Homemade Vanilla Extract {recipe}

Homemade vanilla extract is far better than it’s store counterpart. You just need a bit of patience. And the stuff you find in the store regularly has added corn syrup and flavorings – a major no-no. Especially when you’re trying to cook tasty whole foods!

I’ve made a couple of large batches of this over the years, so you’ll have to forgive me for taking so long to get to this post.

homemade vanilla

It’s a simple process really, you buy vanilla beans and soak them in alcohol for a specific amount of time. And there is really no wrong way to do it, though there are approximately 354,759 different recipes on the internet.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

750ml of vodka (you can also use bourbon or rum)
15-20 vanilla beans (I buy mine from Mountain Rose Herbs)

You’ll also need either a mason jar or smaller jars if you’re gifting.

Method of Preparation

1. Take each vanilla bean and cut it to the length of your jar – you want to make sure it’s fully covered. Slice lengthwise through only half of it, keeping one end attached. You want to expose the beans, but not necessarily allow them to fall out into the vanilla. (While this isn’t a taste issue, it does make prettier vanilla extract if you don’t have a ton of beans floating about.)

2. Place beans in a quart size mason jar and cover with vodka.

3. Place the lid on and shake it gently. Each day for about a week or so, give it a couple of shakes. (I usually leave mine out on the counter during this time so I remember)

4. After a week or so, you can put the jar somewhere out-of-the-way, like a kitchen cupboard, and shake it gently just once a week. Or so.

The vanilla is ready to use after about 6 weeks, though the longer it sits, the better it tastes. Four months is absolute perfection. Just pour out the vanilla into another jar and then you can actually re-use the beans to make at least one more batch.

Tips and tricks:

  • Most directions say to place it in a cool dark place – it’s what I do. But my friend Jodi put her homemade vanilla in the sun and it worked just fine.
  • The vodka you buy DOES make a difference. Cheap stuff is, well…..cheap stuff. Buy at least a mid-priced vodka and you’ll get a better product.
  • If you’re not used to buying alcohol and really have no idea what to buy, go to a liquor store. This way you can just ask the guy at the counter for a mid-priced vodka instead of standing at the supermarket feeling silly in front of a massive wall of booze.
  • Jodi was also the one that bought a bunch of cute little jars for us to use.
  • And she also made her vanilla IN those little jars.
  • Katie used bourbon in her vanilla.
  • And Crystal actually just put the vanilla beans in the jar of vodka. Uh…brilliant!

slicing through just half of the bean


immersed in vodka - now let it sit

Have you made your own vanilla before? What process do you use?

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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.


  1. I’ve got a mason jar of vanilla stewing on my counter. I’m not sure exactly how long it’s been there…I bought the vanilla beans over Thanksgiving break and prepared the vanilla tincture sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Anyway, around Spring Break I’ll open up the jar and have great vanilla!!

  2. Great timing – we also make our own but I was unsure whether or not I could re-use the beans for a second batch. It’s been sitting there over 6 months now. I’m off to buy some vodka and make up some more…love gifting these!

  3. I make mine with rum. I like bourbon beans the best. There are Tahitian beans too, but I don’t like those as well. They sort of have a root beer-ish taste with you use those with rum.

    Store-bought extract is made with 1 bean per ounce of alcohol, or it can’t legally be labeled “extract.” I use 4 oz. jars, add 5 beans, and fill them up. So this is probably about 2.5 – 3 oz. of alcohol, which produces almost double-strength extract. Better flavor. :)

    Amber Reply:

    @Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama,
    Okay, I’m going to try making the extract but I’m a little confused. I have a 30 oz. mason jar. I will buy a fifth of vodka which is about 25.6 oz of booze. I want to make two batches off the beans since you can use them twice.
    I just ordered 16 beans but after reading Kate’s comment, that would seem to make extremly weak extract. Weaker than even the store bought as that would only be 16 beans for 25.6 oz. of vodka. My question is how many vanilla beans should I put in the mason jar with a fifth of vodka to make really great extract? Does the longer you let it sit make the extract stronger?
    Thank you

    donielle Reply:

    @Amber, I’ve never used more than 20 beans with a fifth of vodka – mostly due to cost issues as the beans can get pricey. :-)

    But yes, the longer it sits, the deeper the flavor. So a batch with more beans will be done sooner, a batch with less beans may take longer.

    donielle Reply:

    @Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama, Thanks for the tip on the beans – I can’t remember what type I bought last time.

