An Easy Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract Recipe

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With just a few simple steps and a little patience, you can make this homemade bourbon vanilla extract recipe to enhance the flavors of your baked goods. The combination of Madagascar vanilla beans and bourbon will elevate your baking to a whole new level.

Homemade vanilla extract recipe with vanilla beans and bourbon.

A few years ago I made homemade vanilla extract for the first time as Christmas gifts for friends and family. Since I had never made homemade extract before, I had no real expectations on how it was going to turn out. Well let me tell you…my low expectations were blown away!

After a few months of steeping the vanilla beans in alcohol, I knew homemade vanilla extract was the only kind I wanted to use in my baking going forward. The smell was unlike any store bought extract I had purchased before, and the flavor my vanilla extract added to my baked goods…incredible. 

Family members loved it too. Once they used up the bottle of extract I gave them, I kept getting requests to refill their bottles with more! So, I decided to share my recipe here on the blog so that anyone can easily make & enjoy the delicious taste of extract made at home.

The vanilla extract I created a few years ago was made with Madagascar vanilla beans and a bottle of vodka. However this year, I decided to switch things up and replace the vodka with bourbon to add even more depth of flavor to this homemade vanilla extract recipe (I’ll talk more about this in a minute). 

Vanilla extract made at home with liquor and vanilla beans.

Let me show you how incredibly easy it is to create your own homemade vanilla extract with these easy step by step instructions!

Why use bourbon as the liquor in vanilla extract?

Using bourbon as the liquor in vanilla extract adds depth and complexity. Bourbon is known for its distinct taste, which is often described as warm, smooth, and slightly sweet. 

The aging process in charred oak barrels of bourbon imparts a rich and mellow character, contributing notes of vanilla, caramel, and a subtle hint of spice. These intricate flavors complement the sweet and floral essence of the Madagascar vanilla beans, creating a harmonious taste in this bourbon extract. 

Homemade extract in small glass bottles for baking.

What are some brands of bourbon that would be good for this recipe?

When it comes to selecting bourbons for making vanilla extract, it’s best to choose ones with a balanced flavor profile that complements the vanilla beans without overpowering them.

Here are some bourbon liquor ideas that you can find at the liquor store for making vanilla extract:

  • Buffalo Trace: This Kentucky bourbon offers a smooth and mellow taste with notes of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of spice. It’s an excellent choice for creating a well rounded vanilla extract.
  • Maker’s Mark: Known for its approachable and slightly sweet flavor. Maker’s Mark works well in vanilla extract, imparting a pleasant caramel undertone.
  • Woodford Reserve: A rich and complex flavor profile featuring notes of vanilla, toffee, and toasted oak.
  • Bulleit Bourbon: This bourbon boasts a spicy and slightly fruity character with hints of vanilla and maple, adding a unique twist to your homemade vanilla extract.
  • Four Roses Single Barrel: A higher end choice, this bourbon offers a more refined taste with a mix of sweet and spicy notes that pairs wonderfully with vanilla beans.
  • Eagle Rare: With its well-balanced flavors of caramel, toffee, and vanilla, Eagle Rare is a popular choice for crafting delicious vanilla extract.
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch: This is the bourbon I used and delivers a warm and rich flavor profile, with a mix of caramel, vanilla, and oak.

Remember, personal preference plays a role in the bourbon selection process. Experiment with different bourbons to find the one that best suits your budget and taste.

Tip

Choose a bourbon that you enjoy the taste of, within a budget that suits you. Many mid-range bourbons offer delightful flavors of vanilla, caramel, and oak that will enhance your extract and won’t overshadow the Madagascar vanilla beans’ unique flavor.

The Best Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Making your own bottle of homemade vanilla extract is so rewarding.

With just a few simple steps and a little patience, you’ll have a delicious elixir that enhances the flavors of your baked goods.

All supplies you will need to make vanilla extract at home.

Once you make your own extract, I promise you won’t want to buy store-bought vanilla extract from the grocery store again! 

Supplies You’ll Need

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6 Easy Steps to Make Bourbon Vanilla Extract

This bourbon vanilla extract recipe will yield (6) 8.5 ounce bottles of extract.

Step 1: Prepare the Bottles

Wash and dry the glass bottles to ensure they are clean and ready for the beans and alcohol.

Step 2: Cut the Madagascar Beans

Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the whole vanilla beans in half lengthwise. This exposes the tiny seeds inside the bean pod, which will infuse the bourbon with their rich flavor.

Madagascar vanilla beans for homemade bourbon extract.

Note: Do not cut the bean into two pieces. Just cut the pod enough to expose the vanilla bean seeds.

Step 3: Place Beans in Bottles

Place two of the cut vanilla pods inside each glass bottle

Step 4: Pour Bourbon Over Beans & Seal Jar

Pour the bourbon over the beans using a funnel to limit spillage. Ensure all of the beans are fully submerged. Seal the jar tightly with a tight-fitting lid.

