Homemade Vanilla Extract


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Homemade Vanilla Extract — Learning how to make vanilla extract at home couldn’t be easier! You need just two ingredients and lots of patience. Homemade vanilla is worth the wait, though! 

Homemade Vanilla Extract in glass bottle

Why Make Homemade Vanilla Extract?

I love the scent of vanilla in anything from candles to soap, and the flavor of vanilla in baked goods and desserts is second to none. If a recipe calls for one teaspoon vanilla extract, I use at least two; but likely more and use a slow, heavy hand when pouring.

All that pouring makes my food taste amazing, but my wallet doesn’t like it. Store-bought pure vanilla extract is pricey and I can make extremely fast work of a two- or four-ounce bottle that sells for $8.99 to $10.99, and up. Two ounces, that’s for one batch of cookies, right?

Homemade vanilla extract saves money, and even if it didn’t, when it comes to taste and flavor, there is just no comparison. It’s like making Homemade Peanut Butter. Price per ounce not withstanding, the taste and flavor of homemade simply can’t be beat.

When it comes right down to it, homemade everything is almost always better than store-bought, and DIY vanilla extract is no exception.

Homemade Vanilla Extract in glass mason jar

I once briefly mentioned that vanilla extract is nearly effortless to make and had quite a few people comment who were surprised by how easy it is or how it’s created. It’s the non-work DIY project, actually.

The only thing special that’s required when making this vanilla extract recipe is patience. It won’t be ready for at least six to eight weeks, and if you have the time, longer is fine (it’s preferred actually). If the vanilla beans are left in the jar, the flavor will continue to evolve and mature.

Since I have a steady and abundant supply of rich, intense, and delightful tasting vanilla extract, I don’t feel bad about adding two tablespoons to a batch of cookies. Or more. 

Sticking my nose in this jar and just breathing in the incredibly smooth, fragrant aroma is intoxicating. You’ll never go back to store-bought after making vanilla extract yourself! 

packages of vanilla beans from different origins

What’s in Vanilla Extract? 

When making vanilla extract, you’ll need vanilla beans and some kind of alcohol. Vanilla beans hail from Mexico, Madagascar, Tahiti, India, Indonesia, Tonga and a handful of other countries.

The country of origin of the bean impacts the final flavor of the vanilla extract, but like coffee, unless you have a supersonic palate, discerning a Madagascar bean from an Indian bean is like discerning a cup of Kenyan coffee from a cup of Colombian coffee — easier said than done for the average person.

Just select a bean that sounds good to you. There are no wrong choices here.

When selecting beans, they should be soft, pliable, tender, and flexible. Oily is good and beans that are dried out, hard, have mold on them, or look like dried out sticks should be avoided.

three vanilla beans on white cutting board with knife

Next, you need alcohol (at least 35% by volume) in order to extract the vanilla from the vanilla beans, thus the name, vanilla extract. I use the same vodka that I’d use in a cocktail rather than frat house bargain vodka that produces hangovers.

Skyy happened to be on sale at the grocery store the week I started this batch of homemade vanilla extract and was $13.99 for a 750ml bottle (about 25 ounces). There are times I have paid $13.99 for a four-ounce bottle of vanilla; do that bad math. And then make your own vanilla.

Bourbon, rum, or brandy may be used instead of vodka. Vodka produces a cleaner and lighter vanilla extract; bourbon produces a heavier, more complex and moodier, if you will, type of extract. Dark rum, light rum, spiced rum, or brandy will all effect the taste of the final extract compared to vodka, which imparts almost none.

In certain chocolate-based recipes, such as brownies or chocolate cake, bourbon-based vanilla is nice and complements the chocolate, but in general, and for most baking, vodka-based vanilla extract is my preference.

Vanilla beans in mason jar and bottle

How to Make Vanilla Extract

To make vanilla extract from scratch, you’ll need a glass jar that seals in which to make it. The jar doesn’t have to be fancy — any clean glass jar with a lid will do.

This 8.5-ounce swingtop bottle is perfect for the job and I added five Tahitian Vanilla Beans to it and topped off with one cup (8 ounces) of vodka and sealed it off.

The rule of thumb is 5 vanilla beans per 1 cup vodka.

I figured as long as this was a two-month project, I may as well extract in bulk. Into a 12-ounce Ball glass jar, the same type you’d use for canning and available from most any grocery store, I added five Madagascar Vanilla Beans. The batch in my swingtop bottle has a slightly higher ratio of beans to liquid, and the resulting extract is just a bit more intensely-flavored.

I recommend not skimping when adding beans, and although they can seem expensive, you’ll thank yourself later for not skimping when the taste of your finished extract is robust and flavorful. Plus, think of all the money you’re saving already by making it at home.

vanilla extract in glass bottle

Before placing the vanilla beans in the jar, slice each bean in half lengthwise with a sharp paring knife, stopping one inch before one of the ends so the bean doesn’t split in half, not that it really matters if it would. 

Some people scrape the seeds from the inside of the beans, then add the scrapings and beans separately into the jar, but I don’t bother. I simply slice the beans in half and place them into the jar.

Fill up the jars 95% of the way full with vodka, seal, shake for about 30 seconds, and place them in a quiet corner on your countertop, on a shelf, or somewhere that they can just be. For a few months.

Once a week or so, twice if I remember, I give the jars a good 10-second, vigorous shake. Other than a few shakes here and there, you don’t have to do anything other than just wait and let the booze do its extraction work to the beans.