  4. I had some nasty blueberry flavored vodka that I added beans to (yumm!) I could afford to “play” because my aunt was stationed in Madagascar and she had just sent me a kilo of beans…I also just made some with pear flavored vodka…I’ve always used 3-5 beans per 1 cup of alcohol…
    I’m thinking I should make some sugar cookies now…hee hee!

  5. I am curious how long the shelf life is.

    donielle Reply:

    @Missie, I can’t say for sure – but a very long time. πŸ˜‰ Since alcohol is a preservative, it should last for months and months.

    Sarah @ My Sleepy Kitchen Reply:

    @Missie, I made some vanilla extract 3 years ago (which sadly just ran out!) but it was fine the entire time. Time to make some more!

  6. I have what I consider to be “heirloom” vanilla since I got my vanilla beans on a trip to Zanzibar, one of the original spice islands, in 2010. Last Christmas, I gave many people little jars of it similar to what you showed. Truly one of the easiest things I’ve ever done!

  7. I made some “perpetual” vanilla extract last year… check it out: http://just-making-noise.blogspot.com/2011/06/make-it-yourself-homemade-perpetual.html

    I agree that cheap cheap alcohol isn’t the way to go. I noticed a big difference between my cheap version and mid-price version. Richer flavor.

    Also, a gal gave me the tip to add a little water to the extract. I guess the alcohol doesn’t extract everything, so the water pulls out more flavor that alcohol alone can’t do.

  8. I made my first bottle at the beginning of this month, so we will see how it turns out when July gets here. Can’t wait!

  9. We basically use the “perpetual” method, although we use rum. Gives a deeper flavor to the vanilla. We did this 2 years ago and gave small bottles as gifts, then kept one going for ourselves. Its too easy NOT to do. Our vanilla bottle is actually just a small bottle of Captain Morgan’s. :) When it gets down to between 1/3 and 1/2 empty we just add more rum.

    We also made mint extract when we were growing mint and had more of it than we could use. Just crush some mint leaves and add to a bottle of vodka.

  10. I made some vanilla extract for my self about a year and a half ago. I got a vodka that had a pretty bottle with a resuable stopper, and put my beans in the bottle. (you can see a picture of it on my blog post about it – http://www.dangerouscrayon.com/2010/08/homemade-vanilla-extract.html ) I’ve gone through one bottles worth of extract, and just have been refilling from an extra bottle every once in a while. The longer I let mine sit, the better the flavor, for sure.

  11. After you said someone added the beans to the vodka bottle, I imagines someone looking around to see if anyone was watching, taking a huge swig to make room for the beans. Made me laugh and thought I’d share! πŸ˜€

    donielle Reply:

    @Kayla, hahaha! How else are you gonna make room? πŸ˜‰ Though I’d have to have my hubby help me – straight up liquor is to much for me!

  12. So you clearly got the expensive vodka. Do you think the kind of vodka matters? Like that expensive vodka makes better vanilla than the cheap kind?

    Becky Webb Reply:

    @Becky Webb, Never mind! Duh, you totally said in your post.

  13. Christy says:

    This may seem like a stupid question, but, when this is done, would the vanilla contain alcohol then? I would love to make my own vanilla, and have gotten some beans lately as a gift, but having something “alcoholic” doesn’t really go along with my purposes.

    donielle Reply:

    @Christy, Yes, this (and all *true* vanilla extract) contains alcohol. Even the vanilla on the store shelves contains alcohol and the ones that don’t are usually just vanilla ‘flavoring’. If you cook with it you don’t have to worry about alcohol content as it will cook out of the dish.

    You can make vanilla flavor with glycerin, but it’s not as effective at pulling out the flavor so it may take longer and may not have the same depth of flavor.

  14. I have a question. I sent my husband to buy the Vodka and he got me a Vanilla flavored Vodka. Not sure if I should buy a plain one or use this one. Will it taste good? Thanks!

    donielle Reply:

    @Denise, I would tend to say to buy plain. I’m sure that flavored vodka would work…..I just don’t know *what* they used as flavor or how the end product will taste. :-/

  15. hi,
    i came across your page as i searched for homemade vanilla extract recipe…unfortunately i do not consume alcohol for religion restriction…i wonder if there is any other way i can make my own vanilla extract without using alcohol?…i hope you can help..thank you :)

    donielle Reply:

    You can look for a recipe that uses glycerin, though it won’t be “true” vanilla, it’ll be close. :-)

    adib Reply:


    thanks for the tip..i have found a recipe that uses glycerin..will give it a try soon πŸ˜‰


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