Homemade Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract ~ low carb & AIP
With the price of vanilla extract skyrocketing, making your own homemade vanilla extract is a great thing to do. This Homemade Alcohol-free Vanilla Extract requires only 2 ingredients and tastes great.
It's perfect for gifting (for yourself and for others) and for special diets too!
Today we're sharing a fabulous recipe for Homemade Alcohol-free Vanilla Extract.
Most vanilla extracts on the market, and more homemade vanilla extract recipes call for alcohol. So why alcohol-free?
Why Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract?
There are a number of reasons why you might want an alcohol-free vanilla extract recipe.
Reasons to Avoid Alcohol:
- addiction issues - those who have a history of alcohol addiction need to avoid alcohol in all forms, including extracts
- religious reasons - some religions ban the use of alcohol strictly
- dietary reasons - some diets limit or don't permit alcohol. The candida diet is one such diet, as is the AIP (autoimmune protocol, or autoimmune paleo) Diet. If you're heating a recipe using alcohol, then it will burn off, but if not, avoiding alcohol is required with such diets.
- health concerns - there is evidence connecting alcohol and breast cancer. (source) While the amount in baked goods and other sweets isn't likely a concern given the research, some might feel that total avoidance is something that they would like to do.
If you want an alcohol-free vanilla extract, you need vegetable glycerine for steeping the vanilla beans. However, often glycerine is made from corn or soy, so that's a whole other problem.
So making your own alcohol-free vanilla extract is the way to go. Then you can source your glycerine without GMOs.
Another bonus for vegetable glycerine-based vanilla extract is that it tastes amazing.
Glycerine is naturally sweet, so this Homemade Vanilla Extract tastes lovely just as it is. My son LOVES licking the spoon when I bake with it!
Before we get to the recipe, I should explain something. In reality, this is not truly an extract. Since there is no alcohol used it really is a vanilla flavor since alcohol extracts better than the alternatives. However, if you are needing to avoid alcohol, this works great.
Homemade Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract
Some of my most memorable cooking experiences involve vanilla. For me, measuring a teaspoon meant filling it until it overflowed into the cookie dough - or not using a measuring spoon at all.
So “1 teaspoon” really meant 2--minimum.
And, the smell? LOVE it. If you don’t take at least a quick whiff whenever you're baking, I’m not sure you’re human.
Unfortunately, stores mostly sell cheap imitation vanilla, or "pure" vanilla extract with added ingredients and a hefty price tag.
Instead let’s make it ourselves - especially with Christmas nearly here. What better gift than world-class homemade vanilla?
Why Avoid Store-Bought Vanilla Extract
Like most grocery store items, the story is in the ingredients. Like other food labels, the labels on vanilla extract aren't exactly honest.
Most of what Americans buy at the store is the imitation vanilla. It's much cheaper than true vanilla extract, so it's appealing that way. But the ingredients are far from natural, often containing artificial flavors, caramel coloring, and corn syrup. No thanks -- especially for something that doesn’t taste anything like true vanilla.
The next option is to buy pure vanilla extract. This is a better option for non DIYers, but there are drawbacks. For example, McCormick brand vanilla extract carries a price tag of $23.20 for a pint. Not exactly budget-friendly.
Caution: even if the label says ”100% pure vanilla extract,” there can still be extra ingredients (like corn syrup!). That label just means that the vanilla flavoring comes from vanilla beans - not artificial flavors.
Why Alcohol-Free Vanilla?
The term “extract” means that the product carries 35% alcohol. When you buy pure vanilla extract, most of it contains vodka, bourbon, brandy, or rum.
We don’t like to use alcohol for religious reasons. However, alcohol may affect probiotics. So if you use vanilla made with alcohol to flavor your yogurt, you might reduce the benefits of the yogurt.
So today I'm going to show you how to make your vanilla with glycerine instead - aka vanilla glycerite, or with water if you can't have glycerine.
What is Vegetable Glycerine?
Glycerine comes from palm, coconut, corn or soybean oil (that’s why we always buy organic) that’s gone through a process called hydrolysis.