Over time, the taste of the alcohol fades and the taste of vanilla replaces the alcohol. After the months have passed, start using the DIY vanilla extract in any recipe you’d normally use it in. Simple as that.

Homemade Vanilla Extract with vanilla beans in it

How Many Vanilla Beans Are Needed to Make Extract? 

The rule of thumb is five vanilla beans per 1 cup of alcohol. It may seem pricey, but those beans will last a long time! 

Does Vanilla Extract Expire? 

If properly stored in a cool, dark place, homemade vanilla extract will last pretty much forever! Like I already explained, you’ll need to take the vanilla beans out at some point, but the remaining extract will last for a long time. 

Do I Have to Use Alcohol? 

Yes, I’ve found that unflavored vodka, rum, or bourbon works best when making vanilla extract. There are recipes for alcohol-free vanilla online, but they typically use glycerin and result in a much weaker flavor that I don’t like. 

Does it Matter What Type of Vanilla Bean I Use? 

No, as long as your beans aren’t dried out or moldy, you can use any type of vanilla bean you’d like. Just remember to buy enough to flavor your vanilla extract properly. 

Homemade Vanilla Extract bottles and jars

Can I Make Bourbon Vanilla Extract? 

Yes! You may use rum, bourbon, or vodka to make homemade vanilla extract. Bourbon vanilla extract makes a “moodier” tasting vanilla, if that makes any sense. It’s just a different — but still delicious! — flavor. 

Where Can I Buy Vanilla Beans? 

Your local grocery store will sell vanilla beans in the baking aisle, but grocery store vanilla beans can sometimes be dry and not at all plump. 

You’ll likely have more luck buying vanilla beans off of Amazon or a quality retailer like Beanilla (I’m not affiliated with them, I just love their vanilla beans). 

What Should I Do With Used Vanilla Beans? 

Do NOT throw them out yet! Used vanilla beans, past their prime for making extract, can be dried out, and added to a bag of sugar to produce vanilla-scented sugar.

Depending on how much ‘life’ the beans had in them will dictate how fragrant the sugar becomes. Vanilla sugar is nice to bake with and adds extra vanilla oomph to recipes.

Homemade Vanilla Extract bottles and jars

Tips for Making Vanilla Extract

Some people strain their vanilla extract before using it because they don’t want the teeny tiny little seeds in their food, but seeing those real vanilla bean flecks and seeds is what I want and desire. To strain those away would be like taking silver polish to a 100-year-old silver spoon with a beautiful patina or painting over antique wood; not something I would ever do.

I want the rustic character, the homemade and charming aspect of seeing flecks of vanilla beans in the cookies I bake with this vanilla. Not to mention, those seeds and flecks are little flavor bombs that I’d never strain away.

As I use the vanilla extract, I top it off with more vodka to allow the extraction cycle to continue, and after 6 months or so I replace the beans with new ones so that fragrant, flavorful, and robust vanilla extract is produced. The beans will last quite a long time, but nothing lasts forever so you’ll need to replace the beans as necessary, which will depend on how much of a vanilla extract fiend you are.

Homemade Vanilla Extract — Learning how to make vanilla extract at home couldn't be easier! You need just two ingredients and lots of patience. Homemade vanilla is worth the wait, though! 

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4.37 from 11 votes

Homemade Vanilla Extract

By Averie Sunshine
Making your own vanilla extract is extremely easy and between the cost savings and the wonderful flavor of homemade, you'll never want or need to purchase store-bought vanilla extract again. This is not a fast project; it takes about 8 weeks for the extract to be ready for use, but in those 8 weeks, there's no work. Patience is a virtue and homemade vanilla extract is worth the wait. Makes fabulous gifts and people are always grateful for this easy yet impressive gift.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Wait Time: 182 days 12 hours
Total Time: 182 days 12 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 8 ounces vanilla
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  • 5 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • 8 ounces 1 cup vodka*


  • Split vanilla beans lengthwise with a knife, stopping about 1-inch from one end. (Use vanilla beans that are flexible, pliable, soft, oily, and not hard or dried out). Place beans in an 8 to 12-ounce jar with a lid (rule of thumb is 5 beans per 8 ounces alcohol). Some people scrape the seeds add the scrapings and beans to the jar separately, but I don't bother scraping.
  • Pour vodka over the beans to nearly the top of the jar, about 95% full. Seal jar, shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, and set in a corner on the countertop, shelf, or safe place out of direct sunlight, where jar will stay for two months. Once or twice per week, shake the jar for about 10 seconds, otherwise just forget about it.
  • In 6 weeks, the extract may be ready to use, but it will likely take 8 weeks, and longer is better as the extract will continue to mature. As time elapses, the alcohol will fade and the flavor of vanilla will develop and strengthen. Use your nose and if it smells prominently like alcohol, it's not ready. The extract will always have some scent of alcohol, as storebought vanilla extract does, but it should smell like vanilla extract not like a cocktail. You will be able to discern ready from not ready with a sniff test.
  • When extract is ready, use it directly out of brewing jar for all your cooking and baking needs. Some people strain extract prior to using to remove the vanilla bean seeds and flecks but I do not. If strained extract is desired, strain it through a fine-mesh filter or sieve). Store extract in the jar in which it's being made or pour into smaller jars (save storebought jars, ask friends and family, they'll be happy to give you old storebought jars if you refill them with homemade). Vanilla extract will keep for many months and year(s) stored at room-temperature out of direct sunlight.


