Last Updated on August 23, 2021 by Chef Mireille
Making your own Homemade Vanilla Extract is quick and easy. You do have to make it ahead of time, but you get so much more bang for your buck by making your own DIY vanilla extract.
You can experience the full flavor of Pure Vanilla Extract, without having to settle for the cheaper bottles or artificial vanilla extract, which pales in flavor. In recipes, you often have to use double or triple the amount in recipes to get the flavor. So are you really saving money by purchasing the cheaper imitation vanilla extract.
Also, by starting to make it now in the Spring, it is enough time in advance for the extract to develop so that this will make great homemade gifts when holiday season comes around.
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Table of Contents
I already know your first thought – why is this vanilla so much lighter than the ones you buy at the supermarket? Well what it lacks in color it makes up in flavor. The main reason is there are no artificial colors in the homemade version.
Before we get to how we make Haitian Vanilla Extract, we have to start with the core ingredient. You are going to need vanilla beans no matter what style of vanilla extract you make.
You may have seen Madagascar Vanilla Beans or Tahitian vanilla beans and wondered which is better.
Is Tahitian or Madagascar Vanilla better?
There are basically two types of vanilla beans – Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans and Tahitian Vanilla Beans. First of all, to answer your first question, there is no bourbon in Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans. It is a misnomer.
Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla was first found in Mexico. The French then cultivated it in Madagascar. The largest cultivations now grow in Mexico, Madagascar, Uganda, Hawaii and Indonesia.
The flavor of the vanilla is affected by where it is grown, so depending on the country of origin, each vanilla will taste a little different.
Tahitian Vanilla evolved from the same plant, however, when grown in Tahiti, more fruity notes and shorter broader vanilla beans resulted. Most Tahitian vanilla is now grown in Papua New Guinea.
Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla usually has a more earthy tone and is more robust and darker in color, while Tahitian vanilla usually is more sweeter and fruity. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans are longer and thinner.
One is not really better than the other – they just result in different flavors.
When making vanilla extract, I prefer to use both so that you get a more complex flavor from the mixture of both types of vanilla beans.
Why should you make your own Vanilla Extract?
After you wait the initial period of infusion for your homemade vanilla extract, you can reuse the beans and make an additional bottle. Therefore, you can get so much more pure vanilla extract out of the cost of just a few vanilla beans.
Although the price of the vanilla beans may seem high, when you consider how much vanilla extract you can get out of them, this is a mitigating factor.
How to use homemade Vanilla Extract
- In the past, when all I have had access to is artificial vanilla extract, I found it necessary to double the quantity of vanilla in most recipes. With the use of pure vanilla extract, you will get a lot more flavor out of a lot less vanilla.
- To start with, make 2 bottles. This way you will always have a backup bottle once one bottle is finished. Just add more rum (or vodka). There is no need to replace the used vanilla beans. After 2-3 bottles, you can then use fresh vanilla beans.
- After the initial 6 months, you can discard the vanilla beans or start an additional bottle. If you do not start another bottle, you will have to constantly add more rum to the bottle to keep the vanilla beans completely submerged in the alcohol. If the vanilla beans are not submerged, they will turn rancid.
What kinds of recipes can you use vanilla extract in?
- Any kind of dessert recipe including cakes, cookies and pies.
- Bread Recipes, especially sweet breads like Armenian Choereg.
- Smoothies like Lassi Patiala
- Breakfast Porridge like Caribbean Cornmeal Porridge
- In Madagascar, vanilla is used in many savory recipes like this Madagascar Vanilla Chicken.
Now you might wonder why I titled this post Haitian Vanilla Extract? Is there a difference?
Most pure vanilla extract brands are produced in vodka. What gives Haitian vanilla its distinctive flavor is that it is made in rum, with its natural sugarcane and fruity tones.
Vanilla Extract can be made in almost any alcohol like rum, vodka, gin or bourbon. Even with Haitian vanilla, you can use Coconut Rum or Mango Rum for even more fruity tones.
Frequently Asked Questions
Money Saving Tip
Vanilla Beans are cheaper in the Caribbean. If you are travelling in the Caribbean, pick some up there.
All you need is vanilla and rum for this easy recipe. Of course, Haitians will always prefer using Haitian Rhum Barbancourt or Pango by Rhum Barbancourt, which is infused with mango and pineapple. As I mentioned earlier, you can also use Coconut Rum.
