Homemade Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract
YES! You can make vanilla extract at home! All you need is vodka and vanilla beans. But, did you know you could make alcohol-free vanilla extract at home too?
*jaw drops to floor*
People choose alcohol-free vanilla extract over its alcohol-containing counterpart for many reasons, but whatever your reason may be, you. will. love. this. vanilla.
It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s sugar-free, low-carb, gluten-free and vegan. Don’t worry though, it’s mighty tasty. Storebought vanilla extract is pretty darn expensive, and they almost always contain alcohol and added sugar or corn syrup… but not this Homemade Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract!
Sometimes when you use vodka-containing vanilla you can taste the alcohol in your finished product, especially no-cook foods such as ice cream, fudge, frosting, dips and puddings. If this has ever happened to you, then make this recipe! This Homemade Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract is super easy to make and requires only three ingredients. It’s perfect in cakes and other baked goods, frostings, ice creams, other no-bake treats and more 🙂
Homemade Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract
- 8 Vanilla Beans
- ¼ tsp Salt
- 1 cup Filtered Water
- Cut the vanilla beans so they can fit inside the bottle you are using. Slice the beans lengthwise, just enough so that you pierce through one side (you want to expose the tiny vanilla seeds but keep them attached to the bean).
- Place the vanilla beans inside the bottle, add the salt and completely cover with the filtered water. Place the lid onto the bottle and shake vigorously.
- Place the bottle in the fridge and shake once a day for 4 weeks (I put a daily reminder on my calendar so I wouldn't forget). For the next 5 weeks you can shake it less often, like 2-3x a week. The vanilla will be ready to use after these 9 weeks (although, longer the better)! Shake before using.
Since it will take approximately nine weeks to get the finished product, start now and you’ll have just enough time to package it and gift it to someone you love by the winter holidays.
A friend, a coworker, a cook, a baker, a secret admirer… 😉
GO GO GO!!
With love and good eats,
When I read through this post, I was like “Yeah, she’s probably using glycerin, like all the other recipes. Better than vodka, but I just can’t find it”. Then I got to the recipe and my jaw literally dropped down. Just water? I’m totally going to make this, even though you need quite a lot beans. Be right back, vanilla beans are on sale for the last day today 😀
YAY I’m glad to have surprised you with the ingredient list!! Yes, you do need a lot of vanilla beans but it’s totally worth it, and you can make DIY Vanilla Paste after making the recipe so you don’t waste anything 🙂
I hope you like the recipe!
Wow, this is so great! My boyfriend is always wary of vanilla because he doesn’t like the alcohol in it. I’ll have to make this; he’ll be so excited!
How perfect!! I hope you and your boyfriend both like the recipe! 🙂
What a great idea homemade vanilla extract is! I have never made myself before and definitely am inspired now to make a batch… I have a feeling this would make great Christmas gifts too!
Thalia @ Butter and Brioche-
I know, DIY Vanilla is like, one of the best things to have ever hit my kitchen 🙂
I hope you get to make some yourself! Even though it takes a bit of time, it’s secretly fun to shake the bottle every day and stare at it 😉
And YES!! Great idea for Christmas gifts! I gave people some of my other DIY Vanilla (made with whipped cream flavored vodka — suuuper delicious) and it was a huge hit 🙂
greetings. i happen to notice that prep time is 15 min. and cook time is 5 min. then in the instructions there is nothing about cooking this mixture. could you be so kind as to clarify further. yours truly.
This recipe doesn’t require any cooking, but I consider “cooking” as how long it takes to add the vodka and vanilla and shake it all together. It really probably takes 1 minute to do that though 😉
hi again jessica. you said that you consider the 5 min cook time as in the amount of time it takes to add the vodka to vanilla beans and shake it up. but this recipe is for alcohol free vanilla. i know what you meant, but just in case someone else dosn’t. yours truly, and thank you.
