Pantry Staples: Easy Homemade Vanilla Extract

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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!

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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’s 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. A double-fold vanilla has twice as much vanilla to liquid. 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 like a double-fold, you may want as many as 5 beans per cup of liquid. That means you would need a minimum of 15 beans per bottle. You would use this if you make lots of desserts where you want the vanilla flavor to stand out, like vanilla ice cream or creme brulee.

Learn more about the different folds here.

What type of vanilla beans should I use?

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.

What type of alcohol to use?

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.

easy diy vanilla extract

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!

Make the 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.

Close. Shake.

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!

diy vanilla extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Save big bucks on your holiday baking while ensuring you have plenty of vanilla extract on hand! Homemade vanilla extract is incredibly easy to make, but takes a few months. Make a big batch and give some away as gifts for the holidays!
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Curing time 180 d
Total Time 180 d 5 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings 750 ml

Equipment

  • Knife
  • Quart jar

Ingredients
  

  • 750 mL Vodka 80-proof; can also use rum, brandy, scotch, etc.
  • 10 beans Madagascar vanilla beans Grade B

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

Feel free to replace the vodka with any 80-proof neutral alcohol.
Swap out the Madagascar beans for Tahitian or another variety, if you prefer.
This recipe makes a single-fold type of vanilla extract, which is great for basic baking.
If you want really strong vanilla flavor for things like creme brulee or ice cream, you may want to increase your vanilla beans to make a double-fold extract. Use at least 15 beans instead of the 10 listed here.
You’ll know your extract is done when you smell the vanilla scent BEFORE the alcohol scent. This takes about 6 months.
I start using mine around the 3-month mark knowing it is not fully ready.
Keyword baking, vanilla, vanilla extract
homemade vanilla extract recipe

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23 Comments

  1. This is one of my most favorite holiday gifts to give – who doesn’t love vanilla?! We use glycerin instead of alcohol but the results are the same. I need to try making mint extract, too – ah, another project!

  2. Thanks for the tip about grade B vanilla beans. I didn’t know they were graded! My mom made some vanilla extract ages ago but she just keeps adding more vodka without more beans so it’s pretty weak now. I need to get some new homemade vanilla extract started for her as a gift this year.

    1. I love your mom’s DIY spirit! I definitely recommend adding some fresh beans to her stash. 🙂 Grade B is such a nice way to save a little money while still making an excellent product. The ones I use are still moist enough that I can scrape out the insides for fresh ice cream or other baking. Happy baking!

  3. I didn’t realize there were different strengths of vanilla extract, but that totally makes sense! I definitely need to do this! My big bottle from Mexico is almost empty! Eek! But I’m excited to try this out following your instructions. Thank you!

    1. Awesome! It’s definitely an EASY thing to make from scratch, it just takes time. I hope you love making it just as much as I do! Good luck! 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    Oh there’s nothing like homemade vanilla extract – but waiting a whole year is TOUGH! Having said that, the longer you leave it, the better it gets! As an aside – I’m an avid milk glass fan too – we go beach combing for it and make art and jewellery from the pieces 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    Thanks for sharing with us at Farm Fresh Tuesdays Blog Hop! Your homemade vanilla is one of my features at this week’s hop! Be sure to stop by and say hi!
    Melissa | Little Frugal Homestead

  6. I didn’t realize when I was ordering the beans that I should have gotten were the Best ones. grade were the ones I got. I ordered the A ones and put 10 into about 650ml of vodka. Will it still turn out?

    1. Hi, there! That’s not a problem. You should have a great batch of extract with those extra nice beans!

  7. Will this work with bourbon as well? It looks so easy! Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party! I appreciate you sharing your goodies. Have a fabulous weekend and see you again on Sunday!

  8. 5 stars
    lovely! It’s been decades since I started making my own vanilla and it keeps for years. A few years ago, I researched why the increased cost of Madagascar vanilla and it was enlighting. I wish those farmers well and support their efforts!

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