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Homemade Vanilla Extract – How to Make Vanilla Extract

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

A lot has changed in those years – Troy got a wonderful job that he adores, our grocery budget is much more comfortable, and the cost of vanilla beans has almost quadrupled! Even with the increase in vanilla bean prices, I still continue to make this every year. It is impossible to compare the taste of homemade vanilla with store-bought. It infuses cookies, drinks, and puddings with a character that you cannot describe to someone who hasn’t tasted it. Homemade vanilla extract is that one thing that you can’t put your finger on when asking “what in the world makes this taste like that”? As an added bonus, homemade vanilla extract is hands down the simplest thing you can make in your kitchen. Homemade vanilla extract

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5 from 5 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
Servings: 48 servings
Calories: 20 kcal
Author: Sarah - Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity
  • 4 vanilla beans (per)
  • 1 cup vodka or bourbon
  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.

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. 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 purchasing vanilla beans, you’ll find the cost savings comes by buying in bulk. Many grocery stores charge $4-7 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 ice cream, puddings, or vanilla sugar.

Have you ever made or tried homemade vanilla extract? What is your all-time favorite dish that uses vanilla?
This post was one of my first ever posts and was published in August 2010. It was updated to make it printable in June 2017.

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26 comments on “Homemade Vanilla Extract – How to Make Vanilla Extract”

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

  2. 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.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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. 🙂

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

  10. 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.)

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  13. 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.

  14. 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.

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

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

  17. 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.

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