*Rum, bourbon, or brandy may also be used; vodka produces the cleanest-tasting extract.
Note: As vanilla extract is used, top off brewing jar with more vodka to allow the vanilla-making cycle to continue. Every six months or so (depends on how fast you're going through it), replace the vanilla beans so they continue to produce flavorful extract. Retired vanilla beans may be dried and added to sugar to make vanilla-sugar. Vanilla-sugar adds extract vanilla oomph to anything it's used in.


Serving: 1, Calories: 17kcal

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

My Favorite Vanilla Extract Recipes: 

Vanilla Bean Caramel Blondies — Bars are my favorite dessert to make because they’re so fast and easy. For these very soft, slightly chewy, buttery blondies that are topped with the most amazing vanilla-spiked caramel glaze, I called upon my trusty blondie base.

Vanilla Cake From Scratch — Move over chocolate, because vanilla has arrived. This no mixer, easy vanilla cake is topped with a browned butter glaze that’s impossible to resist!

Banana Bars with Vanilla Glaze— Fudgy is the only word that describes these bars! They’re the banana equivalent of moist, fudgy brownies with zero trace of cakiness.

Homemade Funfetti Cake with Vanilla Buttercream — This Funfetti Cake recipe is as close to store-bought Funfetti Cake Mix that I’ve been able to replicate at home. I have no shame in admitting my love for that stuff, but it’s nice to be able to pronounce all the ingredients and make a scratch cake in literally 5 minutes!

Sweet Cream Vanilla Coffee Cake — The trifecta of creamer, vanilla Greek yogurt, and splash of oil moisturize and tenderize the cake, and also lend a creamy, rich flavor profile. 

Homemade Yellow Cake Recipe — This is the easiest yellow cake from scratch and it tastes like a million bucks! This yellow cake recipe always turns out supremely moist, springy, soft and fluffy cake thanks to buttermilk, sour cream, and oil.

Easy Pound Cake with Powdered Sugar Glaze — Finally a homemade pound cake that isn’t dry!! This EASY, buttery, velvety pound cake will be the star of your next party or celebration!

About the Author

Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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Please note: I have only made the recipe as written, and cannot give advice or predict what will happen if you change something. If you have a question regarding changing, altering, or making substitutions to the recipe, please check out the FAQ page for more info.

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    It is one of the best posts for this topic and I really appreciate your great efforts. Thanks for sharing us.

  2. 5 stars
    Let your extract mature for at least a few months before using. At this point it will still have a strong alcohol flavor to it, but will work fine in most recipes. The flavor will deepen and mellow the longer your extract ages.

  3. Great recipe..Cheers Averie!
    Its great to see the use of good ol’ Vodka hasn’t slipped out of flavour with a substitute
    ‘no alcohol’ variety…
    Some things should just be left as they were supposed to be ..in my opinion…
    (Apologies to the halal crew I understand your plight..)
    But ‘alcohol free’ Vanilla extract, ~ for myself anyway,
    kinda sounds like a vegetarian BBQ ~ dull.

    Do you have a good Vanilla paste recipe ?
    I’ve seen a few ,some that involved heating the vanilla which for me feels a bit odd given the delicate character and the potential for killing some of the characteristics Vanilla gives. There was also a sugar free halal variety which used Xanthan gum which didn’t quite have the sheen texture or flow I was expecting ~ in fact it was quite slimy ~ again those in need of the sugar free alcohol free variety ~ no judgments… Nobody should ever be deprived of Vanilla ~ in any form!
    …so if you had a recipe to share it would be much appreciated if you have a chance to shine a little Sunshine this way!

    1. Lol love your analogies!

      I’ve never tried to make vanilla bean paste so can’t say for sure. I would say maybe try scraping the beans from the pods you use in the extract when you’re done with them and see what happens…hard to say since I’ve never even researched a jumping off point for this. Good luck though!

    1. I would just figure out how many cups are in the bottle of vodka you’re using and use about 5 beans per cup of vodka.

    1. Grade b are best as you get more per lb
      For extract you don’t need plump grade A brand
      Save those for recipes that need scraped vanilla beans

  4. I made vanilla using your method and waited 6 weeks. I noticed some white floating things attached to the vanilla beans and throughout the bottle as well as some odd red round like sap droplets floating and attached to the beans as well. Is this normal? I cleaned my bottles well before using. I used vodka and vanilla beans that I split open before dropping into the bottle. I’m thinking I should probably toss the vanilla, but it crushes me because of the cost. I thought I would check first if you have had experienced this?

    1. No never and there could have possibly been some sort of microscopic fungus/bacteria on your beans and in time, it grew. Not likely due to all the alcohol but that is my hunch. But again, I am not sure. Maybe it is fine.

      Sorry that you are experiencing this!

  5. Hi, I can’t wait to make this! I have a question. Is there a shelf life for the extract? This will be an awesome Christmas gift for my coworkers and some family.

    1. I would say use common sense but because it is alcohol-based, it can sort of keep ‘forever’. I have some super expensive fancy vanillas that I only use a couple times a year and have had for years. Do what you feel comfortable with.

  6. I would love to do this but my calculations don’t come up to any savings. In fact,the opposite seems to be true. If it takes five beans to make one cup of vanilla – well the beans I’m finding are nearly five dollars apiece. Am I paying way too much? Not sure where else to find the beans. Thanks for your time.

    1. Janelle, I looked at the date of this article, and when this was first written, vanilla beans were much cheaper, and it might have been much less expensive to make your own. Right now vanilla bean prices are sky high due to a supply/demand issue. It is still totally worth it to make your own vanilla for quality reasons, even if the economic savings are not there.

