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

by Christina Lopez

You can learn how to make homemade extracts in some straightforward steps with only a couple of ingredients. They are so easy to do you will be wondering why you have never tried them 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 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!

Quickly Navigate this Article:

  • How to make Homemade Extracts at Home: Basic Supply List the Tools.
  • Sterilize Your Tools for Extracts
  • How to Make Your Own Vanilla Extract
  • How to Make Homemade Almond Extract
  • Mint Extract Recipe - Choose your mint
  • How to Make Homemade Extracts with Fruit Zest - The Lemon and the Orange
  • Homemade Lemon Extract
  • Homemade Orange Extract
  • Alcohol Alternative for Extract Making
  • As Promised, the Tools & Supplies I used to make these Tinctures.
  • What Else Can I do with Extracts Besides Baking?

Homemade Extract Recipes - Vanilla, Almond, Mint, Lemon, and Orange

Homemade Extract Recipes - Vanilla, Almond, Mint, Lemon, and Orange
Homemade Extract Recipes - Vanilla, Almond, Mint, Lemon, and Orange

Enjoy this preview on how to make homemade extracts. It will give you a look at what is to come in this article. For full details, see below.

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

This is an essential list of tools to gather before we get started. Every recipe here uses these vital supplies. You likely have most of this is in your house right now. If you are interested in the same 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 essential to prevent any harmful bacteria. Sterilization is easy and crucial 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 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

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract
Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

Vanilla beans are one of the most expensive spices/herbs in the world. Second only to saffron. This makes pure vanilla extract a costly 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 pod's inner parts (the seeds).
  3. Place all the vanilla beans into the glass bottle.
  4. Pour Vodka into the bottle to just above the bottle's shoulder but not 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 the right side up a couple of times.
  8. Every few days, repeat this turning process to keep the ingredients mixed.

When is My Homemade Vanilla Extract Done?

Vanilla extract in this small form can be used in 6 to 8 weeks. It will have an excellent rich taste by then that will match any store-bought typical single fold vanilla extract if you want a more potent 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 that it often does not have time to set any 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 eight 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 filter. Using a clean 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 to 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 tiny seeds still pack a punch. I place them in a small container and use them up in a few days in smoothies or other lovely 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 beautiful extract and herb, you can check it out here.

How to Make Homemade Almond Extract

Make Homemade Almond Extract
Make Homemade Almond Extract

Skinning almonds are the most challenging part of this extract-making process. If you choose not to peel, 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 straightforward 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 the 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 the right side up a couple of 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 enhances that flavor and scent.

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 a glass measuring cup. Pour bottle and all its contents through the filter into the cup. Dispose of almonds and pour contents back into your rinsed extract jar.

Mint Extract Recipe - Choose Your Mint

Mint Extract Recipe
Mint Extract Recipe

I 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)

Directions

  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 the right side up a couple of times.
  6. Every few days, repeat this turning process to keep the ingredients mixed.

When Be Will My Mint Extract Ready to Use?

This extract is a bit quicker than others because it is a fresh green leaf. You should be able to use it 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. You are placing your cheesecloth in your filter and over a glass measuring cup. Pour the bottle of extract and all the mint leaves over the filter. When all the liquid has run through, gather the cheesecloth like a pouch and squeeze the remaining section over the filter.

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 it sit for another 4 - 6 weeks.

Bam! Mint Explosion!

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

Lemon And OrangeExtract
Lemon And OrangeExtract

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

You 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)

Homemade Orange Extract

Orange Extract Ingredients

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

Directions for Homemade Lemon and Orange Extracts

  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 the right side up a couple of times.
  7. Every few days, repeat this turning process to keep the ingredients mixed.

When is My Fruit Extracts Done?

Your lemon and orange extracts take 6 to 8 weeks to brew into the delicious tasty flavor fully. 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 fast.

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

Straining is easy. No cheesecloth is needed. Using the filter over a 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 plants' constituents, herbs, and fruits used here. The insignificant amounts of alcohol that would use in a typical recipe or usage are very minimal.

Also, alcohol in any cooked goods, hot beverages, etc., is cooked off in the heat before consumption. However, I do understand that this is an issue for some individuals and respect that choice.

How to Make a Homemade Extract With a Food-grade Vegetable Glycerin Alternative?

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

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

The Amber Bottles I used Here.

U-Pack 4 Oz Amber Glass Boston Round Bottles With Black Ribbed Cap - 12 Pack
U-Pack 4 Oz Amber Glass Boston Round Bottles With Black Ribbed Cap - 12 Pack

The Funnel that was Used

OXO 1047091 Good Grips 3-Piece Secure Fit Funnel And Strainer Set,Multi,1EA
OXO 1047091 Good Grips 3-Piece Secure Fit Funnel And Strainer Set,Multi,1EA

Dry Measuring Cups

Nlife 8pcs Collapsible Silicone Measuring Cups Measuring Spoons Perfect For Pet Food, Coffee, Supplements, Flour, Grains, Lentils, Spices, Honey, And Liquids
Nlife 8pcs Collapsible Silicone Measuring Cups Measuring Spoons Perfect For Pet Food, Coffee, Supplements, Flour, Grains, Lentils, Spices, Honey, And Liquids

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 taste. Make it un-sweet and use the 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 are many more too; this is just a taste…

Are there other ways you use extracts? Would I love to hear from you? Could you drop a comment below and let me know?

About Christina Lopez

Christina Lopez grew up in the beautiful city of Mountain View, California, where she spent eighteen ascetic years as a vegetarian before stumbling upon the exquisite delicacy of a strange chicken thigh. She’s been a city finalist competitive pingpong player, an ocean diver, an ex-pat in England and Japan, and a computer science doctoral student. Christina writes really late at night as spending most of her daytime enchanting her magical herb garden.

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