How to Make Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract
You can use alcohol-free vanilla extract in your baking goods, desserts, ice cream, and any place you would use pure vanilla extract. Because food-grade vegetable glycerin has a sweet taste, you may need to reduce the sugar or other sweeteners used for in your recipe.
For this non-alcoholic vanilla extract recipe, we will follow the FDA guidelines for the proportion of extract-grade vanilla beans to the amount of liquid used for the extract. Vanilla extract technically refers to using a 35% or higher alcohol—so by definition, it is not an extract but rather a vanilla infusion or vanilla flavoring.
The recipe for this infusion uses 100% real vanilla beans with no added artificial flavors. It's suspended in food-grade vegetable glycerin with optional water, producing alcohol-free vanilla flavoring.
To start, you will need 9½ fluid ounces of food-grade vegetable glycerine (available online). But if you stray from the FDA proportions a bit, feel free to use 10 ounces of glycerine. And because it is very thick, you can dilute it a bit with 25% bottled or spring water—use good quality water without chemicals or chlorine.
WHAT'S GLYCERIN EXTACLY? *
Glycerin is a sugar alcohol or polyol, a carbohydrate type. It's not quite as sweet as white sugar but does have a bit more calories—it is also gluten-free. The U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and other global health authorities have confirmed the safety of glycerin. It occurs naturally in fermented foods like wine, vinegar, honey, and beer.
There are various types of glycerin on the market. For your alcohol-free vanilla extract, try choosing food-grade vegetable glycerin made from vegetable fats found in coconut & soybean oil.
You can find organic glycerin online. Use this link to get started, and please read the label and description for each product. We do not endorse any specific product. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=food-grade+vegetable+glycerin
Everyday food and drink products contain glycerin, and you'll find it in energy bars, soft candies, fudge, & chewing gum, nutrition bars & diet foods, icings & fondants, and condiments.
Multiple global health authorities have confirmed glycerin's safety, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
GETTING YOUR VANILLA BEANS READY
Select 1 ounce (29 grams) of Tahitian or planifolia vanilla bean. Tahitian vanilla beans are known for their complex notes with cherry and fig flavor with anise overtones. Tahitian vanilla beans hold up to more robust flavors like chocolate and caramel.
The planifolia variety of vanilla beans has a smooth buttery flavor and compliments orchid fruits like apples, pears, cherries, and peaches. As well, planifolia is always a good choice for forest fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Indonesian vanilla, Madagascar vanilla, and Mexican vanilla are common regions that grow the planifolia variety. Indonesia and Madagascar vanilla will typically be organic vanilla because of government oversight. However, few sources of Madagascar vanilla and Indonesian vanilla are USDA-certified organic due to the high cost of organic certification.
CUT THE VANILLA BEANS
Correctly cutting the vanilla beans is critical to getting a complete extraction when making your own vanilla extract. The goal when cutting the vanilla bean is to expose as much surface area as possible, which creates deeper flavors and faster extraction.
First, cut off the tip and the end of the vanilla bean — set it aside for use in your extract.
Now, pick up the vanilla bean and look closely at it. You will see that it's not round but has a flat side. When you place the vanilla bean on your cutting board, the bean will naturally lay on the wider, flat side. When cutting the bean lengthwise, slide the knife into the side of the bean cutting lengthwise through the entire bean—you will end up with two pieces when done. The bean will have a large surface area exposed and will remain flat.
With the bean on the cutting board, scrape out the vanilla bean seeds and set them aside for use in the extract.
The last step in preparing the beans is to cut the now empty vanilla pod so it will fit in the jar allowing the glycerin to cover it.
FIND A GLASS JAR FOR YOUR ALCOHOL-FREE EXTRACT
A canning jar is one of the easiest jars to work with for making your vanilla extract. A canning jar gives you a wide opening, making adding and removing the beans easy.
USING A VACUUM SEALER
Using a canning jar allows you to use a vacuum jar sealer. Using a vacuum sealer speeds up the extraction process in your homemade vanilla extract because it opens the pores in the vanilla bean, removes oxygen from inside the bean, and replaces the oxygen with your food-grade vegetable glycerin.
After vacuum sealing the jar, shake it for a minute or so.
Then, every week, repeat this vacuum sealing process.
All of this completely optional but will speed up your infusion.
PRESSURE COOK YOUR VANILLA EXTRACT
Using a canning jar for your vanilla extract, you can speed up the extraction and get more vanilla flavor by pressure cooking in an electric pressure cooker like an Instant Pot.
The process is straightforward. Just pressure Cook for 35 Minutes. Let the jar stay in the pressure cooker for 60 minutes before opening. This extra time with the heat will help the extraction process develop the vanilla flavor quicker.
REMOVE & SHAKE THE JAR
Remove the jar from the pressure cooker and give it a vigorous shake for 30 seconds to one minute, then put it in a dark place in your kitchen or with your other cooking spices. For a faster infusion, shake it 2–3 times daily for the first 2–3 weeks tapering off to a few times weekly.
WHEN IS MY EXTRACT READY?
The extract should be great in 4-6 months but if you really need it, you can use it in 3-4 months. It will get stronger with age. With your DIY vanilla extract, you'll be sure to enjoy the pure vanilla flavor of your vanilla and avoid the chemicals found in imitation vanilla.
WHAT'S THE SHELF LIFE?
Glycerin acts as a preservative in this vanilla extract recipe. While there is no hard and fast rule, your non-alcoholic vanilla extract should be good for up to four years and can be left at room temperature along with your other spices.