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Homemade Vanilla Extract

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Homemade vanilla extract is much more affordable than the store-bought version and it tastes delicious. It’s so easy to make, and it’s a wonderful gift.

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

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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 a big bottle of vodka, but I did it.

I’m so happy that I finally got around to doing this, because making homemade vanilla extract is simple and cost effective. It makes a great gift, too. I love giving this out during the holidays to the bakers in my life.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla extract is much more affordable than the store-bought version and it tastes delicious. ($.49 per ounce)
Print Recipe
Prep Time:5 mins
Cook Time:0 mins
Resting Time:30 d
Total Time:30 d 5 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 8 ounces cheap vodka

Instructions

  • 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!
  • Place the spent vanilla beans (with half the paste still in the beans) in a clean jar and cover with the vodka.
  • Put the jar in a cabinet and forget about it for a month.
  • 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.)
  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 34kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1mg
Servings: 16
Calories: 34kcal

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. I bought the flip-top bottles at the Container Store for my homemade vanilla extract.

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

Note: This post contains an affiliate link.

34 Comments

  1. 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?

    1. Good question! The first time I made vanilla extract, I used one bean with the paste intact and it didn’t come out strong enough. I think some of the flavor soaks out of the pods as well, and scraping part of the insides helps activate the process of flavoring the vodka.

  2. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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!!

      2. 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.

      3. 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. 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?

    1. 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.

  4. I just made some this summer! Nothing beats homemade! 🙂 My name is Cindy and I blog over at Vegetarianmamma.com I wanted to invite you to link up your recipe at our Gluten Free Fridays Recipe Link up party! It happens every Friday and we’d love to have you join us with some of your awesome recipes! You can find this week’s link up here: http://vegetarianmamma.com/gluten-free-friday-recipe-link-up-1/

    Thanks,
    Cindy

      1. Great! Thank you for stopping by our Gluten Free Fridays link up http://vegetarianmamma.com/gluten-free-friday-recipe-link-up-1/
        I have pinned your recipe to our Gluten Free Fridays (recipes) board on Pinterest! Thanks again for making it a huge success! We had over 100 gluten free recipes this week 🙂 I tweeted your recipe, followed you on all social media as well! Glad for to connect!
        Cindy

    1. It seems like much better quality to me, too. I used to skimp on vanilla in recipes that called for a lot, but no more!

      1. I’m not sure. You could check at customer service. I’ve heard great things about Costco.

    1. I’m glad you’re making your own extract, too. I think you’re one of the few people who bakes as much as I do!

    1. Thanks for the question, Sue. I meant to include that in my post. I’ve added a note to the bottom of the recipe with options for ordering beans.

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