How to Make Homemade Extracts Easily: Vanilla, Almond, Mint, Orange, and Lemon

by | Jun 25, 2018

How to Make Homemade Extracts Easily: Vanilla, Almond, Mint, Orange, and Lemon

You can learn how to make homemade extracts in some very simple steps with only a couple of ingredients. They are so easy to do you will be wondering why you have never tried it before. Better yet they will save you a lot of money over the store-bought brands and taste a lot better!

I have been making my own extracts for years. You will never need to question what goes into the cheap flavoring alternatives when you have the “real-deal”. The food and baked goods you prepare will taste better and explode with genuine flavor!

They also make extraordinary gifts for many occasions. A homemade extract gift set is a perfect present for holidays, weddings, housewarmings and more!

I like to make my extracts rich in flavor. You will note that these extracts are different from others you may have seen on the internet as my ingredients are often higher. This ensures a premium quality and taste every time!

Let’s get Extracting!

How to make Homemade Extracts at Home: Basic Supply List the Tools

 

This is a basic list of tools to gather before we get started. Every recipe here uses these basic supplies. You likely have most of this is in your house right now. If you are interested in the exact tools I have used in creating these homemade extracts I will put a list at the end of the article.

  • Glass Jars for Extracts. – The recipes given here are for 4oz bottles. You can adjust the recipe to fit your desired container.
  • Funnel. – Pouring is easier when using a funnel. If your hand is steady you can skip.
  • Measuring cups. Glass liquid measuring cup and dry.
  • Sharp Knife or Channel Knife for peeling.
  • Chopstick or skewer. – This is helpful to push ingredients down into the narrow opening of the jars.
  • Strainer & Cheesecloth. – You will not need this right away and are optional for these extracts. I like to strain mine after brew time to keep my extracts from clouding up.

See each Recipe for Ingredients and quantities.

Sterilize Your Tools for Extracts

 

Extracts are long termed food storage and it is important to prevent any harmful bacteria. Sterilization is easy and essential when it comes to making extracts, tinctures and basic canning procedures. This will be even more essential if you choose to go a non-alcoholic choice with your extracts.

If you have sanitation mode on your dishwasher this can be as easy as running everything through right before you are ready to use it. Otherwise, you will need to follow the old-fashion boil water method. Using at least 40% alcohol, 80 proof as recommended here is also a form of sterilization for tools you cannot submerge.

For more sterilization tips see this wiki-how article.

 

How to Make your Own Vanilla Extract

 

how to make pure vanilla extractVanilla beans are one of the most expensive spices/herbs in the world. Second only to saffron. This makes pure vanilla extract an expensive purchase when shopping for the “real” thing. Vanilla flavoring is a disgusting alternative that uses tar creosote and leftovers from paper mills! Seriously!

Save money and get the real thing by making it yourself!

To Make 4 ounces

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 Vanilla beans. (your choice of flavor)
  • 4 oz. 80 Proof Vodka 40% by volume (may use bourbon or other 80 proof liquor I prefer vodka)

Directions:

  1. Cut Each Vanilla bean in half first or the appropriate length for the jar.
  2. Slice each bean carefully down the center to expose the inner parts of the pod (the seeds).
  3. Place all the vanilla beans into the glass bottle.
  4. Pour Vodka into the bottle to just above the shoulder of the bottle but not all the way up the neck. It should completely cover the beans. (about 4 ounces)
  5. Secure the lid tightly
  6. Label with the date.
  7. Mix the Ingredients by turning the bottle upside down and then back to right side up a couple times.
  8. Every few days repeat this turning process to keep the ingredients mixed.

When is my homemade vanilla extract done?

Vanilla extract is this small form can be used in 6 to 8 weeks. It will have a nice rich taste by then that will match any store-bought typical single fold vanilla extract. If you want a stronger double fold extract to increase the beans to 8 and allow sitting for a minimum of 6 months.

To strain or not to strain?

Pure vanilla extract in a small bottle like this for personal use I will typically leave unstrained. I go through it so fast it often does not have time to set any type of cloudy appearance. Many people will continue to add vodka and let it sit. I find that it dilutes the quality I love but you are welcome to try it. See the article I mention below on a large batch recipe I used to create fantastic rich double-fold vanilla.

