How to Make Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract (2 Ingredients)

Homemade vanilla extract is one of the easiest kitchen projects you’ll ever make! Although the simple ingredients may cost a bit, it’s way cheaper than buying it at the store. Plus, it lasts a long time and makes great gifts! This Bourbon vanilla extract recipe is a delicious version that will take your bakes to the next level!

bottle of homemade bourbon vanilla extract.
This recipe is still in progress! This is one month into the six month infusion time.

Homemade vanilla extract is extremely simple. You just need good vanilla beans, alcohol, and time. That’s it! I’ve been making it myself for about a decade now and would never waste my money on store-bought vanilla extract. It takes a little time, though, so it’s important to start it sooner rather than later! I typically make one big batch every 1-2 years and always have lots of vanilla on hand. 

Learn all my favorite tips to make the best homemade vanilla extract ever!

If you’re just as obsessed with vanilla as I am, you’ll definitely want to save some of your vanilla bean pods to make this vanilla honey, vanilla infused maple syrup, or this homemade vanilla bean paste! Once your extract is ready, use it to make these bakery-style vanilla muffins. They’re heavenly!

What is Bourbon Vanilla Extract?

Two things separate bourbon vanilla extract from other types. First, it uses Bourbon whiskey as the type of alcohol. You can also use Madagascar beans, which were traditionally grown on the Bourbon Islands. These are some of the best vanilla beans as they have a strong flavor and high vanillin content.

As the vanilla pods sit in the alcohol, the vanillin and other flavor compounds are pulled out of the beans and into the alcohol. This allows you to add that intense vanilla flavor to your recipes with just a small amount of extract! 

Why you’ll love this homemade bourbon vanilla extract recipe


  • SO EASY TO MAKE – Once you realize how easy it is to make your own homemade vanilla extract, you won’t bother buying it at the store again. If you can slice the beans and add them to a jar, you can make this DIY vanilla extract. It’s much harder to wait for it to cure than it is to make it!
  • INCREDIBLE FLAVOR – Although you can certainly use a neutral alcohol like vodka, bourbon adds an extra depth of flavor to this homemade vanilla extract recipe. It’s worth spending a little extra on the alcohol.
  • GREAT GIFT FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON – Your lovely vanilla extract would make a fantastic homemade gift! You can even make the batches in small bottles to gift any time of year. Just be aware – your friends and family will start expecting you to keep them stocked with vanilla extract every year!
  • NO ADDITIVES, SYRUPS, OR DYES – This is real, pure vanilla extract. There are no dyes, flavors, or additives added, unlike store-bought extract. It doesn’t get more real than this!

Equipment

To make this bourbon vanilla extract recipe, you’ll need:

  • Pint mason jar (or quarter if you want to make a big batch)
  • Cutting board and a sharp knife
  • Kitchen scale
  • Small funnel
  • Small bottles or jars for bottling
bourbon and vanilla beans.

Vanilla Extract Ingredients

  • Madagascar vanilla beans – To make genuine bourbon vanilla, use the right type of vanilla bean. Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans have a high vanillin content, which gives them a classic vanilla flavor. 
  • Bourbon whiskey – Feel free to use any quality you can afford, but aim for at least 80-proof (40% ABV), if not stronger. I used some Wild Turkey because I had it on hand. In general, I’d use a lower-quality whiskey to save a bit of money!
  • Time – Okay, this isn’t an actual ingredient, but I can’t underestimate it. You need a LOT of time for vanilla extract! Give yourself at least 3-6 months (if not longer).

I usually use an entire bottle of bourbon at once, but this recipe uses smaller proportions that can be scaled easily. If you want to use the entire bottle of alcohol, follow these guidelines:

One 750 mL bottle of alcohol is approximately 3 1/8 cups. You’ll need approximately 3.125 ounces of vanilla beans for a single-fold extract. For a double-fold extract, you’ll need 6.25 ounces of beans per bottle of alcohol. 

Need a large batch?

I usually use an entire bottle of bourbon at once, but this recipe uses smaller proportions that can be scaled easily. If you want to use the entire 750 mL bottle of alcohol, follow these guidelines:

One 750 mL bottle of alcohol is approximately 3 1/8 cups. You’ll need approximately 3.125 ounces of vanilla beans for a single-fold extract. For a double-fold extract, you’ll need 6.25 ounces of beans per bottle of alcohol. 

How to Make Bourbon Vanilla Extract

  1. Run a sharp knife along the edge of each vanilla bean. If you’d like, you can scrape out the vanilla caviar to add directly to the jar. 
  2. Add the beans to your mason jar and cover with bourbon liquor.
  3. Close the jar and store it in a cool, dark place. For the first week, shake it every day. Then, let it sit for 3-6 months until the vanilla scent takes over the scent of the bourbon.
  4. At this point, you can either remove the beans and pour the extract into amber glass bottles or just leave the beans in. The extract will continue to get stronger as it sits.
  5. Store in a cool, dark, and dry place and use as desired in your favorite recipes.

How to Store Vanilla Extract

It’s very important to store your extract out of direct sunlight at room temperature. I like to keep my mason jars in a dark cupboard or my pantry.

Amber glass bottles can help keep the extract fresh longer, although I often just use a regular glass jar. The alcohol will last indefinitely, but I recommend using the vanilla within 2 years.

