka and some vanilla beans and start them soaking now. Then in December just transfer to pretty bottles and add a handwritten label. Perfect gift for the foodie in your life!
If you want to try making your own vanilla extract, read how I made it here.