Homemade Vanilla Extract

IMG_6748I absolutely love vanilla extract! Talk about a fun, easy and delicious homemade gift idea! Organic vanilla extract can be quite spendy at the store, and with these cute jars you cannot go wrong in blessing family and friends and your own kitchen cupboard. I made 6 (4 oz bottles) this last weekend and they are steeping away nicely in my cupboard ready for Christmas baskets. Here’s how I did it:

Supplies:

6 Vanilla Beans
6 (4 oz jars)
24 oz. vodka

I purchased the vanilla beans and recycled glass cork top bottles from Mountain Rose Herbs. The vanilla beans are sold by the 1 oz (which is 6-9 beans) for $9.00, making it about $1-1.50 per bean. The jars were $1.60 each. I purchased the vodka at my local liquor store for $10 for 750 ml (which I figured out is about 26 oz). So you are looking at less than $5 per 4 oz jar, compared to easily double that amount at your local health food store. And with reusable glass jars, you can save even more with future batches (if you are making it for yourself, that is). The beans smelled fabulous! I cut them down the center with scissors and then into 2 inch pieces and put them in the jars. I then filled each jar with vodka and put the top on! That’s it! You must steep them for 8 weeks. Once you have used half the jar, you can refill the jar to the top with more vodka to stretch it even more! Make sure to make a note of this when you send it for gifts. You can also save room to sweeten with a 3/4 tsp of rum per bottle after it has steeped.

You can also use this recipe and steep them altogether, but since I was in a rush getting them ready for Christmas, I chose to steep them individually, so I could send them on their way.

Aren’t they adorable? I just have to make a cute little label tag to go with them! That’s more natural living on a budget for you!

IMG_6749

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

95 Responses to Homemade Vanilla Extract

  1. Priscilla February 21, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    need to figure out how many ounces of vanilla you can make from a bottle of vodka, check out this conversion calculator

    http://www.metric-conversions.org/volume/liters-to-us-ounces.htm

    • Ruth November 21, 2011 at 7:18 am #

      Hi Lindsay! I am really excited to make these for Christmas gifts this year! I was wondering if you know how the 4 oz. cork lid bottles from Mountain Rose Herbs will ship? I have a lot of family in different states that I was hoping to gift these to, but worried they might not survive in the mail. :/

      • Lindsay November 21, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

        Yah..I’d recommend a plastic option instead unless you have lots of bubble rap!

  2. Priscilla February 17, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    I found out ‘why’ Rum would be used to sweet it, look what it is made from….

    Vodka is manufactured from ethyl alcohol. Brandy is from wine/fermented fruit juice. Rum is from sugar cane extract. (source from ChaCha site)

    So, would vodka or brandy be best for the vanilla extra? would the vanilla cover up the vodka or brandy taste, it would matter which I picked? I’ve tasted/drunk either (or any alcohol for that matter). Maybe the deciding factor will be which ever is the cheapest.

  3. Priscilla February 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    you mentioned in the recipe you could use rum to sweeten, after it has steeped.

    this source that sells the beans, has a recipe that uses brandy.
    http://www.olivenation.com/item-84/Bourbon-madagascar-vanilla-beans.asp

    I have no idea the differences of rum, brandy or vodka. How to pick which to use to make vanilla extract? that would be the only reason I’d have rum, brandy or vodka in my house.

    If I open a bottle of rum, brandy or vodka to make a batch of vanilla extract, will any of the un-used rum, brandy or vodka keep okay til I need to refill my 1/2 empty bottle of extract?

  4. Jennifer December 13, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    A funny story
    I planned on following this fabulous recipe you posted but had to wait until my vanilla beans arrived. Just this week I was able to go to the store to buy vodka. Since I don’t normally frequent liquor stores I was completely unprepared for the vast collection of vodka to choose from. Yikes! I had no idea what I was supposed to get. After a quick call to my husband I bought the cheap vodka. Tonight I had time to look up the recipe again and saw that you and I bought the exact same vodka! Whew! And I was so concerned about getting the “right” kind.

