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This homemade vanilla extract recipe is super easy to make with just 2 ingredients! Plus, be sure to check out our PDF for cute printable vanilla extract labels that you can download for free.
Looking for a fun DIY gift to give to your loved ones this holiday season? Or if you happen to be a baker, are you perhaps looking to cut your costs a bit on price store-bought vanilla extract?
Consider making your own homemade vanilla extract! ♡
It’s just about the easiest thing in the world to make in just 5 minutes with 2 easy ingredients. And the taste of homemade vanilla extract is extra rich and flavorful, especially when you get to choose the types of ingredients and strength ratio that you prefer. I’ve also long been a fan of making my own homemade vanilla extract because it tends to be considerably cheaper than its store-bought alternative, especially when you are making a big batch in bulk. You can even re-use the beans in a jar of homemade vanilla extract, which will make it even more affordable!
So for anyone interested in giving it a try, here is my go-to homemade vanilla recipe and how-to video. I have also included a supply list if you would like to package your vanilla extract up in cute little bottles for gifting, plus a free printable label PDF (designed by my talented friend, Kelly) that you are welcome to download too. And for those of you looking for a non-alcoholic vanilla extract, I have included an option for you below as well.
Ok, let’s make some vanilla!
How To Make Vanilla Extract | 1-Minute Video
Homemade Vanilla Extract Ingredients:
As I mentioned above, all you need to make homemade vanilla extract are two ingredients — vanilla beans and vodka! A few important notes on each, though, before we get to the recipe down below:
- Vanilla beans: Really, you can make vanilla extract with just about any kind of vanilla beans (Madagascar, Mexican, Tahitian, you name it). But they can get pretty pricey in regular grocery stores, so I typically either buy mine online (such as these vanilla beans from Amazon). The fresher and softer the beans are, the easier they will be to slice open.
- Vodka: No need to splurge on pricey vodka for this recipe! The alcohol is going to absorb the flavor of the vanilla beans, so feel free to grab a cheap bottle of 80-proof vodka and it will do the trick. Alternately, you can use bourbon, rum or brandy instead. But note that different alcohols will slightly change the flavor of the vanilla extract. So if you are looking for the traditional flavor of store-bought vanilla extract, I recommend sticking with vodka.
- Non-alcoholic option: While most store-bought pure vanilla extract is made with alcohol, you can also use food-grade vegetable glycerin in place of the vodka. I recommend ordering it online. And as always when cooking with vegetable glycerin, be sure to double-check that the product is food-grade. (Some types of glycerin are not meant to be eaten.) I recommend using 3/4 cup glycerin + 1/4 cup water in place of the vodka. And also, be sure to note that glycerin vanilla extract will only last for one year.
Vanilla Extract Supplies:
To make homemade vanilla extract, you will also need the following supplies:
- Jar/bottle(s): You can either use small bottles (I used these 4-ounce amber or clear bottles), a large bottle (like this 1-quart bottle), or mason jars to store the vanilla extract. Basically, any glass jar or bottle with a secure lid will do.
- Bottle labels (optional): I used these Brown Kraft 2 x 4-inch labels with the 4-ounce amber bottles and loved them! See below for the downloadable label template.
- Funnel (optional): If your jar/bottles have a small spout, a small funnel will make it much easier to pour in the vodka.
How To Make Vanilla Extract:
It couldn’t be easier to make vanilla extract! Simply…
- Open the vanilla beans. Very carefully, use a paring knife to make a slit lengthwise down the middle of your vanilla beans, halfway through the bean, so that those magical little seeds are all exposed. (No need to scrape out the seeds — they will absorb into the extract as they sit.) Place the opened vanilla beans in your jar/bottle.
- Add vodka. Then fill the rest of the jar up with the correct amount of vodka. (See ratios below.) If needed, tuck or fold the vanilla beans in half so that they are completely submerged in the vodka. Seal the jar tightly with a lid and store in a dark, cool place.
- Wait. Next, you must wait at least 8 weeks before using the vanilla extract. I actually prefer to wait for 3-4 months before I open and use mine, because the vanilla flavor continues to intensify the longer the beans sit. Then once it is ready to go…
- Use in your favorite recipes! Give the jar a good shake, and use the vanilla extract in all of your favorite recipes!
Refilling Your Vanilla Extract:
The great news about homemade vanilla extract is that you can continue to refill the bottle with vodka as you use it! One batch of beans should yield at least two batches of vanilla. So just continue to add in a bit more vodka each time you use it, and your homemade vanilla extract recipe will yield double the initial amount over time.
