Recipe: Alcohol Free Vanilla Extract


Not exactly a glamorous image, but hey!

Disclaimer: I am a home cook, not a chemist. Do your own research, and follow the procedures described below at your own discretion. 0.o

The solvent that we are using here is glycerin. So, technically, we could call this a vanilla glycerite!

Here are a couple of important details:

1. Glycerin has a shorter shelf life than alcohol. Pure glycerin in its original container can be stored in a cool spot for 1 year or more (check with the manufacturer of your product). Glycerites are a bit more volatile since they are diluted and mixed with stuff. This means that it’s generally a good idea to store your concoctions in the fridge – where they should be good for 6 months to a year.

2. Vegetable glycerin is often made from soy and corn (though you can also find coconut or palm products). These are huge GMO crops, so it’s a good idea to make sure that the glycerin you buy comes from clean source.

3. Glycerin is sweet and sticky, and does not taste bad (unlike alcohol). Just sayin’.

4. I got the proportions for this recipe from two sources. The first was Smitten Kitchen: with regards to the ratio of beans to solvent, she suggests 1 bean per 1/4 cup (although you could drop it down to 6 beans if needed). The second was Mountain Rose Herbs. The good people over there recommend a ratio of 75% glycerin to 25% water. Apparently the minimum amount of glycerin needed for safety is 60%, which I found interesting.

5. Extracts made with alcohol will be completely seedless. This is because alcohol eats vanilla bean seeds. Glycerin does not do this. Your extract will be speckled with tiny seeds. I find this charming. If you are worried that this will be annoying (raspberry seeds, I’m looking at you!) don’t be. They’re so tiny you won’t even know they’re there.

This recipe will yield 2 cups of vanilla glycerite. Buy one of those cute flip top bottles and enjoy!


  • 8 vanilla beans
  • 1 and 1/2 cups food grade vegetables glycerine
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Split your beans in half, lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape the seeds out of each individual bean and deposit them into your bottle (or jar!) of choice.
  2. Chop your (now empty) beans and toss them into the bottle as well (yay for reunions!).
  3. Pour in your glycerin and water. Shake vigorously.
  4. Place the bottle in a cool dark spot. It should sit out at room temperature for 4 -6 weeks to mature. Try to shake it daily (if you can remember!) during this time.
  5. After a month or so, open the bottle and smell its contents. It should smell strongly of vanilla. At this point you can strain the pods out, but I never do. (It should, theoretically, get even stronger in storage!).
  6. Put it in the refrigerator, and use as desired.



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