Homemade Vanilla Extract

You only need 2 ingredients for homemade vanilla extract: vanilla beans and vodka. Let the vanilla beans infuse the vodka for as little as 8 weeks, but for optimal flavor, wait at least 6-12 months before using. Homemade vanilla is more cost efficient than store-bought options. You can try homemade vanilla sugar too.

3 bottles of homemade vanilla extract

Vanilla extract is an ingredient in many of our baked goods. This common addition actually carries big weight– 1 teaspoon completely transforms a good dessert into a great dessert. You can’t make a few staples like vanilla cake, vanilla cupcakes, or vanilla buttercream without it.

A dear reader named Jill emailed me last year and said that once she began making her own vanilla extract, her baked goods tasted even better than before. She told me the secrets are to use extra vanilla beans and let the extract sit for at least 6 months before using.

I never thought to publish a post about homemade vanilla extract because it’s actually pretty simple. But Jill’s words were enough to convince me that all bakers should know that a cheaper AND better tasting vanilla extract is only 2 ingredients away.

 

homemade vanilla extract in glass bottles

Why Make Homemade Vanilla Extract?

Why make vanilla extract when you can just buy it from the store? Good question. With the price of vanilla constantly fluctuating, it’s very cost efficient to make your own. Plus, you can control the strength of its flavor. This is KEY because many pricey store-bought options lack the essential depth of flavor that makes good vanilla… good vanilla. This is either because the vanilla extract is imitation and made with artificial or synthetic ingredients or brands cut back on the amount of real vanilla in each bottle. You’re not paying for good vanilla, you’re paying for the convenience of weak bottled vanilla.

(By the way, last year I was part of a blind taste test of different store-bought pure vanillas and McCormick won by a landslide. It was the group’s top choice in both flavor and aroma.)

If you open a bottle of some store-bought vanilla extracts and a bottle of homemade vanilla, you will immediately smell the difference. And this difference directly transfers into your homemade baked goods.

Homemade Vanilla Extract: Video Tutorial

vanilla beans

What You Need for Homemade Vanilla Extract

All you’re doing is pouring alcohol over split vanilla beans and letting the concoction age over time. Give it a shake every now and then. It’s that easy.

  1. Vanilla Beans: You can find vanilla beans at most major grocery stores in the spice aisle. If you can’t locate them, try purchasing them online. I use and highly recommend these options– they’re also what I use when I make vanilla sugar—  Madagascar vanilla beans, these Tahitian vanilla beans, or these Tahitian vanilla beans. (Note that each are different quantities.) I’ve made vanilla with them all. The beans are a generous size, nice and plump, high quality, and perfect for homemade vanilla. Vanilla beans labeled “Grade B” are specifically sold for extracting purposes, but I’ve made vanilla with Grade A beans and it tastes great. Use either.
  2. 80 proof Alcohol: Vanilla extract is most commonly made from vodka, but you can use bourbon, brandy, or rum instead. I usually use vodka, but the one bottle of bourbon vanilla I made 7 months ago is DIVINE. No need to splurge on expensive alcohol. This is probably the only time someone will tell you to buy the cheap stuff!! All the vanilla’s flavor is from the vanilla beans, so spend your money on those. Avoid flavored vodkas as they often contain artificial flavors, which negates the purpose of making your own pure vanilla.
  3. Glass Bottles or Jars with Tight Seal: We recommend 8 ounce bottles. These bottles have a convenient swing top with a very tight seal. Great for gifting. Sterilizing the bottles is ideal, though we’ve skipped that step with no problem in the outcome of the vanilla. If your bottles or jars don’t have any plastic pieces attached, we recommend sterilizing them before using.
  4. Funnel: A funnel is optional, but it makes pouring 100x quicker and easier. (These funnels collapse, so they’re great for storage.)

Vanilla beans are expensive, but 5-6 of them make an entire CUP (8 ounces) of vanilla extract and you can reuse the beans. Compare that to $4 for 1 ounce of store-bought extract.

