If you bake anywhere near as much as I do, you probably go through vanilla extract pretty quickly. At one time, I felt like I was buying those tiny little bottles every few weeks. And those babies aren’t cheap! The good news is, homemade vanilla extract is easy and, over time, cheaper. Let’s make some!
The best thing about making homemade vanilla extract is that you only need two ingredients: vanilla beans and alcohol.
How to make homemade vanilla extract
I know I said making your own vanilla extract is cheaper over time, and off the bat, you’re probably thinking, hey, vanilla beans aren’t cheap! Hear me out. I know they’re not the cheapest things out there. At my local grocery stores, I’m lucky if I can find a jar with ONE bean for $9 or $10. When I stumble upon a jar with TWO beans, you bet I buy it. Even if I don’t use them immediately, vanilla beans usually have a pretty long shelf life. You can also buy them in bulk online if you’re having a hard time finding them in your stores.
Now, there are two main types of vanilla beans you should know: grade A (gourmet) and grade B. For extracts, you want to look for grade B beans. You can read more about the differences and science behind the different grades here , here, and here. And here are some grade A beans if you’re curious.
Next is the alcohol. The first choice is usually vodka. It’s clear, neutral, and takes on other flavors easily. For this post and recipe, I used bourbon for a deeper flavor. You could also use light/clear rum or brandy, depending on what kind of flavor you’re going for (aside from vanilla, obviously). Light rum will result in a smooth, rich flavor. Brandy will make your extract heavier and sweeter. Ultimately it’s up to you! Whichever alcohol you decide, choose one that’s good quality (but doesn’t have to be top-shelf), and make sure it’s at least 80 proof. For my vodka batch, I used Dixie Southern, and for my bourbon batch, I used Four Roses. Each of those is roughly $20 for a fifth (750ml).
Up front, you can spend up to $40 for ingredients, depending on how many beans you buy, or the alcohol you choose. I know I said this was more cost-effective. Over time, it is. A 6-8 ounce bottle of good, pure vanilla extract at the store might run you $15 or more. By buying your own beans and alcohol, you can make multiple bottles of extract the way YOU like it, control the quality and quantity, and save money in the long run.
To make homemade vanilla extract, you will need:
The bottles I used are actually recycled from my Aldi wine advent calendar. They’re about 6 ounces each, so the perfect size for making some extract. If you want to get larger bottles (or already have some on hand), that’s perfectly fine. You’ll just add more beans. I like clear bottles so I can see how dark the extract gets over time.
For reference: the bottle on the left was made with vodka a couple months ago, so it’s much darker. The bottle on the right was made most recently (for the purpose of this post) with bourbon. It’ll get richer and darker over time!
Here’s how to make homemade vanilla extract!
- Carefully split your bean(s) in half, but don’t slice it completely through—just enough to split it open and expose the beans on the inside.
- For every 8 ounces of alcohol, add 1 split bean to your bottle(s).
- Fill bottle(s) almost to the top with your alcohol.
- Give your bottle(s) a good shake.
- Put bottle(s) in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks. The longer you let it rest, the stronger and deeper the flavor will be.
- When it’s ready, use it in your favorite recipes!
That’s it! See, pretty easy. Over time, you’ll find that making your own vanilla extract is way more cost-efficient than buying those tiny bottles at the store.
If you enjoyed this post, you can sign up for my email list to get more just like it sent to your inbox every month!
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 1-2 whole vanilla beans (grade B if possible)
- 8 oz alcohol (vodka or bourbon work best)
Carefully split vanilla bean(s) in half to expose the seeds, without cutting through it completely.
Add split bean(s) to bottle.
Fill bottle almost to the top with alcohol of choice, and close tightly.
Give the bottle a good shake, and store in a cool, dark place for at least one month.
Shake before using, and then use it as called for in your favorite recipes.
NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) for any sales generated via those links. Thanks for your support!