How To Make Vanilla Extract

Have you seen the price of vanilla extract lately? Especially organic vanilla extract. A whopping $20 for 8 ounces at my local health food store. Considering all the baking I've been doing lately, I knew I had to find a way make my own vanilla extract.

Turns out making vanilla extract is incredibly easy. And you're going to save a lot of money. You can find vanilla beans for less than $1 each if you buy in bulk. Add a little cheap booze, let it sit for a couple of months, and you're in business. Start now, and you'll be sitting pretty come holiday baking time.

How To Make Vanilla Extract
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How To Make Vanilla Extract

  • Author: Ann Marie Michaels
  • Yield: 8 ounces

Ingredients

  • Vodka, rum or Bourbon (1 cup (8 oz)
  • Vanilla beans (3)

Instructions

1. Slit the vanilla beans lengthwise. Cut them in half or in quarters (I did this so they'd fit in the jar). Add them to the mason jar.
2. Add the vodka or rum to the jar, cover with a lid and shake.
3. Stick the jar in a cupboard for at least 8 weeks.

Notes

If you are on the GAPS diet, you will want to use vodka. Many vodkas today do contain gluten so if you are gluten-intolerant, please look for a high-end vodka, and check first before using.

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Equipment Needed for This Recipe

Pint mason jar

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How To Make Vanilla Extract

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Ann Marie Michaels

I have 25 years of experience in digital and online media & marketing. I started my career in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, working at some of the world’s top ad agencies. In 2007, after my first child was born, I started this little food blog which I grew to over 250K monthly unique website visitors and over 350K social media followers. For nearly 15 years, I've helped my audience of mostly moms and women 25-65 cook for their families and live a healthier lifestyle.

 The year after I started the blog, I founded a blog network in the health & wellness space called Village Green Network. I started the company on my coffee table and bootstrapped the business to over $1.3 million in annual revenue within 5 years. During that time, I helped a number of our bloggers become six figure earners. After being censored on almost every social media platform for telling the After being censored on almost every social media platform from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, and being deplatformed on Google, I am now deployed as a digital soldier, writing almost exclusively about politics on my blog Cheeseslave.com. Because who can think about food when we are fighting the second revolutionary war and third world war? Don't worry, there will be more recipes one day. After the war is over.

55 thoughts on “How To Make Vanilla Extract

  1. Wow, that is easy… Is the resulting vanilla extract as potent/flavourful as storebought extract though? The colour of it looks quite light and see through versus store bought extract which is completely dark.

  2. We did something similar in college. We called it kaluha. Oh, wait, I guess there was coffee in there, too. What can I say, that was a looooong time ago. 🙂

  3. This really is very easy. At Christmas I ordered several nice bottles and vanilla beans. Jon made a nice label with a vanilla orchid, and we gave out vanilla extract to family. I used mine yesterday to make vanilla custard. It is called “everlasting vanilla” because we also gave everyone a tiny bottle of rum like you would get on an airline. Every time you use the vanilla, you replenish the alcohol. It continues to make a nice vanilla until your next need. Pretty cool!

    Cathy Payne’s last blog post..ONL045 Chris Masterjohn Interview: Cholesterol Facts and Myths

  4. I’m surprised you didn’t mention bourbon! Bourbon is aged in charred oak barrels. The charred oak gives it all sorts of cherry and vanilla notes. It makes wonderful vanilla extract. I’ve even heard of people substituting plain bourbon for vanilla extract. I’ve never tried it but its supposed to be good.

    Zeke’s last blog post..Eicosanoids

  5. Well, now I’m in a quandary. I was ecstatic to discover my organic vanilla extract was locally made! So, do I switch to non-local beans and non-local rum to make my own, or buy the local stuff and pay more to support local business?

    I guess it’s worth trying my own once, even if it’s just as an experiment, right?

    Local Nourishment’s last blog post..Dessert worthy of a guest

  6. Could you approximate the weight of the vanilla beans you used? I’m wondering since I’ve seen vanilla beans distinguished by length. So I’m thinking that 3 beans could really varry depending upon the length. Or else could you say how long they were?

    thanks! I’m looking forward to doing this!

  7. I was also going to say bourbon… I tried this once with vodka and another time with moonshine, both were ok, but nowhere near as nice as it is infused in the bourbon!

  8. Hi There – what about the alcohol? Color me naive… but does it dissipate? Or is it so minuscule that it doesn’t matter?

