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How to Make Single Fold Vanilla Extract

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This is the place to learn how to make single fold vanilla extract. If you have never made your own, want to know why homemade vanilla extract is better than store-bought vanilla extract, or just are a little bit curious about why so many people love making their own vanilla extract, this is the place for you.


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Today I am going to tell you how to make single fold vanilla extract, and why you would want to make your own vanilla when you can just buy it ready to go from the grocery stores.

Making your own homemade vanilla extract is a really easy way to feel like a domestic genius. I am serious.

There is nothing more empowering than being able to make something that is prepackaged in the store. You are in complete control and are not dependent on other people for this one item. It’s a pretty great high.

And this is so easy. You will not mess it up. All it takes is patience and a little measuring. That is it. You will end up with the best pure vanilla extract you have ever had.

But DIY vanilla extract can be a cost savings depending on the crazy price changes in pure vanilla. 

You also know exactly what is in your food that you are eating, and the quality is so much better than commercially produced extracts.

And as you learn more about vanilla, you get to use the “leftovers” from the extract to make even more vanilla goodness such as vanilla paste, vanilla sugar, vanilla caviar, and vanilla powder. 

What is extract?

When you make homemade extract to use in the kitchen, you are extracting flavor from one thing into a liquid to use in your kitchen. There are many things you can extract such as vanilla, coconut, a variety of berries, cinnamon, almond noyeux, and lavender. 

Extract is alcohol (to preserve the item being extracted) and whatever you are extracting.

Pro Tip: Extract is different from flavoring. Many things sold as “extracts” are just flavorings. Butter extract is not real butter. Maple extract is usually maple flavoring. Imitation vanilla is flavoring. Pay attention to what you use that is real and what is actually an imitation of flavor.


All ingredients are laid out counter, ready to make vanilla extract


What is Single Fold Vanilla Extract?

Single-fold vanilla extract is vanilla beans and alcohol.  When the beans sit in the alcohol, the alcohol extracts flavor from the vanilla bean pod which goes into the remaining liquid (water) giving you pure vanilla extract.

We call it single fold because you are putting the smallest amount of vanilla beans in to make a legal extract. Anything less is just alcohol with vanilla flavoring. More than that can become double-fold vanilla extract or even triple.

Pro Tip: There is an end to how much flavor can be taken in by the alcohol. A 4 or 5 fold extract will not taste much different than 3. And there are different uses for stronger extracts. As you learn more about single-fold extract you will be able to experiment and find what kind of extraction process makes sense for you and your kitchen.

What ingredients do you need to make Single Fold Vanilla Extract?

  • Vanilla Beans: most people prefer Madagascar or Mexican, but vanilla beans are grown in many countries around the world and all have slightly different flavor notes. Even the way the beans are cured will make a difference in the overall flavor you get from them
  • High-quality Vodka: you want your alcohol to be 80-90 proof. If it is too much higher, the high alcohol content will dry out your beans and have less water space for the flavor to move into.

Pro Tip: People will tell you for best results you want the best alcohol. Renowned vodka brands like Grey Goose or Absolut are great, but many people also love wholesale store brands like Kirkland or Member’s Mark. 

A good rule is you don’t want to extract with anything you wouldn’t drink. If you are not a drinker, middle of the road vodkas are good choices to start.

How to Make Single Fold Vanilla Extract:

  1. Place whole vanilla beans into a glass jar or mason jar.
  2. Pour vodka into the jar, keeping the beans entirely submerged. You can fold or tie the beans if needed.
  3. Secure the lid and label the jar with the start date and type of vanilla beans and alcohol used.
  4. Store the jar in a cool, dark place for 12 months. 
  5. Optional: Shake the jar gently once per quarter.
  6. After 12 months, your homemade Single Fold Vanilla Extract is ready, and your vanilla beans are ready to be turned into another great vanilla product!

Pro Tip: Many people swear by shaking the vanilla extract. They have a good routine and like to take pictures to see the extract color progressing.

I like to leave my single fold extract in a dark cupboard out of direct sunlight where it is safe from mistakes like dropping the jar and crying. 

If you like to check your progress, shake your jar and watch the caviar move through the extract. Otherwise, leave it alone in a cool place and it will be ready to go when you are.

Do I need to weigh my beans or can I just count them to make single fold vanilla extract?

Yes, you need to weigh them to know exactly how many grams or ounces of vanilla beans you have. You cannot make a true extract by counting the number of beans.

If you have Mexican vanilla beans and Tahitian vanilla beans, even if they are both grade A they will be different thicknesses. You could have 4 beans that are .25 oz and 4 that weigh out to be 2.2 oz of vanilla beans. I have seen both thin, skinny beans and plump monster beans.