  5. Jude December 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. I am following this recipe, making bottles of vanilla for Christmas gifts. They have been steeping for seven weeks, and I have 2 concerns: 1) The color is not getting very dark. I would expect it to be black/opaque by now, but it is still a transparent amber. 2) There appear to be bits of the vanilla beans floating about. I am concerned the recipients would think it looks like dirt. Please let me know if this is normal or what I should do. Do you think they will darken in the next 2 weeks? Thanks!

    • Lindsay December 13, 2010 at 8:05 am #

      It doesn’t get really dark. The amber color may be just right. I best thing to do is strain and re-pour it into the containers before giving to the recipient if you have floaties. But I am sure you can reassure them that it is only vanilla beans and not dirt. Lastly, do a taste test!

  6. Jude December 4, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. I am following this recipe, making bottles of vanilla for Christmas gifts. They have been steeping for six weeks, and I have 2 concerns: 1) The color is not getting very dark. I would expect it to be black/opaque by now, but it is still a transparent amber. 2) There appear to be bits of the vanilla beans floating about. I am concerned the recipients would think it looks like dirt. Please let me know if this is normal or what I should do. Do you think they will darken in the next 3 weeks? Thanks!

  7. Jude December 4, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. I am following this recipe, making bottles of this vanilla for Christmas gifts. They have been steeping about six weeks, and I have 2 concerns: 1) the color is not getting very dark. I would expect it to be close to black/opaque by now, but it still a light amber color. 2) There appear to be little bits of the vanilla beans floating about in the bottles. I am concerned it would look like dirt to the recipients. Please let me know if this is supposed to happen and if I can expect the vanilla to darken in the next 3 weeks. Many thanks, Jude

  8. Carrie November 17, 2010 at 11:55 pm #

    Any tips on labels for the bottles? Also, I know I’ve read other sites that say to use dark amber glass jars, not clear. Did you read that anywhere too? I suppose we usually keep the bottle in the cupboard anyway, so maybe it’s not such a big deal.

    Thanks! I’m hoping to bless some family and friends with these this Christmas! :)

    • Lindsay November 18, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

      You can get some labels from your local officemax or office depot and print them out and stick them out. Or you can hand print a cute card and hole punch a corner and attach around the top with ribbon. Ideally, dark amber glass bottles, but it is stored in a cupboard so I don’t think it is a problem.

  9. Lael November 16, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    Wow wow wow! I would have never thought to make homemade vanilla extract let along how too! How did you know to use vodka and the portions? Wonderful!!! Have you tried other extracts like peppermint or almond??

    • Lindsay November 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

      I found other recipes online and tweeked to fit out needs and size of jars. I have not tried any other extracts as of yet.

  10. Shannon October 14, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    Hi Lindsay. I am getting ready to try this for the first time and have read all the posts. Since this was last year, just wondering how it turned out? Were you happy with the results? Have you since tried it with Brandy or added a little Rum to the Vodka mixuture? Also, do you know if it is white Rum or spiced Rum that you use?
    Thanks for your help.

    • Lindsay October 17, 2010 at 6:34 am #

      It was delicious! I highly recommend it! Thus far I have only use the vodka since I had such great results.

  11. Carpet June 27, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

    Who knew vanilla extract was so heavy on the vodka? Wow!

  12. Tiles June 27, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    Who knew vanilla extract was so heavy on the vodka? Wow!

  13. ahavasheba January 27, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    i was wondering if i could use coco bean to make chocolate exact (liquor) ?, instead of vanilla exact. Could i do the same thing with volka and rum? I just love chocolate! ;-P its yummy

    • Lindsay January 27, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

      There are recipes all over google for homemade chocolate liquor. Check them out!

  14. Mama__B January 4, 2010 at 7:39 am #

    I have a bottle of homemade vanilla in my cupboard. I use brandy, though. I like the deep flavour it gives. If I happen upon some Tahitian beans again, I’ll try them with vodka. Their flavour is more floral and delicate, apparently, so the vodka will let that come through.

