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How to Make Homemade Extracts – Vanilla, Lemon and Almond

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I do a fair amount of baking, especially once the weather gets cooler, so I figured I could save quite a bit of money if I learned how to make homemade extracts. It turns out it couldn't be much simpler – the biggest skill required is patience – and I can have plenty of extract for pennies on the dollar compared to buying high quality extract.

How to Make Homemade Extracts - Vanilla, Lemon and Almond. Save money, create custom extracts. Includes printable extract labels.

This post covers how to make the three homemade extracts I use the most – vanilla, almond and lemon.

Always make sure all your containers and kitchenware are well cleaned. If you want, you can sterilize by boiling for ten minutes, plus one minute per every 1000 feet above sea level. I haven't boiled, I've just used well-washed everything, and I haven't had any problems.

How to Make Homemade Extracts - Vanilla, Lemon and Almond. Save money, create custom extracts. Includes printable extract labels.

How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

1. Use 2 ounces of vanilla beans and one pint vodka for every pint of extract that you want to make. (For one cup of extract, use one ounce, and so on.)

vanilla beans for homemade extract

2. Chop the beans into 1/4 to 1/2 inch long pieces. Many recipes call for slicing and scraping, but if you simply cut the beans into small pieces, you can get the same results with much less mess and effort.

3. Place the cut vanilla beans in a lidded, glass jar with 80 proof (40% alcohol by weight) vodka. I prefer to use vodka bottled in glass rather than plastic, and watch for whatever's on sale. Lately I've been using Svedka. You can see the bean pieces at the bottom of the jar and the floating vanilla flecks.

homemade vanilla extract

4. Shake the bottle once a day for at least a month, and you have homemade vanilla extract. I usually aim for two to three months. The color and flavor will deepen with age.

5. Strain the finished extract through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and place in a dark bottle. You can order bottles online or find them in some specialty stores, or reuse empty extract bottles that you already have on hand. Alternatively, you can measure right out of your brewing bottle and continue to let the rest steep, or pour off some and let the rest steep. I like to bottle what I'm using separately to reduce any risk of contamination from dipping into an open jar (even if it is filled with alcohol). You really don't need to strain if you're just pouring off the top, and you can add more alcohol a few times (depending on how much you draw off and how strong your beans are).

6. Store in a cool, dark location.

If you buy the vanilla beans in bulk you can save even more (I have split orders with friends). You can also buy assortments of beans and mix and match types for subtle flavor differences. I think my homemade extract with a mix a beans tastes and smells as good or better than any commercial extract I've tried.

Purchase Boston Round Bottles, 4 Oz Pack of 12

For gift giving, you may want to consider using different alcohols (such as brandy or rum) combined with different bean types for a truly unique gift. Or just make up one big batch and split it into small decorative bottles.

How to Make Homemade Extracts - Vanilla, Lemon and Almond. Save money, create custom extracts. Includes printable extract labels.

How to Make Homemade Lemon Extract

This recipe is based on the post “How to Make Baking Extracts” from the Denver Post.

1. Combine the zest from 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon sugar and ½ cup 80 proof (40% alcohol by weight) vodka. Don't use the pith (white part) of the lemon- just stick to the yellow – as the pitch is bitter. I like to use my Microplane zester to get a beautiful, fine lemon zest.

lemon zest for homemade extract
Lemon zest with the Microplane Zester
lemon zest for making homemade lemon extract

2. Place zest, sugar and vodka in a lidded, glass jar.

3. Shake the bottle once a day for at least a month, and you have homemade lemon extract. I usually aim for two to three months. The flavor will improve with age.

4. Strain the finished extract through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and place in a dark bottle. Alternatively, just pour off a small portion for use and allow the rest to continue steeping.

5. Store in a cool, dark location.

How to Make Homemade Extracts - Vanilla, Lemon and Almond. Save money, create custom extracts. Includes printable extract labels.

How to Make Homemade Almond Extract

Commercial almond extract is made with bitter almonds, which contain a cyanide precursor, which I don't suggest brewing at home.; In fact, some folks argue that you should not use natural almond extract at all, only the synthetic. For my part, I'm more likely to trust nature than chemists. I've read that the same pits and seeds that contain the cyanide precursors also contain anti-cancer compounds. I don't go out of my way to consume extra seeds and pits, but I don't worry if they occasionally get eaten.

These instructions are based on the E-how post “How to Make Your Own Almond Extract“. By now, you know the drill, but we'll go through the steps and proportions.

almonds for homemade almond extract

1. Use 12 whole, raw skinless almonds and one pint 80 proof (40% alcohol by weight) vodka for every pint of extract that you want to make.(For one cup of extract, use 6 almonds, and so on.) My almonds had been in the freezer for while, so I used more. The skins will make the extract more bitter, so it's best to opt for skinless. Better tasting almonds make better tasting extract.

2. Chop almonds and place almonds and vodka in a lidded, glass jar. More surface area means more flavor transfer from almonds to alcohol.

3. Shake the bottle once a day for at least a month, and you have homemade almond extract. I usually aim for two to three months. The flavor will improve with age.

4. Strain the finished extract through cheesecloth or coffee filter and place in a dark bottle. Alternatively, just pour off a small portion for use and allow the rest to continue steeping.