Could I use this recipe for different flavoured extracts as well? Like mint or orange extracts? Because this alchol AND glycerin version is quite amazing
I’m afraid this recipe wouldn’t work for mint or orange. Alcohol acts as a preservative, and without it, the mint or orange will grow mold 🙁
So why don’t the vanilla beans develop mold with this method of flavor ectracting?
Vanilla doesn’t mold easily, especially when salt is added and is kept in an airtight container in the fridge 🙂
Can I use vanilla powder instead of vanilla beans?
Hmmm… I haven’t even thought about that! I’m not sure if it would work because vanilla powder might make it gritty or it might just sink to the bottom and not create the classic vanilla extract flavor. I would recommend just getting real vanilla beans 😀
Hi. Great recipe. What does the salt do for the vanilla? Does the saltiness dissolve away over the course of the 9 weeks to resemble a “true” vanilla extract flavor only?
Thank you! Salt acts as a preservative… and it’s not so much that it affects the overall flavor in a baked good or frosting. The flavor of this vanilla is a bit different than the alcoholic varieties, but it does add vanilla flavor. If you’re concerned about the flavor, scrape the vanilla beans from the pod and add them to the jar along with the scraped out vanilla beans 😀
Hi malak sh if u r looking for vanilla extract free of alcohol u can not use vanilla powder coz it made of alcohol .
Lilan l made lemon extract using vegelable glycirine, it is amazing just keep it in fridge .
Hi I was woundering if it would be possible to swap the salt for sugar in this recipe?
I used the salt in this recipe for the preservation aspect, not flavor. If you want to add a sweetener, I suppose you could! 😀
Hi Jessica. I’ll definitely try this! We don’t have vanilla extract in germany and I sometimes have problems when trying out american recipes. I’m just wondering how long you can use this. Does it go bad at some time or can you keep it for some time?
Greetings from germany,
This extract keeps for quite some time if it’s stored in a tightly sealed container/jar in the fridge — probably a few months! Hope you like the recipe 😀
Can it done in less time? Also can reuse beans or are the spent after one use?
DIY Vanilla Extract takes time, so if you don’t want to wait I guess I’d just recommend buying it at the store 😀
I don’t think the beans are good to use again, but you can use DIY Vanilla Paste with it!
I am so EXCITED to find this recipe, my husband is going to die…he HATES that all the vanillas out there have alcohol in them..thank you very much for sharing.!
Hi, I’m in the process of making this. I really hope it works. But, I think I cut the pods a little too much, because there are little beans floating around in the water. Is this ok? Will it affect the extract?
That’s totally normal! Homemade vanilla extracts always have vanilla beans floating around (which is great, because they make desserts look super authentic… vanilla bean ice cream, buttercream, cookies, they’re all good). Hope you like the vanilla 😀
hi! it looks great, just a question, is filtered water necessary? or can i just use regular tap water? thank you!
Tap water oftentimes isn’t the cleanest and may have an off flavor (especially where I live)… I’d recommend using bottled water 😀
Hi!! Have you tried boiling or simmering water with vanilla beans to make vanilla extract?! Maybe if I simmer it I can make vanilla extract faster.
I haven’t tried heating the vanilla beans… I’m afraid that might make the flavor musky or dull :/
Vanilla extract is just one of those things that takes time 😀
Hello! I was wondering if this would be good to put in coffe as a sweetener? Instead of the fake vanilla that some coffee shops put in their coffee.
Vanilla extract isn’t sweet at all, it’s actually quite bitter. Vanilla is somewhat like cocoa beans… without sugar or a sweetener or some kind, they don’t taste that great!
Coffee shops add Vanilla Syrup to their coffees. I have a Vanilla Bean Syrup recipe on the blog if you’re interested. I’d recommend that in coffee over vanilla extract 😀
Where did you get your little bottles you have your extract in?? If I start making this now, it’ll be done with perfect timing for those Easter recipes!
I searched high and low to find those bottles again, but I couldn’t find it! I bought them nearly three years ago to make DIY Vanilla for my friends and family, but I just can’t find the website. All I know is that the bottles are BPA free and recyclable 😀
This looks like a great recipient! I’m gonna try it with Kangen Water. Does the pH of the water matter? I know Kangen Water pulls out all the flavors from the beans and fruit. Also will it work for lemon and orange as I got a batch from my granpas farm to make some extracts. Thanks.
