Try This: Homemade Extracts

Homemade extracts (click through for recipes) I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for years. I love it! It’s cost-effective, sort of pretty (although it kind of looks like spiders too), and in my opinion, tastes way better than imitation vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is also (easily) the most used extract in my kitchen, so having a big batch on hand is no problem for me.Β 

I recently decided to try my hand at making a few different kinds of homemade extracts. The process felt very much like a little science experiment. Some of the recipes I found online worked great, some were less than stellar. I’m gonna share my favorites with you.Homemade extracts (click through for recipes) (Clockwise from top: almond extract, orange extract and lemon extract.)

I tested out four different flavors: almond, lemon, orange, and mint. Since I was testing, I didn’t want to make large batches (in case they didn’t work out). For each extract I started with 1/2 cup vodka. For the orange extract, I added the rinds from 1 1/2 oranges. For the lemon extract, I added the rinds of two lemons. For the almond extract, I added 1/4 cup raw almond slivers (no skins). And for the mint extract, I added a small handful of mint leaves.

I placed the ingredients in a clean jar, sealed it up, and waited for two weeks.Homemade extracts (click through for recipes)I loved the citrus extracts! They smelled amazing and tasted good. Extracts are not meant to be tasted straight; they are meant to be baked or mixed into larger recipes. When you bake extracts, the alcohol evaporates (or mostly evaporates), leaving behind only the desired flavor.

The almond extract was too mild. I would suggest allowing it to soak for at least a month before use. I found that it seemed a bit more bitter than store-bought almond extract. I had read that using raw almonds and avoiding the skins would help to keep the extract from becoming too bitter. But I think I’ll probably stick to the store-bought kind in the future.

The mint extract simply didn’t work. It looked pretty seaweed-y and it tasted like black licorice. I think you just can’t allow fresh herbs to soak that long. Fresh, leafy herbs (like mint or basil) work well in infused vodka, which has a much shorter soak time. I wonder if using dried herbs would work better. Maybe using some dried lavender could work well. Have any of you tried that?How to make extracts at home Be sure to strain your homemade extracts through a fine mesh sieve before storing. The only one I don’t do this with is vanilla extract. I figure if a few vanilla beans (not the actual pod) make it in that’s totally fine. But you’ll want to strain the other ones.

So those were my findings. What about you? Have any of you made homemade extracts before? Any great successes you’d like to share? Any warnings against failures you experienced? xo. Emma

5 from 1 vote
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Homemade Extracts

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vodka per extract
  • 1 1/2 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • sprig of fresh mint

Instructions

  1. I tested out four different flavors: almond, lemon, orange, and mint. Since I was testing, I didn't want to make large batches (in case they didn't work out). For each extract I started with 1/2 cup vodka. For the orange extract, I added the rinds from 1 1/2 oranges. For the lemon extract, I added the rinds of two lemons. For the almond extract, I added 1/4 cup raw almond slivers (no skins). And for the mint extract, I added a small handful of mint leaves.
  2. I placed the ingredients in a clean jar, sealed it up, and waited for two weeks.

Recipe Notes

Check the post because most of these worked well but one did not! Also I shared some additional tips and tricks.

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited using Color Pop from the Signature Collection.

  • I love homemade extracts, especially vanilla! I have made coconut extract, and that turned out amazingly, but, as you say, you can’t really smell or taste it as is, you have to bake with it to experience the flavor. Great post!

    • 5 stars
      Yes and no. The best stuff is traditionally made with potatoes while the American stuff uses wheat or rice as a cost-cutting method. Several brands claim to be better because they’re “filtered five times”, but it only needs to be triple-filtered otherwise it’ll lose the essence. The difference between the stuff at nightclubs and what the mom-and-pop shops sell is subtle, similar to Campbell’s versus Mom’s chicken soup. But if you’re just looking to make extract and call it a day, then any 80 proof will suffice.

  • Try using stonefruit pits (peaches, apricots, or nectarines) for the almond extract. They give a better almond flavor than the actual nuts with none of the bitterness!

  • This is so cool. I’ve been thinking about doing my own Vanilla for awhile now – You’ve totally motivated me! I think it would be awesome to do a follow up post on some recipes that use these different extracts so that I can not only make them but put them to use too. Love it!

  • Fun. So you use the whole pod and do not remove the beans? I watched a cooking show where they removed the beans to extract the flavor. I wonder what the flavor difference is. Vanilla sugar is also lovely.

  • A long time. That’s not a scientific answer, I realize, but it’s because of the alcohol (it’s mostly alcohol in fact).

    For my vanilla extract I actually just add more vodka and a new vanilla bean (or two) once my bottle is about 2/3 empty. It takes a while for the new solution to become concentrated if you’re starting from scratch. So this allows me to kind of “renew” my vanilla extract rather than have to start completely over. (I saw the Barefoot Contessa do this in a episode once.)

    -Emma

  • Typically you only remove the beans if you are adding them directly into a recipe. Like, if you are making vanilla bean buttercream frosting (or something) then you’d want to cut open the pod, scrape out the seeds, and add them to the batter. If you’ve ever had frosting (or ice-cream, custard or pudding) that had little black speckles it was probably vanilla beans. πŸ™‚

    For extract it’s good to leave the pod in the solution as well.

