Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

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With all of the baking that we do in our home, having quality ingredients is very important to me. Homemade vanilla extract is very easy to make and adds a delicious flavor to baked goods.

Two glass bottles with vanilla beans for vanilla extract in them

Years ago, before we moved to Alaska, at our last duty station, a sweet friend gifted me with two bottles of her homemade vanilla extract. I didn’t even know that you could make your own vanilla extract, I had always bought it at the store.

What a special gift that was to me, and still is. Vanilla extract was one of the first ways that I started making my kitchen more homemade. It opened the door for me to start making so many other homemade items in my kitchen and it has only grown from there.

Homemade vanilla extract is so easy to make, smells amazing, and adds such a delicious flavor to all types of baking recipes that store bought extract just can’t compare to. You don’t need much to make you own bottle.

Ingredients for Vanilla Extract

  • Vanilla Beans-I buy vanilla beans from our local health food store. The price fluctuates depending on the market, anywhere from $20-25 for less than an ounce (2 or 3 beans). They are a bit expensive, there’s no denying it. However, over time, it will cost less than continually buying bottles of extract from the store.
  • Vodka-Brandy, rum, and bourbon will work as well.

Equipment You Will Need

  • Large glass bottle-I have a glass bottle that holds about a quart of liquid. A jar will do too. I keep a smaller bottle as well that I refill as needed with the “mother” bottle. It fits better in my cabinet for easy access.
  • Knife-for slicing the beans open.
  • Funnel-to easily pour the alcohol into the bottle, optional.
Hand placing vanilla bean into glass jar

How to Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

  • Very carefully slice the beans down the center just to open them up a bit.
  • Drop the beans into the bottle.
  • Fill the bottle with vodka, enough to fully submerge the beans.
  • Allow it to sit for several months or even better, close to a year until the alcohol becomes dark.
  • Refill with fresh alcohol as needed and add a new bean or two once or twice a year.

Is it Expensive?

Making vanilla extract at home does have an initial cost to get it started. Prices are a bit high up here in Alaska where we live so it might cost less depending on where you live. Vodka prices (or brandy or rum, whatever alcohol you use) vary by brand so you can choose how much you spend on it.

Vanilla beans will also vary depending on where you purchase them and the current market price. The cost fluctuates up here but usually stays around $20-25 for two or three beans.

If you have a glass jar available at home you won’t need to purchase one of those. Any jar or bottle will do!

Yes, it does cost more to start your own vanilla extract versus buying a bottle from the store. However, the bottles of pure vanilla extract at the store can be expensive and they add up the more you bake with it. We have found that over time, the cost becomes less to maintain my extract compared to how much we would spend buying bottle after bottle at the store. Plus, the quality of making your own is far more valuable and the flavor is delicious.

Why Do You Keep Two Bottles?

I started with just the one small bottle that my friend gave me. It can hold 4 ounces. A few years ago, another wonderful friend passed on her homemade extract to me as well! She was moving and was unable to take it with her. It is a much larger bottle that can hold 32 ounces.

Because I use vanilla extract so often, I have found that I really like having a large “mother” bottle to keep in the pantry and the smaller bottle to keep handy in my little spice cabinet. This way, I never run out of extract. I just refill the smaller bottle as needed. I also keep a small bottle of extract made with rum for a slightly different flavor.

How Often Do I Need to Add New Beans?

This is a personal preference. I like to add two or three new beans once or twice throughout the year. This is just to keep the flavor strong. I only have to purchase a new bottle of vodka a couple of times during the year to refill my mother bottle as needed.

Gifting Vanilla Extract

A bottle of homemade vanilla extract makes an extra special gift to anyone who enjoys baking. I go to our local health food store where they sell small glass bottles. I add a couple of new beans to the bottle, pour in some of my own extract, and then fill it the rest of the way with fresh vodka. If you plan on gifting some for Christmas, start a few bottles in the spring or summer so they’re ready in time!

Tie a little twine or ribbon around the neck with a tag that tells the recipient what it is, when it was made, and instructions for how to maintain it. I still have the tag that my friend gave to me years ago and it reads “steeping since August 2014”. I have kept it going all of these years and am still so thankful that she made it for me.

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