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Homemade Vanilla Extract {How to Make Vanilla Extract}

Making your own Homemade Vanilla Extract is so simple and makes the best handmade gift. This recipe uses vodka or bourbon and can also be made in the Instant Pot.

three bottles of homemade vanilla extract with a dish of vanilla beans

On April 1, 2010, my husband Troy was laid off from a job he didn’t really like. It was a crushing blow to our household, and we went from possessing disposable income to scrounging for spare change to buy groceries.

That year, in an effort to find costs savings everywhere, I decided to make homemade Christmas and holidays presents. Among the many things I crafted that year, making homemade vanilla extract was the most successful.

Eight years later, and it is still one of the most requested items from friends and family.

This homemade vanilla extract makes everything taste better. It is the defining tasted in Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge. It makes these Overnight Cinnamon Rolls almost over the top, and there is a chance you’ll take one bite of these Fudgy Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies and punch a wall.

What kind of alcohol is used in vanilla extract?

I have used both vodka and bourbon in the past and strongly prefer vodka. I felt that the bourbon took forever to “turn” into a finished product. The taste in cooking and baking wasn’t much different and given the cost, I continually find myself returning to using vodka.

When choosing alcohol to use in this recipe, there is no need to use a top-shelf product. Frankly, I purchase the Costco Kirkland Signature brand vodka for my extract and it works great at a low price.

vanilla beans and vodka in a jar for homemade vanilla extract

When purchasing vanilla beans, you’ll find the cost savings comes by buying in bulk. Many grocery stores charge $7-9 per bean! I purchase mine on Amazon, but restaurant supply stores are also good resources.

Store the beans that you are not using in a cool dry place. I double wrap mine in freezer ziploc bags and keep them in our pantry.

Some people find the vanilla ready to use after a month or so, but I highly recommend you let this product wait and mature. The longer you allow it to sit, the more intense the overall flavor will be.

With the rising cost of vanilla beans, I never discard them once a batch of vanilla has been finished. You can put a piece of vanilla bean in each gift bottle for a cool visual look. I simply keep them in the brewing bottles, add another bean or two, and make a new batch of extract!

Additionally, you could use spent beans for flavoring homemade strawberry ice cream, puddings, Raspberry Lemon Creme Brulee or vanilla sugar.

How to Make Vanilla Extract in the Instant Pot

Chop the vanilla beans in half, place in an 8 oz or pint canning jar. Add vodka. Add the lid and ring and tighten to fingertip tight.

Place 1 cup of water in the Instant Pot and place a wire rack inside. Add the jars.

Two photos showing how to make homemade vanilla extract in an instant pot

Put the lid on the Instant Pot, set the vent to “sealing” and press Manual>high pressure>30 minutes.

Allow for a natural release. Carefully remove the hot jars from the Instant Pot and place on a towel to fully cool. Store in a cool dry place.

Pro Tips/Recipe Notes

  • You may notice that the Instant Pot extract still smells of alcohol after the extract process. This is normal and the alcohol smell should fade over the next week.
  • I have an 8 quart Instant Pot and chose to use two 8 oz jam jars for this process.
  • Some recipes will have directions to place the jars in the Instant Pot uncovered. I find this caused too much evaporation of the vodka during the pressure cooking process.
  • Fingertip tight means you tighten the lid and ring and then loosen it just a tiny bit. This should prevent the jar from forming an actual seal. If that does happen, use a bottle opener and pop it loose when it has cooled. There is no harm in it sealing.


Click this link to download and print the template I use. Labels print to Avery print to edge round labels in kraft brown (Avery 22808).

More Recipes Like This

Have you ever made or tried homemade vanilla extract? What is your all-time favorite dish that uses vanilla?

Making this recipe or others?

Post a photo on my Facebook page, share it on Instagram, or save it to Pinterest with the tag #sustainablecooks. I can't wait to see your take on it!

three bottles of homemade vanilla extract with a dish of vanilla beans
5 from 9 votes
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Prep Time
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins

An easy way to make delicious homemade vanilla extract. Homemade vanilla extract is richer and deeper than storebought and will make your homemade goodies taste amazing.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Homemade vanilla extract
Servings: 48 servings
Calories: 20 kcal
Traditional Long Steep Instructions
  1. For every cup of vodka or bourbon, use 4 vanilla beans 

  2. Cut each vanilla bean down the middle to access the insides. Put them in an air-tight container with a screw on lid (I use mason jars), and put in a sunny window for a week. Shake daily.

  3. After a week is up, transfer to a cool dark location like a pantry or closet.  Shake every few days to help distribute the vanilla flavor and to activate the infusing action.

  4. The vanilla will be ready when the liquor has turned very dark and smells strongly of vanilla and not alcohol.  To gift, distribute amongst smaller bottles, and put a fun label on it. Do not strain or filter the vanilla; part of the magic of homemade vanilla extract is the little flecks of vanilla bean that infuses itself in your cooking.

Instant Pot Instructions
  1. Chop the vanilla beans in half, place in an 8 oz or pint canning jar. Add vodka. Add the lid and ring and tighten to fingertip tight.

  2. Place 1 cup of water in the Instant Pot and place a wire rack inside. Add the jars.

  3. Put the lid on the Instant Pot, set the vent to “sealing” and press Manual>high pressure>30 minutes.

  4. Allow for a natural release. Carefully remove the hot jars from the Instant Pot and place on a towel to fully cool. Store in a cool dry place.

