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Instant Pot Vanilla Extract—One Week from Start-to-Gift

For nearly a decade I’ve been making vanilla extract for Christmas gifts. And every year I find myself scrambling because it’s a process that requires two months minimum—six is better. But all that has changed since discovering how to make vanilla extract using my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. Instead of months, Instant Pot vanilla extract takes just one week from start-to-gift!

A close up of a bottle of wine

 

For me (and friends and family on my gift list), vanilla extract is still the perfect homemade holiday gift. The difference in taste is extraordinary. And now that pure vanilla extract has become so expensive (more on that in a bit), it’s like pure gold!

Processing homemade vanilla extract in an electric Instant Pot pressure cooker gives it the intensity of aged high-quality store-bought vanilla in a fraction of the time. Now our perfect homemade gift can be a perfect last-minute gift, too!

 

Vanilla and Extract

 

A small pair of scissors

 

Vanilla and Extract

 

A cup of coffee on a table, with Vanilla and Gift

Jars of homemade pure vanilla extract straight out of the Instant Pot next to bottles of vanilla extract made the traditional way—two years earlier.

Instant Pot Pure Vanilla Extract

Ingredients

Equipment

  • 2 pint-size new glass canning jars with lids and rings
  • Instant Pot with a trivet, like this 6-quart size or larger (DO NOT attempt this in a stovetop pressure cooker).

Instructions

  1. Cut the vanilla beans into about 1-inch pieces, then slice each piece lengthwise but only partway so the pieces remain connected. Do not scrape the seeds out. They will release naturally during the extraction process.
  2. Divide the cut pieces between the two canning jars.
  3. Fill each jar with vodka to about 1-inch below the rim.
  4. Apply the lids and rings to the jars loosely, only finger-tight.
  5. Place trivet in your Instant Pot and set the prepared jars on it.
  6. Pour 1 cup water into the Instant Pot.
  7. Set Instant Pot to high pressure for 30 minutes with the valve set to “sealing.”
  8. Once finished, allow for natural release, about 20 mins.
  9. Carefully remove jars (they will be hot!) and allow them to cool.

Place in a dark cupboard and shake well each day for one week. All done and good to go!

Frequently asked questions

Will a 60-minute cook work even faster?

This is weird, but no. I’ve tested pressure cook times up to 90 minutes. The difference between that time and 30 minutes, has nothing to do with the taste of the finished extract—but the beans begin to break down after 30 minutes. That makes the extract cloudy and even muddy, which is a condition you do not want to create.

At 30 minutes the extract comes out delicious, clear, and gorgeous. Shaking the extract at least once a day for a week increases the intensity and color of the extract as that releases all those beautiful teeny vanilla seeds, making it super gift-worthy. You can achieve a darker more intense flavor in 30 minutes by increasing the number of beans.

Where to buy vanilla beans?

You can find them in some supermarkets, warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s, or online. Prices remain high for the good ones (don’t skimp here), so shop around. Just recently I scouted like a cheapskate and found the best online price for quality here.

What is the best type of vanilla bean?

Vanilla grown in Madagascar is known for its high quality and the best flavor, although beans grown in Tahiti and Mexico make a fine extract, too. Grade B beans, surprisingly, are better than Grade A for extracting. They’re cheaper too.

Why are vanilla beans so expensive?

If you follow international weather, wars, and politics, you may recall that in the 1980s, cheaper artificial vanilla with “natural flavoring” overtook the market (read more about what that natural thing is here if you dare—Yikes!).

As a result and as reported in Business Insider, vanilla farmers cut back production because they weren’t making enough money. They switched crops from vanilla to coffee and cocoa. But around 2011, demand for real vanilla rose again as big companies were pledging to eliminate artificial flavorings from their products (thank you!).

Add to that, vanilla thieves, severe cyclones that wiped out delicate crops—plus the many years needed to produce mature trees—it’s taken a while for the vanilla farmers to get back in the game. Some say they don’t want to.

Do I have to use vodka?

No. Here is an alternative food-grade glycerin version. Just don’t expect anything close to high-quality, excellent vanilla extract. Personally, I’d look for another type of homemade gift altogether than compromise with glycerin which changes the flavor.