Non-alcoholic version? Pure extracts are made from alcohol because it’s the easiest way to extract the flavor out of the food. I’ve never made vanilla extract with a nonalcoholic alternative, but there are a few tutorials online if you give it a quick search.


Single-Fold Vs Double-Fold Vanilla Extract

Most store-bought vanilla extracts are what’s known as single-fold. Single-fold vanillas are weaker and to make your own, you need about 4 vanilla beans per 8 ounces of alcohol. I prefer a stronger vanilla so the homemade flavor is more prominent in desserts. Strong vanilla is known as double-fold and it’s pretty pricey because it requires a lot of vanilla beans. Since double-fold can get expensive, I opt for about 5-6 vanilla beans per 8 ounces of alcohol. This is the best balance of taste and price.

2 images of vanilla beans and pouring vodka into glass bottles with vanilla beans

Confused about which type of vanilla bean to buy? 

  • Madagascar Vanilla – very common and has a creamy and rich flavor
  • Mexican Vanilla – has a darker, almost smoky flavor
  • Tahitian Vanilla – also very common and has a rich floral flavor

Any are great choices for vanilla extract.

Wait 6-12 Months

The only things you need to remember about homemade vanilla extract are ratio and time. The ratio of vanilla beans per ounces of alcohol is imperative, but so is the amount of time the vanilla infuses the alcohol. We discussed ratio above, so let’s chat about how long to infuse the vanilla. Homemade vanilla extract tastes better and becomes darker in color the longer it sits. This means we need to practice our patience and luckily with an almost 2 year old, I have patience in my back pocket at all times. The wait is worth it, though. Make some today and use it 6 months from now. You’ll be even happier when a full year has past. 12+ month homemade vanilla is incredible!!

Store the infusing vanilla out of direct sunlight and give it a shake once per week.

Want to know the best part of all? You can continuously add more alcohol to the bottle as you use it. See the recipe instructions below. This is truly the gift that keeps on giving!

3 bottles of homemade vanilla extract

Free Printable Vanilla Extract Labels

Because everyone loves an accessory, I asked my dear friend Jess to design adorable labels for the vanilla extract bottles. They match our vanilla sugar labels!

Click this link for the PDF: Sallys Baking Addiction Vanilla Extract Stickers

Print out the labels on sticker adhesive paper, then cut out the circles. Peel off the labels and stick on your vanilla extract bottles. The labels are obviously optional, but they’re a nice addition especially if you plan to gift the vanilla to others.

homemade vanilla extract in a bottle

And one last thing… as you wait for your vanilla to infuse, here are hundreds of recipes using vanilla extract that you can browse. Lots to look forward to!

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3 bottles of homemade vanilla extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup
  • Category: Spice
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Let the vanilla beans infuse the vodka for as little as 8 weeks, but for optimal flavor, wait at least 6-12 months before using.


Ingredients

  • 56 vanilla beans
  • 1 cup (8 ounces; 240ml) 80 proof vodka (or bourbon, brandy, or even rum)
  • 8 ounce bottle or jar with a tight seal

Instructions

  1. Using a sharp knife, slit the vanilla beans so the beans are exposed. No need to completely split the bean in half, just slit down the middle. If the length of the vanilla beans don’t fit into your bottle or jar, cut the vanilla beans into smaller pieces. Place beans into bottle or jar.
  2. Pour vodka on top. A funnel helps. Use a little extra vodka, if needed, so the beans are fully submerged. Shake a few times.
  3. Store vanilla at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Shake about once per week or once every couple weeks. Vanilla can be ready to use in as little as 8 weeks, but I recommend at least 6 months for optimal flavor. 12+ months is great!
  4. As you begin to use your vanilla, you can refill with a little vodka each time. Give it a shake after you refill and give it a shake before each use, too. If you’re gifting the vanilla or if you don’t have any more alcohol to refill, remove the beans completely after first use. The beans will become a little slimy if they aren’t almost fully submerged.
  5. Unused aged vanilla extract (with the beans fully submerged) will last several years. If it still smells good, it’s still good to use! Aged extract without the beans will last indefinitely. Once you begin using the vanilla and adding more alcohol after each use, the beans will eventually need to be replaced. It’s hard to give a specific amount of time as some may use (and refill) the vanilla more quickly than others. After about 1 year of frequent use and refilling, you will you find the vanilla flavor less intense. Simply remove old beans, add fresh beans, shake, and continue to use/refill.

