How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract


This week I pulled these glass bottles of vanilla extract that have been brewing down in our basement since last fall. Vanilla extract is very simple to make, makes great Christmas gifts, and your kitchen will smell like baker’s heaven while you are making it. You only need a few supplies:

1. Vanilla Beans

There are many opinions on which variety of beans to use, and the differences in their flavors, which you can read about more in this interesting article.  I bought mine on Ebay, though you can also find them from Amazon, and many other places.  The main thing to look for is beans that are still plump and moist- they shouldn’t be all shriveled up and dry. You can buy vanilla beans at Costco, but they are overpriced, and in my experience not very fresh.


2. Glass bottles

You can use an old glass vinegar bottle, a wine bottle with a tight fitting lid, these 16 ounce swing top bottles from Amazon, Ikea’s Korken swing top bottles, or check your local Dollar Tree for their their glass Oil and Vinegar bottles for only $1 each.

3. Alcohol

It’s important to use something that is at least 80-proof, so that there’s enough alcohol to extract the flavor. I used Vodka, because I wanted something neutral. You can also use bourbon, which gives it a different and distinct flavor.


The actual process is easy – split the pods open with a sharp knife, and cut the pods in half if they are too tall for your bottle.  Scrape as much of the seed paste out of each pod as you can, and put the paste and the pods into your bottle of choice.  I used about 1 pod for every 2 ounces of Vodka, though you can use more or less to your preference.  Opinions vary wildly as to how long it takes to extract the flavor, with some claiming as few as 4 weeks, but I left mine in the basement for almost a year. Shake every few weeks, or whenever you stumble across it in the back of your cupboard. Store in a cool, dry, dark spot, but not in the refrigerator.


I spent $14 on vanilla beans, and $18 on 1.75 liters of Vodka which I bought from Costco. These $32 of materials yielded 60 ounces Vanilla Extract. This works out to be about 53 cents per ounce, which is much cheaper than buying little bottles of Vanilla Extract from your local grocery store (this varies, but can easily cost $1.50 per ounce or more), but slightly more expensive than buying it from Costco (about $0.50 per ounce.) On the other hand, Costco’s vanilla has added sugar, and not as robust a flavor.  

You can also reuse your beans in a second batch of vanilla extract, though the second round will not be as strong, or use the vanilla beans to make Vanilla Sugar. I’m afraid it’s too late to make vanilla extract for holiday baking and Christmas presents this year, but now is the perfect time to start a batch brewing for next year!

  1. It never occurred to me that vanilla extract was something I could make at home. This is fantastic! Thank you, Heidi!

    - Melissa
    1. I’m so glad that this inspired you! Happy Vanilla making!

  2. I am trying this! Just got vanilla beans in my Bountiful Baskets, and already have a stash of bottles. I’ll have wait until the blizzard is over to buy some vodka though. :)

  3. Just stumbled onto your new blog thru your pin of this post. I’m always last to know ;) I read your introduction to the blog and think it sounds great!
    Specific to this post, I love the close-up shot of the split vanilla bean. ? I made vanilla last year & have really enjoyed it. This summer my cousin was gifted a bottle of chocolate vodka & had no idea what to do with it. I suggested making vanilla, so she sent me home with it. It is ready now and smells wonderful, but I’m not sure the chocolate essence is still discernable. I’ll bring you a sample :)

    - Melanie
  4. Love homemade vanilla! I had some Tonya Chapa made a few years back, and no other vanilla I’ve tried from even stores like Williams-Sonoma had the lovely notes that were present in the homemade version. I’m going to make some!

    - Jenny
    1. It’s so yummy, and so easy! You should definitely give it a try.

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