How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

making vanilla extract

Have you started your holiday baking yet? If so, there’s a good chance you’ve already gone through a fair bit of vanilla extract. A staple in virtually every baked good, vanilla adds mellow flavor and richness, and it enhances sweetness wherever it is used. Cakes, cookies, custards and cupcakes: If you can bake it, vanilla can make it better. What’s not to love?

The price.

Buying vanilla extract is one of those purchases that feels like a necessary evil. That little bottle with the big price tag may seem like the cost of doing business in the kitchen, so it may come as a surprise to learn just how easy it is to make it yourself for a fraction of the price of store-bought.

Requiring little more than vanilla beans, cheap booze and time, homemade vanilla extract is one of my favorite holiday DIYs. It’s sure to get a lot of use in my own kitchen, and, when brewed in decorative bottles or jars, the beloved elixir makes a great gourmet gift that can be prepared well before the hustle and bustle of the holidays gets out of hand.


Step 1

 Open Gallerymaking vanilla extract

Vanilla beans are grown all over the world and different beans have different qualities. Madagascar vanilla beans are rich and powerful, Mexican beans are creamy and smooth, and Indian vanilla is oily and complex. Unless you have a particular preference, just about any will suit your needs when making extract.

Step 2

 Open Gallerymaking vanilla extract

When making extract, it is important that the beans be cut to allow the flavor within to impart into the alcohol. Slice the bean lengthwise from end to end. Also cut crosswise if necessary to fit in your container. Use one vanilla bean per 2 ounces of alcohol.

Step 3

 Open Gallerymaking vanilla extract

Place cut vanilla beans in a glass container with an airtight lid.

Step 4

 Open Gallerymaking vanilla extract

Add alcohol to the vessel, leaving ¼” or more of head space. Alcohol should be 70 proof or higher. Rum may be used, but vodka is the most popular choice because of its neutral flavor. All of the flavor in your extract comes from those special beans, so “bottom shelf” alcohol can be used instead of more expensive brands.

Step 5

 Open Gallerymaking vanilla extract

Store in a cool, dry place and give the jar a shake every week or so. Color and flavor will develop over time and extract can be ready in as little as five weeks, but the longer beans are left to soak, the stronger the extract will become.


  • Vanilla beans
  • Vodka



  • Sharp knife
  • Airtight jars or bottles
About Mick Telkamp 


A former Midwesterner living in North Carolina, I write about my adventures in backyard chicken-keeping and suburban homesteading over at HGTVGardens, and my exploits in the culture of Southern cooking ...

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12 Responses

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  2. Marc says:

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  3. Leah says:

    How long will the extract last in terms of staying fresh?

  4. bee says:

    I would think you could get the beans from stores like Whole Foods or a similar market. I think I've also seen them in the Ethnic Foods section at the grocery store.

  5. SWJenn says:

    most grocery stores have them, or you can order them online. They're not cheap, but neither is extract, so this may not save you huge amounts of money, depending.

  6. Mack says:

    Where do you purchase you beans from, been wanting to do this for a long time, have seen sites on the internet, but want to make sure I purchase from a reliable site.

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