5. Store in a cool, dark location. This extract will not taste as strong as commercial almond extracts, so you may want to make a small batch and see if you like it before making it in quantity.

And now you know how to make homemade extracts.; The same concept can be used with homegrown mints for homemade mint extract, or to make homemade orange extract and coconut extract. The shelf life is indefinite – alcohol is a preservative. I'd still recommend using in a year or two because the flavor will fade once the solids have been removed.

If you want to try different fruit extracts, like watermelon or strawberry, I'd recommend dehydrating or freeze drying the fruit first to concentrate the flavor.

If you'd like to use the labels shown in the photos above, just click on the image below. The file is large, so it make take a couple minutes to open.

Update: I just added a jpg copy of the labels, shrunk down to fit on 4 oz bottles. This will only fill about half a page when printing. Download extract labels sized for 4 oz jars.

More Great Extract and Infusion Recipes

How to Make Homemade Extracts - Vanilla, Lemon and Almond. Save money, create custom extracts. Includes printable extract labels. @ Common Sense Home

Originally published in 2012, updated in 2016.

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229 Comments

    1. I have seen video recipes using a couple cinnamon sticks to do this. They said pick a bag of them(8-12 sticks) up for $2 from the Indian foods market. Has anyone ever done this using PGlycol or Vglycol? I’m wondering if the flavor comes out as strong?

      1. Yes Vegetable glycerine, organic canola oil, or any oil you prefer will work fine. I’ve made extracts using vegetable glycerine, olive oil, canola oil, and coconut oil. With the glycerine extract I heated it. It speeds up the process. My Vanilla extract works great in recipes using organic oils instead of alcohol. They last in the cupboard for months. I store in cobalt glass bottles to keep the light out. Oils go rancid when exposed to light and heat. If you are worried about it going rancid you can add a vitamin E drop to it and also to olive oil to keep it from going bad.

    2. Yes you can, i have made one using 50% (100 proof) vodka and my other half uses it to maintain his high blood pressure, just a couple of drops are needed tho, too much will lower your blood pressure too far, this is from experience you do not want so use caution.

      1. Wait – exactly what lowers your blood pressure? I’m experiencing extremely high blood pressure lately so I’m really interested in what you’re saying! Thanks!

        1. Mrs Pet:

          If you are experiencing extremely high blood pressure lately you need to be checked out by a Dr. and tests run. I just had a heart attack and found out I had a 100% closed artery to my heart. This started with unusual blood pressure elevation.

        2. mrspet–I made smoothies 5 days per week (apples, bananas, pineapple, kiwi, and pomegranate juice) to get my husband off BP medicine. We bought a really good mixer that would break up tiny seeds like from raspberries, kiwis, etc. We also put whatever else in we have at the moment–like cherries, peaches, grapes, watermelon–whatever you like! He was able to come off medicine within the first month of doing this. I also try to cook at least 80% of our food from the beginning to cut down on chemicals, preservatives, salt, etc in pre-made stuff. So watching what you eat, and smoothies, in conjunction with cinnamon can either help do away with, or greatly lower the amount of BP medicine needed.

          1. Lemon essential oil is supposed to regulate blood pressure, whether high or low. I drink lemon EO in water daily, but you have to buy a therapeutic grade EO, like Doterra.

          2. I am a doTERRA representative, but I don’t recommend taking essential oils internally, even high quality oils. “Therapeutic grade” is an arbitrary distinction created by doTERRA and does not represent any sort of designation or certification from an unbiased third party.

          3. There’s nothing magical in this. What lowered his BP was the potassium content from the fruit, especially bananas. You can achieve the same result by taking one daily OTC potassium supplement, or by drinking a tablespoon of lemon juice.

            And if you have high BP, get a full thyroid workup. The root cause is usually low thyroid.

        3. If you have high blood pressure, talk to your dr about Beet root! It’s amazing and doing great things to lower my husbands blood pressure.

          1. I have read somewhere that drinking 1/4 cup of beet juice per day will lower your blood pressure to normal limits. I use an extraction juicer for beets but find them so sweet I have to toss in a whole lemon – skin and all. Very sweet isn’t my thing so perhaps others won’t mind it.

    3. I think this is really cool however I am not soure I like the ideas of giving my kids something made with this due to the alcohol is the a way to substitute it

      1. Have you ever used store bought extracts? If so, you’re using alcohol. For baked items, the alcohol evaporates during the baking process.

        If you prefer, you can use vegetable glycerin instead of alcohol, but I prefer the flavor, consistency and shelf life of alcohol based extracts. The amount of alcohol per serving is minute, even if the recipe isn’t baked. Think about it – one teaspoon of extract in a whole batch of cookies.

  1. For the vanilla, I use Rum, just because I think it gives a better flavor and I let it sit for about 9 months before using. I also scrape my beans so I can make vanilla sugar.. Will have to try the other extracts, thanks

        1. Whenever I scrape a vanilla bean for a recipe, I put the scraped bean iin my sugar cannister. My sugar always smells like vanilla.

    1. I use dark rum to make vanilla. Have been doing so for 40 years. Likely some of the same beans are still around. Here, the beans come in a vacuum sealed packet of perhaps a dozen or so. When I open the package I put the remaining beans directly in a jar of rum to keep them soft and pliable. After I’ve scraped out the seeds I need, I put the empty pod in there too and top up the jar as needed. I’ve never had to strain the vanilla and can’t imagine why you would ever need to. Occasionally, I’ve taken a few empty pods out and blitzed them in a blender with coffee and a little almond milk to drink over ice. Or I’d have an awful big jar by now.