To make real vanilla extract, you need to know how many ounces of beans you are using per cup of vodka. It also tells you if you are making a single or double-fold extract or just a vanilla flavored bottle of vodka.


vanilla beans placed in a jar with vodka being poured over beans


What is the Difference Between Single Fold and Double Fold Vanilla?

Single Fold Vanilla Extract uses the smallest amount of vanilla beans per cup of alcohol to make a true extract. Double Fold Vanilla Extract uses twice as many beans per cup of alcohol, giving you a more concentrated flavor.

What Alcohols Can Be Used for Vanilla Extract?

You can use any alcohol you like that has a high enough alcohol content, but different ones will do different things to the flavor of your vanilla extract recipe

Use a vodka if you want neutral alcohol that will let the strong vanilla flavor shine. If you use an alcohol with a flavor like Rum, you will have rum flavor as part of your vanilla.

Remember, your alcohol by volume needs to be 40% or 80 proof which is enough alcohol to extract flavors, enough space for the flavors to go into the liquid, and enough alcohol to make sure your vanilla does not mold.

Some people take higher proof vodkas like Everclear and add distilled water to dilute it down to a true 80 proof alcohol. Only do this if you trust your kitchen math! 

True 180 proof everclear will fry your beans and leave you with sticks, while too much distilled water can water down your alcohol so your beans may mold.

Pro Tip: If you mix everclear and distilled water, let it sit for 30 minutes before adding your vanilla. While it won’t hurt the vanilla, they react together and the liquid becomes cloudy. It should disappear in a few days.


cork cap being placed on glass jar with vanilla beans and vodka.


What Are the Uses of Single Fold Vanilla Extract?

Single Fold Vanilla Extract can be used exactly the same way you use pure vanilla extract. You can add it to desserts, baked goods, and beverages. I like to add it to cakes, cookies, custards, ice creams, and even morning coffee.

What Does Homemade Single Fold Vanilla Extract Taste Like?

Tasting straight single fold vanilla extract will taste like alcohol. Vanilla extract does not taste good on its own.

If you want to sample it, try mixing a little into a glass of milk, whipped cream, or plain pudding. That will give you a taste of the flavor of your extract.

Your extract will taste like the beans you put in it. Different varieties of vanilla beans will give you different flavors. I like to experiment and see what kind of beans I like to make the best vanilla extract.


close up of single fold vanilla with cute label


What is the Shelf Life of Single Fold Vanilla Extract?

Homemade single fold vanilla extract that is properly stored can last forever. The alcohol is a preservative that will keep it ready to use any time.

What do you do with the vanilla beans in the single fold vanilla extract?

You can do so many things with the beans in the extract, that it probably needs its own blog post. If you ever had a recipe that called for vanilla bean caviar so you slice a bean and scrape out the seeds, that is what the beans are perfect for. 

Sitting in the alcohol extracting, the shell or the bean pod is giving the flavor to the extract, so if you slice a bean and squeeze out the caviar or bean guts, you can put the empty pod back into the alcohol to continue extracting.

Once you have extract you can add beans to a mother jar and let them extract again, turn them into vanilla bean paste, vanilla sugar, vanilla salt, vanilla powder, and use them for so many options in the kitchen.


zoomed in image of single fold vanilla extract in bottle


Recipes That Use Vanilla Extract:

Now that you know how to make single fold vanilla extract, what are you waiting for? Jump on board today and try different beans from around the world.  We love how beans from different countries have a slightly different taste and you will too!


Yield: 1 cup vanilla extract

How to Make Single Fold Vanilla Extract

bottle of single fold vanilla extract laid out on counter.

This is the place to learn how to make single fold vanilla extract. All your questions answered with easy and clear instructions!


  • 1 ounce of fresh vanilla beans - any variety
  • 1 cup of vodka


  1. In a 10 ounce jar, place whole vanilla beans inside.
  2. Carefully pour vodka over vanilla beans.
  3. Seal jar and label with start date, variety of bean and single fold.
  4. Set aside in the back of a cupboard, out of sunlight.
  5. Every month to 3 months, bring vanilla out and carefully shake. Place back in cupboard.
  6. A single fold vanilla will take 12+ months to brew. Your vanilla upon completion may still have an alcohol smell. However when you bake with it, it should taste wonderful!


If your beans will not fit in your jar, you can cut them in half or split your beans. I prefer to leave them whole so I can use the seeds in the pod in other recipes after I remove them from the vanilla.

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