Homemade Vanilla Extract

A couple months ago, One Day At A Time posted about making your own Vanilla Extract.  I will admit, I had no idea you could do this yourself.  And guess what?  It’s crazy easy!!

Not only was I surprised that it was so easy, I have to admit, I was even more surprised by how you do it.  I have apparently never read my bottle of vanilla before… did you know most vanilla extracts are 35% alcohol?  I thought, that can’t possibly be true.  So I checked the nearly-empty bottle I have in the cupboard, and what do you know… vanilla, alcohol, corn syrup.
I did some more reading up on just how to make it, and most instructions recommend vodka, though a few suggested that rum would also work.  Very few said you could also use Everclear, but I’m perfectly content to go with vodka… because yes, we generally have it around. :)
I feel like you can hardly call this a “recipe” because all it requires is putting one ingredient into another and waiting for 2 months.  You should shake it occasionally to keep it from sticking to the inside of the jar, I shake mine about once a week.
The ratio:
1 vanilla bean per 4-6 oz. vodka.
Some commercial extracts also have corn syrup, but from what I can tell, that’s really just sort of “filler”.  So I skipped that and just concentrated on the infusion.
People seemed split as to whether you need “good vodka” for this, or if bottom-shelf works just as well.  I was not going to make a special trip, but I will give you my vodka recommendation: we buy Sobieski in our house.  I cannot believe this stuff is so inexpensive for the quality.  Far better than Absolut, equal to Stoli or Ketel One, and a close rival to Grey Goose… and cheaper than Smirnoff.  Yes, we are vodka snobs.  I am unapologetic about this. ;)
Anyway, while both ingredients are on the expensive side, in the long run it’s much less expensive than commercial extracts.  There are also ways to cut costs.  I ordered my vanilla beans on Amazon, which seemed weird, but it saves a lot of money (10 beans were just under $10, with free shipping).  They arrived well-packaged and from what I can tell, good quality (they were really fragrant and flexible, not brittle at all).  The seller I bought from was Vanilla Products USA, in case you’re wondering… order from wherever you like or buy at the grocery store, but I just wanted to share that I had a good experience using them, personally.  
You can use any bottle.  I like these small ones that I found at Hobby Lobby, they have the hermetic hinged lid and the size is perfect.  I’m trying to remember right this moment whether they hold 3 or 4 oz…. it was 2 months ago when I started this project so I can’t recall, but what I will say is I have a good rich color and nice flavor 2 months later by filling it up and using one bean for each jar.
You should either split your bean, or plan on the infusion taking twice as long (4 months instead of two).  The outer skin of the bean tends to protect it more, so the infusion is much easier if you open it up.  I did trim the ends down slightly so that the bean would fit better in the jar.  That also made it easier to split.  I just used my kitchen scissors and cut nearly to the end, making a wishbone shape.  then, I just popped one into each of my jars.
Then, I filled each jar with vodka.  I used a small funnel for this.
All that’s left is to secure the lids, and store the jars in a dark place for the next 2 months.  It will last much longer than 2 months – but you won’t get your best flavor until at least then.  Some sources I read recommended at least three months, but I tested mine out at two with a batch of cookies, and it was great!
Do shake your jars weekly or so.  Pieces of vanilla bean will start floating around in there, and you don’t want it to settle in just one place in your jar.  If the pieces gross you out, you can remove the bean and strain your vanilla through a coffee filter, but vanilla is totally edible, and the tiny pieces of bean don’t bother me.  Plus, I am gifting these jars, and they look so much more authentic with the bean inside. 
I also read that you can refill your jars as you use them, but I assume this would work much better if you’re steeping a larger bottle with several beans.  The places that mention that this works must go through a ton of vanilla, though, because they do recommend replacing the beans every year if this is the route you want to go – sort of a continuous infusion.
Overall – I found that my cookies tasted exactly the same.  I can’t rave that my vanilla is *so much better* than commercial vanilla (though I’m curious if another month would make a difference?) but it certainly worked exactly as well – so I will definitely be going the homemade route from now on!
I link up to these great parties! 

~ Adrianne


  1. Thanks so much for the shout out!!! Mine is still sitting in the pantry. I intend to give it a try on the 21st!! Can't wait.
    I love the little bottles you used! And perfect for gifts.

  2. Sue Alexander says:

    oh yum, I have read this but I am way too lazy, and I bet I would just spend a bunch of money on the cute bottles:P I really should try this though, I have no clue about booze other than irish cream, wonder if that would work, could you imagine?