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How to Use

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 and is a star in my Vanilla Muffins.

You can also use it to make your own vanilla bean paste!

When you’re done with the beans, dry them out to make your own vanilla sugar or vanilla sugar scrub!

Sweeten your coffee with this homemade vanilla simple syrup!

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 8 oz of alcohol). It’s just a more concentrated extract.

  • Single-fold vanilla extract: 1 cup of alcohol and 1 ounce of whole vanilla beans
  • Double-fold vanilla extract: 1 cup of alcohol and 2 ounces of vanilla beans

Since the weight of vanilla beans varies, it’s hard to estimate exactly how many beans you’ll need per cup of alcohol. I typically aim for close to 5, but dryer Grade B beans may be much lighter than plump, fresh beans. I like to weigh the vanilla beans on my kitchen scale to make sure I get the perfect amount every time.

Tips & Variations

  • Change the alcohol. It’s just as easy to make your own vanilla extract with vodka or rum as it is to use bourbon! Use what you have.
  • Try different varieties of vanilla beans. You’ll want to use beans with a high vanillin content to stand up to the flavor of bourbon. Tahitian vanilla beans are a personal favorite, but their delicate flavor does better in vodka. Mexican vanilla beans would be a good choice, too!
  • Adjust the scale. You can easily make a smaller batch or a mega batch of vanilla beans. Just follow the basic proportions! 
  • Try Grade B vanilla beans: These ones are usually smaller and dryer, so they’re sold specifically for making extract. They make a really good vanilla extract and are usually cheaper!
jar of bourbon vanilla extract infusing.
Notice how the liquid is getting darker? Keep going until it turns very dark brown or black.

FAQs

What is the best bourbon for making vanilla extract?

Personally, I used Wild Turkey for this post because that’s what I had on hand. I typically use the cheap stuff for making extracts, though! VanillaPura recommends these specific types of bourbon for making bourbon vanilla bean extract. The higher the quality, the more nuanced and smoother your extract will taste.

Can you make vanilla extract with rum?

Yep! Be sure to choose an unsweetened variety. You can use either white or spiced rum.

What is the best alcohol for vanilla extract?

I’ve been making vanilla extract for years and have had great results with both vodka and bourbon. Since vodka is usually inexpensive and has a neutral flavor, I use it as the base for almost all of my homemade extracts. However, I find the rich flavor of bourbon gives the vanilla beans an extra layer of flavor. It’s amazing for really wonderful desserts.

Related Recipes

Ready to really get going? Try these other homemade extract recipes!

simple & from scratch

Learn how to make 15 delicious extracts!

In my ebook DIY Extracts, you’ll learn everything you need to know to make 15 homemade extracts to add tons of flavor to every bake.

bottle of homemade bourbon vanilla extract.

Homemade Bourbon 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 with this bourbon vanilla extract recipe and give some away as gifts for the holidays!
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Curing time 180 days
Total Time 180 days 5 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings 48 teaspoons
Calories 12 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces Bourbon whiskey, 80-proof; can also use rum, brandy, vodka, etc.
  • 1 ounce Madagascar vanilla beans, Grade B

Instructions
 

  • Run a sharp knife along the edge of each vanilla bean. If you’d like, you can scrape out the vanilla caviar to add directly to the jar.
  • Add the beans to your mason jar and cover with bourbon liquor.
  • Close the jar and store it in a cool, dark place. For the first week, shake it every day. Then, let it sit for 3-6 months until the vanilla scent takes over the scent of the bourbon.
  • At this point, you can either remove the beans and pour the extract into amber glass bottles or just leave the beans in. The extract will continue to get stronger as it sits.
  • Store in a cool, dark, and dry place and use as desired in your favorite recipes.

Notes

The yield for this recipe is 1 cup of vanilla extract. Based on a 1 teaspoon serving size, this full recipe will make enough for 48 teaspoons of vanilla extract. 
Feel free to replace the bourbon with any 80-proof alcohol.
Swap out the Madagascar beans for Mexican vanilla beans 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 2 ounces of vanilla beans per 8 ounces of alcohol.
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.
Prefer to make a big batch? Use an entire 750 mL bottle of bourbon and either 3.125 ounces of vanilla beans for a single-fold extract or 6.25 ounces of beans for a double-fold extract. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1tspCalories: 12kcalCarbohydrates: 0.02gFat: 0.01gSodium: 0.1mgPotassium: 0.1mgIron: 0.001mg
Keyword baking, vanilla, vanilla extract
Did you try this recipe?Be sure to leave a star rating!

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25 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 love the smell of vanilla and use this extract in every Christmas cookie I make, it is just amazing and must have item in my pantry.

  4. 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! 🙂

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  7. 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 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    thanks for sharing this! I made vanilla extract several years ago and it was so fun. I’ll have to try it again your way!

  9. 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

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  11. 5 stars
    Thanks so much for sharing your awesome post with us at Full Plate Thursday,505. Hope you are having a great week and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  12. I bet this homemade vanilla extract smells amazing! I love vanilla scented everything. This would be a great Christmas gift.

    Thanks for sharing with us on the Homestead Blog Hop!

    -Cherelle

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

    1. Sandra, I love that! It’s such a simple thing to do and my making your own, you can spend a little more on buying high-quality beans. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

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