Here's something that's going to change your home cooking life: You can make better vanilla extract at home in about an hour using the Instant Pot. Yes, one hour! If your mind isn't blown yet, consider this: The Instant Pot will also give your homemade vanilla extract the intensity of aged homemade extract or high-quality store-bought vanilla. This vanilla extract is sweet and heady with a rich perfume and is only a few jars and an electric pressure away. It's the perfect last-minute gift for the baker in your life, or a game-changing ingredient for your holiday baking. Here's how to make this magic in the kitchen.
Why Make Vanilla Extract in the Instant Pot?
Homemade vanilla extract is made by plunking vanilla beans into alcohol and letting the two infuse for at least a month (and as long as a year) before infusion is complete.
An electric pressure cooker uses pressure to rapidly heat the alcohol to a boil under pressure and infuse the vanilla almost instantly. You can definitely boil your alcohol on the stovetop for infusions, but you'll lose about 40 percent of your alcohol to evaporation, stinking up the whole house in the process. With pressure infusion, the vodka and vanilla beans are housed inside canning jars within the electric pressure cooker, preventing evaporation and alcohol vapor from escaping.
Buying Vanilla Beans for Instant Pot Extract
Vanilla beans can be quite costly, especially if you're hoping to buy more than a few and can only get them at the grocery store. Luckily, Grade B vanilla beans are best for extract and are less expensive than their Grade A counterparts. Buying your vanilla beans online will also cut costs. I like to buy my extract beans in bulk via eBay, but here are a few other fine sources to check out.
The Best Alcohol to Use for Vanilla Extract in the Instant Pot
You can use almost any alcohol for extract, but vodka's a good choice for homemade vanilla extract because it's plentiful and inexpensive. I often use bourbon for extract, as it adds a smoky aroma to the finished vanilla. Overall, you've got options, so choose a mid-priced bottle that you wouldn't mind drinking as a cocktail for any alcohol you choose.
More Resources and Advice
In case the idea of making vanilla extract under pressure makes you feel nervous, here are some wonderful resources for recipes and research that has been done on this and similar methods.
The Benefits and Precautions of Using Canning Jars
A quick internet search will show you that electric pressure cooker recipes for vanilla extract vary in the procedures, with some pouring the liquid right into the insert pot and other pressure steaming the extract in jars. Testing both, I found that the jarred version (despite my concerns about jars inside the pressure cooker) was best.
Pouring the vodka directly into the pressure cooker with the beans gave off a heady perfume of alcohol that became sort of noxious during the cooking and cooling phases, and because I don't have an extra insert for my Instant Pot, the resulting extract had an aromatic back note of caramelized onions (or was that the chili I made last week?). Containing the extract within the jars inside the pressure cooker while pressure steaming made for a cleaner extract with less aroma while cooking.
Let's Play Safe!
- You should never make extract in a stovetop pressure cooker — open flames around alcohol under pressure is potential very dangerous.
- Don't leave your pressure cooker completely unattended while under pressure. Use the hour to work elsewhere in the house or kitchen, but not to run to the grocery store.
- Even after an hour of natural release, the jars and alcohol will still be extremely hot. Use caution when removing them from the Instant Pot and cool completely at room temperature before opening the jars or using.
Using and Storing Your Pressure Cooker Vanilla Extract
You can use your extract within as little as 24 hours, but you can also store the extract as it gets stronger within a week. Store in a cool, dark place. Feel free to move the extract from the canning jars to more decorative jars for gifting.
5 Recipes to Show Off Your Vanilla Extract
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How To Make Instant Pot Vanilla Extract
What You Need
6 vanilla beans, preferably grade B
6 cups vodka, preferably mid-priced 80% proof, such as Smirnoff or Tito's
1 cup water
Electric pressure cooker with trivet or steamer insert
3 (16-ounce) glass jars with lids
- Split the vanilla beans. Use the tip of a paring knife to split each vanilla bean in two lengthwise.
- Divide the vanilla beans and vodka between 3 jars. Divide the split beans among 3 (16-ounce) jars. Add 2 cups of vodka into each jar to cover.
- Seal the jars and add to the Instant Pot. Place the lids on the jars and seal finger tight. Set the Instant Pot's trivet in the bottom of the insert. Place the jars on the trivet with equal space around them.
- Add the water to the Instant Pot, seal, and cook on high pressure for 60 minutes. Add the water to the Instant Pot and seal the pot. Use manual mode to cook the jars for 1 hour at high pressure. When the cook time is up, don't do a thing — allow the pot to naturally release its pressure for at least 1 hour or longer.
- Remove the jars of extract from the pressure cooker and cool completely. Use tongs to transfer the jars to a kitchen towel or cooling rack to cool completely before storing.
- Extract is ready to use immediately. You can use your extract within as little as 24 hours, but you can also wait, as it gets stronger within a week. Store in a cool, dark place. Feel free to move the extract from the canning jars to more decorative jars or bottles for gifting.
- Storage: Vanilla extract kept in airtight containers at cool room temperature can be kept indefinitely.