Notes

  1. Seeds: Since the vanilla beans are exposed (slit open), there will be vanilla bean seeds in the bottle and therefore in your baked good. They add even more wonderful flavor!
  2. Use the same amount of homemade vanilla extract as you would store-bought in recipes.
  3. Gifting: I usually remove the beans if I’m gifting the bottle, that way the gift recipient isn’t responsible for refilling with more alcohol and the beans don’t go to waste. (You can reuse the beans for a new bottle.) However, if it’s been less than 6 months, I recommend gifting with the beans in the bottle because there’s still lots of flavor in there! Tell the gift recipient to remove the beans once he/she begins using the vanilla.
  4. Alcohol: If baking gluten free, use certified gluten free alcohol. Avoid flavored vodkas as they often contain artificial flavors, which negates the purpose of making your own pure vanilla.
  5. Sterilizing: Sterilizing the bottles is ideal, though we’ve skipped that step with no problem in the outcome of the vanilla. If your bottles or jars don’t have any plastic pieces attached, we recommend sterilizing them before using.

Keywords: vanilla

437 Comments

  1. Hi Sally! Thank you SO much for this recipe! I’m very excited to get started.
    I have an amber colored quart canning jar. Will the metal canning lid and ring be ok to seal the jar with?
    Thank you again! I LOVE your site and recipes and I’m grateful that you continue to share your talent so generously.
    Pam

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pam! Yes, that type of jar will work well! However, it may be preferable to use a clear jar so you can track the progress of the extract more closely. But your jar will work just fine, enjoy!

  2. I notice people mentioning “floaties” (besides the seeds) and “slime” or “slimy” appearances. Fresh vanilla beans are somewhat oily so some of that oil will pass from the beans into the liquid or onto the surface of the beans.

  3. Half way through marinating my vanilla extract, I take the beans out and scrap the seeds out and then adding the bean strips and seeds back into the vodka. I noticed you never mentioned scraping the seeds, but I like some of the seeds in my baking.

  4. Nancy Zykan says:

    This looks good. I have an odd question. The first time I tried to make homemade vanilla, I didn’t know to split the bean. I put my one vanilla bean in a clear canning jar with a cup of vodka and placed it in a deep, dark closet. Then I forgot it. So maybe it needed all that time since I only used one bean. Recently I found it. The date on the jar is ten years ago today. I obviously didn’t remember to shake it up either, althought I wouldn’t want to wait 10 years to use a new batch. It smells wonderful but I was afraid to waste other ingredients if it isn’t good anymore. I didn’t know if indefinitely meant 10 years. What do you think? It’s been an interesting experiment. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
    Thank you.

    1. If it smells good. I suspect it’s still good. Alcohol is disinfectant so if the bean was submerged, it’s unlikely anything bad developed. In addition, I suspect you use most of it in baking which the temperature would also kill off bacteria as well. But again, highly unlikely anything has grown in it.

  5. In my previous statement about grinding the beans up I would filter the beans with a paint strainer in this one get all the settlements out of it

  6. Meredith Cervenka says:

    I made some homemade vanilla with bourbon and it is amazing! I used 4 oz bottles and used 2 vanilla beans. I’ve used a complete bottle and the beans are still in there. Can I refill the bottle and reuse the beans or can you only add a little bit of alcohol at a time as you use it?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Meredith! How long have the beans been exposed? It’s usually best to refill along the way, but if the beans haven’t gotten too slimy yet from being exposed to air, then you can certainly try using them again. Glad you enjoyed the homemade vanilla!

      1. Meredith Cervenka says:

        Thank you very much for responding!!
        They are still in the air locked container. I haven’t taken them out of the jar.

