Homemade Vanilla Extract

Learn how to make your own vanilla extract! Homemade Vanilla Extract only requires two ingredients and a bit of time. It’s an easy recipe to make and a perfect, simple DIY gift. 

two glass bottles of homemade vanilla extract on a grey background

Good quality vanilla extract is really difficult to find where I live. There are vanilla beans, dried vanilla seeds, and vanilla sugar, which is what most people bake with, but vanilla extract is almost non-existent. 

Because of this, I’ve been making my own vanilla extract in big batches over the past five years. I bought a pound of extract-grade vanilla beans and churned out many a batch of homemade vanilla extract. The last batch that I made (made with bourbon and steeped for 18 months… omg, sooooo good!) used up the last of my beans, so I recently went to order more. 

Holy crap, you guys, the price of vanilla is through the roof! I haven’t paid attention to the soaring price of vanilla extract since I made my own, but the price of beans has easily quadrupled since I last ordered them. All the more reason to make your own vanilla extract! 

Also: it makes a damn fine homemade gift, and edible gifts are the best gifts, ammiright?!

vodka, vanilla beans, and glass bottles on a grey background

What do I need to make homemade vanilla extract?

Just *TWO* ingredients, my friends. You’ll need:

  • Vanilla beans
  • Some sort of alcohol

When it comes to the beans, buying extract-grade vanilla beans in bulk is your cheapest option. But if you’re not prepared to throw down on a pound of vanilla beans, smaller amounts are totally fine. It takes approximately 5 vanilla beans per every cup (250ml) of alcohol, so you can scale up or down accordingly. 

For the alcohol, most folks use either vodka, rum, or bourbon. I’ve used all three, and I think all yield nice results. Vodka has the most neutral flavour so that’s what I usually recommend, but I do really like the rich flavour of bourbon, too. 

split vanilla beans on a blue cutting board

How do I make vanilla extract?

Try and stay with me here, because these instructions are complicated.

Split your vanilla beans down the middle and / or snap them in half. Place the beans in a glass bottle or jar, and cover with alcohol. Put a label on the bottle with the date you started and the type of alcohol you used. Wait a couple of months.

Lip synch Blame it on The Rain while you are waiting. Take the vanilla jar out of the cupboard and give it a shake every once in a while. 

That’s it. Your vanilla extract is done. 

vanilla beans in an empty glass bottle and a bottle of vodka in the background

Pro tips / recipe notes:

  • Does it matter what kind of alcohol I use? Keep in mind that the alcohol use will impart some flavour on the final product, so you have to be ok with that. Vodka is nice and neutral. Rum and bourbon will both lend a bit of flavour.
  • Does it have to be good quality alcohol? While I don’t recommend using top shelf stuff here, keep in mind that your vanilla extract is as good as the ingredients that go into it, so I wouldn’t use the cheapest plonk you can find either. 
  • How long do you have to wait for the vanilla extract to be done? The recommended minimum is two months, but I often go much longer. I prefer 6 – 18 months if possible. 
  • But I want to make vanilla extract for gifts and I can’t wait that long. No problemo. Put your vanilla beans into a cute bottle, cover with alcohol, make a cute label, and put a “do not open before xxxx” note with it. Your gift is still super rad. 
  • No, I need it even faster! Ok, chill. I haven’t tried this, but my friend Sarah has instructions for making vanilla extract in the instant pot.
  • Oh, and don’t strain your vanilla extract! Remove the beans, yes, but don’t strain out all those gorgeous little vanilla seeds that’ll fleck whatever you’re baking with it. So pretty! So much flavour! 

A big glass jar of homemade vanilla extract

Ways to maximize your vanilla beans

Since vanilla beans are so damn expensive, they’re not a casual baking ingredient anymore. Here are some ways to squeeze more life out of your vanilla beans!

