Homemade vanilla extract is one of the easiest kitchen projects you’ll ever make! Although it costs a bit to get your ingredients, it’s way cheaper than buying it at the store. Plus, it lasts a long time and makes great gifts!
My number one tip:
Don’t overthink it.
Homemade vanilla extract is extremely simple. You just need good vanilla beans, alcohol, and time.
It’s very easy to get focused on the details and start overthinking it! There are different types of beans, different folds, and all kinds of complicated details that we don’t really need to worry about.
Learn how to cook and bake straight from your pantry by keeping a well-stocked pantry!
What does it mean if a vanilla extract is single-fold?
Essentially, a single-fold vanilla has a certain amount of vanilla to liquid (1 oz of whole vanilla beans to 8 oz of alcohol). A double-fold vanilla has twice as much vanilla to liquid (2 oz of vanilla beans to 16 oz of alcohol). It’s just a more concentrated extract.
In this recipe, we use about 3 beans per cup. There are just over 3 cups of vodka in a 750 mL bottle. This makes what I’d call “regular” vanilla extract like what you’re probably used to using.
If you want a really strong vanilla extraction, you may want as many as 6-8 beans per cup of liquid. That means you would need a minimum of 24-32 beans per bottle. You would use this if you make many desserts where you want the vanilla flavor to stand out, like vanilla ice cream or creme brulee.
What type of vanilla beans are best for homemade vanilla extract?
There are quite a few varieties of beans out there and it gets overwhelming! If you want classic, traditional vanilla flavor, get Madagascar beans. There are also Tahitian and Mexican vanilla beans. These are all great and you can make vanilla extract with any of them!
Personally, I recommend buying Madagascar beans for that classic vanilla flavor. Save some money by buying Grade B beans which are a little more dried than Grade A. They’re ideal for making extracts!
I like to buy these organic Madagascar beans. Personally, these are the plumpest Grade B vanilla beans I’ve found for the price! I used to get my beans on eBay and they were always incredibly dry. These ones from Etsy have been really lovely.
I buy 10 beans at a time for about $18.
Best alcohol for vanilla extract
I want a neutral flavor, so I buy vodka. Get the cheapest unflavored, 80-proof vodka you can find. Buy a 750 mL bottle. You can also use rum, brandy, or whiskey.
I like to keep it easy and just get plain, 80-proof vodka. Simple. This one was at Trader Joe’s and after tax, it was about $12.
Why you should make your own vanilla extract
There are multiple reasons to make your own vanilla extract!
First, since you are making it with just vodka and vanilla beans, it is 100% pure vanilla extract. There are so syrups, sweeteners, thickeners, or preservatives whatsoever.
It’s also way cheaper than store-bought pure vanilla extract. This batch costs about $30 to make, which is definitely a small investment! You can always make less, by the way. Just keep a ratio of 3 beans to 1 cup of vodka!
McCormick’s Vanilla Extract is available for $35 in a 16-ounce bottle on Amazon. Costco charges about the same price now, too. This batch makes just over 25 ounces!
How to make your own vanilla extract
Run a sharp knife along the edge of each vanilla bean. This can be a little tricky, so do your best.
Add the beans to your quart mason jar.
Add your bottle of vodka.
Be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight and shake daily for the first week or so.
After that, just let it sit for at least 3 months. After 6 months, I notice that I smell vanilla before I smell the vodka – that’s a sign it’s fully ready! Some people wait a full year.
I usually start using mine at about 3 months knowing it’s not fully ready.
Even at this point, I don’t remove the beans. Just let them keep going!
If you want to store your homemade vanilla extract long-term, pour the completed extract into amber glass bottles.
How to use homemade vanilla extract
There are plenty of reasons to keep homemade vanilla extract on hand! Use the extract you make just like you normally would with vanilla extract from the store.
It is delicious in our Butterscotch Pudding Pie with an Oatmeal Cookie Crust and is a star in many of these 70 Cozy Fall Desserts to Make From Scratch!
Other extracts and infusion recipes
If you loved making your own vanilla extract, you may also enjoy:
Free printable vanilla extract labels
If you want to give the gift of homemade vanilla extract to your friends and family, vanilla extract labels are the perfect touch!
They’ll make it easy for your recipients to remember what’s in the jar and they look cute, too!
I’ve created custom labels in multiple sizes for all of my extracts, infusions, syrups, and sugars. Get your free vanilla extract labels by signing up in the box below!
Free Printable Labels
Label your extracts & infusions in style!
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Is it cheaper to make your own vanilla extract?
Although homemade vanilla extract requires a bit of an investment, it is cheaper in the long run.
For example, this recipe cost me about $30 to make and it produced approximately 25 ounces. That’s $1.20 per ounce.
Compare that to Simply Organic’s organic vanilla extract that currently sells for $20.89 per 4 ounces. That’s $5.23 per ounce!
There are cheaper vanilla options out there, but they’re usually imitation vanilla. For the cheapest real vanilla extract, you need to make it from scratch!
How long does it take to make your own vanilla extract?
This is the hard part – waiting! Real homemade vanilla extract takes about a year to cure. There are tricks to speed up this process.
For example, you can use more vanilla beans, which will help the vodka extract the oils and other compounds more quickly.
Another option is to make your extract in a pressure cooker! I haven’t tried this technique and can’t compare it to the traditional method, but this technique has become quite popular on TikTok.
Is vanilla extract gluten-free?
In theory, yes, pure vanilla extract should be gluten-free because it only contains vanilla beans and alcohol. However, we all know how often companies add other flavors and dyes. If you must avoid gluten-free, choose one made in a certified gluten-free facility like this one or make your own with gluten-free vodka.
Is vanilla extract vegan?
Pure vanilla extract is vegan as it is made only from vodka and vanilla beans. Imitation vanilla extract usually uses a synthetic version of an ingredient called castoreum, which is derived from the anal glands of beavers. Don’t worry – that ingredient isn’t in the storebought vanilla on your shelf either.
Although no vanilla extract has this odd animal product, you can control all of the ingredients in your vanilla extract when you make your own!
Can vanilla extract go bad?
Pure vanilla extract made from real vanilla beans and alcohol will not go bad. The vodka can last forever and will kill any germs or bacteria that try to take hold. That said, the flavor compounds can break down so it’s best to consume within 5 years.
Imitation vanilla extract isn’t quite as shelf stable and typically has a best by date within 2-4 years of production.
Can you use homemade vanilla extract 5 years later after making it?
If your homemade vanilla extract is made from just alcohol and real vanilla beans, it can last indefinitely, even five years later. The flavor may not be quite as robust at that point, but it’s still fine. Thanks, vodka!
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- Quart jar
- 750 mL Vodka 80-proof; can also use rum, brandy, scotch, etc.
- 10 beans Madagascar vanilla beans Grade B
- Slice the vanilla beans length-wise. Place in jar.
- Cover with vodka.
- Close and shake.
- Store in a cool, dark area. Shake at least once daily for the first week or two.
- Let cure for about 6-12 months.