I have always wanted to make my own extracts and give them away as gifts during the holidays. I have finally gotten around to trying it, but all the research begged the question, “Is it worth it?” Too much work? Not cost effective? I’ll go through a few pros and cons and then discuss the financial aspect, which was really my focus in this research.
Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe
3-4 Vanilla Beans (we’ll talk varieties below)
8 oz. Vodka (or other clear alcohol 35% or more)
Cut vanilla beans in half lengthwise and then cut into three smaller pieces. Place into bottle with vodka. Leave in a cool place for 2 months. It’s really that easy.
- Simple to make
- Supposedly cheaper to make yourself
- Only two ingredients
- Takes at least two months to extract the flavor
- Vanilla beans aren’t exactly local and can be difficult to source (though hardly with the internet!)
What about the cost factor?
The major deciding factor for me was whether or not it was worth it financially. See, I’m a pretty busy girl, and though I love DIYing just to say I can, there are times when I need to draw some lines. I knew I wanted to make organic extract, since supposedly some heavy metals can be left in the final distilled product, though according to other sources there is chemically no difference at all between organic spirits and regular. I also needed to use a variety that was not made with a gluten grain, since my husband has sensitivities.
Before we get into homemade cost breakdown, here’s a list of some brands of vanilla extract:
- Mountain Rose Herbs Organic Vanilla Extract (8oz) – $34.50
- Frontier Organic Fair Trade Certified Vanilla Extract (8oz) – $22.92
- Nielsen-Massey Organic Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract (8oz) – $21.25
- Flavorganics Organic Vanilla Extract (8oz) – $21.41
- Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract (8oz) – $16.38
- Rodelle Pure Vanilla Extract (8oz) – $10.03
Of course, you want to have good quality beans to make your extract. Tahitian is the best, but also more expensive. I would settle with Madagascar or Bourban. I sourced out vanilla beans in a few places. 25 beans is enough to make about 6 -8oz batches using the recipe above.
- 25 whole Madagascar vanilla beans – $25
- 25 whole organic Madagascar vanilla beans -$25-$51 (best price here)
If you’re not looking to make organic extract, you can easily get a liter of potato vodka at Trader Joe’s for $10. I found organic vodka for $26, but it was rye derived. The organic potato vodka I found was $50 (Ouch!)
Regular Vanilla Extract: $10 for vodka + $25 for beans = $35 for 4 batches of extract with some beans left over, or $8.75 per batch. TOTALLY worth it, financially.
Organic Vanilla Extract: $26 for grain vodka + $25 for beans = $51 for 4 batches of extract with some beans left over, or $12.75 per batch. As you can see this is a STEAL over buying organic vanilla extract. Even with the non-grain based vodka I can make it for $18.75 a batch which is still cheaper than the above options!
So is it worth it to make your own homemade vanilla extract (and other extract, too!), the answer is a resounding “Yes!”