  2. I already have made vanilla- I need to get started on some others now! I think a variety of homemade extracts would make a great Christmas gift this year for several people on my list!

  3. Almond Extract will not taste like store bought Almond Extract as that is made from bitter almonds that are not legally sold to the public in the United State.
    I do make my own extracts but for vanilla the process time is 6 months.

    1. Yes, I do mention in the post that the almond extract will not taste like store extract, and that people should try a small amount before they make a large amount in case they don’t like the flavor. As for the vanilla brew time, I’ve seen everything from 4 weeks to 6 months suggested. I’m all for a longer brew if you have the time!

      1. I make my vanilla extract a quart at a time. I never use any that is less than 6 months old and prefer longer. The other thing I never do is strain it. I leave the beans in the jar until it’s empty. I keep extract made with both rum and vodka. I use the rum extract in heavier recipes, like fruit cakes, bread puddings, fruited cookies, and some pies and tarts (try a little in oatmeal with raisins or craisins and fresh banana for something yummy and different). I use the vodka extract in lighter recipes, like white, yellow, or angel food cakes, sugar cookies, pancakes, and the like.

        There are a few things I do differently with my almond extract. I roast the almonds, which, like blanching, makes it easier to remove the skin, and aids in increasing the flavor. I use more almonds, filling the jar I’m using about 1/3 full. I know this sounds weird, but I also add a few peach kernels to the extract.

        1. Although flavorful (you can smell the strong almond like flavor when you open them), peach pits contain a form of cyanide, so that may be something readers wish to consider before adding them to their brew.

          From Ask Dr. Gourmet:

          “One hundred grams of moist peach seed contains 88 mg of cyanide. That’s a fair amount and if you ate 100 grams of peach seed it could be dangerous. The pit from a peach weighs only 10 grams. If you ate the whole pit, you’d get about 9 milligrams of cyanide in the form of amygdalin.”

          1. Almonds also contain cyanide, as do apples, spinach, apricots, plums and others. Low doses of cyanide are not dangerous and cyanide in small amounts can also combine with another chemical in the body to form vitamin B12, which helps maintain healthy nerve and red blood cells. I would think a few in a quart of extract would not be dangerous.

          2. Oh, and I love your article. It is simple and informative. I also read about Stevia and intent to try that as well…but first the Almond Extract.

        1. To make an extract, you use an alcohol base. Since these are generally used in small amounts for cooking, the alcohol cooks off, and it simply acts as a temporary carrier for the flavor.

          You can make a flavored oil, but it will not have the same preservative properties as alcohol and will thus have a shorter shelf life. (Alcohol based extracts will keep indefinitely.) Flavored oils often have a less intense flavoring effect than an alcohol based extract, so you will need more flavored oil to get the same amount of flavoring in a recipe.

          If you want to try an oil based flavoring instead of an extract, use a mild, food grade oil such as sunflower or fractionated (liquid) coconut oil. Dry herbs are best to reduce the risk of spoilage.

          1. Laurie (or anyone), have you ever attempted a reduction of your citrus extract, in order to concentrate the citrus flavor?

          2. I haven’t, but you could try it. My primary concern would be that any method used to remove excess water would also drive off the aromatic compounds that create the flavor.

      2. I second the longer fermenting time suggestion! I came here last summer, used your recipe for vanilla and finally used it yesterday to make snickerdoodles. The flavor was really intense and worth every moment I waited. And I used some rum I purchased in Jamaica for one bottle and some high grade vodka for the other. What an amazing tastes they add to baked goods.

  4. Great ideas. I guess, I should just look for a large vodka bottle so I can make extracts and use it as a preservative in other recipes. I do not drink anymore, so the weirdest part is going to a package store for the vodka. I have read that everclear works well too, since it is tasteless and all you taste is the additive. I have not tried either yet.

  5. I’ve heard of bourbon vanilla extract and assumed this meant it was made with bourbon – do you know if that is the case? Do you know what one tastes better? Thanks (:

    1. Nope, not bourbon, bourbon vanilla beans. Vanilla.com discusses the differences:

      Beans vary in flavor and fragrance when they are grown in different parts of the world. Soil and climate differences as well as methods of curing imbue unique qualities in beans. Vanilla grown only 20 miles apart can have subtle but distinct differences in flavor and appearance.

      Tips for choosing quality beans
      Premium beans, regardless of where they come from, should have a rich, full aroma, be oily to the touch and sleek in appearance. Beans to avoid are those with very little scent, are smoky, brittle or dry or are mildewed.

      Bourbon beans are long and slender, with a very rich taste and smell, have thick, oily skin, contain an abundance of tiny seeds and have a strong vanilla aroma. Bourbon beans from Madagascar and the Comoros are described as having a creamy, haylike, and sweet, with vanillin overtones. Bourbon beans from other regions of the world will be similar if they are picked at peak ripeness and are properly cured.

      Mexican beans are very similar to Bourbon beans though they have a more mellow, smooth, quality and a spicy, woody fragrance.