  9. That’s a waste of good Bourbon IMO.

    Plus my husband would kill me if I used his good Kentucky Bourbon to make vanilla. 🙂

    Which is why I used Trader Joe’s “Rum of the Gods” brand of rum. We’re never going to drink that.

    Yes, in CA the grocery stores have liquor. Trader Joe’s has fabulous white label versions of Scottish single malt whiskies and also tequila.

  10. Hello! We make our own vanilla extract, too. We make two kinds, one with vodka, so it doesn’t have any flavor added from the alcohol and one from a good cognac that we use as its own flavoring, since the vanilla and cognac flavors are so nice together. We also make vanilla sugar. All of these are great Christmas gifts as well.

    Ranee @ Arabian Knits’s last blog post..Menu Plan Monday: June 8

  11. Best. Vanilla. Ever.
    I also soak my beans in bourbon… like the extra flavor the bourbon adds. That said, vodka works nicely and is great for delicate recipes where the bourbon flavor might be too strong. I like mine to sit for a number of months before using.

    lo’s last blog post..Milwaukee Creole: Barbequed Shrimp

  12. Hmm. You guys are convincing me to try the Bourbon.

    Maybe I should do a few more batches. Maybe one with vodka, one with the cheap rum, and one with Bourbon. Then I’ll do a taste test…

    1. So, Ann Marie, did you do your scientific study and taste test? Which flavour reigns supreme? 🙂

  13. We have a friend who make organic vodka here in Portland (Elemental Vodka from Highball Distillery). I’ve been using that + organic vanilla beans to make vanilla. Lot less than $20/8 ounces. The gift idea is great!

    Chris’s last blog post..Persian Love Cake, Modified

  14. I second or third or fourth the BOURBON:)
    https://vehementflame.blogspot.com/2009/03/spice-series-homemade-vanilla-extract.html

    But I have used something called White Lightening before!!!
    the bourbon only takes 2 weeks- and it ages well.

    Vehement Flame’s last blog post..Parippu

  15. I can’t wait to try this! I think I will try one jar with bourbon and one with rum. Thanks for sharing the method. 🙂

  16. This might be a “duh” question, but bourbon is made from corn. How do you know it’s not GM corn?

    I have celiac disease and have to be careful using grain alcohol (bourbon also has barley malt in it). I will try making the vanilla with Ciroc vodka, which is made from grapes. I second the request for a weight measure of the vanilla beans.

    Thanks!

  17. The weight of the vanilla beans isn’t really very relevant. Beans vary a lot in their potency. As a general rule, for instance, Mexican beans are stronger, but Madagascar beans have a better flavor.

    And to a certain degree, there’s a limit to how much of the vanilla flavoring will be extracted by the alcohol. If you put 100 beans in there, it’ll taste exactly the same as if you put 50 beans in there. That’s why the “everlasting” vanilla idea works. Eventually, you’ll deplete all the flavor.

    But it’s not like this is a critical ingredient. If your vanilla is a little stronger or a little weaker, it doesn’t keep the cake from rising; it only affects the flavor, and you will soon learn how much to use.

    Incidently, you might note that real vanilla loses a lot of potency when you put it in frozen goods or baked goods. That’s not true of vanillin or ethyl vanilla, the two most common forms of artificial vanilla. I use artificial vanilla for baking or for ice cream, regular vanilla for refrigerated or room-temperature foods.

    Harl Delos’s last blog post..Keeping Your Personal Magic Alive

  18. This is great stuff! I’ve gotten some nice vanilla beans at very nice prices from these folks:

    https://www.organic-vanilla.com

    The prices are so good, in fact, that I’ve made vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, hot vanilla, and vanilla ice cream with REAL beans. One of these days I’ll try vanilla paste.

  19. Wonderful idea! I’ve made lots of herbal tinctures and extracts, but never vanilla.

    I have some beautiful vanilla beans in the cupboard. They won’t stay idle for long!

    Holly’s last blog post..Weaning Babes off the Boob the Real Food Way…Homecooking Tips from a Miami Eco-Chef…a Spring Vegetable Braise…Homemade Seitan

  20. I made home-made vanilla for Christmas gifts one year. It is so easy, though it does take some planning. You have to start it around Thanksgiving if you want to have it in time for Christmas. I noticed recently that many of my family members still have the pretty little bottles sitting on their shelves two years later. I guess it doesn’t go bad, but I was surprised that they still had them. We go through so much vanilla in our house! For one thing, it is my favorite flavor to add to smoothies.