To strain after 8 weeks. Place a metal strainer over a sterile glass measuring cup lined with cheesecloth. The cheesecloth will grab any tiny particles. Pour the jar contents over the strainer. Using a sterile knife scrape any remaining seed remnants from the inside of the pods into the cheesecloth and remove the hard bean shells.

Gather the ends of the cheesecloth together forming a pouch. Squeeze any remaining liquid from the cloth over the strainer and into the glass measuring cup. Return the strained liquid the bottle and recap.

Wait don’t throw away those vanilla bean seeds!

Do you make ice cream? Or another item that calls for vanilla? These little seeds still pack a punch. I place them in a small container and use them up in a few days in smoothies or other nice treats! Give it a try!

In a recent article on site, I explored a lot about what pure vanilla extract is and why you should be making your own. For a more detailed look into this wonderful extract and herb, you can check it out here.

How to Make Homemade Almond Extract

Skinning almonds are the most difficult part of this extract making process. If you choose not to skin you will end up with a tan coloration to your extract. It will not harm the taste. However, I like to use almond extract in my frostings so having it as clear as possible is essential.

They are very easy to skin. It takes a little prep. Please do not use the hot water blanch method. You need these almonds raw. See this video for a quick demo. Soak in cool water overnight. Skin pushes right off.

Almond Peeling: Video Demo

To Make 4 ounces

Ingredients:

  • 6 Raw Almonds (skinless)
  • 4 oz. 80 Proof Vodka 40% by volume (may use bourbon or other 80 proof liquor I prefer vodka)

Directions:

  1. Slice the almonds in half or thirds to be able to fit in bottle opening.
  2. Place almonds in the bottle.
  3. Pour over the vodka just to the top of the shoulder (neck of the bottle).
  4. Cap Tightly.
  5. Label making sure to date.
  6. Mix the Ingredients by turning the bottle upside down and then back to right side up a couple times.
  7. Every few days repeat this turning process to keep the ingredients mixed.

When is my homemade almond extract done?

You will need to let this extract brew for 6 to 8 weeks minimum. I like to leave my almond extract for 12 weeks before straining. That extra brew time really enhances that flavor and scent.

Strain or Not?

Strain, 100% strain! Nutty extracts I find to get cloudy and off tasting if they are allowed to stay in the jar. In addition, I do not go through almond extract as fast as I will other varieties. This can leave it sitting for years in the cabinet or pantry. I feel safer if it is strained.

No need for a cheesecloth for almond extract. Place your fine strainer over glass measuring cup. Pour bottle and all its contents through the strainer into the cup. Dispose of almonds and pour contents back into your rinsed extract jar.

Mint Extract Recipe – Choose your mint

 

mint extract recipe how to make homemade extractsI most often go to peppermint. This is the most common mint used in my household for baking, teas and more. This versatile part of the mint family has a great flavor that is easily recognizable by mint lovers. You can also choose spearmint, chocolate mint, apple mint and more.

To Make 4 ounces

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup packed fresh mint leaves (rinsed and dried, no stems)
  • 4 oz 80 Proof Vodka 40% by volume (may use bourbon or other 80 proof liquor I prefer vodka)

roll mint leaves how to make homemade extractsDirections:

  1. Roll the mint leaves together in sections and place through bottle opening. (Do not chop. Cutting can remove some of the essential oils of the mint).
  2. Pour Vodka to just above the shoulder of the bottle covering leaves. About 4 oz.
  3. Cap Tightly.
  4. Label making sure to date.
  5. Mix the Ingredients by turning the bottle upside down and then back to right side up a couple times.
  6. Every few days repeat this turning process to keep the ingredients mixed.

When will my Mint Extract Be ready to use?

This extract is a bit quicker than other because it is a fresh green leaf. You should be able to use within 5-6 weeks.

Green Leafy Matter Must be Strained!

After the brew time, you will need to strain this extract or anytime you’re using leaf matter. Placing your cheesecloth in your strainer and over a glass measuring cup. Pour the bottle of extract and all the mint leaves over the strainer. When all the liquid has run through gather the cheesecloth like a pouch and squeeze the remaining extract over the strainer.

Rinse the bottle and pour the extract back in.

Bonus Tip! Double Strength Mint Extract!

After straining the extract the first time you do not have to finish there. Many people like a powerful punch to their mint flavor. Punch up the flavor and make a double strength mint.