  3. suzyhomemaker says:

    This is totally on my list to do. I just bought vanilla beans from Amazon as well. I went with organic. They were pretty cheap. About 30 beans for 16 bucks. I think I am going to use bourbon. I would love to do organic, but who knows if they even make organic bourbon.

    I also just started a lemon extract. Vodka and lemon peel. I think it should be ready in about a month, but I will have to check periodically. Then I also want to do a peppermint extract.

    Maybe once I do them all I will only write one post since they are so easy.

  4. Terry says:

    I can't believe this is so easy, especially for the price you can pay for vanilla. Definitely trying this and those little jars ARE so adorable!!!

  5. Sue, I would imagine you have to use something clear, unflavored, with a high proof. So there are probably lots of other things that would work, but I don't think Irish Cream will make it end up anything tasting anything like a traditional vanilla extract. Does Irish Cream need refrigeration? Because that would be a deal-breaker for infusions.

  6. Our House Story says:

    WOW! I had no idea this would be so easy. What a fun holiday gift this would be! I'm so mad at myself though…I was at Hobby Lobby yesterday and saw cute little jars like these, but thought what would I do with them…now I know! Guess I'll have to go back! :)

  7. Devon Riesenberg says:

    Awesome idea! I was just reading about someone who makes their own vanilla extract!

    Following you from the May Day Blog Hop :)

  8. Kelsey says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! I want to do this now! :)

  9. That sounds super easy! Wow! I might have to try making my own. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Thursday's Temptation.

  10. Maureen Hayes says:

    Wow, thank you for sharing this with us. I intend to start now so I will have plenty for Christmas gifts! The cost of Vanilla extract is so high, this is a nice alternative and you can choose your booze! Really great tip, thanks so much for sharing.

  11. myric andreasen says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I never thought I could make my own vanilla exctact with just these process and ingredient! I should try this sometime.

    There is a link party going on in my blog today. I would LOVE for you to share this :)


  12. I have been wanting to try this – thanks for your tips!

  13. Recipes We Love says:

    this is on my list to do I just can't every to get around to it… YUMMY and great for gifts too

  14. diana says:

    My hubby and I just got supplies to do this. It's amazing how much cheaper it is to make your own! Thanks for sharing.

  15. Shiloh says:

    I keep meaning and meaning to do this, but I just never do. I think the cost of the vanilla beans is part of my problem. I need to find a cheap seller.:)

  16. MrsFoxsSweets says:

    This is so freakin cool! I love it and CUTE too, love the little bottles. Even if it didnt make your cookies taste any different, it is just awesome knowing that you made it yourself and can control what is in it!

  17. I love the bottles! Thanks so much for sharing at Mix it up Monday :)

  18. My sister has made her own vanilla before. I have always meant to, but haven't yet. It's so cool, I love the idea of gifting it. Thanks for partying with us this week!

  19. Trish - Mom On Timeout says:

    So, so fabulous and the bottles are to die for! I'm featuring you tonight at Mom On Timeout – thanks so much for sharing!

  20. Kadie says:

    Hey girlie, I'm featuring this tomorrow at our party.

  21. Ladybird Ln says:

    Wow, I never knew how to make this… Keep my posted on how it compares in other things, I am thinking like Vanilla Ice Cream here! These would be great gifts!


  22. Deana says:

    Featuring this at tonights Link and Greet Party @CountryMommaCooks….Have a wonderful Mothers Day :)

  23. Dirt Lover says:

    Found you on Country Momma Cooks. I've read this before, and wanted to do it. I'm trying to get away from buying things that I can make, and this fits right along with that. I'd love to give it for gifts, maybe along with a homemade cookie mix. Thanks for the info!

  24. Dorothy says:

    I must try this! I'm thinking Christmas gifts next year. :)

  25. Karen says:

    I tried this and it started to have mildew in the jars! The jars were clean, but the only thing I didn't do was split the beans. Do you wash the beans before you put them in the jars? Thanks for sharing.

  26. Oh no! I wouldn't think you would need to, the alcohol should preserve the beans and keep that from happening… Did you use vodka, or something with a lower proof?

  27. I know this is like a year later, but I found your blog on pinterest and love it. Just wanted to share that you do not have to keep the vanilla bean seeds in it and could scrape those out and use it in a vanilla bean infused sugar or sugar scrub.

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