Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla extract is such an easy DIY kitchen project. It makes the perfect Christmas or other holiday gift. Recipe from Real Food Real Deals

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I bake a lot, and it seems like every recipe for baked goods includes vanilla extract.  I wince every time I buy vanilla extract because it’s so expensive.  At my Stop and Shop, it costs $9.99 for 4 ounces of their store brand extract, or $2.50 per ounce.  I’ve wanted to make homemade vanilla extract for a while now, and I finally got around to ordering vanilla beans.  Some extract recipes call for using lots of vanilla beans, but I thought I would try using just one and see how it came out.  After making my first batch with one bean, I decided to go with 2 beans in future batches.  I felt funny going into a liquor store and buying vodka, but I did it.  I’m so happy that I finally got around to doing this, because it’s such an easy, cost-effective way to get vanilla extract.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 8 ounces cheap vodka
  1. Slice the beans open lengthwise and scrape out half the paste. Use the paste for another recipe. I made vanilla ice cream, and it tasted incredible!
  2. Place the spent vanilla beans (with half the paste still in the beans) in a clean jar and cover with the vodka.
  3. Put the jar in a cabinet and forget about it for a month.
  4. After a month, open the jar and see if it smells like vanilla or vodka. If it still smells like vodka, put it away for a few more weeks and try again. When you get that nice vanilla extract aroma, you can start using it. (Mine started smelling like vanilla after 3 weeks.)
  5. Top off periodically with more vodka. This should last for many months. When it stops smelling like vanilla, replace the beans or add another one.

Homemade Vanilla Extract Price Breakdown

I bought the cheapest vodka I could find: one liter for $7.99.  With this vodka, the price of my homemade vanilla extract is $3.92 for 8 ounces, or $.49 per ounce.  The store brand vanilla extract at Stop and Shop is $2.50 per ounce, which is five times more expensive than the homemade version.  The amazing thing is that you use the half-spent vanilla bean for this extract, so you can use some of the paste for another recipe.

Note:  If you want to buy vanilla beans in bulk, Amazon has lots of options.  Also, Beanilla has wonderful vanilla beans for just $1 each if you buy 25, shipping included.  I bought the flip-top bottles at the Container Store for my homemade vanilla extract.

homemade vanilla extract rfrd

Linking to Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Frugal Tuesday Tip, Frugal “I Did It” Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Allergy-Free Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Frugal Fridays, Wellness Weekend, Gluten Free Friday, Show and Tell Saturday, Healthy Vegan Friday.

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  1. says

    Between stept 4 and 5, do you take out the extract and transfer to another container? It seems like otherwise, you would be topping off your mixture and making it unusable for 3-4 more weeks. Is that right or not?

    • Annemarie says

      Some people do strain it and transfer the extract to another container, but I don’t. I only top it off with a little vodka each time (1-2 teaspoons), so it’s still useable as long as it retains that strong vanilla smell.

  2. says

    Wow – only 2 beans?! I am in the proceess of making vanilla extract for the first time and from all the research I did, the average was 6 beans per cup of alcohol. I did 5 beans per cup. And then you go ahead and say you can even scrape half of the flavor out of them beforehand too!! I may be able to top mine up with LOTS more alcohol if this is the case!! I think what I am going to do after about 3 months is take the beans from all my jars and mix them into another jar and make a mixed vanilla – I have Tonga, Ugandan, and Indian beans going right now. And WHERE in the world did you get such cheap vodka?! I paid close to $23 for the cheapest Litre of vodka I could find!

    • says

      I’ve seen recipes that use lots of vanilla beans too, but mine comes out great with two beans. I find cheap vodka at the local liquor stores here in eastern Massachusetts.

      • says

        Well, great to know, because the beans really are quite expensive when you need to use so many. It seems like you can get really cheap alcohol in the States then. I have heard others talk about the $10 bottle of vodka they used, and while I know nothing about alcohol, looking around when going out to get it for my vanilla proved that you are not going to find a L for $20 or less. Luckily I live right next to the US border of Washington, so maybe next bottle I pick up will be from there!!

          • says

            I went to Trader Joes for the first time a little while ago when I went to the States and for the same amount, it is HALF the cost in the US. Definitely getting American vodka next time I make extracts!
            Now that mine have been brewing for 6 months, they finally have good flavor. It does take a long time for full flavor to develop, but so worth it. I tried Tonga Vanilla, Indian Vanilla, and Ugandan Vanilla. The Indian Vanilla is my least favorite – it has a weaker, less rich flavor. The Tonga and Ugandan are really similar to me, but I think I would give a teensy edge over to the Ugandan. Just seems a little bit more decadent. I also had enough of the Tonga beans to do a little jar with rum instead of vodka, but that one tastes very much like the one in vodka.
            All are still definitely not as strong as the store-bought stuff, so I seem to use more, but I just love all the varieties you can make when doing your own.
            I am guessing, since you had success with such tiny amounts of vanilla bean, that the key is all in the time and more beans may not make a difference?. I definitely recommend not using until at least 4-5 months, but longer is better. Do you have the same experience?
            Oh yeah, I also made a ‘maple’ extract using fenugreek seeds which I ground up and put in the vodka, then strained after ‘brewing’. SO GOOD. You just have to watch that you don’t use too too much in something like oatmeal or you get a slight bitter aftertaste.

          • says

            I agree, Nikki – the longer the vanilla brews, the stronger it tastes. Thanks for the tip on maple extract. I’ve never heard of that.

  3. Sherilsl says

    So couldn’t I just use one bean with all the paste instead of using two and removing half the paste? Which equals one whole bean. Or is there another reason you use two and remove half the paste?

  4. says

    I keep meaning to try this not you have motivated me. My mom would love this as a Christmas gift. Hard to think of ideas for her – it is not the money but the meaning. Thanks!

  5. Jocelyn Wilmot says

    Thanks I am going to try this. I really like good Madagascar Vanilla. However its just to expensive. I have been usin the costco kirkland brand but am getting low. I just have to find a deal on Madagascar beans

    • says

      I would totally recommend beanilla.com
      They have so many different kinds of vanilla to chose from and decent prices. I love the Tonga and Ugandan vanillas that I got (much better imo than the Indian vanilla… and have you tried Tahitian vanilla, it has notes of cherry/almond in it.
      For me, the most expensive thing was the vodka – Alcohol is outrageously expensive in Canada – definitely crossing the boarder next time I make vanilla or other extracts – it is literally half price in the US compared to Canada (and I got the very cheapest).

  6. Anna Stepka says

    I started making this recipe sometime around the 15th of July. I has been about a month and while my vanilla bean extract smells a little like vanilla it still smells pretty strongly like alcohol. Did I do something wrong? I added the same amount of vanilla beans that is called for and scraped out the beans from one of the pods. I put mine in a glass mason jar. Has anyone else had this issue? Should I just keep leaving it in there or maybe add more vanilla beans?

    • says

      Anna, how is the color? Is it turning brown? It can take a few months before it’s ready to use. There can be some variation based on the freshness of the beans and the type of vodka. Some people do make vanilla extract with more beans than I use, so it certainly wouldn’t hurt to add another few beans if you want. Give it another few weeks and see how it looks. Come back and let me know! :)

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