Kirbie's Cravings

DIY Extracts

Homemade vanilla extract is easy to make. Learn how to make it plus other kinds of extract that are great to use in recipes. Homemade extracts also make great gifts!

photo of different bottles of DIY extracts

Making vanilla extract is really easy and you can package it in jars with labels to give for gifts or to keep for yourself.

I recently made some vanilla, spearmint and mint ones that I plan on giving to friends who enjoy baking. You don’t need a lot of ingredients or equipment to make a batch and it’s a fun kitchen project.

I have to hand it to Mr. K, he didn’t even blink when I randomly told him at 10 AM that I needed vodka. He’s used to my crazy requests. Later that day, we went to buy a giant bottle so I could start making the extracts.

Once you know how to make vanilla extract, it’s really easy to switch ingredients to make other flavors. I chose to use mint and spearmint from my herb garden.

close-up photo of spearmint extract bottle

What I like about making my own extracts is that you know exactly what’s in them. Especially for vanilla – making pure vanilla extract tastes so much better than the imitation extract at the grocery store.

If you want to give bottles as Christmas gifts you do need to plan because it takes a few weeks for the extract to be ready. You can also gift it early and let your friends know to wait a little bit before using it.

close up of three bottles of extracts

What I like about making my own extracts is that you know exactly what’s in them. Especially for vanilla – making pure vanilla extract tastes so much better than the imitation extract at the grocery store.

If you want to give bottles as Christmas gifts you do need to plan because it takes a few weeks for the extract to be ready. You can also gift it early and let your friends know to wait a little bit before using it.

photo collage showing ingredients

Ingredients and Other Items You’ll Need

Types of vanilla beans: You can use any whole vanilla beans for extract, but Madagascar vanilla beans, Mexican vanilla beans, and Tahitian vanilla beans are the most common. They have different flavors so it’s fun to experiment.

close-up of vanilla extract

How to Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

First, you need to split the vanilla bean so the seeds are exposed. Use a sharp paring knife to slice the bean lengthwise so the inside is exposed.

I like to use a mason jar to make the extract. Just add the vanilla bean and the alcohol. Secure the lid and then shake the jar a few times. Store the jar in a dry, dark place (like a cupboard or pantry). It should be out of direct sunlight.

Leave the jar for four weeks. After that, you can remove the vanilla bean pod and transfer the extract to smaller jars for gifting. I use a funnel to make it easy to fill the jars.

photo of six bottles of extract lined up

Variations

You can also make mint extract and spearmint extract. The process is the same except you will need to lightly crush the leaves before adding the vodka to the jar. This releases the natural oils from the herbs.

When you first make it, everything will look clear and bright. After a few days, the herbs will lose their color and become more muddled, but it still looks pretty cool.

close-up of extracts

This homemade vanilla extract recipe is great for bakers you know. It’s a fun gourmet kitchen gift! I’m excited to make batches of vanilla extract for the holidays this year – I hope everyone who gets some enjoys it.

More Homemade Gift Ideas

*Some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links. Much like referral codes, this means I earn a small commission if you purchase a product I referred (at no extra charge to you).

DIY Extracts

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Course: DIY
Making your own extracts is really easy and they are perfect a perfect gift for the holidays.

Ingredients

Vanilla Extract

  • 3-4 vanilla beans split beans in half, lengthwise, so that the inside content is completely exposed
  • 8 oz vodka

Spearmint Extract

  • 1 cup spearmint stems removed
  • 12 oz vodka

Mint Extract

  • 1 cup mint stems removed
  • 12 oz vodka

Instructions

  • For vanilla extract, add vanilla beans and vodka into a jar. Tightly close lid, then shake a few times. Keep in a dark, cool place. Shake every few days. Let sit for about 4 weeks before using.
  • For mint and spearmint extracts, add leaves and vodka. Lightly crush leaves while in jar, to let the oils out. Seal jars and shake. Keep in a dark, cool place. Shake every few days. Let sit for about 4 weeks before using.
  • When extracts are ready, pour into smaller bottles using a funnel. You can add fresh mint leaves and vanilla beans before gifting.

The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.

Did you make this recipe?I'd love to see it! Mention @KirbieCravings and tag #kirbiecravings!

 

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62 comments on “DIY Extracts”

  1. Hi, I was looking to make some apple extract but I cannot find any recipe for that…..Any ideas?

  2. question for you 🙂 I was curious if you have ever let it gone longer than 4 weeks? Our season is kind of short up here…and we harvest in Sept/Oct. I grow my own herbs and want to do this for Xmas gifts. I want to use my herbs because I know where they come from…do you think it would be ok if I let them go till Xmas time?