      Tahitian beans are usually shorter, plumper, and contain a higher oil and water content than Bourbon beans. The skin is thinner, they contain fewer seeds, and the aroma is fruity and floral. They are often described as smelling like licorice, cherry, prunes, or wine.
      All three types of vanilla are equally good to use though their flavors are quite different. I suggest that you experiment to determine which flavor you most like. Or you may find, as I have, that you will choose beans that best pair with the food or beverage you are preparing.

  6. Hi, inquiring about bitter almonds: With regards to purchasing online, is this site bitteralmond.com reputable? It says that their almonds are grown in Iran, which for obvious reasons raises some red flags esp. here in the U.S. But as far as I know, almonds themselves are native to the Middle East and other parts of Eurasia and Africa, so maybe buying from Iran will garner a more “organic” product (seeing as they’re native to that region).

    Any answers anyone can provide will be of much help. I too am sick and tired of the corrupt FDA nanny state telling people what we can and cannot do to our bodies. I figured all that was settled some 40 years ago with a little thing called Roe v. Wade. After all, the government doesn’t say it’s illegal to get tattoos, piercings or plastic surgeries, so why the double standard re: “my body, myself”?

  7. I was reading a blog which mentioned drying and grinding the infused orange rinds, once strained, in a seed grinder for use in recipes or drying and using in tea. I hate wasting anything; might someone dry/toast the almonds after infusing for use in other recipes?

    1. I think you’d need to be careful with the toasting, because they would want to light on fire. 🙂 i could see mixing them in a quick bread, or throwing them in oatmeal. Most of the flavor will be soaked out, but they’re edible.

  8. What a great article – the instructions seem quite easy to follow and the reasons for the steps are explained well and in depth. . I hope I can try to make some of these extracts soon. 🙂 Thanks so much!

    1. It is really easy – and a great money saver! My bottles are still sitting in the pantry. I just transfer a portion to a smaller bottle for use, and let the rest continue infusing.

  9. I’m looking for recipe of homemade almond extract. Thank you very much for the useful recipes! I will try them and present you the result.

  10. Great recipes for extracts! You might want to correct the third paragraph under the photograph of the hand holding the almonds. It states, “Shake the bottle once a day for at least a month, and you have homemade lemon extract” instead of ‘almond extract’. Thank you for the recipes.

  11. I tried to make sure no one else asked this but I can only find slivered almonds which some sites say are another name for skinless. Will this work. Your pic is of a whole almond.

    1. You can use slivered almonds, or you can remove the skins from whole almonds by soaking them overnight or blanching them. The skin will slip right off. This video show both soaking and blanching.

  12. Very good information, Thanks a bunch I will be making some as soon as I get the vodka. When you talk about bitter almonds and cyanide it make me wonder if these are apricot pits? If I were to use them would they also need to be skinned?

  13. I love making the vanilla extract and giving it as gifts! My friends and family love getting it as much as I love making it. It is such a great gift. So much better than store bought anything. I gave them the vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, cinnamon sugar, small pies in a jar that they would cook themselves when they wanted it. I would place a piece of parchment paper in the gift bag so they could put it on the baking sheet to protect it from the pie overflowing and making a mess. I also made them butter and put a soup mix in a one quart ball jar. They would get a nice letter with instructions on how to thaw the pie first for a bit before baking. Dates on each item on how long they would last. I also made applesauce. That was probably the easiest of all to make. If anyone would like the instructions, just email. I will gladly share! Thanks for listening.

      1. Thanks so much ! I love baking. Wish I had a baking partner. It would be even more fun. If anyone is looking for vanilla beans I get mine from Amazon. They are called Spicy World Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans. I get the half pound bag which costs 27.00 and free shipping. There are about 65 to 70 per bag. It is awesome. You can get smaller or larger bags.

        1. Thank is help full to buy the beans on Amazon I bought mine at Harmon’s grocery store and they were $7.00 for 3 beans yikes. Thanks for the help.

    1. Hey Melissa

      I would LOVE to have some of your recipes. I moved to a little farm last fall and have in mind to make presents for Christmas. I also like to craft, so making cute tags is just another fun thing to do. I live in Northwest TN. I, too, would love a baking buddy. I grind different kinds of wheat berries, grains, etc. to make fresh, healthy breads.

      Yipeee, so much fun!!!

    2. I would love to be on the site for all the holliday baking and homemade gifts count me in. Nothing better thatn a gift form you hands

    3. Melissa, I would love your recipes. I am already making my own vanilla extract with bourbon and vanilla. The bourbon is so much better, especially in hot chocolate.Thanks

    4. Hello Melissa,

      I realize your post on Common Sense Home was on July !0, 2013, but It’s still posted, so I decided to contact you to see what deal you worked out with Laurie. Did you just email the ones who contacted you or did Laurie post your recipes as a guest host? If she did, do you know how I can access it. I really like your ideas. Thanks!

  14. Hello, so what about pistachio extract? Can I do this with pistachios? I found it is difficult to find pistachio extract. Also when I did find it the ingredients of the suppose natural extracts is not even pistachios well it only says “natural flavors”. Is there a reason for this? I want just a bit of pistachio extract and I wish it to be real pistachios. Is this possible? Thank you.

    1. There’s one way to find out… I haven’t tried it, and I’m not sure how well the flavor would carry, but it wouldn’t be too expensive to give it a try with about half a cup of vodka filled with chopped raw pistachios.