  7. Technically it’s 1 oz of beans per 8 oz of alcohol of choice for single fold according to the FDA guidelines. Beans range in different sizes and 4 beans can weigh differently than 4 other beans. I’ve been making vanilla for years. Currently have 1 1/2 gallon soaking plus 10 wine bottles full as well. The vanilla will not be ready in the time alloted on this post. The standard is at least 1 year minimum. Splitting the beans is not necessary either its just certain peoples preference. I keep my beans whole and once extraction is finished I take the beans out, dry them, grind them up, and mix with sugar to make vanilla sugar. Ending with no wasted bean.

    1. Technically, I am sure that most people who are reading this are not making vanilla for wholesale. We only want to make our own for ourselves or gifts for friends (which i did last year and it was a big hit). If i was marketing this, i would make sure to follow FDA guidelines. js

  8. The recipe is factually incorrect. Vanilla extract is not made based on number of beans as they vary enormously in size. True vanilla extract is created by oz of beans to oz of alcohol. Most people will do 1 oz of beans to 1 cup of alcohol between 70-100 proof. Any other way doesn’t necessarily meet FDA standards and can’t be called vanilla extract.

  9. Maybe this is a silly question, but can I just add beans to the bottle of vodka?

    1. hey Ellen, I don’t think that is a silly question, because I was wondering the same exact question!!! Can we just add the vanilla bean to our bottle of vodka????

      1. I haven’t tried it, but I don’t know why it wouldn’t work. Great idea if you don’t want to purchase the little bottles. Anyone else?

    2. I was wondering the same thing!

    3. I do lol and have had no issues with my extract – no oillyness, I cut my vanilla pods small anyway so they sink. And I didn’t read about splitting them lol, and still got vanilla extract that actually tastes like vanilla (I tried out a shop bought expensive brand which is alcohol with a hint of vanilla – actually vile) (I only re-read this page for an idea on when the vanilla pods are old). The vodka bottles here are rubbish – they don’t pour cleanly, so I make up my batch of vanilla extract and once it’s a dark amber colour, I pour with a funnel into a small jar with a pouring spout (happened to be a maple syrup jar once upon a time). Hope that helps!

  10. So simple and easy! Thank you for the recipe ♥️

  11. This might sound silly, but can kids drink it? Not directly chug of course, but can I put it in cookies that kids will eat? Wasn’t sure if the vodka is alright for them…

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Leah! The alcohol evaporates during the baking process, all vanilla extracts contain alcohol. But, as always, do what you’re comfortable with!

      1. Hello! I wanted to find this out before trying this, but is there a non-alcoholic liquid I can replace with vodka? Just wanted to make sure before making it. It looks delicious and can’t wait to try ♥ Thanks Sally

  12. Hi, I am coming up on a year for my untouched batch of vanilla extract. Compared to what we bought at the store, mine still has a fairly strong vodka odor vs. Store bought which has none. Is that normal? I never added any vodka during the year. Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mike, it will have a stronger vodka odor than store bought, but make sure your pods are split with the beans exposed for the best results. Hope you enjoy the homemade vanilla extract!

  13. Hi Sally, a couple of questions.
    Where do you get your beans from?
    Have you tried Hawaiian vanilla beans.
    Are there twist off jars you can use? Where can you get those?
    Thanks

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marla, we list to a few of our favorite vanilla bean options in the blog post — see section titled “What You Need for Homemade Vanilla Extract.” We haven’t tried Hawaiian vanilla beans yet. You can certainly use twist off jars if you’d prefer. Amazon should have plenty of options!

  14. I have a few questions I hope you don’t mind… I’m new to making my own vanilla (you’ve given me the courage to try!) but I am an advanced baker (own my own little cake business)
    If I have an 8 oz bottle, and lets say I’m using a lot of vanilla throughout the day, lets say I will be using about 1/2 of the bottle in one day, can I wait until I am finished for the day and refill it with alcohol when I’m done? OR is it best to immediately add fresh alcohol?
    Does the replenished alcohol need to age like the original recipe? Or can it be used immediately?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Steph, you can wait until the end of the day to refill your bottle. Since you’re replacing about half the bottle, we’d recommend waiting a while to let the vanilla beans immerse in the vodka for a while. The longer you wait, the more potent it will be.