Thanks so much! I have never paid attention to the pH of the water, but that’s a good idea!
I’m not sure if a lemon or orange extract would work here because it would be difficult to preserve… I think the vanilla is one of the few things that would work because it doesn’t have a high sugar content like fruit does.
Is the extract supposed to be sour? When I use it it makes the dessert quite sour so I tasted it and it definitely has a sour taste.
Hmmmm, no… the extract shouldn’t be sour. It should be like a very concentrated vanilla water.
How old are your vanilla beans? And did you make sure to store the extract in a tightly sealed bottle in the fridge?
At first I thought, it’s probably glycerin, but then I reminded myself creative you are, and it didn’t disappoint.
Perhaps i’ll try this some time.
Keep up the great work! : )
Hi jessica. You have a very interesting recipe here. Just one question. When u said filtered water does it mean just a normal drinking water like evian or so?
I’m sure bottled water will work just fine in the recipe, I just wanted to make sure people don’t use tap water (I used to live in an apartment with terrible tasting tap water, and I feel like that would ruin the final product) 🙂
Is this as potent as an alcohol based vanilla? Why would someone ever use alcohol or glycerin to make vanilla if it could be done with water? I’m excited to try this but I’m worried it won’t give as Much vanilla flavor to my food as the mainstream alcohol versions do. Saying that, I made ice cream with my homemade rum vanilla extract today and was gagging at how strong the rum was so this water idea really intrigues me.
This vanilla is surprisingly potent, but maybe 75% as strong as vanilla made with alcohol. But, if you shake the bottle well enough and let the vanilla steep for a long time, you’ll be left with delicious vanilla “extract.” 🙂
Homemade rum vanilla extract sounds amazing, maybe let it steep for a few more weeks before using it again? It’s amazing what a difference just a few weeks can make. Hope this helps Marci!
One more question. In your comments you said you worried boiling the water might give it a musty flavor. Just curious why you think that because I was thinking about trying it. Does a vanilla bean not do well with cooking like that?
I don’t know, I haven’t tried it… I’m just worried the flavor will be ruined. Vanilla beans are expensive and I wouldn’t want anyone to waste any if they ended up tasting bad. If you want to try it you can, though! Crossing my fingers it works out for you 🙂
Hi Jessica and thanks for your article! I put the beans in a wine bottle, but 1 cup of water doesn’t completely cover the 7″ – 8″ tall beans. The water only reaches about 3″ up. Did you mean completely cover the bottle (which I can do with an air tight cap it has), or is the water supposed to completely cover the beans? I would have to add two or three more cups to the wine bottle to completely cover the beans. If I did that, would the extract be too diluted? Thank you!
A wine bottle is a bit too big for this recipe, I think a small mason jar would probably be best. I used the bottles in the pictures (I actually doubled the recipe and filled four 4oz bottles). If you go through vanilla as fast as I do with so much baking and recipe testing, you can double the recipe too if you like! 🙂
You mentioned that the salt acts as a preservative for the extract. What if I use honey instead? Since it’s a natural preservative. Do you think it’ll affect the vanilla extract’s taste?
I’m sure honey would work great in here! I would replace 1/4 cup of the water with 1/4 cup of honey. That way, the vanilla won’t get too diluted and won’t taste too sweet. Hope you like the vanilla! 🙂
I was just wondering what other foods could be extracted using this method. I’m making flavoured lip scrubs and need a alcohol free coconut flavouring. Could this method be used? Also, what other foods could this method be used with? Kind regards,
I haven’t tried this with other foods so I can’t be sure, sorry!
Doesnt the alcohol extract the vanilla flavour out of the bean? How does it get extracted from the water?
Anything that sits in water will be extracted of flavor, like lemon water or cucumber water. This is very easy in the case with vanilla 🙂
Can I make lemon extract or any other extract using water and salt?