      I use twice the amount, I use 40 grams (10 beans) for 8 oz vodka, I love this ratio. The beans I use are not the extract grade, so they are more expensive (the supplier I use only carries the higher grade beans, and I pay $5.40 a bean, currently. These are luscious beans!) My cost works out to almost $5 dollars more per 8oz of finished extract than what William Sonoma charges for their vanilla extract, in bean cost and vodka cost. But I love making my own and I believe mine has a deeper, richer vanilla taste, likely because I use a higher ratio of beans to vanilla than the William Sonoma manufacturer. If I only did 20 grams (5 beans), it would be less expensive than buying….half the price. It really just depends on how many beans you want to use.

      1. Thanks for this, Jojo! I was so excited to make my own vanilla extract and then found it to be far too expensive to fit my budget. It’s good to understand that the beans were less expensive when Averie published. I couldn’t find any beans for $5.40 each. If you (or anyone) can share a resource for high quality, inexpensive beans, please do.

    1. All bean vary in their intensity. I think you could easily double the number of beans you have in your jar at this point.

  7. I made this exactly as your recipe said too and I have had it sitting on my counter for almost 12 weeks and it is still to strong. The alcohol is overwhelming. I love vanilla so I guess i’ll let it sit as long as it needs to in order to have my vanilla.

    1. Yes, I’d wait longer. Also the type of vanilla beans used, how many you used, the brand of vodka used, all these things contribute to the final taste of the vanilla. I find that erring on the side of more, high-quality vanilla beans is the best bet.

  8. Have you ever tried heating the alcohol. I’ve been researching making vanilla and have found recipes that state anywhere from 1-6 months to let it sit. But I stumbled across a recipe in a book on canning and preserving that said to heat the alcohol, not boiling but hot, and that it sped up the infusion so the vanilla would be ready for use after just one week. That was the first time I’d read that and just wondered if you’d tried that variation?

    1. I haven’t tried that variation and generally speaking, heat can de-nature alcohol, thus weakening it’s extraction powers, so I never have done it that way.

  9. Can’t wait to try this! Is it possible to substitute the alcohol for something else? I understand it will affect the flavour but what’s the next best thing?

    1. Not really. You can google for how to make homemade extracts without alcohol. It usually involves glycerin and to me, I’ve tried them, they never taste as good.

  10. This is the first time I see someone mentioned tonga vanilla beans – I come from the kingdom of tonga and I don’t know too many of my kind using tonga vanilla beans here in the states in their cooking. I will try making my first homemade vanilla extract with your recipe – thanks for sharing!

  11. Question ? You said when used to top
    Off and complete the cycle , so after every teaspoon or two add more vodka and wait 2 months , or transfer the completed batch to another jar, and add more vodka to the fist jar and wait 2 months ?? Thanks

    1. After my bottle is about halfway used, I top off with more vodka and then wait another month or two. It’s not really an exact science. I definitely don’t use 2 tbps of vanilla and then add 2 tbsp more vodka. It’s more of just, okay this is looking low-ish, I need to top it off. Then I wait until it develops, a month or two. I have many bottles in rotation so it works out for me.

  12. What a wonderful article! I cannot wait to try this recipe.

    The “Pop-UP” issue is with the browser the person is using. Google, Yahoo, or Mozilla Block Pop-ups for your browser and follow the instructions. It is difficult to understand someone would not come back to this site due to their lack of research experience.

    Thank you for your wonderful ideas and guidance!

    Warmest regards,

    Jan Simpson

  13. This could be a great site if not for the incredibly annoying pop-ups. Please know I will not be visiting your site for this reason only. I understand the blogging-for-money concept, but the pop-ups on your site make it almost impossible to read and view content.

    1. I’m sorry that you experienced popups. That is not my intention and sometimes advertising partners insert them into the ad rotation and it’s not my intention.

  14. Vanilla flavored vodka is lower in proof content. I’ve been making my own since 2007 . Beanilla is the best place for madagascar beans, the more you buy the cheaper the price!! I no longer buy store vanilla!

  15. Hi! Thanks for publishing this great recipe (I just found it on Pinterest). Wondering if you’re making it in bulk, could you just stuff 15 beans into a 750 ml bottle of vodka and decant it into smaller jars later?


    1. I think that would probably be fine, although I haven’t tried. For a large bottle of vodka though, I would use more than 15 beans. In my experience, more is better and 15 I think just sounds a little skimpy. I’d go with 20+. I know they’re expensive but it pencils out in the long run.

  16. I can’t wait make this. Where can I find those cute bottles? Hoping to give as gifts……. you know 2 for me 1 for you ÷)

    1. I got them on Amazon but honestly, I find it easier to use glass mason jars because the mouth is so much wider so you’re not trying to cram all those beans down that skinny neck!

  17. I’ll have to give this a try. I use vanilla extract in all kinds of things. A friend of mine’s parents had made a trip to Mexico and brought me back some vanilla extract that I have been rationing like you wouldn’t believe. :p

    I’ve done similar things like this for home made cordials and liqueurs for christmas, birthday, parties, etc. Never dawned on me to remove the simple syrup from one of the vanilla style liqueurs to make an extract. Its pretty much all it is without the sugar.