Before pouring the strained mint extract back into the bottle add another 1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves to the bottle. Re-add the extract and let sit for another 4 – 6 weeks.

Bam! Mint Explosion!

How to Make Homemade Extracts with Fruit Zest – The Lemon and the Orange

 

Fruit zest extracts are all very similar in creation. They are very easy to do and exploding with flavor. Delicious tidbit is that you are not using the meat of the fruit to create.

homemade lemon extractYou get to have your extract and eat your fruit too! Although I am not sure how many of us sit down and enjoy eating a whole lemon! I do like making lemonade though!

I choose organic fruits when making extracts. You want to be sure they are not coming from a place that has sprayed and treated the skin with chemicals. Since this is the part you are using, please exercise caution in your selection.

To Make 4 ounces of Either Fruit Extract

Homemade Lemon Extract

Lemon Extract Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Organic Lemon peels. Fine peel avoiding too much pith (the white under the skin).
  • 4 oz 80 Proof Vodka 40% by volume (may use bourbon or other 80 proof liquor I prefer vodka)

peel of lemon

Homemade Orange Extract

Orange Extract Ingredients:

  • 1 large ripe organic navel orange
  • 4 oz 80 Proof Vodka 40% by volume (may use bourbon or other 80 proof liquor I prefer vodka)

peel of orange

Directions for Homemade lemon and orange extract:

  1. Peel strips from your fruit trying to take only the outer skin without too much white pith.
  2. Cut into strips and place into the bottle.
  3. Pour Vodka to just above the shoulder of the bottle covering peels. About 4 oz.
  4. Cap Tightly.
  5. Label making sure to date.
  6. Mix the Ingredients by turning the bottle upside down and then back to right side up a couple times.
  7. Every few days repeat this turning process to keep the ingredients mixed.

When are my fruit extracts done?

Your lemon and orange extracts take 6 to 8 weeks to fully brew into the delicious tasty flavor. Up to 12 weeks will make them even stronger!

To strain or not to strain?

This is going to be choice and timing. You will have to ask yourself how quickly you will go through these extracts. I use lemon and orange extract quickly. I do not just use them for baking. A few drops in tea, smoothies, sauces, dressings and more and they go quickly.

Fruit peels will break down and go cloudy after some time. If you will not go through it in a year I would strain.

Straining is easy. No cheesecloth needed. Using the strainer over glass measuring cup pour the contents of the bottle. Discard peels and return extract to bottle.

 

Alcohol Alternative for Extract Making

 

The recipes are given here all use 80 proof alcohol. This is the best way to extract the constituents of the plants, herbs, and fruits used here. The insignificant amounts of alcohol that would be used in typical recipe or usage are very minimal.

how to make homemade extracts alcohol alternative vegetable glycerineIn addition, alcohol in any cooked goods, hot beverages etc. is cooked off in the heat prior to consumption. However, I do understand that this is an issue for some individuals and respect that choice.

How to make homemade extract with a Food grade vegetable glycerin alternative?

Vegetable glycerin takes the place of alcohol in many extracts. It needs to always have 1 part of distilled water added due to its thick nature. For the recipes here you can substitute the vodka with 3 ounces of glycerin and 1 ounce distilled water.

Your extracts will last only 1-year  so make sure your labels have an expiration date as well as a brewed on date.

As Promised the Tools & Supplies I used to make these Tinctures

The Amber Bottles I used Here


The Funnel that was Used


Dry Measuring Cups


Additional Reading:

I have created a series of articles that detail making extracts and tinctures. In those a detailed supply list is included that explains how, and why each supply is used. If you would like more information, check out these great articles.

What Else Can I do with Extracts Besides Baking?

 

Now that you learned how to make homemade extracts let’s talk about some great ideas to use them besides baked goods! I mentioned above using lemon and orange extract in teas, that is just a start!

  • Ditch the Sugary Soft Drinks! Flavored Sparkling water. Grab a bottle of club soda or seltzer water. A few drops to a tsp of extract a glass can give you a healthy and delicious flavor alternative.
  • Fiber flavor. Do you take a fiber drink supplement? A few drops of vanilla, mint or another extract can make it go down smoother!
  • Flavor up Yogurt! Drop into plain yogurt for flavor. Make it un-sweet and use extract to help you avoid a lot of excess sugar.
  • Salad dressings. One of my favorites dressings is citrus ginger. It is a lot faster to take add few drops of extracts vs juicing. Recipe here.

