November 23, 2017

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I had a few reasons for wanting to make my own vanilla extract.  For one, I bake a lot, so I use a LOT of vanilla.

Secondly, homemade vanilla is healthier than conventionally processed vanilla, and even though only a small amount of vanilla goes into most recipes, I don’t like adding ANY unknown toxins if I can avoid it.

Thirdly, it’s less expensive to make your own, and considering you’re making a healthier version than what’s available at the store, you’re really saving money.

And let’s not forget that it’s fun to make, especially if you like giving homemade gifts like this for Christmas.  I got my batch made just in time for it to be ready by the holidays.

Here are some beautiful, fragrant vanilla beans that I ordered from Olive Nation.  You’ll need 20 to make one quart of homemade vanilla extract.  If you’re using a gallon jar, you’ll need 80 vanilla beans.

With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut starting at flat end, all the way up the bean, leaving about an inch at the top so the bean can stay together.

Place twenty vanilla beans, cut sides in first, into quart size mason or ball jar.

Fill jar with 100 proof (cheap) vodka.

Fasten lids tightly, shake, then place in dark spot in back of pantry.  Shake jars every couple of weeks.  When vanilla extract is ready (about six months), strain the liquid through a coffee filter and pour into amber bottles for storage and gift-giving.


  1. I only use 8 vanilla beans per 750 mL bottle of vodka. Mine is ready in about 8 weeks. I just use it directly from the bottle, the you get some flecks of the vanilla seeds in whatever you make. I’ve also heard you can add more vodka to the same vanilla beans, but I’ve never tried it.

  2. I used 2 vanilla beans per pint I believe. I’m guessing that with 20 per quart you will be able to use it much sooner than 6 months. Exciting!

    • Maybe so. And wow, only 2 per pint? How long do you let yours extract?

      • I just followed the directions from another blog 🙂 It said 2 beans per pint. Wait six months.

        • Jessica P. says:

          Stacey, have you used the vanilla you made yet? I’d prefer to use as few beans as possible so I can make more vanilla,but I want to make sure it will taste “right”.

          • I haven’t used it yet because I’m a little bit unsure of it. Shortly after I made it, I noticed that there was white bits kind of floating around in it. They are basically settled on the beans themselves, and in the bottom of the jar. I have read a bit about vanillin, and I wonder if that’s what it is. I’m scared to use it because who knows? It could be something dangerous! I’m hoping that someone else has experience with this and can tell me if it’s safe or not!

          • Christina says:

            I don’t know that your white stuff is, but vanillin is a byproduct of paper production, I believe…..nothing to do with real vanilla. And no, you DON’T want to eat vanillin. It’s just made to sound like vanilla.

          • Christina is incorrect here. Vanillin is a naturally occurring compound that gives vanilla beans their flavor. There is also artificial vanillin, which is a compound created from sap. But since it’s found on a vanilla bean, it’s safe to say if the white stuff is vanillin it’s the real thing. Very safe to eat. If the beans are not fully submerged, it’s possible they’re moldy, but I think that would be obvious.

          • Yes, I did end up using it, and it was fine. My next batches have been totally normal, but I believe I bought beans from a different supplier.

    • I started making my own vanilla using a kit from Chinaberry. The kit uses 2 beans per pint and only waits 2 months before using. I made one for myself and gave several as gifts and they were much better than storebought in that 2 months.

      You need to refill as you use it. Just fill the jar back up with that much liquor. Be sure to shake often. It lasts about a year on those beans. When the beans start getting worn out, just buy fresh ones online, remove the old beans (and put them in sugar for a delicious vanilla sugar) and add the new to the vodka, bourbon or brandy.

  3. Ok, where have you been all my life?! I found you through a Pinterest recipe post, and I’ve just spent the last who-knows-how-long bookmarking recipes! I’ve never been good in the kitchen, but your recipes look so easy I have no excuse now 🙂

  4. Abby Hanson says:

    So how do you determine when it’s ready to use? Other comments have such varied times from yours though yours uses many more vanilla beans.

    Also, what was your total cost for 4 qts?

  5. Wow…I am so going to make this! I am curious how you know it is ready? Is this cheaper then buying it? I have never bought vanilla beans so curious if this would be more frugal then buying actual vanilla.

  6. JennErin says:

    This is great! I have done this at most of the fine dining restaurants I have worked at in the past. We would use bourbon usually. But I know vodka works just fine too. I think the cost may actually be higher, but well worth for a better product!

  7. I make my own vanilla and I was just browsing for different recipes. To the person asking about the flecks of white. Are your beans completely submerged? The alcohol should kill any bacteria when they are totally covered. If they’re slimy, that could be the membrane from the bean. I use bottom shelf vodka and 1 bean per 50ml. If you shake it every other day the first week and then once a week after that the flavor develops quicker as it speeds up the extraction process. To achieve a wonderful rich flavor/color it only takes 3 months. Hope that helps.

  8. 🙂 Great Tutorial. Where do you buy your vanilla beans from?

  9. sorry, I reread it and found Olive Nation!

  10. Ana-Maria Sanchez says:

    Who long will it last, what I mean for storing purposes. I heard it could last 2 years refilling over and over but Since you have been doing this for a long time, I will take your answer to heart.
    Thanks Marathon Mom

  11. Sylwia Hoffman says:

    Hi, is there any place that you get good deals on mason jars? Thanks!!!


  1. […] Although homemade vanilla takes months before it is ready, you can still give this as a gift at Christmas.  It’s super simple to make.  Find out how at The Marathon Mom. […]

  2. […] teaspoon vanilla […]

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