How to Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

This is the ultimate One Size Fits Most gift. It’s appropriate for anyone from 10 to 100, male or female, as long as they
a) love baking
b) love baked goods.
It’s readily available, and can be found in almost everyone’s cupboards already. BUT you can make a superior product for less money in your own kitchen that will wow and bless all your friends.

What am I talking about? What is this amazing gift item?

Vanilla Extract
And now, at the risk of being tacky, I’m gonna answer all your questions about Making Your Own Vanilla Extract (those of you who will receive a bottle from me please dis-remember this post, ok? Cause my mom taught me it was tacky to tell how much you spent on a gift!)

Can you really make your own vanilla extract? Yes! And it’s crazy simple. I think the only reason more people don’t do it is ’cause it can be a little tricky sourcing the ingredients. That’s why I’m gonna tell you exactly where I got everything. :)

What do I need to make my own Vanilla Extract? Three things:
1. Vanilla Beans
2. Vodka
3. A Bottle to put it in.

What kind of Vanilla Beans should I buy?

To my understanding, there are three main types of vanilla beans. I use the Madagascar or Bourbon bean as it creates the same flavor as you would normally get in the grocery store, and is in the middle price range. I purchase my beans in bulk from Amazon this year – 1 Lb (90-100 beans) for $31.95, plus I got a bonus pack of beans ’cause my order was over $30. The beans were extremely fragrant and moist, and came out to $0.32 each.

What kind of Vodka do I use to make Vanilla Extract? The key word here is “cheap”. Any brand will do. I buy it in the largest bottle my liquor store carries, when it’s on sale (I watch our local Pennysaver ads). I got a 60 oz bottle for $17.82.  For those who’ve never been in a liquor store or bought hooch before (like me) it’s clear, like water, and my bottle looks like this…Feel free to inform the cashier what you’re really going to do with 3 gallons of Vodka while you check out if it makes you feel less guilty. ;)

What do I put my Vanilla Extract in? I like to buy little 4 oz. bottles for gifting, but if your making it for yourself you can use any old jar. I bought beautiful, blue, recycled glass jars with corks last year, but this year I got amber jars with a nice little screw cap from Frontier for $0.80 each, half the cost of last year’s jars. If you don’t have acccess to Frontier through your local co-op, these bottles on Amazon were similar in style and price.

How do I make my Vanilla Extract? Pay close attention ’cause this is really simple. 

  1. Cut one vanilla bean in half, then in half again lengthwise. (scissors work great)
  2. Put all four pieces into your 4 oz bottle. 
  3. Fill bottle with Vodka
  4. Cap bottle, label, and wrap ribbon or raffia around for gifting. 

Is that it? Well, the vanilla needs to steep for 4-6 weeks, with an occasional shake. Last year I made my extract in October so it was all ready for my recipients to use in their holiday baking. Didn’t get to it that soon this year, so I’m just telling people to save it till January. They don’t seem to mind and like feeling involved in the process (shake it once in a while! I tell them). I also tell my friends that when the bottle gets half empty, they can add more vodka to get the most out of the beans.

How much does it cost to make my own Vanilla Extract? Well, if you buy your beans in bulk, vodka on sale, and jars by the case, this is the breakdown of what you may end up spending per bottle…
Jars –       $0.80
Beans –    $0.32
Hooch –   $1.15
Total –     $2.27

I know — it’s almost laughable. A comparable product (pure, without any additives) on Amazon goes for $13.

The best part about making and gifting your own Vanilla Extract is the thanks you’ll receive for the rest of the year, ’cause this stuff really is superior to your run-of-the-mill extract. Your friends will adore it, savor it, save it for their favorite recipes, and thank you every time they see you for this little bottle of elixir. (If the raving seems to be over the top, it may be because they drank the whole thing right before they called you, but I have yet to have that happen)

If you want to make a large batch of Vanilla Extract for your own use, you can just put 12-15 beans, snipped lengthwise, straight into a 60 oz bottle of Vodka, or pour it into a quart jar or two like Sarah of Real Food Outlaws did. She has a very informative post about Vanilla Extract over at her blog, which you can check out if I haven’t answered all your questions. 

I’ve made the making and gifting of Vanilla Extract a yearly tradition at our house for many reasons, but my favorite thing about it is that it’s something my kids can do with me. Jesse snipped the beans all by himself this year while I poured the Vodka in the bottles. We did this together with a friends last week and between 3 kids (ages 5-7) with scissors and two mommies we made 30 jars of vanilla in 20 min. And boy, did we all smell good when we were done!

This is just one of the many ways I simplify Christmas so that I don’t get totally stressed out during the holidays. I’m sharing all my secrets with you this week ’cause I want you to have a peaceful Christmas, too!

What’s your best strategy for simplifying Christmas? Ya’ll have been sharing some great ideas in the comments – I appreciate all the feedback and am takin’ notes! 

This post included affiliate links. Using a blogger’s affiliate links to amazon or elsewhere for your shopping is a great way to bless your blogging friends at Christmas time!

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  1. says

    You are my hero…
    I never even thought of doing that and it always frustrates me that I only find chemical junk but no real stuff.
    At a Christian event here a few weeks ago a missionary from Madagascar was selling vanilla beans and man they small good!
    And so I learned something new… :)

  2. says

    I tried this….but for some reason I felt like mine just smelled like liquor. LOL :-) I think I'll try it again. I paid $15 for 8 ounces on Amazon.
    You've given me the gumption to try again. Thanks!

  3. says

    Katie – I don't know about whether organic is significantly better.
    I got my bottles from mountain rose herbs, too, but yeah, they are expensive.
    What are the advantages of bourbon or whiskey?

  4. says

    I love making my own vanilla! I gave it out as gifts last year. Thanks for the link on amazon. Last year I bought my beans and bottles from mountian rose hebs. Way too pricey!! Have you read anything on the importance of the vanilla beans beaing organic?

    I felt the same way when I went to the store. It's even more embarsing when you go to the local costo and run into three people you know. Nothing like looking I a lush! :) I used bourbon or whiskey as my more experienced friend told me it is also called. AMAZING! Even better than the vodka ones. But vodka is more practical becasue I use it to make my tincures.