  • Used beans are fine for making vanilla extract! If you’ve got a vanilla bean that you’ve split and scraped the seeds out of for a baking project, you can totally breathe new life into that bean by throwing it into a batch of vanilla extract.
  • Beans you’ve already used in a batch of extract can be reused in the next batch. When I siphoned off the vanilla extract from my 18 month batch, almost all of those beans went right back into the jar for the next batch. I simply added a few new beans to punch up the flavour. 
  • Use spent beans from making vanilla extract in other recipes. After a nice long boozy bath, those extract beans are primed for use in other stuff. Scrape the seeds out and use in a batch of vanilla ice cream. Make a batch of vanilla salt for a quick and easy gift! Stick ’em in a jar of sugar for vanilla scented sugar. The world is your used vanilla bean oyster!

three bottles of homemade vanilla extract on a grey background

Other homemade gift recipes you might enjoy:

Turmeric Latte Mix
Vanilla Salt
Salted Coconut Caramels
Naturally Sweetened Chocolate

homemade vanilla extract and a glass of vanilla beans on a grey background
5 from 7 votes
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Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract only requires two ingredients and a bit of time. It's an easy recipe to make and a perfect simple DIY gift. 

Course Extracts, Gifts
Cuisine American
Keyword Vanilla extract
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 batch
Calories 613 kcal
Author Katie Trant

Ingredients

  • 5 vanilla beans extract grade or other
  • 1 cup vodka bourbon, or rum
  • 1 clean glass jar or bottle

Instructions

  1. Use a sharp knife to slice down the length of each vanilla bean, leaving the ends intact. 

  2. Place the beans into a jar and pour the alcohol over the beans, ensuring they are fully covered. This is important as uncovered beans may go slimy and ruin your extract. 

  3. Screw the lid onto the jar, and use a piece of tape to mark the date. Place the jar into a cupboard or other dark cool place that you won't forget about. Every once in a while, give it a shake.

  4. After two months (min, not max) remove the beans and decant the vanilla extract into small bottles. 

Recipe Notes

  • Nutrition values are an estimate only.
  • Does it matter what kind of alcohol I use? Keep in mind that the alcohol use will impart some flavour on the final product, so you have to be ok with that. Vodka is nice and neutral. Rum and bourbon will both lend a bit of flavour.
  • How long do you have to wait for the vanilla extract to be done? The recommended minimum is two months, but I often go much longer. I prefer 6 - 18 months if possible.  
Nutrition Facts
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Amount Per Serving
Calories 613 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 5%
Sodium 2mg 0%
Total Carbohydrates 6g 2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

This recipe was originally published October 17, 2013. It was retested, rephotographed, and updated on November 27, 2018.

 

 

Homemade Vanilla Extract only requires two ingredients and a bit of time. It's an easy recipe to make and a perfect simple DIY gift. Learn how to make your own vanilla extract today! #homemadevanillaextract #vanilla


 

Comments

  1. Every year I mean to make my own vanilla extract and I never quite get round to it. Perhaps it’s a project for this weekend!

    • Absolutely! Though it’s not much of a project. Put beans in jar. Pour booze on top. Done. The hardest part would be getting the beans and the booze, so I suppose *that* could be your weekend project!

  2. That is definitely a purchase worth splurging on impulsively. My uncle works for IFF and one day he brought home vanilla beans for my mother…I snagged a few of them and stashed them in my cupboard…now every time I open it I get hit with that beautiful vanilla scent. I was thinking about using some to make extract…wonder if I can find some good Swedish vodka somewhere 😉

  3. This process also works pretty well with vanilla bean pods that have been scraped out for other uses too! Btw, I will act surprised 😉

    • That’s true, I just didn’t have 30 of those lying around. But you can always toss a scraped bean into an existing jar of extract OR into a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar.

  4. What a great way to use up liquor that has been sadly neglected for a while. Rum, vodka, bourbon would each give different flavors I would imagine.
    Good thing wine won’t work. What would be left?!

    • Sadly neglected liquor is not a thing in this household, I had to go buy the vodka special. I think they would give slightly different flavours, but the vanilla flavour would be so overpowering I’m not really sure you’d notice. I’ll have to try a batch with a different booze and see if I can detect a difference!

  5. I love this idea and have been meaning to do it with bourbon– you with your ready access to fine Swedish vodka, me with my access to lovely Southern bourbon– for years. I do have a question– must you use the finished extract within a certain amount of time? When you infuse oils, you have to use them within a matter of days or you could poison yourself. Is this different because it uses alcohol rather than oil?

    (I’ll google this now, but I know when I come back to this post in a week or so, I will have forgotten my own answer.)

    • I’m curious as to what google told you! As far as I know, the alcohol will kill anything scary (this is why it’s important for the beans to be fully submerged) and the extract will last somewhat infinitely. Did you find anything different in your searching?

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