  15. Josephine December 9, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    Is it necessary to sterilize the jars? Is just a good washing with hot water and detergent sufficient. Thank you.

    • Lindsay December 10, 2009 at 10:43 am #

      I honestly just rinsed them out for vanilla extract.

    • Andrew April 1, 2010 at 11:43 am #

      the vodka should do most of the sanitary work for you.

  16. Donna December 5, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

    I love the idea. I went to mountian rose website to order the beans and glass jars and the shipping was around $14. So I plan on looking closer to home to buy. Love you blog and all the ideas.

  17. Kelincha December 3, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

    A great idea! I wish I had seen this earlier. I’m gonna do this though and give as birthday presents. Thanks for a great gift idea.

  18. Mrs. Yoder December 1, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    I always prefer to make my vanilla extract with either brandy or bourbon. What I do is scrape the beans clean and put that in a tin to add to various things. Then I take the remaining pieces of scraped bean, cut them up, and put them in a jar with a lid. As soon as I have enough, I pour brandy or bourbon over it all until it’s about 1-2 inches over the beans. Once you have that started, it’s usually easiest to just add fresh bean pieces as you have them and add more brandy or bourbon when it gets low (about half way gone).

    I find that when you do it this way, you have the strongest vanilla tincture possible and it’s just as strong or stronger than a commercial preparation. Then I just divide it into small, pretty bottles for gift giving to the select few I know will appreciate it.

    I really quite like your blog, btw! I thought I’d somehow stumbled onto my own future blog, but alas, pictures of people who are not my family told me it wasn’t. :)

    Mrs. Yoder

  19. samantha November 30, 2009 at 5:24 pm #

    Probably a dumb question but can you just pour a little into homemade yogart? Meaning with the alcohol, is it safe for kids?

    • Lindsay November 30, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

      All vanilla extracts and extracts in general are steeped with alcohol, but they lose most of the alcoholic content through the steeping process. When used in small portions, you really have nothing to fear.

  20. Fruitfulvine2 November 30, 2009 at 9:45 am #

    Sounds great. I’ll have to check into the cost comparison because here on the island vanilla extract is made locally and sold at a very reasonable price. I love the idea of making it myself though so I’ll definitely be doing my research.

    Now I’m wondering about the almond question Tami asked. I’m going to google it. We have almonds falling off the trees around here and not many people pay much attention to them except those who sell them.

  21. Tami November 28, 2009 at 10:51 am #

    Thanks for the post! Have you heard of this done with almonds? I like to use almond extract in a lot of my baking. Thanks!

  22. Mary Lutz November 27, 2009 at 6:54 pm #

    I was doing some “stumbling” and stumbled upon your site. I gave it a thumbs up and subscribed! Look forward to reading more from you!

  23. Meg November 27, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    now that im thinking, could this be done with say, pepermint? or orange rinds? ect ect? this could be a really awesome lil gift pack… oh this was a bad stumble for me… :P

  24. Beverly November 27, 2009 at 12:37 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this great recipe for making vanilla and the gift idea as well!

  25. Raelene November 25, 2009 at 8:01 pm #

    I love your vanilla extract idea and am going to start making some as soon as i buy some jars on friday!
    FYI: Glory Bee Foods in Eugene, Oregon sells vanilla beans 1oz for about $3 and 2oz for about $5!

  26. Kara November 25, 2009 at 4:11 pm #

    I have a question about refilling the bottle with vodka after it is half empty. Do you have to let it steep another 8 weeks again?

    • Lindsay November 25, 2009 at 4:45 pm #

      I am not sure. This is the first time I have done it. I personally will just judge by tasting the strength of the vanilla.

  27. katie November 25, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    This is such a GREAT idea . . I LOVE it! After you’ve used half the jar and refilled it, does it have to steep again? Or is it ready for use immediately?

  28. Elizabeth from The Nourished Life November 25, 2009 at 8:27 am #

    What a sweet gift idea! I’m trying to put together more “nourishing” gifts this year, and this vanilla would make a wonderful addition. Thanks so much for the idea!