    1. For me, you could post here, or if you’re game you could email to me at laurie at commonsensehome dot com along with some photos and I’ll feature them in a guest post.

  15. Do the store bought brands also use alcohol as its liquid base? And using this the in the same ratios as I’ve always used the store bought one will yield the same results? The recipes look great! Thank you.

    1. Store bought extracts do have an alcohol base. Flavorings typically have an oil base. Most recipes I use specify extracts. The almond will likely have a little bit different flavor (as noted), but otherwise these should be largely interchangeable with store extracts. (Personally, I prefer the flavor of the homemade, especially when I make vanilla with several different types of beans. Yum!)

  16. Great little post you have here. I was wondering if it is possible to make a watermelon extract. or if it would be too watery?

    1. If I were going to try it – and that would be a big “if” – I would first finely dice and then dehydrate the watermelon, and then place the dehydrated bits in the vodka. Lots of putzing around, not sure if it would work or not, but if you didn’t concentrate the flavor I know it wouldn’t work. Way too much water.

  17. I just bought beans, but I hate Vodka. Any chance you can use Whiskey or Brandy or Bourbon? Also, I have Southern Comfort…what is it? It doesn’t say what kind of alcohol it is on the bottle. I also have rum and saw someone said they use it. What kind of rum do you use? Light, dark, cheap, expensive? I want to use anything but vodka, so any direction would be helpful. Thanks.

    1. You should use a product that is 80 proof (40% alcohol by weight). Southern Comfort is a whiskey blend with fruit and spices, so will add a taste of its own to the extract. If you don’t like vodka, I’d probably go with brandy or rum. Using a lighter product will let more of the vanilla flavor shine through. I wouldn’t make extract out of anything I wouldn’t be willing to drink. I usually stick to mid-range products packaged in glass, and watch for sales.

      1. I have used JAck Daniels Honey and it turned out great. Definitely a slightly different flavor than with the Vodka but very good.

  18. What exactly does the homemade almond extract taste like vs storebought? I’m not actually that big of a fan of the taste of the kind from the store but I’m curious to know what the real stuff tastes like. How would you describe it?

    1. For you, Jennifer, I just went and did a shot of extract. I’d have to say that the flavor is very mild, subtlety sweet and more nutty than store vodka. For my palette, I prefer commercial extract, especially the aroma, because it is so much stronger and more floral. It’s sort of like comparing the scent of an heirloom rose and a violet. Both are pleasant, but the roses will about knock you over with their scent while the violets are much more delicate.

  19. I finally used the last of a vanilla extract I started 7 years ago. I bought a big bottle of vodka…split and chopped about 10 vanilla beans…and kept it in the sun to “brew”. I shared portions of it with family and friends using little bottles I picked up at yard sales and Goodwill and corked them with a bag of corks I bought at the dollar store. I bake all of the time and the vanilla only got better with time. I make sure to have an extra bottle started on November 1st of each year so I never run out and my friends love the gifts.

      1. 7 years?!? Wow, so you don’t HAVE to strain the vanilla beans out of the alcohol? I bet that is interesting. Has anyone ever tried Tequila? I don’t really drink and that’s all I have in the house right now from a different cooking project.

        BTW, LOVE this post!

        1. LOL…I never thought about selling it….I love it too much. The split vanilla pods stay in the bottle for the most part. The little seeds are perfectly fine and sometimes greatly desired…Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, etc.
          I don’t know about Tequila, the taste may be a bit strong. Most folks I know use clear, light tasting liquors.
          I thank you all for the wonderful comments 🙂 Now, go buy some vodka and some vanilla beans!!!

          1. About using Tequila I want to make orange extract for Margarita’s , store brands have oil. Also I dont like vodka, plus it’s made from potatoes and I’m on a low starch diet! LOL
            Thanks, great site I learned alot here today!

          2. The starch in the potatoes in fermented in alcohol, which is then distilled. No starch left. Unless you’re drinking large amounts of your extract, it should not provide a significant amount of carbs or calories.

  20. Can I make chocolate extract the same way as vanilla extract. I haven’t been able to find any instructions to make chocolate extract. Thank you

  21. I make my vanilla with vegetable glycerin and it taste great. I’m assuming it would work for the others as well….but wondering what you thought?

    1. I know there are other vegetable glycerin based extracts available for purchase, so I would think it should work, but the shelf life would likely be shorter than an alcohol base. I’d probably keep it in the fridge, too, especially if you were attempting something like the lemon where there is more moisture to potentially breed bacteria (although the acidity of the lemon should help prevent that).

  22. These are great recipes, and im trying the lemon..But whats the point of adding sugar to the extract? Most baking and icing recipes require sugar anyways.

    1. The added sugar is to give the product a taste more similar to commercial extracts. It also adds another layer of shelf stability by binding up free water to prevent bacterial growth, but with the alcohol base this really isn’t necessary. You could try it with and without and see which you prefer.

  23. I live where I do grow some of these nuts etc. I am trying this for sure. Just in time for Christmas and some fun. Thank you for some cute idea’s for gifts too.

  24. I did the same!! I still have a batch brewing in my cabinet from over a year ago. It tastes great! Can’t wait to make lemon extract!

  25. If you wanted a stronger Almond extract…could you use 24 almonds instead of 12? Thanks for the post…Almond extract is expensive in the store!!

