Homemade vanilla extract comes together quickly and easily via sous vide
This sous vide vanilla extract is just what you need to kick start your holiday baking! Make it with vodka OR bourbon, depending on your preference!
Every baker needs a good quality vanilla extract in their pantry
This is true no matter what time of year it is. BUT! The holiday season is upon us!
If you're like me, there will be a lot of baking going on at this time of year. And just about every recipe for baked goods lists vanilla extract as an ingredient.
"Why is that?", you might be asking. Well, vanilla extract's role in baked goods is sort of the same as salt in savory foods (though you should definitely also use salt in all of your baked goods... a lecture for another day): It enhances all of the other flavors in the recipe.
Since it's an integral ingredient, you might as well make it a good quality one!
Why make it yourself instead of buying it at the store?
Sure, you can buy vanilla extract at the store. I do it sometimes. BUT I'd argue that there are some pretty good reasons for making your own at home.
One of the biggest reasons (that I can think of) to make homemade vanilla extract is the cost savings! Think about it, decent quality vanilla extract is at least $6 per OUNCE at the grocery store.
Now, let's talk about this homemade version. Let's assume that you're making this with a mid-range vodka (Smirnoff; which costs about $0.42 per oz), quart Mason jars (32 oz), and vanilla beans that cost about $3 per bean. You with me?
So...: 32 oz Mason jar * $0.42 per oz vodka = $13.44
Using 1 vanilla bean per 8 oz of vodka means $3 per bean * 4 = $12
$13.44 + $12 = $25.44
NOW, take the total amount of $25.44 and divide that by 32 oz and you get... approximately $0.80 PER OUNCE. That's 7.5 times less expensive than the store bought stuff. 7.5 times cheaper!
So, yeah. It's way cheaper. Also, sorry for doing math on a food blog. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Customization; Flavor and quality
You can customize your vanilla extract to meet your preferences. Take each of the preparations in this recipe, for instance. I think the more typical preparation would involve the use of plain vodka. It's great that way.
BUT I tend to prefer my vanilla made with bourbon. Y'all know that I have a serious affinity for the stuff. Just take a look around my blog.
Basically, you do you. Make one, or both! Either way, you know it's going to be great quality stuff that tastes fantastic.
Speed! (thanks to sous vide)
Making homemade vanilla extract the old fashioned way (putting split vanilla beans in a container with liquor and then stashing it away) can take weeks or months to make.
When you make it with sous vide, you're done within a matter of hours! That means you can start baking that much quicker.
What should I make with this homemade vanilla extract?
Lots of things! Use this homemade vanilla extract in every baked good that calls for vanilla extract!
If I may, allow me to make one specific suggestion. The bourbon version of this homemade vanilla extract would be particularly good when baked into these Maple Bourbon Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies. There cannot be enough bourbon flavor.
Looking for other recipes that can be made using sous vide?
I made some really delicious Homemade Sous Vide Limoncello earlier this year. Peel some lemons, add some vodka, and sous vide for a couple of hours before mixing with some simple syrup. Boom. Done.
And let's not forget my Crab Cake Eggs Florentine! The hollandaise sauce was made using the sous vide. It seriously couldn't have been easier. If you're having people over for brunch, I'd definitely recommend this method for making hollandaise. Please also don't forget about these Sous Vide Eggs. They are impossibly creamy and velvety in texture, not to mention delicious. They're perfect for meal prepping, too.
OH! And don't forget about my Sous Vide Chocolate Cheesecakes. You can even make them with this vanilla extract.
When talking sous vide I always need to give a shoutout to Chelsea over at A Duck's Oven. Her blog is fab, and her sous vide cookbook is 10/10!
AND if you're looking to invest in an immersion circulator/sous vide, consider this one from Anova. I have the model that was available prior to this newer one, and really like it.
Sous Vide Vanilla Extract
- 4 vanilla bean pods totaling ~4 oz; see notes
- 4 cups plain vodka OR bourbon
- Split the vanilla beans down the center. Add them to a quart Mason jar.
- Add the plain vodka or bourbon to the Mason jar. Tighten the lid to finger tight.
- Set your sous vide for 135 degrees F.
- Once the water had preheated, add the Mason jar to the water and cook for at least 4 hours (see notes).
- Allow the vanilla extract to cool to room temperature.
- Use a mid-range liquor. Think Smirnoff, not Grey Goose.
- Use at least one vanilla bean for every cup of liquor
- Let your extract cook for at least 4 hours. I ended up letting mine go for about 6 to achieve the color that you see in the photos.
- You can either remove the vanilla beans from the Mason jar or leave them in; it's up to you!
- I've had some readers say that they didn't have luck when making this in smaller batches; specifically, a reader indicated that when making it with 1 vanilla bean and 1 cup of vodka, the extract didn't turn a nice brown color. Though I had the results that you see in the photos with 4 beans and 4 cups of vodka, you may want to use more than 1 vanilla bean if you're just making 1 cup of extract.
- Related to the point above, vanilla beans vary in size. Ideally, you want to use about 1 oz of vanilla bean(s) for every 1 cup of liquor. So, if your beans are smaller than 1 oz, you should consider using more per 1 cup of liquor.
Disclaimer: Nutritional information is a generated estimate and is not guaranteed to be accurate.
What kind of gear will I need to make this vanilla extract?
- A quart Mason jar
- Vanilla beans
- An immersion circulator! I have the model that was available before this one and love it.
While I do this too, I call it what it is a Vanilla Infused Vodka. It's not really an extract.