I think lemons would do best in an alcohol mixture, or possibly an oil and/or agave nectar mixture. However, water and salt MAY work? I’d try it using the lemon rind rather than the whole lemon, too. I haven’t tried making alcohol-free lemon extract though, so I can’t be sure!
Thank you very much.
Thank you for this recipe. It is the only one I found without alcohol or glycerin for making vanilla extract. I appreciate all you offer on your site! I have two questions and hope you will answer them. I have followed your recipe, and the vanilla beans in salt water have been properly stored and shaken for the 4 weeks (once a day) then another 4 weeks (every other day). Your recipe says it will be ready in 9 weeks Does that mean I need to wait another 9 weeks from now? Or are you including the 8 weeks of shaking already done? Also, once the extract is ready, do I strain the liquid and discard the beans, or just keep it as is and use it up in the 3 months it will keep?
Thanks again for your wonderful recipe! Nancy
Oops! Meant so say that it takes 8-9 weeks total. After that time, you can leave the vanilla beans in the bottle (longer the better!) or take them out to use in another application (like Homemade Vanilla Paste) 🙂
Wow thanks for your reply Jessica! Now I just have to remember what date I started (I did write it somewhere…..)
Why do you need salt?
Salt acts as a natural preservative (just like alcohol), so this vanilla will keep longer 🙂
Thank you so much for this recipe! I’m a muslim so I can’t use vanilla extract with alcohol in it. I love baking and making desserts but since I don’t have any other option I’ve been using synthetic vanillin but it has such and artificial and chemical taste. i’ve been looking for so lon for an alcohol free vanilla extract and this made me so happy! Thank you for the recipe and for making a dessert lover like me so happy! 🙂
I dont like to use vanilla with alcohol in it either so iv been substituting it with pure maple syrup , im so happy i came across this recipe
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I have vanilla beans in rum that I made up 6 months ago. I need to make more, but the alcohol taste is too strong for our liking. Would it work to add water to that mixture to take the edge off? Idk? Thanks
Vanilla extract isn’t meant to be consumed as a drink… recipes usually only call for 1-2 teaspoons over an entire batch, so the alcohol flavor shouldn’t be overpowering.
Adding water will dilute the alcohol but it’ll also dilute the vanilla flavor
How long is the shelf life on this recipe? Or does it have to be refrigerated.
I’d say 3-6 months, as long as you store it in an airtight jar in the fridge 🙂
Vanilla beans are expensive. Can the beans be reused after making a batch?
You can use the beans to make Homemade Vanilla Bean Paste! 🙂
Hallelujah! I cannot wait to try this method for making alcohol and glycerine free vanilla extract! I’m if German and Irish descent and SEVERELY ALLERGIC TO ALL FORMS OF ALCOHOL! I learned that the hard way, and eventually discovered that real vanilla extract is 35% alcohol (again, the hard way). I find myself distrustful of glycerine because it is a form of sugar alcohol too.
Question; what would it do to the recipe, if anything, if I were to roast the beans first?
Hi, me again! What about the salt? Regular iodized table salt? Himalayan Pink (or other colored) Salt? Flake salt? Kosher…? Pretzel…? Now I’m hungry. ☺️
Apologies if this has been addressed already, I might have missed it.
Last question from me, I promise! Is there a Bean to Bottle ratio that I need to keep in mind? Your recipe calls for 8 bean pods, but I didn’t see any mention regarding the size of your bottles. I’ve seen a few recipes that seem to operate under a one bean per ounce rule of thumb. So are those bottles in your picture 8oz? They certainly look smaller, I’d guess maybe 4oz? So that would indicate a 2 Beans per ounce ratio, right? Does it take longer or dilute the flavor if I don’t use too much water vs bean per bottle (such as 4 beans covered in water in an 8 oz bottle) or concentrate the flavor but sacrifice yield using less water vs bean per bottle (stuffed 16-20 beans in the 8oz bottle, which would take less water to cover as the beans take up more room)?
Sigh… I’m what happens to people who watch a lot of Alton Brown! ☺️