      1. Thanks again for your response. Do you have a recipe for lemon extract? or here is a super random one… Maple? I live in Vermont.. I use fresh maple syrup from my local Sugar Shack and still some recipes require a little bit of extract. Do you know if their is such a thing as true maple extract?

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Steph, we don’t have a recipe for lemon or maple extract at this time. If you find one you enjoy, we’d love to see it!

  15. Phyllis Marshall says:

    I made this recipe almost a year ago and I’m just now using it! Really can’t believe I was patient enough to let it get a deeper flavor. I’m so excited! I made 3 with vodka and 2 with Bourbon. I’m anxious to taste the difference. Today, I’m making your Best Vanilla Cake using your Vanilla extract recipe in it! I do have a question though. Once I start to use the vanilla extract, do I need to refrigerate it?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      No, you don’t need to refrigerate. Hope you love the vanilla cake!

      1. Phyllis Marshall says:

        Both the Vanilla Extract and your Vanilla Cake recipe are really amazing!!! Thank you!

  16. Just ordered beans, bottles, etc. to make Vanilla Extract. I’m planning on using
    7 oz seal tight jars to give as gifts at Christmas (also letting them know to wait a few
    mos.) Can the beans be cut to fit these jars? Also, can beans be placed in a netting to
    keep from bean floating? Looking forward to trying this. Karen

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Karen, yes, you can trim the beans in order to fit your jars. We’ve never used a netting to keep the beans in place. They typically stay submerged on their own.

    2. Shirley Charles says:

      Do you use the same amount of homemade vanilla as you do bought vanilla extract?

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Yes, same amount.

  17. Leilani Cloete says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I have a 1L bottle of Vodka…roughly how many beans will I need then to make this extract?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Leilani! Our recipe calls for 5-6 beans per 8oz of vodka, so you would need around 20-25 beans in a liter of vodka.

  18. What is the difference between using vodka, rum and bourbon?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Rum or bourbon will add warm flavor notes that come with those alcohols and vodka gives you a more pure vanilla flavor. All are delicious, it’s up to your personal preference.

  19. Can I pint canning jars .?

    1. Absolutely. A pint is 16 ounces so you’ll need 2 oz of vanilla bean for best results. Pint jars are tough to pour from so once your vanilla is extracted to the strength you prefer, I recommend transferring into a bottle that pours easily.

  20. Stephanie Whiteley says:

    Hi!

    I have everything ready to go but I am having trouble getting these bottles dry. Any tips? Can I boil these and then add the beans and vodka even if not 100% dry? Thanks!

  21. Ivette Garate says:

    Hi. Is it necessary to slit and cut the vanilla beans when making extract?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ivette, splitting the beans helps expose the vodka to the flavorful vanilla seeds inside. We strongly recommend it.

  22. Since I will be sterilizing the container I will have a big pot of boiling hot water. Would it make sense to dunk the unsplit vanilla beans for a few seconds as well, just to make sure they are clean before splitting and adding to the vodka?

  23. Store bought pure vanilla extract uses more than 4 beans per cup, they have strict guidelines to call it a single fold pure extract (13.35 oz of beans one gallon of alcohol), they also are regulated as to moisture content of beans used, if they call it pure vanilla extract double fold, it is 26.70 ounces beans per gallon. To accomplish anything close at home a single fold pure extract needs 1 ounce of beans per one cup of alcohol. You need to weigh your beans. Everything you use should be sterilized, first. Vanilla beans are prevalent to mold, (even in alcohol) never should the bean be exposed, once extraction is done beans should be removed, if they are slimy, it possibly is the mold. Part of the reason pure extract is so expensive are the guidelines they have to follow to sell. Try it by weight, split and cut your beans, one inch pieces, extracts better.

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