Bourbon extract made at home with bourbon liquor and Madagascar vanilla beans.

Step 5: Add Labels

Affix labels to the front and back of bottles.

Bottle of extract for baking and cooking in the kitchen.
Bottle of extract made with bourbon and vanilla beans.

I like these labels because it includes the brew date which allows me to keep track of the extract’s maturation time.

Step 6: Infusion Time

This is the hardest step…waiting! 

Store the bottles in a dry place like a dark cupboard in the kitchen. 

Bourbon extract in glass bottles for culinary creations.

Allow the extraction process to happen for at least 2 months before using. For the best flavor, wait 6-12 months.

Give the bottles a good shake every so often to enhance the infusion process.


Tips

  • Invest in high quality Madagascar vanilla beans. Look for plump, oily, and flexible beans. Lower-quality beans might not yield the rich vanilla flavor you desire.
  • Select a bourbon with a well balanced flavor profile. Avoid overly sweet or heavily spiced bourbons, as they might overpower the vanilla beans. A smooth and mellow bourbon with caramel and oak notes works best.
  • Allow the extract to steep for at least 2 months for best results. The longer you wait, the better the taste will be. Shake the jar gently every few days to enhance the infusion process.
  • Store the extract in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight.
  • As you use the pure vanilla extract, you can replenish the bottle with more bourbon to extend its life. After several batches, you may want to replace the used vanilla beans to maintain the desired intensity of flavor.
  • When using your own vanilla extract in recipes, remember that it may have a slightly different taste profile compared to store bought versions. Adjust the amount according to your preferences and the specific recipe.

Can you use another liquor besides bourbon to make vanilla extract?


Yes, you can use another type of liquor to make vanilla extract. The alcohol acts as a solvent to extract the flavors from the vanilla beans, so here are some other options.

  • Vodka: Vodka is the most popular substitute for bourbon in vanilla extract recipes. It’s neutral flavor allows the vanilla beans to shine, resulting in a pure & classic vanilla extract.
  • Rum: Using rum adds a hint of sweetness and complexity to the extract. Dark rum, with its rich molasses undertones, imparts a unique flavor that complements the vanilla beautifully.
  • Brandy: Brandy offers a rich and fruity profile that works well with the sweet and floral essence of vanilla. The result is a luxurious and aromatic vanilla extract.
  • Gin: Although unconventional, gin can be used for a distinctive take on vanilla extract. The botanicals in gin add herbal and citrus notes that create a unique and intriguing flavor profile.

When using these alternative alcohols, follow the same steps outlined in the bourbon vanilla extract recipe.

The best vanilla extract recipe for baking comforting recipes.

Allow the extract to steep for at least 2 months to reach its full flavor potential, and don’t forget to label and date your jar.

Each liquor will lend its own unique essence to the vanilla extract, so experiment and find the combination that best suits your taste and desired flavors.

Our Favorite Recipes for Bourbon Vanilla Extract


Now that you’ve made your own homemade vanilla extract, you may be looking for recipes to use it in. Here’s a few delicious, family favorite recipes of ours that you can use this bourbon vanilla extract in.

A Great Homemade Gift Idea

Bourbon vanilla extract makes a thoughtful and perfect gift for various occasions.

  • Holidays: Vanilla extract is a great gift during the holiday season. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, or any other festive occasion, the warm and comforting essence of vanilla embodies the spirit of togetherness and celebration.
  • Housewarming: A new home deserves a touch of sweetness and warmth. Gifting a bottle of homemade bourbon vanilla extract is a charming way to congratulate someone on their new abode and wish them sweet memories in their kitchen.
  • Birthdays: For the baking enthusiasts and foodies celebrating their birthdays, vanilla extract is a practical yet meaningful gift that shows you know and appreciate their passions.
  • Just Because: Sometimes, the best occasions are the ones you create yourself. Gifting vanilla extract “just because” can bring joy to a friend or loved one and brighten their day.

Package your vanilla extract gift with care and add a personal touch with thoughtful labels, a bow, or recipe suggestions.

No matter the occasion, gifting homemade bourbon vanilla extract is a gesture that will be appreciated and cherished, adding a touch of flavor to someone’s life.

Homemade extract made with bourbon is the perfect gift idea.

View my google web story, The Best Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract Recipe.

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xoxo, heidi

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Homemade vanilla extract recipe with vanilla beans and bourbon.
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8 Comments

  1. Yum! I have never tried to make my own vaniall extract, but now I totally want to. I’m going to feature your receip in my weekly recap tomorrow! I think my readers will love it too!

  2. If you have a Sou Vide place your vanilla in a water bath at 130 degree’s for 5-7 hours to enhance and bring more vanilla flavor sooner than waiting 2-3 months.

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