    Stephafriendly’s last blog post..Nettle Chai Tea

  21. Stephafriendly –

    I wonder if it’s because people don’t bake as much as they used to. Or if they are baking, they are using storebought mixes and slice-and-bake cookie dough. Very few people go to the trouble of baking their own cookies these days…

  22. I’m on my second batch of homemade vanilla and I’ve heard that if you use vodka (I did because it’s cheap), you should add some bourbon or rum at the end to improve the depth of the flavor. I’m planning to try it this time.

    Julie’s last blog post..Working with Different Types of Starter Cultures

  23. I don’t know what kind of corn Bourbon is made from.

    This site says that Maker’s is made with non-GMO corn:

    https://www.alcademics.com/2008/10/makers-mark-distillery-visit.html

    Apparently Jim Beam is using GMO corn:

    “Beam is made from corn, rye, and barley. Interestingly, we get GMO corn in the US bourbon, but they distill, age, and bottle non-GMO spirit separately for export to Europe where they have restrictions against GMO products.”

    https://www.alcademics.com/distilling/

    I guess it depends on the brand of Bourbon you buy. Maker’s is safe or one of the small batch Bourbon’s I bet. I don’t like the taste of Jim Beam or the lesser brands — not surprising that they are using GMO corn!

    Another reason to use rum or vodka. Of course, soon you will have to watch out for rum b/c it is made from sugar beets and they just introduced GMO sugar beets.

    Regarding the weight question… I had short to medium length beans — maybe 6 inches. This is not scientific though — like baking. Don’t worry about the exact measurements.

  24. I have been wanting to make this, it is so expensive in the stores…if you buy the good stuff! Thank you for this great recipe, I will definitely be starting this ASAP so I can have it in the pantry…Your awesome!
    Melanie

  25. Ok, way back when I made my vanilla (the jar is labeled 7/09!) I just pulled it out (forgot about until just the other day) and the vodka smell is overwhelming. Can I heat it to boil off the alcohol? Is the batch to be dumped? Suggestions?
    Thanks, Anne Marie.

  26. I made vanilla for my 4 girls last Christmas, they all loved it and I have refilled each of there bottles. I used mostly cheep vodka with a little splase of dark rum, started it in July in two quart mason jars, then put it in pretty 10oz bottle, with a few fresh beans in each bottle. Our family are non-drinkers so I’m the only one that has the bottles of booze, I guess i’m going to be the refiller. I keep a quart jar going in my pantry and have a smaller bottle I use in with my baking supplies and refill the small one as nessary. So I always have some that is done and some doing its wonderful thing.

  27. I’ve been making vanilla extract this way since 2004! I even packed my bottle up in my suitcase when I moved from Hawaii to our farm. I use the beans over and over and add new ones maybe yearly. Lately though, when we get to the bottom of the bottle the fluid becomes cloudy. This hasn’t always happened. I don’t know why. Has anyone else had this experience? My husband brought home some kind of clear liquor from Montenagro (a gift from the Montenagrans he was working with). It didn’t work at all!! It ruined my beans! I don’t know what it was but :o(

  28. Wish I would have seen this sooner! I made vanilla extract with 360 brand vodka (bonus: it came in a flip top bottle!) as Christmas presents last year, and my recipe stated to let it sit for SEVEN MONTHS! Here I felt like a jerk telling everyone to wait until July to use it. Now I feel like a jerk for telling them that because it was probably wrong! I’ll have to try mine now…

    I definitely thought bourbon vanilla would taste better, but I don’t drink the stuff so I didn’t want to buy it. I bought bulk beans so I’ll watch for Maker’s Mark to go on sale and use it for my next batch. Also, my recipe said reuse the beans until they lose flavor, probably seven years. Just add more alcohol and let sit. So economical!

  29. The amount really shouldnt matter too much. It is just infusing it. It will get stronger the longer it sits, so if you put in a lot, it will just infuse a little faster. It will only get so strong though.

  30. I really want to try this! I’m growing a vanilla bean orchid in the hopes that someday I will get some vanilla beans!

  31. I’m new to the GAPS diet, so I am still learning and gathering information before starting the diet. Is bourbon GAPS friendly? I’d like to try bourbon for this vanilla, but I want to make sure it’s legal first. If it’s not, what is a good brand of vodka that would be gluten-free? I know very little about alcohol, and I was lost at the grocery store the other day when I was looking for which vodka to buy. 🙂

  32. Hi there, just a question. When using the vanilla extract alongside with fermented foods ie making kefir vanilla ice cream. Wouldn’t the alcohol kill the beneficial bacteria?

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