There is many more too, this is just a taste…

red arrow down rightAre there other ways you use extracts? I would love to hear from you? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Christina insideherbgardens.com

Some of the links on this site and in this article are affiliate links that pay a commission for completed purchase. This does not result in any additional cost to you. I do not write sponsored posts. I want to bring you real, unbiased information.

14 Comments

  1. ariel

    Hello Christina, I so do adore coming to your site. Wow extracts and tinctures. So do like these.
    Do you have a favorite? I could not choose.
    And thanks for making it so step by step easy.
    Gonna have to try this.
    In peace and gratitude, ariel

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Ariel,
      My goodness, that is a tough question!! I have a very hard time choosing myself. I use most often lemon. Why? Because I put it all sorts of things. This concentrated extract/tincture is a boost of lemon flavor goodness. It takes the place of lemon juice or squeezing every time. I keep a dropper in my extract of lemon. A couple drops in tea, a sauce, on fish. Just about anywhere I think needs a lemon kick!I do not talk a lot about fruit on site but lemon is a good one to have around. it has amazing benefits.
      Great source of vitamin c
      Promotes hydration
      Aids a healthy weight
      Improves digestion
      Prevents kidney stones
      And freshens breath!

      So I use it a lot is it a favorite? I do love Mint! I put it in my coffee, tea, smoothies, cooking! Oh I love vanilla too… I can’t pick!! 🙂
      Especially when this is just basic extracts. There is a whole cupboard in my kitchen with various other extractions and tinctures. Ginger and turmeric will hit in the top 10 somewhere for sure! Then there is basil. You see how hard this is?

      I do hope this is not the first comment anyone reads form me, cause it sure is confusing 🙂
      Christina

      Reply
  2. Jeff

    Hello Christina
    I enjoyed reading your post today making homemade extracts, I never knew you could make your own homemade extracts so easy before reading your post today. I am partial to the mints, so that recipe interested me the most and it seemed so easy to make as well. You provided easy to follow recipes which I really appreciate, how I wish I had gotten my herb garden started this year but maybe next year.

    Jeff

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Jeff,
      Making extracts are so easy! Finding mint in the organic section of the grocery store is usually possible if you do not want to wait. Mint plant can grow rather quickly as well. Starting from seed can frustrate some. I just noticed my local grocery had peppermint plants for sale last week. I was a bit surprised. many times I find plants labeled “sweet mint”. Garden centers often carry mint plants as well. Check that they are labeled the variety you want. They do not need a lot of sun so indoor growing works great for mint. You can also get some live mint plants from Amazon as well. Check that it is for plants, not seeds and the right variety. Find them here. Mint will grow quickly and you will not need to wait until next year. Smells great in the house too!
      Let me know if I can help!
      Christina

      Reply
  3. Brenda

    Wow Christina, I had no idea that it was so easy to make extracts. I love all the ones you have mentioned and am going to dive in and make some, starting with vanilla as I probably use that the most. Your article has made it so simple with your step-by-step guide and I am excited to try this! Thank you for sharing this extremely helpful and informative article. P.S. your site is beautiful!

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Brenda,
      So glad to hear you’re going to give it a try. It truly is as easy as it looks. You will love the flavor over the store brands. Before you know it you will be making them as gifts! I know I say this with certainty but I have seen it happen over and over again! They are so good you will want to share!
      Look forward to hearing more about it, let us know how it goes!
      Christina

      Reply
  4. Cynthia

    I am so excited about this article! I did not know how easy it is to make extracts! I am going to try to make the lemon and the almond extract. Your instructions are so clear and your site is so easy to read. I can’t wait to try to make at least one of these!