    1. You can use as many as you like, but the flavor will still be milder than commercial extracts. The better the quality of the almonds, the better the flavor of the extract. I just ordered some organic raw almonds, and the flavor is much more intense than your average off the shelf batch of almonds. Planning to try these and see what the new extract is like.

  26. I made a small batch of vanilla from vanilla beans I bought in Mexico and soaked it in 100 proof grain alcohol for the past 16 years. I left the whole beans in the slender lite bluebottles from Renys.. topped with a cork and waxed it!! The 3 bottles are still in my kitchen window. Over the years the some of the wax disintegrated and some acohol evaporated out.. leaving part of the bean no longer submerged. I have alway wondered if it would still be good to use. Any thoughts on this this?

      1. I’ve had vanilla beans “stored” in dark rum in my pantry for longer than that (a lot longer – like 35 or 40 years). As I use the vanilla infused rum, I simply top up the jar. When I use a vanilla bean, I’ve been putting the shell back in the jar. When I purchase a pack of beans, that’s where I keep them to prevent drying. No ones been poisoned yet. My pantry is dark and always quite cool. I’ve had no issues with mould or off-flavours. I’d say your safe to use your 16 year old extract.

        1. As long as basic food safety rules are followed (keeping the beans covered in alcohol, not introducing other contaminants), alcohol should preserve the beans indefinitely. Given that some folks are careless, I have to consider worst case scenarios, but thank you for sharing your experience.

  27. Love these ideas! Do you by chance know of any berry – strawberry, blueberry,etc., – recipes to make extracts? Is it possible? I’m needing some berry flavors to make suckers – my 4 yr old granddaughter is highly sensitive to dyes. Thanks !

      1. I am trying a strawberry extract using freeze-dried berries, they have a very intense flavor. I’ll let you know how mine turn out when it’s done.

  28. This is great, except for the almonds. I would recommend never tincture ANY nut!

    I hate to quote Wikipedia here but it explains why pretty well. I really just don’t feel safe risking it. I love tincturing other things, though, and really want to try your lemon recipe here.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almond

    “Extract of bitter almond was once used medicinally, but even in small doses, effects are severe, and in larger doses can be deadly; the cyanide must be removed before consumption.”

    “All commercially grown almonds sold as food in the United States are of the “sweet” variety. However, The US Food and Drug Administration reported in 2010 that some fractions of imported sweet almonds were contaminated with bitter almonds. Eating such almonds could result in vertigo and other typical bitter almond (cyanide) poisoning effects.”

    1. At the end of the steeping process, you can add more alcohol, but a second batch won’t be as strong. You can also bottle only small amounts at a time, and leave the rest to steep. At some point all the flavor will be gone from the beans and they will simply be compost.

      1. Laurie, I’ve had my vanilla steeping for a couple of months. Ready to buy bottles but want to use your labels. What size will work? Looking at the 4 oz pkg of 12 from Mountain Rose Herbs. Planning to use as gifts.

    1. What’s shown in the bowl was two ounces of beans. I use a scale because it will vary depending on the size of the beans. Extract grade beans tend to be smaller, so you need more of them, but they are less expensive and work just fine for extract, as one would expect from the name. Gourmet vanilla beans tend to be larger and shinier.

  29. I was just wondering if you could give me some advice on making watermelon extract. I need it to flavor some candy but it is very expensive to buy.
    thanks

    1. I’m not sure if it can be done at home, because watermelon is so watery – BUT – if I were to try it, I’d dice the watermelon finely and dehydrate, and then try putting it in vodka to make extract.

  30. Have you ever made an extract from bananas?
    I have used commercial flavorings and extract for baking, and am interested in learning to make my own.

    1. Nope, haven’t tired that one, either, but if I were going to I’d do it like the watermelon. Dice finely, dehydrate to concentrate the flavor, and then put in vodka. I think riper bananas would have a better chance of imparting flavor because they are more aromatic, but would be messier to work with.

  31. When you use the zest from citrus, the flavor is coming from the oil. Could you use pure essential oils instead of the zest? I feel an experiment coming on….

  32. I would love to make Black Walnut Extract. Could you please tell me, How much walnuts to what kind and how much liquor. and how long would it need to sit in my cabnet till ready for use?

  33. If you have a whipped cream siphon, like an ISI whip, you can do a Rapid Infusion technique. Turns minutes into weeks. Now, some of the flavor aren’t as deep, but for most applications it’s more than acceptable.

    I start with ever clear (75.5%abv) 151 proof. Run my extraction, and then either dilute 50/50 water/everclear for a flavored vodka, or keep pure for extracts/tinctures.

    Just google rapid infusion and there’s plenty of tutorials. The process is the same, no matter the end product.

    As a bonus, if you make a maraschino (sp?) cherry extract, you have a bowl of moonshine cherries after! 🙂
    Charge those cherries again in the same whipper with a soda cartridge, Co2 not N2o and you would have fizzy/carbonated moonshine cherries.

    Not just extracts, oil infusions (preserves the flavor of EVOO by not heating), mixed drinks “celery-infused vodka Bloody Mary’s anyone?” heck, you can even make pancakes with the whippers….

  34. Do you have a rough estimate of how much lemon zest? Your picture looks like it is about 3x what I am getting from one lemon.

