Today, Erin from Eat Real Stay Sane is 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.
If you want an alcohol-free vanilla extract, you need vegetable glycerin for steeping the vanilla beans. However, often glycerin 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 glycerin without GMOs.
Another bonus for vegetable glycerin-based vanilla extract is that it tastes amazing.
Glycerin 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!
So with that, here's Erin to share with you her recipe.
But first, 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 glycerin instead – aka vanilla glycerite, or with water if you can't have glycerin.
What is Vegetable Glycerin?
Glycerin 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 glycerin splits from the fatty acids and is absorbed by water. Then it’s further distilled to enhance purity. Glycerin is a clear, sweet, thick syrup.
It’s commonly used in food manufacturing because of it’s sweet flavor with fewer calories than table sugar. Our bodies also metabolize glycerin more slowly than sugar, preventing a blood sugar spike.
However, there are a few drawbacks to using glycerin as opposed to alcohol — flavor and shelf life. We love the flavor, but others swear by rum or bourbon vanilla.
The shelf life for a vanilla extract is about 4-6 years, while glycerin-based vanilla lasts about a year.
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, it takes 2-3 months to make, so get started now to have it in time for Christmas gifting.
By the way, any of the following links may be affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I might make a commission. Your support is much appreciated and helps keep this free resource up and running.
- 7-10 vanilla beans for each pint of glycerin (you can use up to 14 for stronger flavor, but it's more pricey). There are a lot of varieties of vanilla beans. We like these.
- A nifty bottle that holds a pint of liquid. Beanilla has some snazzy bottles, but we bought these bottles off of Amazon.
- 1 Pint of USP grade, non-GMO glycerin. (For THM use alcohol instead of glycerin.)
- Slice the vanilla beans vertically. Don't remove anything, just toss them (bean and everything) in your bottle.
- Add the glycerin, 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 glycerin 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.
For those needing to avoid glycerin (like those on the Trim Healthy Mama diet (THM), use alcohol. Some say you can use filtered water and store in the fridge to steep, but I'm not comfortable with that as bacteria would likely grow very quickly.
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!
Erin and Cameron Smith, owners of Eat Real Stay Sane, teach people how to adopt a healthy lifestyle. They focus on real food, eliminating toxins, and overcoming chronic illness. Their secret is to cook homemade substitutes of foods they like – but with healthy ingredients. Get their free ebook, “Guilty Pleasure Recipes Without the Guilt.” You can follow them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.