Chef John Folse's Pure Vanilla Extract

When comparing the price of vanilla extracts in the grocery store, you will find them ranging from cheap to extremely expensive. The cheap ones are probably made from extract of Tonka beans, a member of the pea family, that has a high concentration of Coumarin. Coumarin has a strong vanilla-type aroma, but no flavor. However, pure vanilla extract is made from expensive vanilla beans retailing for as much as $3 each. Additionally, they are aged in Bourbon, Brandy or Vodka raising the cost even more. But when done properly, it will last forever, aging like a fine wine.


  • 4 vanilla beans, split and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pint of Bourbon or Vodka

Place vanilla beans into 1 pint bottle of liquor. (I prefer Jack Daniels' Black Label). Place cap on bottle and tighten. Allow to steep 1 to 6 months, depending on the strength you wish to achieve. (The longer the better.) Shake the bottle occasionally to disperse the ingredients. The mixture keeps indefinitely, and you can continue to add alcohol to the bottle as you use the extract. When the extract has reached the ideal flavor for your cooking, you may strain the beans from the liquor using a coffee filter and return the extract to the bottle. There is no need to refrigerate.

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