    1. The more zest, the stronger the flavor. I didn’t measure, but this was a fairly large lemon, and I estimate there was around one tablespoon to 4 teaspoons of zest, lightly packed.

    1. They will keep indefinitely in a cool, dark location, but the flavor will fade slowly over time once you take the ingredients out. It’s better to make in small batches, and/or keep whatever you’re infusing in the liquid to get the best flavor.

  35. h this makes me very happy, I have been making my own amaretto but the shop bought Almond and Vanilla extract’s are oily leaving a oil slick on top of the amaretto so means filtering it. The solution to this is to use a alcohol based extract but there so expensive in the shops. To give you a idea in uk pounds 50ml of Almond extract (asda chosen by you is 1.29) to get the same but alcohol based is like 5 uk pounds plus.

    Going to have a go at this making my own Almond and Vanila extracts. Doing it the shop bought way we make the best Ameretto , far better than shop bought. Will report back when we have done our own extract lol.

    Paul.

  36. My almond extract has been sitting for a couple of months, but it still really really smells like vodka. Is that ok? Or, does it mean I didn’t use enough almonds, and it’s too late to fix? Thanks!

  37. Wuuh – I’m looking so much forward to make the lemon extract!

    I would love an advice of how to make it even more “smelly” so I can use it to refresh the livingroom with a lot of this flavour – do you (or anyone) know of how to do that best?

    Thank you for your site – I will look a lot more at your other hints and good advices.
    Chris, Denmark

    1. Essential oils are super concentrated, so those are often used as air fresheners. The more of the zest you can pack into the extract, the more smelly it will be, so you may want to try making a batch, letting it sit, and then straining and putting in a fresh batch of zest for more “oomph”.

  38. Hi, Laurie,
    I got curious about making my own extract and was delighted to find your website and recipes. I’m curious, why Vodka as the extracting agent? For example, why not Pure Grain Alcohol?
    I look forward to your reply.
    Warm regards,
    Jim
    Mississippi

    1. Pure grain alcohol could be used, but some discussions I’ve read indicate that the higher proof alcohols may pull out more of the bitter compounds from the botanicals being infused into the extract.

  39. How long do the pkgs of beans you order from Vanilla Products keep unopened? Have you ever used part of a pkg and left some for later? I like the idea of trying different mixes and not sure I want to do it all at once.

    1. The beans from Vanilla Products come vacuum sealed. When they arrive, I put them in a sealed mason jar in the pantry until I’m ready to use them. I’ve kept them in the pantry for over a year this way with no notable change in quality. I think it’s generally recommended that they be used within a year. If you have a vacuum sealer, you could carefully clip the end to open and reseal until your next use. Air, heat, light, and moisture will speed the breakdown in quality of the beans, so anything you can do to avoid those conditions should help extend shelf life.

      1. One other note – the extract last about forever, so when in doubt, put the beans in the booze rather than have them aging in the pantry. Alcohol acts as a preservative.

      2. The reader who advised on putting the beans directly in a jar of alcohol is correct in my experience. Ive had an ongoing jar for about 40 years. That’s not a typo. My jar is now a gallon and contains a lot of beans and empty pods steeping in rum. My “vanilla” is very rich and thicker than store-bought. No! It will never go bad if you keep the level of liquor above the pods. Seriously, this I keep for very special applications and buy highest quality vanilla for things like brownies, etc., where the focus is on another aggressive flavour like chocolate or the warm spices. The homemade stuff is not a compromise and a plop on anything with apples is Devine.

    1. An extract, by definition, uses an alcohol base. You could attempt to make a flavoring by infusing the food items in vegetable glycerin or a mild flavored oil instead, but such a flavoring would not be used the same way in recipes.

  40. I was pretty surprised at what a simple process it is to make homemade extract, and motivated by your timely post to make some on my own. I ordered 1/2lb of Madagascar extract grade B beans from Amazon (came within a week in perfect shape), picked up some 16oz amber flip-top bottles from the local brewer’s store, and some vodka from another local store. It only took 40 minutes to cut up the beans, use a funnel to drop 2 oz into each of 4 bottles, and fill them with vodka. Voila! Christmas presents prepped. Now for the daily shaking…

    Thanks for the information and motivation!

  41. Can you help??? I made some vanilla, lemon and orange extracts in April (not all combined in the same jar…..) and instead of having lovely flavoured extracts, all I can taste is the vodka, which is pretty intense and not very pleasant.

    I’m not sure where I went wrong. The alcohol volume was only 35% so could it be that.

    Any help or suggestions would be most appreciated.

    Thanks

    1. I’m not sure what would have happened, as I’m never had a batch fail. Maybe your beans were dried out or poor quality? The citrus extracts might not be as strong as store extracts, but they should still taste like citrus. Maybe your citrus peel was dried out and low in oils? All the flavor comes from the oils, so if you’re not getting flavors, you’re lacking oils for some reason.

      1. Thanks for the suggestions. However the beans were freshly bought and a good quantity – I thought if I’m going to the trouble of making some, it might as well be made using good ingredients.

        Again the oranges and lemons were freshly bought though I can’t remember how many of each I used. I’ll give them until Christmas (the taste has slightly improved as time has gone one). If they’re still yucky then I’ll try a new batch.

        Thanks again for your help x

        1. I wonder if the proof on the alcohol could have that much of an effect? I know that some people use even higher concentrations of alcohol, but other people say not to do that because it pulls out more bitter compounds. Very curious.

