Homemade Vanilla Extract

We’ve been wanting to do this for a while – not sure why we waited so long.

It’s so easy.

Step 1: Order some vanilla beans.  Following some advice given over on food52, we ordered them straight off Ebay.  They were surprisingly cheap, and this particular website even had a “buy three 10-packs get one 10-pack free” deal.  Sweet!

In the process of ordering the beans, we learned that there were two main varieties available – Tahitian and Madagascar Bourbon – and there were two basic grades: Grade A (also called “Gourmet” or “Prime”) and Grade B (also called “Extract Grade”).

Grade A beans are more moist, great for use in cooking, and Grade B are dryer, but perfect for making extract.  We ordered some of both varieties in both grades.

Step 2: Choose a container to hold the extract.  The same website from which we ordered the beans suggested using 10 beans per roughly 5 1/3 ounces of liquor (i.e., 1/3 of a pint).  So we searched for 6 ounce sealable glass containers that looked somewhat nifty, and found these little guys at TJ-Max of all places.  They were initially filled with cupcake sprinkles.

Step 3: Choose your alcohol.  Most homemade extracts are made from vodka, but some use rum.  We chose vodka.

Step 4: Select ten beans of one variety and cut them into thirds.

Step 5: Place the cut beans in the glass container, fill the container almost completely with your alcohol of choice, seal the container, and give it a nice shake.

Step 6: Store the container in a cool, dark place, and shake the container once a day for about a month.  Viola!  Homemade vanilla extract!

The liquid will slowly turn a rich, dark caramel color.  This picture was taken after just one day!

We’ll let you know in a month how it turns out.  We’ve got two extracts going currently: Tahitian and Madagascar Bourbon.  And apparently, you can reuse the same beans to make several batches of extract.  Pretty cool.

If you’ve made your own vanilla extract, let us know how it turned out.

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12 Responses to Homemade Vanilla Extract

  1. I admire you for making your own vanilla extract. This would make a great gift (especially to oneself). Thank you for sharing this!


  2. Wow…Homemade vanilla extract must taste amazing in baked goods! Well done…

  3. Robert M says:

    I have been doing this for years. I like to let it sit for several months. One trick is you can add more vodka to the mix and it will produce for a long time. Just remember when cooking with it that pretty much all brands that you buy are sweetened.

    icemncmth (BGE forum)

  4. Diane Z says:

    My daughter and I also have been making our own vanilla extract for several years. We started after coming across a site that suggested giving extract for gifts. We bought a large bottle of cheap vodka, ordered a LOT of Madagascar vanilla beans (grade B) from Amazon, and some really cute dark blue bottles to put our extract in when finished brewing. After cutting the beans down one side and opening them up, we took a half cup or so of the vodka out of the bottle and stuffed the vanilla beans in. The longer you leave the extract to brew, the better it gets. I keep a bottle going in my cupboard all the time just top off the original bottle with more vodka. Needless to say, the extract was a hit with everyone we gave it to and we get several requests for the “how to”.

    • Crystal says:

      where did you get your jars? also to clarify, you put the beans in the jar of vodka after you took the 1/2 cup of vodka out? and then added fresh vodka to the original jar each time you add more beans?

      • Hey Crystal. We actually got these jars in the discount rack at TJ Max Home Goods. They were full of cupcake sprinkles and marked down like crazy, so we had to get them.

        We’ve seen some similar jars at a couple of those fancy kitchen stores, like Viking or Cook’s Warehouse.

        And to clarify – the original batch includes the cut up beans and then enough vodka to fill the jar. Once the jar gets to about 1/3 full, we just top it off with fresh vodka, leaving the same beans in there. The beans can last a while – we have yet to replace them.

  5. Alex Foster says:

    Maybe it’s the arachnophobe in me, but that first picture looks like a tarantula in a jar.

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  7. Crystal says:

    Great! thanks – also do you use the same concentration of this in cooking as you would imitation … I have never bought real vanilla just because of cost, but I am anxious to try this!
    thanks again!

    • Hey Crystal – sorry for the delayed response. Yes, we use the same amount of homemade vanilla as store bought or imitation, even though the concentration of our homemade vanilla is higher. But that may just be a matter of preference – in fact, we’ve been known to “accidentally” dump a tablespoon of vanilla in a cookie recipe that only calls for a teaspoon. Just know that the vanilla flavor will be more robust when you’re using the homemade stuff.

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  9. Diane Swan says:

    I made vanilla last year – gave as gifts – 8-9 grade B Madagascar beans per 750 ml of vodka – $7.99/bottle -80 proof – started Sept. 1 – shook once a week and decanted into gift bottles 12/15. My gourmet baking friend said it was the best vanilla she ever used and found that she needed only about 2/3 of whatever a recipe called for…..doing it again this year…..a bit leery of buying them on ebay – I like beanilla.com (out of stock currently) – will try olivenation.com

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