What kind of vodka?

You want a mid-range, unflavored vodka that is 40% alc/vol and 80 proof. Look for that on the label. And look for one that’s on sale. I recently purchased a 2-quart bottle Fleischmann’s Royal Vodka locally for $6.99 on sale. Perfect.

What is the shelf-life of vanilla extract?

Because of the alcohol content, pure vanilla extract has an indefinite shelf life. Bonus: If you leave pieces of a vanilla bean in the extract, the flavor will continue to intensify over time.

Prepare gifts

Gift bottles as seen in the last photo above are sold as “hot sauce bottles,” and just perfect for gifting gourmet extracts. They come in 12- or 24-packs including screw-on lids, dripper inserts, and black shrink bands.

To fill the bottles with vanilla extract, use a small funnel and pour it in—completely unfiltered. To add a touch of class, I drop in 2 or 3 of the vanilla bean fragments from the brew. Then screw the lid on very tightly, slip a black shrink band over the bottle’s neck and hit it with a hot hairdryer. That shrinks it to fit and creates a lovely note of security.

Bonus

You can use the same vanilla beans over and again to make extract in the future. Just replace the liquid you poured off for your own baking or for gifts with new vodka. Either process again in an Instant Pot or tuck away in a  dark cupboard for a nice long soak over the coming year. The beans do lose their intensity over time, so dropping a few new beans into each new batch works fabulously. Shhhh! I’m still using beans I bought in 2013 in batch after batch … after batch!

More resources and advice:

Madagascar Grade B vanilla beans

Instant Pot electric pressure cooker

Traditional non-pressure cooker recipe and instructions for homemade vanilla extract

Gift bottles as seen in the last photo above, are called “hot sauce bottles,” and they come in 12- or 24-packs including screw-on lids, dripper inserts, and black shrink bands.

Pressure Cooker Vanilla Extract and FAQ – Tidbits

 

A bottle of wine on a table

 

A close up of a bottle of wine
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
4.15 from 14 votes

Instant Pot Vanilla Extract

For nearly a decade now, I've been making vanilla extract for Christmas gifts. And every year I find myself scrambling because it's a process that requires two months minimum—six is better. But all that has changed since discovering how to make vanilla extract using my Instant Pot pressure cooker. Instead of months, it takes just one week from start-to-gift!
Prep Time1 hr 20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Servings: 192 teaspoons
Calories: 11.28kcal
Cost: $27

Equipment

  • Electric pressure cooker with trivet
  • 2 pint-size new glass canning jars with lids and rings

Ingredients

  • 6-8 vanilla beans Grade B
  • 32 oz vodka plain, 40% alc/vol 80 proof

Instructions

  • Cut the vanilla beans into about 1-inch pieces, then slice each piece lengthwise but only halfway. Do not scrape the seeds out. That will happen naturally in the extraction process as the seeds become infused.
  • Divide the cut pieces between the two canning jars.
  • Fill each jar with vodka to about 1-inch below the rim.
  • Apply the lids and rings to the jars loosely, finger-tight.
  • Place trivet in your Instant Pot and set the prepared jars on it.
  • Pour 1 cup water into the Instant Pot.
  • Set Instant Pot to high pressure for 30 minutes with valve set to on "sealing."
  • Once finished, allow for natural release, about 20 mins.
  • Carefully remove jars (they will be hot!) and allow them to cool.
  • Place in a dark cupboard and shake well each day for one week. All done and good to go!

Nutrition

Serving: 1tsp | Calories: 11.28kcal

NEXT UP:

A Perfect Homemade Holiday Gift

25 Items Under $25 to Help Organize Your Life

The 3 Vacuums I Use Every Day and Absolutely Swear By

 

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32 replies
Newer Comments »
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Roberta … I pour off the liquid into gift bottles. Then I replace the vanilla removed with new vodka. Back into the dark cupboard, the jar goes. I’ve been using the same 1/2 gallon mason canning jar for many years now. I have added a few new vanilla beans over the years to replace those I put in each gift bottle (only 2 or 3 pieces each) to refresh the process and keep it going. Hope the helps.