      2. It may be that the variety of oranges or lemons have slightly different chemical compounds (not synthetic chemicals) that provides the taste or strength of the peels and that may make a difference. I’ve always made my own vanilla from dark rum and vanilla beans but have never tried making any others so I’m just guessing here.

  42. Hi! I am interested in doing all these extracts for Christmas presents… and am curious, if more surface area means more flavor, why do you not grind the almonds to make the pieces similar in size to the vanilla bean and lemon peel?
    Thanks!

  43. Love this idea and have started my own large batch to put in smaller bottles! I have a question though… I used a large 2 gallon beverage dispensing jar and my extract is very cloudy… Is that normal? I am very concerned that it is bad. The jar isn’t air tight and I am wondering if that is causing an issue. Please let me know what you think. Thanks!

    1. If you used at least 40 proof alcohol, you should be okay in the short term. It’s a natural preservative. It would be best to use an airtight container because over time the alcohol will evaporate, which could lead to problems.

  44. Do you have any suggestions on how to make a caramel extract? I’m new to making extracts and would appreciate the help. Would it be oil based or alcohol based?

    1. Caramel flavor comes primarily from browned (caramelized) sugar. I think it would be difficult if not impossible to make a homemade caramel extract with good flavor. The commercial caramel extracts are mostly synthetic, with ingredients like propylene glycol and “natural flavors”. If you wanted to try making a caramel flavored liquid, you could caramelize some sugar and dissolve it in alcohol. Another option that may work better (depending on how you’re using it) would be SweetLeaf Sweet Drops Liquid Stevia Sweetener, English Toffee Flavor. It has a good caramel/toffee flavor and minimal aftertaste. It contains only Purified water, organic stevia leaf extract, natural flavors, vanilla extract, natural aromatics. The flavor is very concentrated, so a bottle lasts a long time. I’ve used it for flavoring my coffee and kombucha, and in baking.

  45. My almond extract has a like green haze above the almonds. And my lemon and lime extract are cloudy as well. Made coconut too and it has a cloudy film on top. The only one that looks clear is my mint. I used 40 proof vodka 7xs distilled not sure what I did wrong. They have been steeping for about a month but I’m concerned I’m gonna kill someone if they try it. I have not been consistent in my shaking the bottles once daily. Keep forgetting since they are tucked away and full-time work and 2 kids. Should I consider this a loss? Some hard are extemely tightened with their lids so not sure it’s an air leakage thing.

  46. I shared this link on fb a couple yrs ago. It just popped up in my memories & I’m going to try them. I’m trying to eat healthier & be less dependant on store bought items…I prefer homegrown & homemade. I’m also going to start following you. Thanks for the knowledge.

  47. I’ve bought slivered almonds, vodka, and put it in the closet. Sometimes I forget it’s there, but on the average, I shake if not every few days, then about after a week or two. The bottom line? After about five months, I smell no almond — only the vodka. What did I do wrong? I thank you.

    1. What did the slivered nuts smell like when they first went in? Unfortunately, nuts can take a long time to get from the tree to our cupboards, and lose a lot of flavor along the way. If they didn’t have much flavor to start, your extract won’t either. Even with better quality nuts, homemade almond extract still lacks the kick of commercial extract. Have you tasted it? Worth a double check before you toss it. If you didn’t get the flavor you want, it’s still usable as plain vodka in drinks.

  48. Hi,

    To get a more concentrated flavor could you slowly heat the extract and concentrate it? I realize that it will be mostly the alcohol that evaporates first.

    1. You may get mixed results because some of the aromatic compounds may also be driven off with heat. If you try it, try a small batch and see if you like the results. I’d very much like to hear the results.

  49. I also make my own vanilla extract. I let it sit for at least 2 months or longer. Leaving beans in the liquid insures good strong flavor clear to the end. Another enhancement that I use is to get vanilla flavored vodka. Just one step further to a gourmet flavor.

  50. Do any of the good, healthy fats leach into the extract? With my Keto lifestyle (I’m new and still learning), I hoped that making as many of my kitchen staples as I can, will make them fit better in my health plan.

  51. I want to make cherry extract. If I made it now would it be good come Christmas? Or would it go bad before then? Anyone know?

    1. If you want to try it, it would probably be best to dehydrate or freeze dry the cherries first, to concentrate the cherry flavor. In our area(near Door County, Wisconsin, know for its cherries), people put cherries in brandy and call it “cherry bounce”. I tried it one year, but there wasn’t much cherry flavor.

  52. Hello, I am interested in learning beauty alchemy and I am trying to make a few recipes here and there. I see you’ve done more than a few extracts in your day and I was wondering if I were to make a watermelon extract if I would have to soak that in alcohol as well?

    1. Typically extracts do have an alcohol base, but you can make a liquid flavoring with a liquid glycerin base. Just substitute three parts food grade liquid glycerin and one part pure water for the alcohol.

      As I’ve mentioned in other comments, because of the high water content of watermelon, I’d dehydrate it before attempting to make and extract or flavoring, to concentrate the flavor.

  53. I made this recipe and have been “steeping” it for 11 months. I recently bottled it and it looks and smells nice. Is there a health or safety issue with “steeping” the almond extract this long? Thank you.

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