Is it necessary to let the extract steep for a month or so after the sous vide? or can it be used immediately. I saw someone giving advice to let it sit a month or so to let the alcohol mellow.
I haven't necessarily found that to be true. I've started using it almost immediately after it cooled.
after 6 hrs, using 1 cup of vodka to 1 split vanilla bean (cut in half and putting both halves in pint jar) @ 130, mine have barely turned any color. What do you suggest?
Hi Cynthia. Hmm... I wonder if sous vide-ing it at a slightly lower temperature (130 vs 135) had something to do with it. I'm sorry that this hasn't worked out thus far. Though I would have expected the vodka to have turned at least a bit brownish by now, the color should come with time. Have you smelled or tasted (just a teeny bit!) the vanilla extract? Does it smell/taste how you'd expect?
Lesley Jennifer Davies
I use 10 gr per 100 ml..
Yeah, definitely use more beans if that's your preference!
10g per 100ml is less than 1oz per 1 cup. 10 grams is 1/10th the weight of 100ml (mass=100g). 1oz (weight) is approximately 1/8 of a cup if 80proof spirits (7.8 ounces by weight). An eighth is more than a tenth.
I've made vanilla the traditional way by letting it go for months. However, I used 6 beans per cup. One just doesn't seem like it would be enough. Does the sous vide method work better, and that's why you use less?
Hi Karin. You raise a good point. I broke it down to 1 bean per cup because that's the ratio I used to make my (larger amount of) extract. More vanilla beans would be better, for sure (up until a point, or so I'd guess). I'm going to include a note in the recipe about this.
FDA regulations for extract are 1 oz of beans for about 1 cup of alcohol. Vodka takes about a year without sous vide bourbon/whiskey takes about 18 months without sous vide. That color is no where near what vanilla extract would be. The commenter above is correct, this is more vanilla infused vodka...
Thank you for calling this out. Sous Vide may speed up slightly but no way is it ready in hours, especially with that few of beans. I sous vide my first batch for 8 hours and it barely did anything. Letting it sit for at least 12 months still. (I used the proper amount of beans for true single fold extract)
This is essentially a recipe for vanilla vodka as there are not enough beans to make an extract. Plus, vanilla beans vary widely in size, weight and moisture content so yo can’t have a decent recipe if you are relying on number instead of weight. Just for single fold, you need 1 oz of beans to 8 oz of 40% and spirit, double fold is 2 oz per 8 oz spirit.
Thanks for the clarification. You can always feel free to add more vanilla beans as you see fit.
I am doing 15 grade B Tahitian vanilla beans per quart of either vodka or bourbon for a double fold. Using the traditional method it has been taking 3 to 4 months for full extract. Just started experimenting with sous vide processing. Before investing in a sous vide immersion heater/circulator I thought to try my large oval slow cooker and meat thermometer which keeps the water bath at 130 to 140 on the warm setting.
Research leads me to believe that after 4-6 hours of immersion I should give each quart bottle a good shake then let them rest for at least 1 - 2 weeks for the alcohol to mellow somewhat.
Hi, Larry. I've heard others say that they like to let their extract sit for a bit to allow the alcohol to mellow. In my personal experience, I haven't found it to make much of a difference. But by all means, do it if it suits you!
The slow cooker hack is ingenious, by the way.
The guidelines for Vanilla Extract are 1 oz of beans to 1 cup of vodka. Each type of bean weighs different. If you do this and it isn't 'strong' enough or isn't dark enough, think about upping the ratio to 1 oz of beans to 1 cup of vodka. Otherwise you just have vanilla flavored bourbon.
I’ve just finished the Gingrich method bringing the vanilla beans and liquor to 135 degrees for 96 hours. It turned out beautiful and dark. Still has a strong smell of alcohol. I will shelf it for at least 3 months. The vodka may be ready but the rum may need more time. 1 oz. per cup of liquor.
Stella Parks, a guess a famous culinary person, just posted an article that it is a waste of time to do the cold infusion.
Her point being, vanilla bean processing goes through multiple baths at different temperatures to achieve all the flavor notes inherent in vanilla extract.
Since Ms Parks has not revealed the various times manufacturers use, would anyone hazard a guess what might be a suitable time/temperature line.
Personally, I have been testing cold brew vanilla extract in both vodka and bourbon for several months. Honestly, I like the flavor. It might not stand up to a taste test between branded pure vanilla extract and my, put in the pantry for months and see what happens.
On the same website as the Stella Parks article you are citing, there's a blind taste test series that shows that for most applications of vanilla, even the simple vanillin profile of imitation vanilla extract is indistiguishable from complex gourmet extracts. ("Taste Test: Is Better Vanilla Extract Worth the Price?" By J. Kenji López-Alt).
I'm a supertaster (sensitive palate, sommeliers in my family) and we make our own vanilla extract with a "mother" process to keep the complexity wide: we have slow-aged stocks of various varietal beans and liquors, all of which get poured into a vintage family legacy "mother" bottle of vanilla dregs to pick up extra complexity before being decanted into our daily use bottle at our beverage & baking prep station. All bits and bobs from the liquor aging bottles get tossed into the mother and abandoned for all time to add to the game.
I put 3 ounces of beans into 3 cups of vodka in a mason jar and placed in in sous vide at 126 degrees for 96 hours on march 3, 2022. It is a beautiful dark color, I shake it up almost daily and will taste test it soon.
Great info! I just bought a sous vide cooker on EBay and am waiting for my beans. Trying to hasten the process but plan to give out at Christmas. So hopefully the extract
will be great by then with this jump start.
So exciting! Sounds like the recipients of these beans will be very happy 🙂