    1. If you have a bottle of vodka, like an average size bottle, you could totally add the beans/pods to it, but based on size, you’d probably need at least 20-25 beans. It could be a little bit pricey up front but will pay for itself on the back end. Be prepared if you do that to let it stand about 6 months before even trying to use it – that’s just my guess, but an educated guess :)

  18. Thank you for your kind help to the others,as a Muslim not dealing with alcohol is their any alternative to any other than alcohol.

    1. Most commercially-made extracts ARE made with alcohol except in rare situations where noted and they’re made with glycerin or similar. It’s very difficult to extract the herb/seed/etc. without alcohol. Google for more info.

  19. Vanilla sold in the store is sold in a dark bottle, do you know if its better to getter tinted glass to store the vanilla in?

  20. You can find vanilla beans from 16 different countries
    This is the website that offers the largest number of countries and producers in the world!
    This allows for many vanilla extracts with the most delicious aromas and perfumes in the world.

  21. Which brand/type of rum do you recommend? Do you have any preference on type Vodka brand names? Thanks! I have no clue on what each of the liquor taste like and wonder how it affect the taste of vanilla extract.

    1. I would just buy what you can afford, middle of the road. Not the cheapest, doesn’t have to be the most expensive, either.

  22. Another great place to buy beams is the savory spice shop. They ship and they have a wonderful selection of all sorts of spices and blends for cheap including vanilla beams.

  23. I noticed on the Beanilla sight they advertised Bourbon Vanilla Beans…have you tried these and do they change the flavor. What is your favorite bean to use for this? Thanks

    1. To be honest, my palate is not refined enough to tell the very, very subtle differences in beans after being submerged in vodka for 4 months :) I say buy what sounds good to you!

  24. You can add leftover beans to this, too. Like when you have a recipe that calls for scraping the seeds out and just using them? Put the outer part of the bean into the bottle of vodka-and-beans, it still has a lot of flavor. Why waste it?

    (I dunno if I’d rely on just the outside parts of the beans to fully flavor a whole bottle of the stuff, though. I just use them to help refresh the existing beans, basically.)

    I also use those cast off outer parts for vanilla sugar – cram in jar of sugar, seal, shake, put somewhere cold and dark and forget about it for a while. :)

  25. I just got home from the liquor store, where I went to buy vodka to start this today. I left with a bottle of vodka, a bottle of whiskey, and a tiny bottle of this stuff called Kinky – a “tropical non-coconutty delicious drink” according to the cashier. I blame you. :D

  26. Hi Averie!
    I just got my shipment from Beanilla and plan to get started on both bourbon and vodka based extracts, I can’t wait!

    1. Did you read the post about where I said I got them from? Beanilla. I talked about this at length.

      I find their prices and quality to be excellent; but get them from anywhere you’d like. Just make sure they are FRESH fresh fresh and not old and hard and dried up.

      1. Averie, I so enjoyed this wonderful learning experience until the reply about reading the post, Beanvilla and talking about it at length. Not everyone has experience with the use of hyperlinks and/or search engines. Blessed be, j

  27. I learned this same technique several years ago when we visited the Hawaiian Vanilla company, on the Big Island, and brought home some beans already in a jar. I added some good quality vodka that I keep topping up. Home made is definitely better!! (You can order online from them, too!) And with your tips, I’ll now add vanilla to my new recipe for home made peanut butter – yummy!! Thanks for all the tips!

    1. Glad you like the tips and the Hawaiian Vanilla Co. sounds like quite a great little field trip!

  28. My daughter was a nanny for years. She never wore perfume, only a tiny drop of real vanilla behind each ear. The parents were astonished that, right from the interview, babies would go to her immediately and snuggle right up. There’s something so intoxicating and deeply soothing about GOOD vanilla, and I don’t mean intoxicating due to the alcohol… just a deep breath of fresh vanilla beans makes my whole body happy!

    1. They make my whole body happy and I loooooove vanilla anything! I have it as a body spray, home fragrance, lotion, candles, you name it, it’s my #1 scent!

  29. Thanks! Turns out it was an even stupider question that I thought! I didnt know the store bought stuff had alcohol! LOL This sounds so yummy

    1. Thanks for writing back because I thought about your question all day! I was seriously…wondering. I am glad to know you simply just didn’t know! Makes more sense now to me :)

  30. Sorry for the stupid question, but isn’t this still alcohol? Is the baking of it what gets rid of that? I am just thinking about giving it to children or putting it in something “raw.” Thanks

    1. It’s just like any other vanilla extract like McCormick’s or some fancy stuff you’d get from Whole Foods or where ever…yes, it has alcohol in it, which burns off in cooking.

      The vanilla you use now has alcohol in it, too; unless you are buying alcohol-free vanilla which is hard to come by and frankly, never tastes the same. You are using a teaspoon in an entire batch of something…the amount per serving is ridiculously small. There’s far more alcohol in cough syrup or mouthwash. Treat this just like any other storebought vanilla.

  31. Gorgeous pictures! And great info too. :)
    Have you ever tried turning regular bottles into swing-top bottles? Just curious… Is it possible?

    1. I haven’t tried. I’m sure it is possible with a drill and tons of time on your hands, but I frankly would prefer to spend $4.99 and just buy them :)

  32. Using dark colored bottles or jars works best … I’ve kept some red colored wine bottles and then use the rubber bottle stoppers where you pump out the air. Keeping the light and air out helps with the intensity of the extract. Also keeping the bottle in a dark, cool place helps too.

  33. Is there any reason you could not make the vanilla extract right in the vodka bottle as long as you put the right number of beans in?

