Vanilla extract is one of those items that everyone needs in their kitchen if you ask me. Vanilla may seem boring to some, but I believe that this common, everyday ingredient is one of the most important ingredients to have in a kitchen. Vanilla takes any recipe you have and adds that special touch to take it from good to amazing with only one or two drops.

Benefits

Vanilla beans are full of health benefits. They’re an ancient aphrodisiac known to aid everything from depression and anxiety to gastrointestinal issues and high stress levels. Vanilla beans are also a decent source of B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese.

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Why Not Buy From the Store?

If you’ve ever tried to purchase vanilla beans online or at the store, you realize pretty quickly that they’re not cheap to use by themselves, which makes extracts more economical. However, if you buy a high-quality vanilla extract (versus varieties laden with corn syrup, sugar, and alcohol), you’ll find they’re not cheap, either. The solution? Just make your own!

Make a Healthier Vanilla Extract

Luckily, all you need is three or four organic vanilla beans and food grade glycerin to make your own 8-ounce container of sugar-free, alcohol-free vanilla bean extract. Some people use an alcohol medium such as bourbon or vodka, or a sugar medium like corn syrup or molasses.  I prefer to use vegetable glycerin in place of alcohol that serves as a medium for the extract to keep it alcohol-free and sugar-free instead.

How Long Does it Take?

This recipe takes less than five minutes to make, but you will need to let the beans steep for at least four weeks for maximum flavor to set in. It will then last up to six months to a year in your pantry.

Here’s What You Need

To Make

Pour 8 ounces of glycerin into the bottle and store the rest for later use. Cut the vanilla bean pods in half lengthwise to open the pods up and expose the inner seeds inside the beans. Place the beans inside the jar and close the lid. Allow them to steep for at least four weeks (or a month) and then use however you like!

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Tips for Success

Remember to keep your jars well sealed to prevent air from seeping in, and once your bottle starts getting low, go ahead and start another batch of beans to soak.

Use vanilla in a variety of your recipes such as oatmeal, smoothies, cupcakes, cakes, muffins, quick breads, cookies, and even a healthy milkshake (my favorite way).

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Good luck and have fun!

Image source: mommyknows { Kim Becker }/Flickr