  29. kelly November 25, 2009 at 6:40 am #

    love it! i gotta do this!

  30. mandy November 24, 2009 at 7:55 pm #

    Is this a dumb question:
    Does the vodka turn dark like the store variety or stay clear?

    • Lindsay November 25, 2009 at 9:27 am #

      No, it becomes dark as it steeps. The vanilla beans make it dark brown just like the store bought variety.

      • Glenda December 1, 2009 at 11:39 am #

        Hehehe not a dumb question Mandy, I was going to ask the same thing as mine went dark very quickly! Thanks!

  31. Donna November 24, 2009 at 6:18 pm #

    I like this idea and know people who like to bake, but what is in the rest of the basket?
    I was thinking baking ingredients, but the recipients have their own nice and special recipes, so I’m not sure that is a great idea.
    thanks.

    • Lindsay November 25, 2009 at 9:27 am #

      I am just adding this to a gift basket for some of my family and will include other homemade food items (some canned goods, and homemade baked goods).

  32. christy e November 24, 2009 at 5:08 pm #

    i can’t wait to try this recipe! i usually spend about $6 on organic vanilla extract at the store.

  33. Sally in VA November 24, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    Flat out Cool! I was pondering making batches of vanilla sugar, but we really don’t use white sugar anymore and were very conflicted about giving white sugar to others, even if it has been fancy-fied :) But this? This is great!

  34. Joscelyn November 24, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

    I am becoming your biggest copy*cat! I love your blog! It’s a ‘must read and re-read every day’ for me! Thank you so much for all the inspiration! You teach me how to do things I never even thought of doing before! I am going to make vanilla extract now too. :o )

  35. SapphireMind November 24, 2009 at 3:46 pm #

    We make this too – the best part is that you can just keep adding vanilla husks that you use for other things (like custards or ice creams) and make it stronger and better. The longer it sits, the better it will be!

  36. Marillyn November 24, 2009 at 1:58 pm #

    I love it! I keep seeing this everywhere. I seriously must make some for myself and family. I go through a lot of vanilla extract for baking and ice cream. I need to get on with it :o )

  37. Brandi November 24, 2009 at 1:36 pm #

    Going to do this thank you for all your inspriration!!!

  38. MelissaD November 24, 2009 at 12:46 pm #

    This is the same exact way we make our vanilla! We LOOOVE it!

  39. Angela Palmer November 24, 2009 at 12:25 pm #

    Hey Lindsay, you should check ebay for vanilla beans. I have consistently seen them for $30/250grams, some are organic, some are not. It would be a lot cheaper for you though.

    Thanks for writing, I love reading your posts.

  40. pidge November 24, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    Is there anyway to make this without the vodka? I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving it (though I realize that alcohol is in a lot of things.) Maybe, vanilla sugar would be a good alternative?

    • Lindsay November 25, 2009 at 9:35 am #

      Most flavored extracts are alcoholic based. I have only seen a non-alcoholic version sold at Trader Joe’s, but I don’t know how to make vanilla extract without it myself. You might look around some more on google.

    • Amy November 25, 2009 at 1:22 pm #

      If you want true blue vanilla extract, you have to use alcohol. That is what extracts the taste. When you cook with it, the alcohol will evaporate. Those “extracts” that use no alcohol would likely be extracted with chemicals.

      We were fortunate enough to be able to buy organic vodka at the liquor store. I just started doing this about three weeks ago. It will be a lot cheaper for us then buying organic vanilla extract. I was reading that you could use brandy as well. Has anyone every experimented what was better?

    • Amber November 26, 2009 at 3:09 am #

      You can make vanilla sugar very easily. Just cut the bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Mix both the seeds and pods with sugar (try oganic, unrefined – sells for a little over $1/pound at the co-op by me). Store in a glass jar or other container. Let the flavor infuse for a few weeks, shaking every once in a while to make sure vanilla is evenly distributed.