Nutrition Facts
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Amount Per Serving
Calories 20
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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40 comments on “Homemade Vanilla Extract {How to Make Vanilla Extract}”

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  5. I started a batch back in June, but didn’t realize I was supposed to put it in a window first. It has been in the dark the entire time, except for when I shake it, which is probably only a couple of times a week. Honestly, it seems a little weak, even after all this time. Is it ruined? Should I put it on my window sill now? Thanks in advance for any helpful advice you can offer.

    • Nah, you’re fine. You don’t have to do the window thing; I just do it to jump-start the process.

      How many beans to how much vodka?

      • I am almost certain it was eight beans and two cups of vodka. Maybe my beans were subpar. I bought them from Amazon, and I did slit them first. And, I put them in the vodka the day after they arrived. I am thinking of buying another batch of beans and adding them to the mix. Thanks!

      • Do the jars smell like vanilla or is it just pure vodka smell?

  6. I just mixed up 18 oz. of this! I am so excited to give this as Christmas gifts! I hope it’s ready in 5 weeks! Thanks so much. I bought 4-oz. bottles, but I’m thinking they are too big. Maybe I’ll save them for something else and get 2-oz. ones. What size do you think is best?

    • It depends on how many you want to give away. The blue bottle in the photo is 2 oz and I use those when I have a lot of extract to gift.

      If it isn’t ready you can always print off the labels and put a “ready by” date on there with a little piece of vanilla bean in the bottle.

  7. I have some of this brewing right now! I just checked it a few days ago and I think I need to add more beans to a few of my jars.
    I’m excited to give small jars of my vanilla extract as gifts! That’s pretty much what I use it for since I don’t do a lot of baking.

  8. I started a new batch today! Thanks for the suggestion on where to buy the beans.

  9. I always bought dollar store vanilla before you made me, err, suggested I try this. I’ll never go back!

  10. I have only ever used real vanilla extract. When I found out I could easily make my own, control the ingredients I wanted to use, and have it be cost-effective, I gave it a go and never looked back.

  11. I can’t believe the difference this vanilla is to the stuff I buy at the store! So much better

  12. I haven’t made this, but I have had the real deal courtesy of Sarah. It’s liquid gold.

  13. Do you have a rough idea of how long it takes from start to finished product? The instructions don’t give a time line at all other than it being ready once it smells of vanilla more than alcohol. Are we talking one month, 3mths, 9 mths?

    I’d just like a general idea since I want to make them this year for Christmas presents.

    • So many factors come in to play with the determining the finished product, so I purposely left it vague. Things like location of where it steeps, the temp of your house, and other things can impact the production.
      If you want it ready by Christmas, I would start it now. For the first two weeks, put it in a sunny window to “activate” the process. Then move it into a dark corner and make sure you shake it daily.

  14. We have made this in the past and we LOVE it! We went with a gluten free vodka even though from what I have read, the gluten is distilled out of regular vodka. Better safe then unhappy.

    I need to make another batch of this as we are on the last little bit of our first batch. We don’t use it often, but now that we have a soda stream, I am intrigued by the idea of putting it some fizzy water.

    How do you bottle/present this as a gift? Do you print out labels?

    • Interesting to think about adding it to the Soda Stream. I wonder if it would taste like vanilla cream soda?

      We use little 2 oz bottles (link in the post), and I had labels printed years ago from Vistaprint. I think we still have some floating around.

  15. i have been doing this for years. i use rum. the flavor is the best, i use a half gallon of rum and a half pound of beans. you can always use the leftover beans to flavor milk for puddings, hot chocolate, etc. i also bum half pint bottles from my drinking friends (or from the glass recycling bin at the dump.)

  16. This is amazing! so glad you posted this.

  17. yeah i would also like to know if you just add more liquor to the already soaked vanilla beans……

    • I pour the finished vanilla in to small bottles for gifts, and then add more hootch to the bottles with the vanilla beans in it. The beans are good for multiple batches, but I always add a few “fresh” ones to the new batch.

    • Thanks!!! This is definitely going on my (already a mile long) DIY/”save daddy’s money” list. I have fell in love with your blog. I has really made me appreciate what the Pacific Northwest has to offer!!!! Let’s just say I do not miss the Midwest. 🙂

  18. I love this idea and am going to make this…I appreciate all the steps listed but I am confused as to whether you are reusing the processed vanilla beans to make more when you stated… “As you use the extract, replace with a little bourbon or vodka, and the beans should last for a few years.”
    Have you tried making vanilla sugar with your other beans?
    How do you store the remaining fresh vanilla beans?
    What other creations can you make using the vanilla beans?

  19. are you putting the vanilla beans in the final product as well? Or are you just adding some more liquor to the bottled product at the end? or are you reusing the processed vanilla beans to create more?

    • I pour the finished vanilla in to small bottles for gifts, and then add more hootch to the bottles with the vanilla beans in it. The beans are good for multiple batches, but I always add a few “fresh” ones to the new batch.

      If you start this too late to give a finished product as a gift, you can always leave a bean in there and then tell the gift receiver to let it “brew” a bit.

  20. You are a goddess! I can’t wait to try this!!

  21. does it matter if you buy cheap alchol? Or does it have to be the good stuff?

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. Brandy works too. Homemade is so much better than store bought and a lot cheaper.

    • I’m not familiar with Brandy (I don’t drink). Is it a strong liquor? I found with the bourbon that it took a lot longer to “turn” vanillay than the vodka.

  24. I want to try this!!! Thanks for the idea!