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.

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 highly recommend these 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: I recommend 8 ounce bottles. These bottles have a convenient swing top with a very tight seal. Great for gifting!
  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 your 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 a cute accessory, I asked my dear friend Jess to design adorable labels for the vanilla extract bottles. So excited to share these with you.

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 cute addition especially if you plan to gift the vanilla to others.

homemade vanilla extract in a bottle

I gifted my sister-in-law this very bottle yesterday for her birthday! 🙂

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, washed & dried

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.

Keywords: vanilla

421 Comments

  1. Ginger Rose says:

    Are vanilla beans all the same size? Some recipes call for 4 or 5 beans per 8 oz. Some go by weight, 22 grams per 8 oz. I weighed my vanilla beans and 10 of them weighed 22 grams, quite a bit more than 4 or 5. Which is the correct amount to use for 8 oz? I am using Madagascar beans. Thank you

    1. Vanilla beans are not the same size so it is easier to go by weight. I use 1oz of beans for 1c (or 8oz) of vodka.

  2. Paul Bailey says:

    Hi Sally, hello from the south west UK. Just set up my first vanilla extract using vodka. I am aiming for Christmas gifts, hopefully it will be long enough. I have a stock of ‘Zivania’ which is a clear spirit from Cyprus. It is similar to Grappa or Schnaps, being made from the pomace following wine production. It has no dominant flavour——do you think O could make vanilla extract with it? It runs from 40% ABV to 60% ABV, so is pretty powerful. Be interested in your comments. Thank you, Paul.

  3. Celena Mosley says:

    Hi there, I wanted to make double-fold pure vanilla extract. How many vanilla beans do I need per 8oz ?

    1. You will need 2oz of beans to 8oz or 1 c of vodka for double fold.

  4. Hi. Can the bottle you use for actually making the vanilla be a food grade plastic, or is glass preferred?

    1. Lee Fogarty says:

      When you make an extract, it should be in a glass bottle. Plastic absorbs and you really don’t want that.

  5. Susie Schneibel says:

    Where can I buy the cute jars for the vanilla?

    1. Leslie Madsen says:

      I found 8 oz maple syrup bottles that are cool on Amazon. And 4 oz bottles at dollar Tree… also super cute.

    2. Hobby Lobby also has some cute bottles you might be able to use.

  6. Hi! Can’t wait to try this. Can you make it in a larger batch and age it in quart jars, then pour into smaller jars for gifting? It seems to me you could, but I’m leery to try and chance wasting the ingredients. Thanks. Laurie

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can, Laurie!

      1. Hi everyone! I have homemade vanilla extract in a swingtop bottle that was given away to me a few months ago. The beans weren’t fully submerged anymore when I received it and the extract looks cloudy. IT smells more like alcohol than vanilla, though there is still a vanilla smell. Should I toss it all and start over?

  7. I use Bourbon rather than vodka and I store for at least 6 months before using, usually 12 months. Makes great gifts!!

  8. Do you need an extra bottle? Can you just open the vodka and put the beans in there?

    1. Heidi, I just bought a glass bottle of vodka and threw my split beans in there. It worked great. I have almost used the whole bottle now. And will do the same with the next bottle of vodka.

      1. How many beans to a fifth? I’m going to try this.

  9. Hi ive read in an article that its better to use grade B vanilla since you will get more pods bec its lighter in weight.than grade A which is heavier bec of the moisture content.

  10. I have seen recipes using an instant pot. It doesn’t require months of waiting. Have you tried this method?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pam, We don’t have instant pots so we haven’t tried it. Sounds like a great method though!

    2. Putting alcohol under pressure is dangerous. Please read up on it before trying.

  11. Hi, I have 3oz glass bottles, how many vanilla beans per bottle? 1 or 1 1/2 beans?

  12. Can’t wait to give this a try – noticed commercial brands only have 35% alcohol but you don’t suggest cutting the vodka/bourbon with water? I am a fan of bourbon so a stronger alcohol flavor doesn’t bother me but using 80 proof will this give the vanilla a strong alcohol taste?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Randy, Usually alcohol proof is defined as twice the percentage of alcohol. So an 80 proof vodka is about 40% alcohol.

  13. Vanessa R. Hazzard says:

    Hi Sally, I have a 20 ounce bottle. How many vanilla beans should I use. I look forward to trying your recipes. Everything looks so yummy.