    -Emma

  • Hi! I wanted to ask you if you have only used extracts for baking…I mean, have you used it to flavor coffees or teas?

  • Try adding some strips of citrus peel to a spray bottle filled with white vinegar (or vinegar and water mixture). So easy and smells great.

  • Ok so if you are going this far, look into making your own limoncello. You will not be disappointed and it is a great entertaining beverage. My husband loves to make his own and it is a unique gift as well.

  • What about making a vanilla extract with spiced or dark rum instead of vodka? I put rum in everything… I mean everything! Might be worth a try!?

  • I’ve been contemplating making vanilla extract for a while now. And all of yours look so great! Especially the lemon!

  • I think I want to try the lemon and orange extract. I find the lemon store ones can be so fake-y tasting.

  • I have no advice to give, sorry; but I’m so thankful you shared your experience! I can’t wait to try. Where did you get your cute little storage jars?

  • I’ve always wanted to make my own vanilla extract! Where can you buy the beans? I’ve never seen them at my local grocery store.

  • My mom makes homemade soaps, oils, creams, etc. She dries her fresh herbs when she’s making some type of extract. Especially lavendar because pretty much all of her customers like lavender

  • Just don’t crush the kernels. Some stone fruit contain cyanogenic glycoside, which when crushed, can transform into hydrogen cyanide.

  • This is great! I’ve been looking for ideas for unique wedding favors and I think this just might do the trick! Made from scratch and in larger batches I think the citrus ones would be very reasonable cost-wise. My fiance and I both love to cook/bake too so it makes sense for us.

  • Dried lavender works like heaven! I’ve made infused oil and some of my own extracts with it too and although it can be very (!) strong it is SO delicious if you use the right amount…

    Loved this and am definitley going to try and make some of these too πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing! Xo

  • I’ve made the same problem with my attempt at mint extract. It tasted terrible and later evaporated quickly.

    One I have made with great success is bubble gum extract. Take eight pieces of bubble gum (think old school gum like Dubble Bubble or Super Bubble) to 4 ounces of vodka. Wait about a month and you have the extract. It’s great for making bubble gum buttercream.

  • Sounds amazing! I think I would try with vanilla first. How many pods do you usually put per 1/2 cup if vodka?

  • I haven’t had luck with almond extract either. As far as the mint, I haven’t tried it but I can tell you that using dried herbs would probably work better. When I make balms and salves I use dried for 2 reasons: you get more of the herb extracted and you don’t introduce excess moisture found in the non-dried form which, in turn, can introduce bacteria. Love your site!! πŸ™‚

  • I’m so excited to try this!!!! I don’t know why I never thought about it before!!!! Quick question with your big batch about how many vanilla beans are you adding?

  • Great idea !
    Where do you store this ? Is it ok to store it in full light ?

  • I’ve tried lavender and I loved the way it turned out! I definitely want to try the lemon next!

  • I dry my mint leaves & orange rinds to use in cooking/baking. Never tried to make an extract before! But, can you suggest any other recipes for making extracts at home without alcohol?! I cannot use alcohol because of religious reason! πŸ™

  • Oooh, looks like something I’d want to try! But… erm, I wouldn’t know how to use the extracts. Ideas? Recipies?

  • I’ve made both mint and vanilla extracts using dried herbs and each worked wonderfully. I allow mine to soak for about 4 weeks, or longer.

  • Gah! I just commented… I meant to say that I’ve made both mint and LAVENDER (I think I wrote vanilla)using dried herbs.

  • I’ve made vanilla and almond extract. But is there a reason you strain out the almonds? I left the almonds in (I don’t care for the taste either) and just strain it when I give small bottles of it away. Does it make that much of a difference?

  • It’s true that the pits contain cyanide compounds but they’re generally considered safe in small doses so extracts are fine. However I have the best luck using the pits whole and just boiling them for a bit first to get off as much flesh as possible.

  • In my university (I’m a pharmacy undergrad) we make extracts, but not for baking, we use it for cosmetics instead. Citrus fruits really work, we use them a lot too! πŸ™‚

  • love this article, mostly because it means spring + summer are almost here!!! . I had a similiar experience to makeup and beauty for skincare

  • Hi!
    I was wondering, could you use something else besides vodka? Could I use water? πŸ™‚
    Thanks!
    P.S. Your website is a huge inspiration to me πŸ™‚

  • Hello there! I’d just like to know about the vodka: why is it necssary to use alcohol, and does it affect the flavour of the essence?

  • This was really interesting for me to read because I had no idea that alcohol was involved in extract-making haha!

  • I used to put whole vanilla beans in my sugar canister. The sugar added vanilla flavor to anything I used it in. When my kids saw the vanilla beans in the sugar, I told them it was legs from giant spiders to scare the ants away from the sugar. After they stopped screaming, I told them what it really was. (Mean Mommy!) (Really, they were fine.) πŸ˜‰

  • Brilliant article, I have my first vanilla extract on, I add a drop to my porridge every morning instead of using sugar. Now I just need to get some lemons!

  • Have made Banana Extract from dehydrated banana chips. Also poured a little orange extract over a pork lion I was roasting – pretty good!

  • Have you ever tried peach? I’m looking for a recipe for peach extract.

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