I highly recommend this bottle set, which includes everything you will need – bottles, funnel and labels. This set includes 6 bottles – enough for yourself and to give away a few bottles of Haitian Vanilla as holiday gifts.
Don’t forget to date the bottles so you know how long each infusion is.
Some people say you can start to use the vanilla extract after 2 months, however, I find after 6 months, you will get a lot more flavor out of your vanilla extract.
Making Homemade Vanilla Extract
- Split vanilla beans and scrape out the insides
- Place vanilla beans in an air tight bottle.
- Add alcohol of your choice – rum for Haitian vanilla.
- Wait 6 months and then use as desired.
Now are you ready to make all your delicious recipes even better with the flavor of homemade pure vanilla extract?
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 6 vanilla beans
- 1 1/4 cups rum
- Using a sharp knife, make a slit in each vanilla bean from top to bottom.
- Scrape out the insides and put everything in the bottle.
- Place the vanilla beans in a bottle. If some of the beans are too long, cut them in half.
- Fill the bottle with rum, enough so that the vanilla beansare completely submerged in the rum.
- Leave to infuse for at least 6 months.
- Leave vanilla beans inside as you use the vanilla extract ifdesired, adding more as needed to keep the vanilla beans completely submergedin liquid.
- Otherwise, remove the vanilla beans and start another bottle. When you start another bottle, add 1 or 2 more beans just to make sure it has as much vanilla flavor as the original bottle.
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Great tips on this process! Added a few bottles to our stash.
Glad you found the tips helpful to making your own homemade Vanilla Extract.
Wonderful recipe! I have made a few bottles, just waiting for them to infuse properly.
you are going to be so happy you started making it yourself from now on.
I am so grateful to have come across these instructions! I purchased some very expensive vanilla extract right before the holidays and someone spilled the majority of it inside my spice rack. Thank you for this affordable tip!
Oh Lord, I would have been so upset. Glad I helped and you can now make it easily at home yourself.
Making your own vanilla extract.. now that’s a great idea, Mir. Thanks for sharing. I had only heard of the madagascar variety till now.
yes – Madagascar vanilla you definitely get a more intense flavor with the vanilla extract.
Wow! Mir I love this homemade Vanilla extract. I never guessed it could be so easy. Once the lockdown is lifted I will pick up the alcohol. Thanks a lot!
praying for you in India with the lockdown still. I am sure you will love making the homemade vanilla once you can.
I had no idea making your own vanilla extract was this easy! I made a bunch and can’t wait to use it and give some away as gifts. This will save me so much money during the busy baking season.
yes it saves money and you will get so much more flavor out of the homemade ones
Thank you for the amazing tips! This has been my first time making vanilla extract and I am super excited about it! Thank you for the recipe 🙂
I use vanilla extract a lot for baking. I have never made it myself and I look really forward to trying your recipe.
Thanks for breaking down this entire process and giving a little insight into the various types of vanilla beans! I’ve already made my first batch and will be adding it to a peach cobbler I’m whipping up this week.
Just want to make sure you caught the note – that i’s best after it’s had 6 months to infuse!
Thanks for this recipe! It made it so easy to make my own vanilla — can’t wait to try it!
you are going to love the increased flavor!
Followed your instructions exactly and I’ve been checking on the vanilla every day–I can’t wait to try it in a cake. And thank you for the tip for purchasing vanilla in the Caribbean. Adding it to my next souvenir list!
I know it can seem like forever for it to be ready. The best thing is to stick in the back of the pantry – out of sight out of mind – until fall!
I started my vanilla extract over the weekend and can’t wait to use it in the Fall for some Fall baking!
You will never go back to store bought 🙂
This is such a useful post. How nice to make the vanilla extract at home. My daughters-in-law in USA do lot of baking and I will share this post with them. Thanks.
I know they are going to love the home made version so much!
Mireille, this is a great DIY article and you add such a unique idea of using different rums rather than the traditional vodka.
Do you have any contacts in the Caribbean who grow vanilla?
In the Caribbean, rum is definitely the alcohol of choice. No, I’m sorry I do not have any contacts for vanilla in the Caribbean. Most vanilla in the world comes from African and South east Asian countries like Indonesia, with Madagascar Vanilla being highly regarded as the best. As far as I know, the only island with a major vanilla production is Guadeloupe.