How to Make Imitation Kahlúa: Recipe + Quick Substitutes

Updated January 11, 2022
imitation Kahlua recipe stored in a bottle


  • 2 cups water
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 750mL rum
  • ¾ ounce vanilla extract


  1. In a large pot over medium heat, add water, brown sugar, and instant coffee.
  2. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Lower heat to medium-low, allowing to simmer.
  4. Stir until the brown sugar and instant coffee have dissolved.
  5. After removing from heat, add rum and vanilla extract.
  6. Carefully pour mixture into resealable glass jars, bottles, or containers.
  7. After allowing to cool completely, seal and store in a cool, dark place.
  8. Shake daily for approximately 7-10 days.

Variations and Substitutions

Although you'll want to use coffee, a spirit, and a sweetener in your homemade Kahlúa, you can experiment with different ways to get there.

  • Try out different styles of rum, such as aged, coconut, or dark rum.
  • If rum doesn't work for you, you can also use vodka.
  • Use less sugar to make a coffee liqueur that's a bit less sweet.
  • Decrease the vanilla extract used for a less prominent vanilla profile.
  • Instead of instant coffee, use ground coffee or fine ground espresso, straining the mixture after steeping for ten days and before using.
  • Experiment with different flavors of vodka that you'd enjoy with coffee, hazelnut being a popular choice.

What to Do With Homemade Kahlúa

You can use homemade Kahlúa anywhere you'd use store bought Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur. The recipe means you can use the same amount of homemade coffee liqueur that you would use Kahlúa, no change in measurements needed. The upside to making your own coffee liqueur means you can make it to suit your preferred drink profile and flavors.

You can use the homemade liqueur in espresso martinis, white Russians, black Russians, frozen mudslides or classic mudslide cocktails, or even hot chocolate. Or you can simply enjoy it on its own, sipping it straight or on ice without a care.

Your homemade Kahlúa has a reasonably long shelf life; while it will stay good nearly indefinitely, it's best to try and use up within six months or so, but the recipe is easy to make in smaller batches to have the freshest taste possible. Keep in mind that it's best to continue to store the homemade Kahlúa in a cool, dark place, making sure the seal is tight.

Getting Buzzed

There's nothing quite like the buzz from a coffee liqueur, the caffeine is a great and gentle pick-me-up, no matter how you mix it up. Or, you can out coffee your coffee, adding a splash to a fresh cup of coffee and a little bit of creamer. The sky is the limit.

How to Make Imitation Kahlúa: Recipe + Quick Substitutes