    1. Good question – I don’t see why not. You would need a TON of beans…at least 20+ for the avg size bottle of vodka I would guess, but you’d end up having a huge supply of vanilla that would last ages!

      1. I do it right in the bottle with lot of beans., as i use a lot of vanilla at xmas time and thru the year. or I give it as gifts which then i transfer it to a bottle with fresh beans. Longer you have to let it sit and work its magic the better the vanilla. I try to have them sit for 6 months or longer before i use it. but then thats me and my opinion… but once you make your own you’ll never buy store bought stuff again.

  34. I ordered my beans from Beanilla as well and I started my extract in November. It is still in a dark cool place and once a week I shake it a little and still smells like vodka. I also used 25 grade A beans and good vodka what is it that its not working for me?

    1. I don’t know what to tell you, Brenda. I use those beans, too. You may want to call Beanilla and talk to someone there and see if they can shed any light on things for you!

    2. You might want to check the proof of your vodka. Beanilla suggests a relatively lower proof than what is usually used for regular consumption. This may be causing your strong vodka smell.

      …it was mentioned that this extract is vegan and non- gluten. Really? The distillation process would certainly rule out any gluten worries. As for vegan, I’ve never heard of any liquor distilled from meat juices. Sometimes I think the vegan & gluten-free craze has been taken too far. Thanks for the extracting tips, my product is in the pantry now. (Beanilla also has some nice little bottles to choose from for gifting)

  35. I ordered vanilla beans last week and have started a batch of vanilla extract. I can’t wait! One question-the company sent me a little bag of vanilla powder also. What would be the best use of that?

  36. How long will this keep? You meantion topping it off and replacing the beans after 6months. Will this need to be done if the bottle is left longer without using? Thanks

    1. There are some fancy vanillas that are aged for YEARS, so really; I hesitate to put a timeline to it. A very, very long time. Use common sense, good judgment, and take it from there is my advice.

      You just want to replace the beans so that you’re not using something that’s not really doing much; the same as you’d replace say an old air freshener after it’s past it’s prime.

  37. I tried to make my own vanilla a few years back. I let it sit for weeks then months and it never tasted like anything but Vodka. Such a disappointment! Perhaps one day I’ll get up the nerve to try again :) Thank you for the inspiration!

    1. Your beans don’t sound flavorful enough (most aren’t!). The beans from Beanilla I used and that friends have used are worlds apart from other types. You do need a good 6 or so beans for 1 jar and if you’re using other brands, you could need….20 and still not really have the intensity you need. If you try again, make sure you use the best possible beans you can!

      1. I got my beans from Beanilla and it smells like vodka 2 months in. Hope it starts smelling like vanilla soon!

      2. If you used proper ratios and followed my directions which are largely based on the Beanilla website, I would call them and talk to them! However, mine did take a good 2+ months to really develop.

  38. I like the idea of the homemade vanilla but my dad has a drinking problem. I’d totally have to hide the vodka and then he would probably find it anyway. Wish there was another way to make it.

    By the way, even if I could make it, I’ve never seen vanilla beans in my local supermarket. Where do you get them? In the baking isle?

    1. Yes you can get them in some groc stores in the baking aisle, some TJ’s, or order from the site I linked – Beanilla. Their stuff is awesome!

    2. You can search for non-alcoholic recipes using vegetable glycerin instead. Just make sure it isn’t soy or corn based!

  39. A vanilla made with dark rum would be excellent in homemade tiramisu too. I always put vanilla in my coffee, and being a Seattle native I drink quite a bit of coffee.. Can’t wait to make some homemade vanilla! Hopefully then my husband won’t give me dirty looks for using up our vanilla in my morning routine! ;] Thanks for this guide!

    1. I would love to try a dark vanilla with homemade tiramisu! Sounds stunning and glad you love your coffee (and vanilla) just as much as I do!

  40. Hi…sort of a silly question… you suggest topping off the vanilla with more vodka as it’s being used; then is it still ready to be immediately used, or should that bottle sit for a few weeks before being used again? It should be ready to be used, with the newly added alcohol not taking over the vanilla flavor, correct?

  41. I made this extract as a Christmas gift for all of my foodie friends! Can’t wait to give this sweet gift and also start using my own stash I’m planning on hoarding :) Thanks so much for the recipe!

    1. That is so awesome and you have lucky friends! I wish I got gifts like that :) Thanks for coming back to tell me you tried it!

  42. I live in Surrey, BC. and would like to know where I can get the vanilla beans. I want to make this recipe…..way too easy!

  43. Every year I say I am going to start making my own extract and then I don’t. No more…you have inspired me to just do it:-) Thank you!!!!

  44. Oh my heck, Averie! Can I just say you are my hero for this recipe! I love it and can’t wait to make me some homemade vanilla extract!

  45. I have some vanilla beans at home that I haven’t gotten around to using yet. When I eventually do, I think I’ll make a creme caramel or some salted caramels

  46. I love vanilla! I made my own extract last August, and it’s incredible. My best recipes that I make that have vanilla are: a vanilla cream cheese frosting that I put on my carrot cake; choclate ganache; and shortbread cookies! Yum! I just discovered your blog and I feel like we are kindred spirits, I love yoga, running, and making desserts!

  47. I started making my own vanilla extract this past spring and have decided to get started on a new batch. I love the Beanilla site. I had bought my beans from an Earthfare, but now that I have read your post–I can see that the vodka matters also. I have been looking all over for bottles, but living in a small town hasn’t afforded me many options. I had bought a bottle at walmart that is for salad oil or vinegar, but wanted something for gift giving that didn’t have a tiny hole on top. Thanks for sharing your successes with vanilla making. I will be ordering from Beanilla. I love what I have seen.