Vanilla Extract FAQ:
How can you use homemade vanilla extract? Homemade vanilla extract can be used in any recipes that call for vanilla extract. I’m especially partial to using it cookies this time of year. But it can be used in all kinds of baked goods, pancakes, ice creams, drinks, and more.
How do I make double-fold vanilla extract? Double-fold vanilla extracts are made with twice the amount of vanilla beans as traditional store-bought (single-fold) vanilla extracts. As such, they are typically twice the cost. But you are welcome to make your own by doubling the amount of vanilla beans in the recipe below.
Can I use different kinds of alcohol? Yes, as I mentioned above, bourbon, rum and brandy would also work well as a base. Just be advised that they will slightly affect the flavor of the vanilla extract, so it may taste a bit different than the typical store-bought variety.
Can I use water instead of alcohol? Unfortunately no, it’s not safe (think: mold) and will not yield the same flavor.
What is the difference between Type A and Type B vanilla beans? Type A vanilla beans (known as “gourmet” or “prime”) have a much higher moisture content and release their flavor more quickly into a dish, but the vanilla flavor itself is not that strong. By contrast, Type B vanilla beans (known as “extract grade”) are drier and take longer to release their flavor, but the vanilla flavor itself is much more concentrated and ideal for vanilla extract. Clearly, Type B is the way to go here!
Is there a difference in the flavor of vanilla beans from Madagascar, Mexico, Tahini, etc? Yes! According to Nielsen-Massey, Madagascar vanilla beans are full, sweet, creamy and mellow with velvety after-tones. Mexican vanilla beans are deep, creamy, with a spicy-sweet character like clove or nutmeg. Tahitian vanilla beans are floral and fruity with a cherry-like flavor.
How much does homemade vanilla extract cost? The price of vanilla beans can dramatically fluctuate from year to year. But as an example, this year I purchased a 750 ml (3.1 cup) bottle of vodka for $15. Plus 10 vanilla beans for $18.99. Thus, a 1-cup (8-ounce) batch of vanilla cost me around $12.60, which is about the same price that you would pay for a regular 4-ounce bottle at the store. Thus, about half the price, plus it tastes even better!
Free Printable Vanilla Extract Labels:
As I mentioned above, I used these 4-ounce amber (pictured just above) and clear (pictured in the opening photo) Boston round bottles. Then I printed the above PDF on these Brown Kraft 2 x 4-inch labels.
You can download the free PDF with all 10 different labels (as pictured above). Or, if there’s a particular design that you love most, you can print a sheet with just one individual label as well. Here are the links to those PDFs (in clockwise order from top-left): Happy Vanilla!, Happly Vanilla (with confetti), Vanilla, Homemade Vanilla, Homemade Vanilla, Mmmm, Vanilla Extract, Mmmm, Vanilla, I Made This Vanilla For You!, Vanilla Extract, Homemade Vanilla.
If you are making the vanilla extract less than 8 weeks before gifting the bottle to friends, I recommend also writing the recommended use date on the label too.
Learn how to make homemade vanilla extract with this easy recipe and tutorial. Supplies for making cute gift-able bottles are listed above.
- 4 whole vanilla beans
- 1 cup vodka (or see note below for a non-alcoholic substitution)
- Open the vanilla beans. Use a paring knife to carefully split each vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise, cutting halfway through the bean so that the seeds are exposed.
- Combine ingredients in a jar. Place the vanilla beans in a glass jar or small bottle. Pour in the vodka and submerge the beans so that that they are covered. Place a lid on the jar/bottle, and give it a gentle shake.
- Store. Store in a dark place for at least 8 weeks, until the vanilla is a dark amber color.
- Use and enjoy. Use in any recipes that call for vanilla extract. If you would like to strain out the vanilla bean seeds, you can do so with a fine-mesh strainer. But I recommend leaving the vanilla beans with their seeds in the jar. That way, you can continue to gradually refill the bottle with more vodka as you use the vanilla extract. (The beans will last for at least two batches of vanilla extract.)
For a 4-ounce (1/2 cup) small bottle: You will need 2 beans and 1/2 cup vodka per bottle. (I cut the beans in each in half to help them fit in the bottles more easily.)
For the large 4-cup bottle: You will need 16 beans and 4 cups of vodka per bottle.
Non-alcoholic option: In place of 1 cup of vodka, you can substitute 3/4 cup food-grade vegetable glycerin plus 1/4 cup water.
Cooking time: Cooking time listed above does not include the 4-6 weeks needed for the vanilla to soak.