    1. Hi Vanessa! I would use around 15 vanilla beans. (About 6 beans per 8 ounces.)

  14. I made my vanilla over a year ago. When I was buying the vodka, I told the clerk what I was using it for. He said he was a retired chemist, and a higher alcohol content would be better, something with at least 100 proof. He explained why, but I can’t remember, nor could I follow along very well as he was explaining it. I went with his suggestion of 100 proof, but all of the recipes I see mention 75-80 proof. Mine smells mostly of alcohol with an essence of vanilla.

    I’m making this for my mom for Christmas, so I think I’ll go with the 80 proof this time. I think I’ll make another small batch on the side to compare what I have now.

  15. Debbie Coleman says:

    I am 70 years old and I don’t bake as much as I used to. Hence I found some vanilla beans in the freezer which I had for splitting and putting in baked goods. Some were kind of dry, some were nice and plump. I bought a fifth of vodka, threw all my pods in it and waited (the hardest part). It was absolutely wonderful. Since I do still make cookies etc., it’s much better and MUCH CHEAPER than store bought vanilla )even from Costco!).

  16. Hi. Sally. You mentioned we can refill alcohol in after certain use. Do we have to let it sit for certain period after the refill? Or it is all ready for usage ? & the bean is still good to be reused for making a 2nd new bottle after been in the bottle for 6 months-1 year? Please enlighten . Thank you.

  17. About a month ago – Made 2 bottles with vanilla beans – 1 with vodka, other with bourbon. Shaking once a week – but some splotchy spots are forming on the inside glass of the bottles above the liquid line and I’m worried there’s something wrong with the extract. If I look closely there seems to be spots floating on the liquid surface as well. Any advice?

  18. Do you use your homemade vanilla when you make cookie?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You can use it in any recipe calling for vanilla extract, including cookies 🙂

  19. Hi Sally, I just started my first bottle of Vanilla Extract. I sliced the beans exposing the middle of the beans. I shook the bottle up and am noticing little white floaters in the bottle? Is this normal or is it mold.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Patti, It’s relatively normal. I can’t imagine it being mold when the bottle is filled with alcohol, so don’t worry about that. It could be simply the natural vanillin coming out.

  20. I am just about through my first bottle of homemade extract. As I used it, I forgot to keep topping it off. Once I totally finish this bottle, how many times can I start a new bottle with these same beans?

    1. Hi Ashley! I can’t give an exact number because it depends on how much flavor is being extracted and the quality of the beans you’re using. After about 1 year of frequent reusing them, you will you find the vanilla flavor less intense. Simply remove old beans, add fresh beans, shake, and continue to use/refill.

  21. This is my first time making vanilla. I made 2 bottles and gave one to my daughter. I noticed that I have white stuff floating in my bottles and I’m not sure if it’s usable now. There are many tiny black seeds from the vanilla beans but I’m not sure about the white stuff. Is it safe to use? I hate to dump it because it’s such a waste of money.
    Thank you.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lori, It’s relatively normal! It could be simply the natural vanillin coming out.

  22. I have been using a recipe like yours for many years and have 3 bottles on rotation. When one is empty, I top up with vodka and let sit for 6 -12 months. How many times/years will the vanilla pods last? I am finding the flavour is no longer as intense. If I should replace the pods and start a new batch, is there anything I can do/make with the old pods? Love your website. Thanks

    1. If you find the flavor isn’t as intense anymore, discard the used beans. I haven’t made anything with them before but you could try grinding them up to make a vanilla paste. (Search the internet for a homemade vanilla paste tutorial!)

  23. Is there a reputable online place or a brick/mortar store to purchase quality vanilla beans?

    1. I bought mine from vanillapura.com thru a co-op. Good amount for the price

  24. I have started the vanilla extract journey yesterday but I have a question, the little tips of the beans are not covered w the alcohol, should I cut them off (and throw them in obviously) or can they just stay exposed? I know you said they might get slimy but I don’t know about just the tips… thoughts?

    1. I would snip them off or pour more vodka into the bottle.

  25. Thanks for shar8ng your recipe & method! I bake with vanilla bean (seeds) a lot, and have a ton of scraped pods. Do you think these would work for making vanilla extract or are the seeds really necessary? Would live to hear your feedback.

    1. They would work, yes, but the flavor may not be as strong in 6 months had you kept the seeds in the pods. However, I’m certain that 9-12 months of extracting flavor from the empty pods would give you a nice flavor.

  26. I made a batch, let it age about 8 months and then poured it into a new jar and started a new batch with the beans I had just used. Is doing it twice the limit or can the beans stand a third round?

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