    • aardvark March 10, 2010 at 11:07 am #

      As a tea-totaler, I understand the concerns you have. We do use cooking wines and extracts with alcohol. The amount of alcohol any one person gets in a recipe is minuscule. There is only a teaspoonful in a whole batch of cookies, for example.

      This winter, I went ahead an bought the cheapest, bottom shelf (that’s where to look, BTW) vodka out military booze shop had and made a liter elderberry extract. I took one t. of it four times a day when I got a very bad cold — it’s scientifically tested flu remedy that stacks up to Tamiflu very well. We opted not to get shots. It is also supposed to prevent flu if you take a t./day. Since you need to begin right at the start of the illness, I took it as soon as I felt sick. I almost NEVER get colds. I felt really ODD buying it — almost guilty, but even the St. Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach, right? As genuine medicine, it’s fine. Well, that’s off topic. But the amount in cooking is tiny, so for me, it’s not a concern, even though we do not drink.

      Want a cuppa tea? I have tons ;-)

      • Priscilla February 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

        Would you please share the elderberry extract recipe?

  41. God's Dancing Child November 24, 2009 at 9:41 am #

    I had been making my own, but have a friend that travels to Texas frequently, near the border. They get the most amazing Mexican vanilla for an insanely cheap rate, but still fair to the people that make it.
    Decided to give them money to buy me a giant bottle the next time they go!
    It’s so much stronger and better than what I’ve made at home (and it was good too).

    • Shannon Hazleton November 24, 2009 at 12:32 pm #

      Yes, the Mexican vanilla is so good, and pretty potent! A friend brought me back 2 large bottles from his trip to see family.

      But I would love to try this natural, homemade variety.

      Lindsay, I wonder if your family members and close friends are thinking, “I hope I’m one of the six who’s getting THAT Christmas basket!” ;)

  42. Angel November 24, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    Love it! I saw this idea also and wished I would have planned ahead better for Christmas gifts this year. I’m looking forward to doing it next year though. Do you have any idea where you can find vanilla beans locally?

    • Lindsay November 25, 2009 at 9:34 am #

      Mountain Rose Herbs is pretty local to me. They are in Eugene, OR.

  43. Tonya November 24, 2009 at 8:47 am #

    May I ask where you purchased your adorable jars?

    • Lindsay November 25, 2009 at 9:33 am #

      I provided the link above. I purchased the beans and jars through Mountain Rose Herbs.

  44. Jessica O. November 24, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    We have been making our own vanilla for about a year now. It is just so yummy! We let ours sit 2-4 months though each time. We also just throw all the beans in the vodka bottle and then pour it off when it is all done.

  45. jessalyn November 24, 2009 at 8:04 am #

    wow! I never would have guessed… vodka and rum!!!! How does it taste after the 8 weeks? Is it very similar to the store bought variety?

  46. Brittany November 24, 2009 at 7:28 am #

    What a wonderful, wonderful idea! We go through vanilla extract like crazy in our house — especially during the holidays. This will be a wonderful addition to my list of “Handmade” instead of store bought. Thank you for sharing!

    • Rachel November 24, 2009 at 6:23 pm #

      Thanks for the link. I didn’t realize making vanilla extract was so easy. :)

  47. April November 24, 2009 at 6:42 am #

    Lindsay, I have done this before, but thought you were supposed to scoop out the seeds. Is it better not to, or do you think it even matters?

    • Lindsay November 25, 2009 at 9:33 am #

      I looked at several recipes online that used this method as I described. I did not come across any that talked about scooping out the seeds…so I am sure it is fine.

    • Dallas November 26, 2009 at 6:52 am #

      DON’T scoop out the seeds, that’s where most of the essence comes from…haven’t you seen the cooking shows where they scrape the seeds out and add the seeds to whatever dessert they are doing? :)

  48. Deb November 24, 2009 at 6:39 am #

    These are just precious – I’ll bookmark this so I can refer back to it when I’m ready to make my own :)

  49. Stephanie November 24, 2009 at 4:46 am #

    I learned how to do this a couple of years ago and have never had to buy vanilla from the store again! I love the gift idea too!