Cooking basics: Making vanilla extract with Mama Steph

Cooking basics: Making vanilla extract with Mama Steph

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - If there’s one thing I use a lot of during the holidays, it’s vanilla extract. It’s important in holiday baking, as well as in day-to-day dessert making, so you may use a lot of it, too.

Only two ingredients are needed to make your own vanilla extract: vanilla beans, and alcohol to extract them in.

I use vodka most frequently for this, as it doesn’t have much flavor on its own, so the vanilla flavor really shines through. However, I have also used bourbon to have a stronger tasting vanilla extract, and liked it, as well.

You also need vanilla beans. It takes 3-5 vanilla beans per eight ounces of alcohol. (We’ll be using around 24 ounces of alcohol, so you’ll need about 10 beans).

I buy my beans on Amazon, and they are always very good. It is much more economical to buy them on Amazon or Etsy, or locally at World Market, than to buy at most grocery stores. I have seen one vanilla bean in a vial in the spice rack at a local grocery store priced at $14, while I pay about $2 each for them online in a vacuum-packed package of 10. You can see that in the pictures below.

I buy a 750 ml bottle of inexpensive vodka to use for this process. (Inexpensive is really fine for this; I only paid about $7 for my bottle.) That’s about 25 ounces. You really only need 24 ounces, plus you need some headroom in your bottle, so pour an ounce or two out of the bottle. Three cups of liquid for your extract is perfect.

Next, remove the vanilla beans you’ve purchased from their packaging; my package contained 10 beans. Using a sharp paring knife, slit each bean along one seam from near one tip all the way down to the opposite tip, not cutting it in half, necessarily, just opening the slit to expose those luscious vanilla seeds inside to the alcohol.

Then drop the slit beans into the bottle of vodka. When they’re all in, screw the lid on tightly and shake the bottle well. Store it in a cool, dark place in the kitchen (not above the warm stove, for instance.) Whenever you see it, a few times a week, give it a good shake. In two months (minimum) you’ll have a perfect bottle of homemade extract to use for all your holiday baking!

You can also bottle it into smaller bottles to give as gifts for the holidays.

That’s all there is to it!

Vanilla extract


24 ounces vodka

10 vanilla beans (minimum; it’s ok to use a few extra if you have them)


Slit beans open along the seam to expose the seeds.

Drop the slit beans into 24 ounces of vodka.

Shake, close tightly, and store in a cool, dark place. Shake a few times a week.

Let steep for at least two months.


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