      Reply
  1. Tim Irving says:

    Besides brandy that was suggested, can other neutral alcohol like Everclear be used? I found whatever is in Vodka (even the good stuff) gives me a migraine. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Sorry to hear that, Candy. My guess without seeing photos or having more info, the jar was not new and either cracked or chipped and/or the lid was applied too tightly.

      Reply
      • Peggy Hayward says:

        Mary, I have a concern about the safety of alcohol in the Instant Pot. I was all ready to start making vanilla extract and kahlua, but now I’m reading online that you should never use your instant pot for those type of recipes. It could cause a fire or worse. Any thoughts?

  2. Kdonat says:

    Try making it with brandy instead of vodka. It adds a whole new taste dimension to vanilla. I’ve used brandy as a base, both top shelf ($$$ VSOP) and the less expensive ($), for years using the long soak method. The chef I learned this from always used either cognac or the best brandy available. Looking forward to using the IP method.

    Reply
  3. Janice Elder says:

    What a great idea. Do you know if it would work in a regular pressure cooker, vs. an Instant Pot? Thanks for this and ALL your great suggestions, Mary!

    Reply
      • Honeywest says:

        Cathy, maybe Janice meant another brand of electric pressure cooker. I have a brand that is not an Instapot and would not hesitate to try it in it.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      This works in an electric pressure cooker. Please do not attempt this in a stovetop pressure cooker. Alcohol is flammable and a stovetop cooker does not have the intricate control of a modern electric pressure cooker like an Instant Pot. Hope that helps—and thanks for your kind words!

      Reply
  4. Candy says:

    Do the jars have to seal during the pressure process? Or can you use old lids? Thanks! Will try this for the first time now!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Does not seal, so you can use old rings and lids as long as they are the right size and you can screw on lightly. The purpose is to keep the alcohol from evaporating during the process.

      Reply
  5. Jana Rivard says:

    5 stars
    I agree with Connie that this and you are truly brilliant!! I’ve been making my own vanilla for years and am in love with my Instant Pot so this is a marriage made in heaven!! Thank you Mary so very much for everything you and DPL add to my life!! I found a large bottle of vanilla flavored Vodka that I used once that also worked beautifully. I reuse my vanilla beans and have even made vanilla sugar after drying out a few beans after much use (dry them out and put them in a jar with sugar, shake frequently and it becomes a beautiful thing!). I will definitely be using this method, thank you again Mary!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Ok I amend my directive of using only plain vodka. Vanilla vodka does sound like a great option! But I can’t recommend what I saw just recently … “Dill Pickle Vodka!” So let’s make it either plain or vanilla vodka

      Great tip, Jana. Thanks!

      Reply
  6. ellen says:

    Do you transfer the vanilla extract into smaller bottles for gifts? What size and what kind do you recommend? I am seriously going to try this out. I love my instantpot.

    Reply
    • Judy says:

      Yes would like to know if it has to be refrigerated after the week in dark cupboard? Also, do you strain out the used beans for reuse? Your pictures show the beans in the gift bottles but you say to save and reuse the beans?

      Reply
      • Honeywest says:

        No Judy, it is just like regular vanilla extract that you buy at the store. No need to refrigerate. I’ve made it for gifts too. It is amazing how easy it is and is a wonderful quality. Got my bottles on Amazon.

      • Mary Hunt says:

        Judy … No need to refrigerate ever. That’s the nature of alcohol. As for filling the gift bottles (I added a link in the post for those bottles by the way), I use a funnel and just pour in the liquid including all the tiny seeds. Then I use tongs to drop 2 or 3 vanilla bean pieces because it looks classy, and allows the vanilla to continue the extraction process.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      I have amended the post to include this info Ellen (thanks!). Yes, I transfer to the small bottles you see in the photo. They’re called Hot Sauce Bottles (link in post) … very inexpensive, beautiful, and come complete with the black screw-on lids, that little plastic insert that make it a shaker, plus a plastic “collar” you slip over the bottle and lid then hit it with a hairdryer to shrink wrap and seal it! I use a funnel to fill the bottles, then drop in two bean portions for a classic touch.

      Reply
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