The oil is heated under pressure with water until the glycerine splits from the fatty acids and is absorbed by water. Then it’s further distilled to enhance purity. Glycerine is a clear, sweet, thick syrup.
It’s commonly used in food manufacturing because of its sweet flavor with fewer calories than table sugar. Our bodies also metabolize glycerine more slowly than sugar, preventing a blood sugar spike.
This "extract" is great, however, there are a few drawbacks to using glycerine as opposed to alcohol--flavor and shelf life. We love the flavor of this, but others swear by the alcohol versions, especially when they are based in rum or bourbon vanilla.
What Is the Shelf Life of Alcohol-free Vanilla Extract?
Shelf life information for vanilla extract is a little confusing as there are varying thoughts on it. There are valid sources online stating that the shelf life of vanilla extract is indefinite.
While the shelf life for alcohol-free vanilla extract isn't as long, some say that it will last only a year, whereas other sources state that the glycerine acts like a preservative and that it should last about 4-6 years. I think that the latter is likely more accurate.
Homemade Vanilla Extract--Perfect for Gifting
This Christmas, we’re making this extract to give as gifts. Who wouldn’t appreciate their own bottle of delicious homemade vanilla extract? Especially when they take the lid off and get that first smell - it’s almost intoxicating!
But, remember, the extract takes 2-3 months to make, so if you'd like to make this for gifting, get a head start!
You will need a nifty bottle that holds a pint of liquid. Beanilla has some snazzy bottles, but we bought these bottles off of Amazon.
- Vanilla Beans: You can use up to 14 vanilla beans for a stronger flavor. It will cost more of course. See the Money Saving Tips that follow for ways to save.
- Alcohol version: Use alcohol instead of glycerine if you need to avoid glycerine for any reason. Some say you can use filtered water and store in the fridge to steep, but I'm not at all comfortable with that as bacteria would likely grow very quickly.
Money Saving Tip
Let's face it--vanilla beans aren't cheap. But thankfully, you can re-use them. After you use them for one batch, simply start a second one.
If you aren't ready to start another one right away, store the beans in a small jar like these with about 1 inch of vegetable glycerine in the jar to keep them fresh.
Of course, you can also save money by buying bulk. I would buy at least 1/4 pound. Here is a 1 lb option as well.
No Time to Make Vanilla Extract?
If you're short on time and NEED vanilla now, try these vanilla extract substitutes on for size!
Homemade Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract ~ low carb & AIP
- 7-10 vanilla beans
- 1 pint non-GMO vegetable glycerine
- Slice the vanilla beans vertically. Don't remove anything, just toss them (bean and everything) in your bottle.
- Add the glycerine, put the lid on, and put it somewhere out of the way.
- Once a week, give the bottle a good shake (after 4 weeks you can shake it 2-3 times per week). Over time, the glycerine will turn dark. It’s ready when you take the lid off and you’re overpowered by the fragrance. As long as you give it least a few months, you're good.
- Leave the vanilla beans in, and they’ll continue to add flavor the longer it's stored.
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is merely an approximation. Optional ingredients are not included and when there is an alternative, the primary ingredient is typically used. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site. Erythritol carbs are not included in carb counts since they have been shown not to impact blood sugar. Net carbs are the total carbs minus fiber.
You’ve made your own vanilla for much cheaper than the store-bought good stuff. Plus it's healthier and tastier than the imitation versions.
Enjoy - and let me know how it went!
Please let me know in the comments how your vanilla extract making adventures go!
Loved this recipe! Created a dark vanilla extract unlike what some reviews are saying. I waited six months and now it’s amazing, smells and looks great!
That's so great to hear! I wonder what happened that was different! What did you use?
I make vanilla extract also. Currently have over 14 gallons extracting. I would like to make a few remarks about your method.
First off vegetable glycerin will not be ready in a few months. Glycerin extracts really slowly. It takes a minimum of 24 months to get a good quality vanilla using glycerin. Actually I leave mine alone for more like 36-48 mo. I leave my alcohol based vanilla extracting for 24 months. If you only extract vanilla for a few months you only have vanilla flavored alcohol or glycerin.