  48. Love vanilla extract! I definitely want to try making my own but it’s so easy to buy even if it is pretty expensive. Would it be possible to put the beans right in the vodka bottle?

  49. I really like vanilla, and was lucky enough that a coworker brought me homemade vanilla extract about a month ago at work :-) She knows me well!

  50. I need to make my own, I tend to be heavy handed with the vanilla. My friends grandmother also makes homemade kahlua using vanilla beans and its so good!

  51. LOVE. THIS!! Even making homemade flavored vodka is a cinch. Now vanilla extract? Holy yum. And just in time to start for the holidays.

  52. I use vanilla in my baking most of the time. Definitely wanting to try one of your recipes–so many to choose from though!!

  53. I like to add vanilla to my green smoothies. It gives a nice flavor and helps when you are trying not to use any sweetener!

    I also saw some honey with vanilla beans in it at the farmers market and I’ve been wanting to try it ever since!

  54. Is it too late to start this for Xmas? We’ve got seven weeks to go, do you think it would be ready to use by then or would I have to advise people to hold off for a while? I love this idea but want to give a finished product.

    1. It would be close – it’s hard to say. 6 to 8 weeks is suggested; longer never hurts. The worst that can happen is folks get their gift 1 week later than Xmas. Who cares, really! They’ll still love it and just tell them it’s worth the wait. I say go for it!

  55. Averie – I pinned this! I can’t wait to try this. Patience isn’t one of my best virtues, but in this case it will be worth the wait!!

  56. Hi Averie, I’m trying to visit a new blog every day for the next few weeks, and today you’re my new visit! I came over from Pioneer Woman. I’ve never heard of making your own vanilla before. Bet it’s amazing. I like your idea of using extra :) Blessings to you!

    1. Cheryl what a nice sentiment and idea! I read PW all the time and used to click through and comment but the past year or so, I just read in stealth. But today I felt the urge to just leave a quick comment, and had not commented on her site for like a year! And voila, you saw it and came over. It was meant to be :)

      Have a great weekend, too! And don’t be a stranger!

  57. I love this! I totally was planning on making DIY vanilla extract for holiday gifts. It’s such a money saver and I’m sure my foodie friend will be over the moon for these!

  58. I love it! I am a vanilla freak! I use a ton of it in all my recipes. I don’t even measure it out, I pour it in. I love vanilla, I love the taste and smell! I’m going to go get my beans tomorrow and pick up some vodka. I can’t wait for 2 months so I can use it!! Thanks Averie! Great recipe!

    1. I didn’t make the bread yet! Our systems were back up at work, so I had to go in. I am making your bread tomorrow! Matter in fact I’m going to get steak and make my own Outback Dinner tomorrow. Or maybe shrimp on the barbie instead. :) I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow evening!!

  59. I LOVE making my own vanilla extract. It’s so much cheaper and tastes just as nice =) And it’s just way too easy not to do homemade.

  60. I like the sound of the moody bourbon version! (Right up my alley.) :) This is an excellent tutorial! Making my own extract was something I let simmer on my to-do’s back burner, but it looks so easy!

    1. I need to make more moody bourbon to have for things like molasses cakes and even pumpkin – for next year’s pumpkin season I need to be fully prepared!

  61. this is a very helpful post averie. i have never made my own vanilla extract, but now plan to do so after reading your post.

  62. I am sold on just about anything vanilla. This is so easy and less expensive than investing in store bought varieties :)

  63. I made the vanilla but did not split beans. Recipe I used suggested leaving them whole and using them when recipe called for vanilla beans then place the bean back in the vanilla jar. Making your own is so much cheaper and the taste is great.

  64. I’m doing vanilla extract this year. I’ve got little bottles filling my cupboards to give as gifts.

    For my own use, I’ve got a couple of tester bottles. I decided to make some with really high quality dark rum (Smith & Cross). It smells so amazing right now. I thought the extract made with rum would really punch up my homemade vanilla caramels this year. :)

    I just started another bottle with high quality bourbon too. I’m going to play around with them and see how they stack up.

    1. I bet rum with caramels would be amazing! Rum and bourbon with ‘fall’ and winter flavors – like pumpkin, molasses, ginger, cloves…always works so well together!

      1. I hope they turn out as well as I think they will. They are the most requested Christmas candy I make.

        And I should probably say that I get my beans from Beanilla too. Great prices! I bought the larger amounts and shared them with some of my coworkers and still have enough to make whatever I want. I’m making kahlua for my baskets as well, so the beans are in there too.

  65. Haha, that’s so funny. I did blog about a chocolate-vanilla bean cake I made and I think I went on ad nauseum about how underrated vanilla is. Perhaps they stole my material;)
    Jk, I actually think there are probably a lot of undercover vanilla junkies out there….

  66. That’s why my homemade vanilla didn’t work! The recipe I used said it would be done in a week. Now I know to just be more patient!

  67. Averie I love this – more often than not I too am pouring the vanilla into my recipes. When I make those frozen banana smoothies, I can assure you that a hefty dose of vanilla goes into the mix. I swear by it and yes, it is VERY underated! Did you know that we can’t buy alcohol in grocery stores in MD? And my home state – PA – can’t buy liquor in food stores there either. Geez! Anyway, I’ve never made my own vanilla but it slooks like a piece.of.cake. And the photos! More 3D shots. big fan. :)

    I want to make your caramel chocolate gooey bars STAT!

