Homemade Vanilla Extract

By Polly Conner
October 5, 2021

You only need 2 simple ingredients to make your own homemade vanilla extract: vanilla beans and vodka!

After following the easy steps below, let the vanilla beans infuse the vodka for as little as 8 weeks. Homemade vanilla is more WAY more cost-efficient than store-bought options too. Let’s make some!

homemade vanilla extract in an 8 ounce bottle

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Why Make Your Own Vanilla?

When you go to the store to buy vanilla you are faced with a dilemma: do you buy the smaller, more expensive bottle of REAL vanilla or the larger, cheaper bottle of imitation vanilla?

It’s a battle of values, right? Save money or eat real foods.

Even though it is more expensive, I most often (painfully) opt for real vanilla. I won’t pretend to be an expert on how imitation vanilla is made but from what I’m gathering, it’s for sure not natural.

I am also convinced that real vanilla just tastes better (six baking experts agree with me too).

Simply put, real vanilla tastes better, enhances your baking, AND makes great gifts!

Making your own vanilla really is SUPER easy. Seriously. It takes three ingredients:

  1. Vanilla Beans
  2. Vodka
  3. Patience

8 ounce amber bottles filled with homemade vanilla extract

Which Vanilla Beans are Best for Making Vanilla Extract?

You can find vanilla beans at most major grocery stores in the spice aisle. If you can’t locate them, try purchasing them online. Here are three popular options.

Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans – what most people associate with vanilla flavor. Full, creamy, and sweet flavor. I personally opt for this one.

Tahitian vanilla beans. – floral aroma with cherry-like, licorice and caramel flavor tones.

Mexican vanilla beans.– both sweet and woody flavor tones with a spicy hint of cloves and nutmeg.

Vanilla beans labeled “Grade B” are specifically sold for extracting purposes. They are also cheaper. Because of this, I always opt for grade B. But, grade A will for sure work!

Madagascar Vanilla Beans in a pack of 50.

How to Make Homemade Vanilla

1. Prepare Your Vanilla Beans

For every 8 ounces of vanilla you want to make, you will need 4-5 vanilla beans. More for a stronger taste which some like for baking and less for a weaker taste. But, let’s be honest. Who wants that!?

Using a small sharp knife, slice one side of each vanilla bean open to expose the inside. 

Vanilla beans being sliced open

Place your sliced beans into a glass storage jar of some type. Keep in mind that you want to keep the 8oz-to-5 bean ratio in your container.

In order to fit them into my large mason jars, I had to cut and/or bend the beans in half. Do what you’ve got to do. My jars held about 3.5 cups of liquid so I put in about 15 beans per jar. 

sliced vanilla beans into a mason jar

2. Submerge beans in alcohol

Now, fill your jars with alcohol. My booze of choice was a cheap, unflavored vodka.

You don’t need expensive vodka to make this work. Just as long as it’s 80-proof. Since I wanted to use up my 50 vanilla beans I ended up needing 2 HUGE bottles of vodka. I felt as though I needed to explain myself to the cashier but she didn’t seem phased by my purchase.

Vanilla beans submerged in mason jars full of vodka

3. Wait. The Longer the Better!

Now for the hardest part of making your own vanilla, waiting!

You need to give the alcohol time to extract the vanilla flavor from the beans. (Get it, vanilla extract?) 

Every week or so, give the jars a good shake. Some say wait about 6 weeks. Some say 6 months. The longer the vanilla sits, the more complex the flavor will be so I gave mine a good 5-6 months. Others give it a whole year!

4. Store Your Finished Vanilla

I searched long and hard for a good deal on amber-colored bottles. I ended up going with some 8 ounce bottles but I would strongly suggest some 4 ounce bottles if you plan to give these as gifts.

I added a little tag to my bottles and plan to give them away as little goodies in the future. (Spoiler alert–if you are a member of my family, you will probably see these on Christmas morning. Glad we had this chat.)

Homemade vanilla extract packaged as a gift

The Cost Breakdown

So how much money does making your own vanilla actually save?

Here is a breakdown of my costs:

  • Vodka: $36 total ($18 each)
  • 50 Beans: $34.93
  • Bottles: $33.60

104.53 divided by 13: $8.04 for an 8 oz bottle OR $4.02 for a 4 ounce bottle

Considering a 4 oz bottle of quality vanilla can cost anywhere from $10-20 online or at the store, I’d say I saved myself A LOT of money in the long run!

Homemade vanilla extract in an 8 ounce bottle

Recipes to Use Your Homemade Vanilla In

There are so many ways to use homemade vanilla. The ingredients is called for in the majority of baking recipes. Here are just a few we wanted to highlight for you!

Simple Homemade Granola

Chocolate Chip Blondies

Blueberry French Toast Casserole

Print

Homemade Vanilla Extract

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 6 weeks
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 weeks
  • Yield: 8 oz bottle
  • Category: DIY
  • Method: DIY
  • Cuisine: American

Description

How to make vanilla extract at home. This homemade vanilla recipe is great not only for cooking with but also a great gift idea!


Ingredients


Instructions

  1. Prepare your vanilla beans (for every 8 ounces of vanilla you want to make, you will need 4-5 vanilla beans).
  2. Slice one side of each bean open to expose the inside.
  3. Submerge beans in alcohol (place your sliced beans into a glass storage jar of some type. Keep in mind that you want to keep the 8oz-to-5 bean ratio in your container).
  4. Now, fill your jars with alcohol. My booze of choice was a cheap, unflavored vodka. You don’t need expensive vodka to make this work. Just as long as it’s 35% alcohol.
  5. Wait. Every week or so, give the jars a good shake. Some say wait about 6 weeks. Some say 6 months. The longer the vanilla sits, the more complex the flavor will be so I gave mine a good 5-6 months.
  6. Store your vanilla extract for long-term use.

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