How to Make Homemade Kahlua

You only need four simple ingredients for this homemade Kahlua recipe. It's great for cocktails, baked goods, and gifting friends and family.

It’s easy to pick up a bottle or two at your local grocery store, but making your own Kahlua allows you to control the alcohol and sugar content. It’s also less syrupy and tastes even better than the name brand! Plus, homemade Kahlua makes the perfect food gift idea for when the holidays roll around.

What Is Kahlua?

Kahlua is a brand of coffee-flavored liqueur that was founded in 1936 by four friends in Mexico. The liqueur is made by combining arabica coffee with sugar, vanilla and rum, and is used in classic cocktails like the white Russian, espresso martini and mudslide.

The key to a truly delicious homemade Kahlua comes down to the quality of ingredients used. Be sure to use fresh-brewed coffee (here are our favorite coffee brands) and a decent spirit brand for a rich liqueur that’s full of flavor.

What Liquor Is in Homemade Kahlua?

Homemade Kahlua is made with white rum, but you can substitute it with another spirit if you like. Vodka works, but the taste will be slightly different. No matter what spirit you use, choose a good brand—here are some of the best rums for cocktails, sipping and making recipes like homemade Kahlua.

How to Make Homemade Kahlua

Homemade KalhuaTMB studio

This recipe comes from New York Community Cook, Sue Stetzel, and makes approximately 2 quarts of Kahlua.


  • 4 cups strong brewed coffee
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups good quality white rum


Step 1: Make the coffee simple syrup

In a saucepan, bring the coffee and sugar to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool completely.

Step 2: Combine all of the ingredients

Stir the vanilla extract and alcohol of your choice into the cooled coffee simple syrup until combined.

Step 3: Store

Pour your homemade Kahlua into clean clear glass bottles, cap tightly and store in a cool, dry place.

Homemade Kahlua FAQ

How do you use homemade Kahlua?

Use your homemade Kahlua just as you would the store-bought brand. It’s great for any of these Kahlua drinks, like a chocolate-caramel rum coffee or black Russian.

You can also add it to desserts, like these Kahlua dream bars and mocha java pie with Kahlua cream Or just add it to a cup of coffee for a quick pick-me-up!

Can Kahlua go bad?

If stored properly, homemade Kahlua will maintain its flavor and potency for about three to four years. Kahlua that has gone bad will smell off and have a watered-down taste.

Use Your Homemade Kahlua for Drinks :
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Caroline Stanko
Caroline has been with Taste of Home for the past seven years, working in both print and digital. After starting as an intern for the magazine and special interest publication teams, Caroline was hired as the third-ever digital editor for Taste of Home. Since then, she has researched, written and edited content on just about every topic the site covers, including cooking techniques, buzzy food news, gift guides and many, many recipe collections. Caroline also acts as the editorial lead for video, working with the Test Kitchen, videographers and social media team to produce videos from start to finish. When she’s not tip-tapping on a keyboard, Caroline is probably mixing up a killer cocktail, reading a dog-eared library book or cooking up a multi-course feast (sometimes all at once). Though she technically lives in Milwaukee, there is a 50/50 chance Caroline is in Chicago or southwest Michigan visiting her close-knit family.