Vanilla ExtractVanilla is an essential cooking ingredient for which there is no true substitute. The flavor of real vanilla is made up of over 250 organic components, which gives it great depth and complexity, compared to only one flavor component in artificial vanilla. There are three main types of vanilla: Madagascar Bourbon (named after the Bourbon islands not the liquor), Tahitian (fruity),and Mexican (spicy).

Whilst making your own is considered less expensive the truth is that quality commercial vanilla extract is just as pricey, but worth it.  Still, bottled in small amounts (about four ounces), it makes a wonderful gift.

Many companies make “Pure Vanilla Extract”, often packaged in large plastic containers. Unfortunately, much of this is caramel colored water-based extract with minimal pure vanilla. If that tastes good in food, you cannot imagine the quality of Nielsen-Massey Vanilla. We use their Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla in our recipes here at, along with other products by Nielsen-Massey because of their purity and standards for high quality.  In fact, it’s the only vanilla used in any of our recipes in our test kitchen.  Even our homemade extract uses their beans.

Vanilla Extract
Homemade vanilla is not only an incredible taste sensation, but it is an interesting, unique and fun thing to make, providing a great learning process.
Recipe type: Extracts
Serves: 2 Cups
  • 2 Cups vodka , 80 proof
  • 5 whole vanilla beans
  1. Combine vodka and vanilla beans in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover the jar and let it stand 6 to 8 weeks. (The vodka mixture will turn to a rich amber color after a day or two.)
  2. Shake the bottle a few times each week. After half the vanilla extract is used, add more vodka to cover the beans.
The flavor in the beans is gone when the vodka no longer turns to a dark color. However, just for good measure, we dry them on wax paper for 12 hours then add them to containers of sugar for use in baking, coffee or tea.

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