    1. Those bars were such a PITA! lol It was unwrapping like 30 caramels that was the hardest part of them. Ha!

      Certain states have such weird rules. I grew up in MN, then IL. Then we lived in both NC and SC before CA. And spent 9 mos in AZ, too. Every state has their own rules with NC & SC being the weirdest of all Ive lived in. Cannot buy alcohol on Sundays at all (church day) and then some days you can only buy beer and wine, not liquor, and then the cutoff time was so early…like 6 or 8pm? I dont even remember but it was crazy. In CA you can buy it all anywhere, night or day, within reason. Maybe cutoff time is midnite? I don’t buy alcohol anymore except to cook with and a wild Sat nite is watching DVRed episodes of Ina Garten :)

      1. I live in NC. Liquor stores are closed on Sunday, and you can only buy beer or wine in the supermarket after 12pm on Sunday. No hard liquor sold outside of the liquor store and only liquor is sold in the liquor store. Cut off time for buying beer or wine in a supermarket is 2 am for stores that are open that late. It seems pretty reasonable to me. Lots of places are closed on Sundays, and I think I can live without buying alcohol before 12 on Sunday morning, though the law does seem archaic.

        I guess you guys have never been to Oklahoma! They can only sell beer in the grocery store that is no more than 3.2% alcohol. It’s the weirdest thing, seeing all these regular brands that specially produce beer at 3.2% just for OK. You have to go to the liquor store for the real stuff.

  68. I am with you on the homemade extract. The flavor beats the store-bought for sure. I think it makes for a great gift. Besides you just made me realize we are just weeks away from Christmas! Eek!

  69. I’m actually making vanilla extract right now. It’s been sitting in my closet for a month and it’s a light brown color. I can’t believe how dark yours is! Did you let it sit for over 2 months?

    1. Started it on exactly Sept 1 and took these pics on Monday of this week. So it’s been basically 60 days to the T. I think it has to do with the beans, too! Some are going to ‘release’ better than others. LMK how yours turns out!

  70. I’m the same with my vanilla, I don’t even measure… if the recipe calls for a certain amount, well MORE will be even better, right?

    I was thinking of adding vanilla to my homemade gifts this year – along with the Baileys and Kahlua and truffles… :D

  71. Thank you!! I found a local merchant that sells whole vanilla beans for $1 apiece (crazy, right?), so I picked some up…then had no idea what to do with them. I think I might try a bourbon or rum-based vanilla extract – I tend to gravitate towards dark, spicy flavors. Thanks again for the awesome recipe! :)

  72. My TJ’s recently started carrying whole vanilla beans… now I just need some patience. I am totally with you on how much vanilla should be used in recipes. I’m always super heavy handed with it and can go through a small bottle with just 2 recipes.

    This would make great gifts for Xmas!

    1. I dont think my TJs does. I was just there yesterday but will be back – soon. And will be checking that!

  73. I’ve been anxiously awaiting this post because I just started using mine. I added a few more beans to my batch about 6 weeks ago so now it is smelling more like vanilla extract rather than vanilla vodka! I definitely think 5 beans to 1 c vodka is a great ratio. I put a generous amount in my banana soft serve and love seeing the little seeds in there–so no straining for me either! I’ll also be getting my beans from beanilla–their prices are sooo much lower than Kroger.

    1. And the beans are so much higher quality. It’s like night and day. They are just soft, supple, oily and bursting with vanilla oils and essence. It’s just apples and oranges on all levels! And so much cheaper, too!

      I bet you thought I forgot about this post but I literally needed all 8 weeks :) Started it Sept 1 on the nose!

  74. One of these days I’m totally trying this. I need to get my hands on supplies first and make sure no one drinks the liquor lol

  75. I love vanilla. One of my all-time favorite scents. I never would have thought of making your own. I guess I always just assumed it must be crazy complicated….actually I never really though much about it LOL.

  76. Awesome, awesome, awesome. I was planning on making extract as gifts for Christmas and had nearly forgotten! Thanks for the reminder. I’m adding this to my grocery list right now!

  77. One of my most treasured (and frequently used) bridal shower gifts was an enormous bottle of homemade vanilla extract from one of my bridesmaids. The taste is amazing, and (like you) when I “accidentally” over pour into my batter, I don’t worry that I am breaking the bank!

    1. Now THAT is an amazing gift. What a thoughtful friend! I wish more people would think like that! Less salt and pepper shakers and toasters, and more vanilla extract!

  78. how cool! i am the same way when pouring vanilla for a recipe… i just kind of tip the bottle and go :) these would be great little gifts! thanks for sharing! xx

  79. Wow, this is really cool. I love vanilla extract and currently buy the big bottles from Costco. I like to add it whenever I feel the urge….a smoothie or even my morning oatbran.

    1. I’ve never tried their vanilla and cancelled my membership b/c I was stocking up on wayyyyyyy tooooo much stuff from there. lol

  80. I loooooove vanilla things. Especially ice cream you can see the flecks of the beans in. I like drinks with vanilla infused vodka so I started with infusing a larger amount of vodka with only a few beans then after a month or so when it got…vanilla-y I decanted a small portion and added more bean to that to make it a super-potent vanilla extract.
    I love that you did this post. Vanilla is so underrated.

    1. It is so under-rated and you sound like the text/ad copy from a book I am reviewing that may make an appearance this weekend in my posts :)