This DIY gluten-free vanilla extract just needs 2 ingredients and a little patience. Use this homemade version in all of your favorite cakes, cookies and baked goods that call for vanilla extract.
Is Vanilla Extract Gluten-Free?
Yes, vanilla extract is gluten-free. The ingredients in vanilla extract are vanilla beans and alcohol, that’s it. Vanilla beans come from orchid plants and are naturally gluten-free.
Many people wonder about alcohol. But even if alcohol is distilled from wheat, barley or rye, the gluten does not survive the distillation process. So vodka, gin, whiskey are all safe if you’re gluten-free.
So why make your own?? The price of vanilla extract is sky high and making your own is much more cost effective. I was able to make 8 ounces of vanilla extract for about $7. In 2023, this is about 1/3-1/4 the price of buying it ready-made.
You’ll need whole vanilla beans for this recipe. Vanilla beans are grown in different places around the world and vary slightly in flavor depending where they come from. Mexico, Madagascar (aka bourbon vanilla beans) and Tahiti are the most common sources. I find that Mexican vanilla beans have the most complex flavor, but any vanilla bean will work in this recipe.
The other ingredient is 80 proof vodka. The vodka does not need to be anything fancy or expensive. The vanilla beans will be providing the flavor, so in this case, go for an inexpensive brand of vodka.
How to Make Gluten-Free Vanilla Extract
The only difficult thing about making vanilla extract at home is the time and patience required. Here’s how to do it:
- Cut a lengthwise slit in the vanilla beans.
- Place them in a jar with the vodka, seal tightly and place the jar in the pantry.
- Then wait . . . and wait.
- Give the jar a shake every week or so.
It is a slow process that can be jumpstarted with an instant pot but it doesn’t shorten it much. The vanilla needs to gradually impart its flavor into the vodka. Six months is the ideal amount of time that will give you a flavorful extract.
In the photos below, the jar on the left was steeped for 2 weeks. The one on the right was started in the instant pot on the day of the photo. As you can see, with a 2 week difference, the instant pot version looks the same as the vanilla that steeped for 2 weeks. So the instant post gave it a short jump start.
Even at six months the vanilla beans will continue imparting their flavor. So start using it, but leave the vanilla beans in the jar.
DIY Homemade Gluten-Free Vanilla Extract
- 5 whole vanilla beans
- 1 cup vodka
- 1 8 oz (or larger) glass jar with a tight fitting lid
- Use a sharp knife to cut a slit in the vanilla beans. The slit should go from top to bottom to expose the sticky inside of the bean.
- If your glass jar is larger than 8 oz, cut the vanilla beans in half. They need to be completely submerged in the vodka.
- Place the vanilla beans in the jar. Pour in the vodka.
- Seal the jar and label it with the date. Now just wait . . . . Give it a shake every once in a while. At about 6 months it should be ready to use.
- With an alcohol base, this vanilla extract will last indefinitely.