When using vegetable glycerin you need to dilute the glycerin with distilled water. 3/4 glycerin to 1/4 distilled water. Otherwise it will take even longer as the glycerin will be too thick. You will not be able to shake it either due to the thickness.
I am commenting from real life usage and not from a book or what I have read like some seem to do.
I am not an expert so do it however you want to.
Hi there. Thanks for this. I am not seeing anywhere online that it takes 24 months. I'm also concerned about adding water since that will lead to bacteria growing. Not sure what to think about this. Thanks.
HI, new to the vanilla making thing, trying the glycerin out as well as the alcohol version. what I've noticed is that that glycerin doesn't really shake as it is so thick so the beans just kinda sit there suspended in the glycerin. Its also been about 3 weeks and no color at all, whereas my alcohol version was caramel colored within a week.
I have super good quality beans, and have about 14 in the pint (i really like vanilla)
So, how long does it usually take before you start getting that beautiful caramel color?
Thanks so much
Hi there - so sorry for the late response. How is the color now? It may not get as dark as regular vanilla but mine does get to be a nice color. The texture is thicker like syrup but I have been able to agitate / shake mine. Let me know!
Hi, I wish I could post a picture.. it's really a nice color now. It doesn't smell so much like vanilla, but tastes like it. It got a bit cloudy, so I am a little worried about that, but now, 6 months into the Glycerin, it works. I think I will leave it alone bit longer and see what happens 🙂
Interesting......so better now after 6 mos....hmmmm...someone commented that it needs to be left for 24 months but that seems crazy and I'm not seeing that anywhere on the internet. I have to go and try to figure this out. Cloudy is of course a little bit of a concern hmm...do let me know if you find anything out!
You know - there's a vanilla group on fb - are you there? Maybe we could figure this out together. I'm researching a few too many things right now LOL!
I am on one called The artisian Vanilla and spice Co-OP. That's where I got my beans. Is there another. Well, I'm sure there must be others! Lol
That's the one I meant. I wonder if there is some kind of help there?
Does using glycerin based vanilla change the texture of cookies and other baked goods?
Hi there, Raeann - shouldn't matter at all especially since it's such a small amount. Happy baking and making!
Do you have any idea on how to make a clear alcohol free vanilla? I make a Dominican cake recipe that my friends say have to use a specific vanilla. They gave me some and it appears to be a vanilla flavored clear thick liquid of some sort. I am thinking I can do better than that....
Hi there. Are you saying it needs to be clear in color for some reason? Can you read the label? Is it just vanilla or is it a syrup?
This recipe makes clear vanilla extract.
You're the best :).
Hi, didn't want to rate yet, as it doesn't seem to be working.
Glycerin is so thick, the beans don't... shake. It wasnin their for a month and didn't change colors at all.
So sorry for the late response. How is the color going now? It may not get as dark as regular vanilla but mine does get to be a nice color. The texture is thicker like syrup but I have been able to agitate / shake mine. Please do let me know!
It looks like a light tea color? I took beans out and cut them a little more. Will see how that does. 🙂
I guess it does not need to be clear. I mostly want to recreate the flavor I am thinking. What they gave me is clear, thick and very potent flowery vanilla scent. It seems to be a trademark Dominican cake vanilla, according to my friends. Since I make vanilla already with alcohol, I thought I could try to make this new version for their cakes. Maybe besides using glycerin I need a specific type of bean..
Gosh I don't know! I would maybe try the glycerin one and see what you think! I think it might be close to what you are hoping for. I have more vanilla ideas coming soon hopefully!
This recipe does make clear vanilla extract that is also alcohol free.
The glycerin is clear and thick. The vanilla beans impart a lot of flavor and virtually zero color, along with a few dark vanilla bean specks. And of course "shaking is color-free"!. I've made a lot of it for personal use and as Christmas gifts. The only color was from the brown bottles used. You're encouraged to make it and enjoy it!
Thanks much, Steve. Mine is actually brownish for the first batch--is yours not when you make it? It's a lighter brown as I make subsequent batches.
Thank you for all the info. Waiting on my beans now.