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Cynthia,
      You are picking some great options for starting off. Lemon is one of the easiest and likely an extract you will use the most often. It has a lot of versatility besides baking alone. Almond extract made at home this way with 6 almonds will be a very rich flavor. I get many compliments on my frostings and cookies made with this. The nicely peeled almonds will keep it very clear and frosting colors untarnished.
      I am excited to hear how much you like the difference!
      Christina

      Reply
  5. Timotheus

    Your website is awesome! And this article about how to make homemade extracts is precious! I always admired a friend of mine who seemed to be able to make a lot of homemade stuff. They taste amazing! Now, thanks to your article, I know how to make homemade extracts. I like mint. So that may be the first one I will try. Going to bookmark your website. Look forward to more interesting articles about herbs. Thank you! 🙂

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Timotheus,
      Homemade is heart-made is what my grandma always said. Everything tastes better when you put a bit of caring into it. Extracts are no exception. Mint is a good choice to start off with. If you like a really strong mint flavor you can always strain the mix after 6 weeks and add another round of mint leaves. This would give you a double strength! I like the single for versatility but I know many who really enjoy the mint “punch” to the taste buds.
      Let us know how it goes!
      Christina

      Reply
  6. Pernilla

    Hello Christina,

    By reading your excellent description on how to do your own extracts I can firmly smell the lovely flavours of vanilla, almond, mint, orange and lemon.
    At first, I thought these extracts are flavours for making it smell good inside the house as it contains so much alcohol. But as I continued to read I understood these are meant to be used to flavour drinks, yoghurt or salad dressings. I´m glad there is also an alternative to alcohol. It really seems to be much easier to do your own extracts than I expected, so I really might try it out.

    Your posts are always such an inspiration!

    Pernilla

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Pernilla,
      Extracts you make at home and the extracts and flavorings you buy at the store for baking are made in almost identical ways. The difference here is the control, quality, and quantity of ingredients. You get to add a stronger herbal balance thereby increasing the richness of flavor. Store brands will give a minimum herb to alcohol ratio, but an alcohol ratio just the same. Unless you buy alcohol-free specifically labeled extracts or flavoring.
      Take a look in your cabinet, pantry or cupboard. If you have any flavorings, extracts or etc I bet you find that most will say 35 to 40% alcohol per volume. It may seem like a lot when you look at it respects to the recipes I have presented but it really is just a minimal amount. For example, a recipe for chocolate chip cookies calls for a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Just under 5 ml or 1/16th of an ounce. Typical batch makes about 60 cookies. You can see how small a percentage of alcohol would be in each cookie. Well actually none, the heat would dissipate the alcohol in cooking, but you see my point. In hot beverage, a few added drops the same things occur with heat.
      Cool additions like in dressings and smoothies a few drops is minimal. if you went flavor crazy and added 30 drops (that is a lot of flavors!) It would be the equivalent alcohol levels of a 1/65th of a small can of beer! That is not even much of a sip!
      You are not alone when many see alcohol as an ingredient in extracts and tinctures they think NO. Yes, there is an alternative that can work, not always as effective and certainly will not last as long. Keep these things in mind.
      1. This is how it has been done for centuries
      2. It is the best way to extract the herbal constituents (the good stuff) from an herb or plant to create a concentrated dose
      3. Modern medicine and even food use far more toxic things than simple clear brew alcohol we use here, which is primarily or can be purchased organic and all vegetable based
      I am not discouraging you from doing an alternative glycerin base. I will certainly do them from time to time. My primary reason for glycerin is in extraction I plan to use for making other things, like lotions, soaps, shampoos and etc.
      Apple cider Vinegar, ACV, is also a choice but for flavored extracts, it imparts a harsh flavor. It also does not break down well in baking.
      Let me know if this helps clear things up a bit on the alcohol content for you.
      Always glad to hear from you!
      Christina

      Reply
  7. Dena

    This is such a great post I cannot wait to get started making my own extracts and they sound so easy. I have a chocolate mint plant and have tried just putting the leaves in drinks or even just popping them into my mouth as they have a wonderful flavor. I found that mint grows like crazy so have wondered what other applications I could use it in and an extract sounds like a great idea. I am thinking about making a few of the other extracts as well, leading me to the question of where to get the organic vanilla beans?

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Dena,
      Chocolate mint makes a lovely extract as well. It is not as strong as peppermint so you may want to do that double extraction method as I mentioned in the article. It works lovely in deserts and tea but I admit to loving it in coffee!
      I wrote a much more extensive article on vanilla extract prior to this one. You can find it here. In this article, I detail a wide variety of different vanilla beans and how you can get them. There are a lot of varieties that produce different flavors. If you are looking for a traditional vanilla flavor Madagascar Bourbon is the way to go. I normally get these. 10 count Grade B perfect for extract. If you want a variety to choose from check here. This will give you a list with different flavor combinations. It is ok to mix!
      Let me know how your extract making goes!
      Christina

      Reply

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