  3. I’m totally gonna make these! They’re great gifts to keep around in case you need a spur of the moment gift!

  4. me encanto, maravillosas ideas,gracias

  5. I understand extracts have alcohol content. Since I don’t use alcohol as a general rule, how does the alcohol content in your homemade extracts compare to commercial products? Melanie

  6. Hello, I would like to know what ratio to use for a lavender extract. I recently wanted to try a recipe and could not find it in any stores where I am.

  7. I use a lot of almond extract. Any idea how I would make that? How to use the almonds and how many? I’m definitely making my own vanilla though. Thanks

  8. Is there any substitute for the vodka?

  9. Sounds delicious. If you have a lot of flowers, fruit and veg in your garden then there is probably insects, which would be feeding heaven for birds.

    • We do have a lot, but our neighbors do as well which is why I don’t understand why they only seem to be in our yard! Oh well. haha

  10. Thanks for your idea and recipe!  I tried it but am not sure if it turned out correctly.  I used vodka and infused my mint for 4 weeks, with the mint leaves completely covered by the vodka.  The liquid turned quite dark brown which didn’t concern me too much, but when I taste it, it just tastes like a harsh alcohol with a menthol aftertaste.  Pretty horrible tasting.  The mint leaves weren’t moldy or anything.  Could  anyone else who has made it please describe how it tastes?  I can’t decide if I should double down and add more mint and infuse it longer, or just throw it out.  Any suggestions are welcome.

    • I think you should try with more mint leaves. Also make sure that you crush the leaves so that they release their oils

      • Thank you, I will try adding more mint.  I did crush the leaves pretty well, and then after 2 weeks I put the mixture in the food processor and pulsed it a few times to try to get more of the mint oils out.  Maybe that was a mistake but I thought the more surface area exposed to alcohol, the more mint flavor would be extracted.  The other potential issue is that I used a pretty cheap vodka, maybe its harshness is masking the mint flavor.  Anyway, I will try adding more mint and let you know if it helps.  Thanks for the advice & inspiration!

      • It could be the vodka. Also I wonder if it was the pulsing. By taking it out and running it through a food processor, it likely got exposed to a lot of oxygen and may have contaminated it. good luck on your next try!

  11. When making extract with citrus would you use just the zest or the whole peal including the white part?

  12. What strength of vodka did you use? There are so many brands and strengths, I am not sure what to use.
    Thank you for the great ideas!

  13. Does it matter what kind of vodka you use?

    • As long as you stick to pure vodka, you should be fine. I don’t think you need any top shelf stuff. And stay away from flavored vodkas which have other stuff added to it

  14. How long is the shelf life on these? Is it just like store bought extracts?

    • Yes, they should be the same as store bought extracts assuming your glass containers were completely sterile when you started. I still have some of mine from last year!

  15. Whats the shelf life of these extracts? Should you remove orange peels or grapefruit peels after a time?

    • if made properly, they should have the same shelf life as the ones you buy at the stores. Shelf life also depends on the extract. But the ones I made are still good after a year. I haven’t tried making ones with fruit peels yet.

  16. Would you substitute it 1:1 in recipes or is a homemade batch going to be much stronger than the store-bought stuff?  And in recipes that are not cooked wouldn’t that mean you’re making it a little alcoholic, like almond milk or homemade chocolate coconut milk?  Not only do I not consume alcohol myself at all, but I’d be giving things like almond milk to my kids.

    • I substitute 1:1. Have you checked the ingredient list of your current extracts? Most extracts sold are made with alcohol. It’s basically the same process, so most likely the ones you are currently using have alcohol too.

  17. I love DIY projects! What can the extracts be used for? 

  18. i have done this for me for a while, but it is more like 3 months wait to get a good concentration?! I also do chocolate mint, lemon balm, and plan to try catnip for the cats this year.

  19. I received homemade vanilla as a gift one year and I always have been meaning to make my own. This looks so simple to make, just have to wait 4 weeks. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Fantastic idea!  What’s the shelf life?

  21. This is such a great gift idea. They are beautiful!

  22. Fun!!  I love projects like these.  So rewarding 🙂

  23. What a unique gift! I also laughed at that random update on your garden…what funny birds.

    • I should take a picture of them! but they fly off when I open the door to the backyard. it’s so strange. I don’t know why they picked our yard as a hangout spot!

  24. Grapefruit! Grapefruit extract/ flavoring/oil has been on my Christmas list the last 3 years and despite my family looking everywhere it seems to be unavailable.

  25. wow….what a terrific idea. i think i will have to make some of these. they do make perfect little gifts. thanks for sharing.

  26. This is very nice! Homemade food gifts are the best. One of my good friends in Canada makes her own vanilla extract as well but I think she uses whisky or brandy.

  27. Great post – definitely will try this! Sounds like me, mixing up cocktails at 8:30 AM after the kids get off to school!

    • hehe, nice! yes I’ve made a few alcoholic recipes in the morning before. not always a great idea, especially if I’m taste testing on an empty stomach. 😉

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