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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 a minimum of three months—six months or even six years is even better! Vanilla extract gets better and better with age. 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!

 

homemade vanilla extract in amber bottles

 

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

  • pint-size new glass canning jars with lids and rings
  • Instant Pot electric pressure cooker 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 Madagascar Grade B beans at Amazon.

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 what that natural thing is 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. An alternative food-grade glycerin version of vanilla extract will make a fine substitute. 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 does change 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 of 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!

Helpful resources

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 close up of a bottle of wine

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!
3.8 from 10 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 192 teaspoons
Calories: 12kcal
Cost: $27

Equipment

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

Ingredients

  • 10-12 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: 12kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

 

 

 

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20 replies
  1. Dottie says:

    I agree with Ilene. Clean jars via dishwasher can be achieved. New (or almost new) rings are usually in stock at a canner’s pantry. New lids are at the moment still iffy. Purchasing new jars with rings and lids…..next to impossible still, with the pandemic and all. Why not use your jars & your rings and purchase new lids if they can be found?

    Reply
  2. Lou says:

    Hi Mary:

    Thanks for sharing all of your knowledge over the many years that I’ve subscribed to your emails and newsletter.

    For simplicity, could I split the whole bean lengthwise first, before cutting them into smaller pieces? Seems like it would be easier to do that than splitting a bunch of smaller pieces. Please advise.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Maria says:

      I don’t think that will work because in Mary’s description above, once you cut the bean into 1 inch pieces, you only cut that piece halfway lengthwise, so, if you cut it longways first, you will end up with pieces that are cut all the way through which is not how Mary said that the pieces should be cut for the recipe.

      Reply
      • Lou says:

        Thanks Maria, and not to belabor this, but I didn’t mean to split the bean lengthwise into two halves, but to basically “butterfly” the whole bean first before cutting it into smaller pieces. It seems like one is doing the same basic cuts, regardless of whether the bean is whole or cut into smaller pieces?

        I suspect that my preferred method may be a little more efficient, though I’m never above admitting when I’m wrong.

    • Tina says:

      Maria,
      Look at the picture Mary used in the article of how to cut the beans, she did not “butterfly” them down their entire length. For each 1 inch piece, she left the top half completely intact and cut the bottom half in two. Picture a squid with 2 tentacles, lol. Like I said, look at her picture 🙂

      Reply
  3. Alice Pittman says:

    I clicked the link for the vanilla beans and noticed that the package said not to try to slice grade B vanilla beans, just to chop them into pieces. Thoughts??

    Reply
  4. SunnnieB says:

    Instead of 2 pints jars could I use four 1/2 Pint jars then they would be ready to gift. OR should I pour into dark brown bottles for gifting & using for myself. What is the shelf life of this vanilla?
    Thank you for all you do!!

    Reply
  5. Martha Heagany says:

    Can I use any electric pressure cooker or does it HAVE to be an Instant pot. If so, then what would you set it on since there is no “sealing” option?
    Also can you do more than 2 jars if they fit in the pot on the trivet? Thanks

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I have not use another type of electric pressure cooker, so I’m hesitant to say for sure one way or the other. However pure vanilla extract does not require sealing of the jars. That is the nature of alcohol. It does not spoil, does not go bad; does not require that it be pressure sealed.

      Reply
  6. JudyinAZ says:

    Mary, tried your version last year and this year tried the Instapot version. Like the easier, shorter Instapot way. But I had a problem understanding what you meant about putting the canning lids on loosely-“finger tight”? Wasn’t sure what that meant so just screwed lids on without that last turn or so to tighten down. The result was that when the cooking time and venting was up and I lifted the lid I found about 1/4 of the vanilla liquid had evidently boiled out of the jar and was mixed with the water added to the pot before cooking. Is that normal or did I not tighten jar ring enough? Can you describe the tightening process further? Or could I have filled the jar too much? I hated to loose any vanilla in this way.

    Also, now that these jars are sealed can I open and pour into smaller gifting jars or does it need to be kept sealed until used. I have been asked if it needs to be refrigerated or can just sit on dark shelf once used by recipient?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I’m going to guess that you overfilled the jars in the Instant Pot. Finger tight means screwed on but not super tightly. You are going to have nearly a pint of vanilla in each of the processing jars, which would be a huge amount for a gift. The smaller bottles like the “hot sauce” bottles shown are a good size for gifting. You would fill them from the large pint processing jars. Hope that makes sense to you.

      Reply

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