You can make this homemade vanilla extract recipe at home with just 2 ingredients! Use my free printable PDF vanilla extract labels to turn this into a cute DIY holiday gift or to label your own bottles at home.
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If you’ve never had homemade vanilla extract before, you’re in for a real treat! Once you’ve tasted this incredible essence you’ll never go back to store bought.
Chances are you’ve seen how expensive those little bottles of vanilla can be at the grocery store. While purchasing vanilla beans can also seem expensive, you’re going to get so much more for your money and end up with loads of extract that you can give as gifts or keep for months to ultimately save money.
This is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make. It requires only two ingredients and then the patience to let it sit for a few months before using. It’s definitely worth trying at least once in your life!
Why I think you should make your own vanilla extract
Homemade vanilla contains vanilla beans
When you make your own extract at home you’ll see that you get hundreds of little vanilla beans in every use. These beans add tons of flavor and a beautiful scent to your baked goods that just can’t be replicated, even with the most pure store bought variety.
Homemade vanilla saves you money
Even though it’s a big investment up front, you’ll also be saving money. Costs vary greatly depending on quality, but a similar quantity might cost you close to $100 if purchasing from a grocery store or online.
If you can find a good deal on vanilla beans and vodka this should come in under $75 for a quart of vanilla, with some vodka left over for drinking and maybe even a few vanilla beans to use in some homemade vanilla ice cream.
You’ll save even more if you use your beans to create more than one batch of extract or choose lower quality beans. See the top tips below on how to reuse the beans and a few options on where to buy.
Homemade vanilla uses only two ingredients
My homemade vanilla extract requires only vanilla beans and vodka. When you make your own at home, you’ll know that your extract doesn’t contain any extra ingredients that some people might want to avoid like gluten or colors.
- Mason jar (affiliate link)- You can choose pint, quart, or any other size you’d like to make. This is for storing the vanilla as it is infusing in the vodka.
- Amber glass bottle – This isn’t 100% necessary but makes it convenient to use your homemade extract and labeling if desired.
- Knife – You’ll use this to cut open your vanilla beans. You could also use sharp kitchen shears.
- Funnel – Also not totally necessary, but will make it a lot easier to transfer the extract from your mason jar to your amber bottles.
- Labels – This is only necessary if you are gifting or might forget what is in your bottle. I have a free printable PDF you can grab down below!
- Vanilla beans
How to make
- Wash your mason jar in hot, soapy water, or dip into boiling water for a few seconds to sterilize. Allow to air dry.
- Slice each vanilla bean in half lengthwise, leaving the top ½ inch of each bean uncut.
- Place the beans in the mason jar and top with vodka. Use 6 beans for a pint size mason jar or 12 for a quart size.
- Cover and store in a cool, dark place for 2-4 months, shaking the jar once a week.
- Transfer the vanilla to amber glass bottles and store indefinitely.
Free printable vanilla extract labels
You can download my free PDF labels for your vanilla and print them off on label or sticker paper. I purchased my paper from Hobby Lobby, but you could also buy this one from Amazon.
I like using sticker sheets rather than perforated labels because you can create any kind of label in any size and not have to worry about lining anything up on the paper. You could also purchase sticker paper and just write whatever you’d like on there, which is a great personalized option if you’re creating this as a gift.
Top tips and questions
What kind of vanilla beans to use for homemade vanilla extract
I like to use Madagascar vanilla beans for my homemade extract. Really any variety would work, just be aware that they will all have slightly different flavors.
Where to buy vanilla beans
I always buy my vanilla beans from Olive Nation. If you sign up for their email list you can keep an eye out for discounts and sales, which are a great time to buy large quantities of vanilla beans!
You will save money if you choose a lower quality vanilla bean such as these from Amazon. I went with the best beans I could buy, which is why mine ended up being more expensive.
I do not recommend purchasing vanilla beans at the grocery store. You usually can’t find large quantities, and the prices are marked up quite a bit. Not to mention they may have been sitting there for months. Ordering online is the best way to ensure freshness.
What is the best vodka for homemade vanilla extract?
I don’t think the vodka makes much of a difference here, so feel free to buy cheap. I bought a big bottle of bottom shelf (cheap) vodka to use for making this extract and using in recipes like my penne with vodka sauce.
Can I use other kinds of alcohol?
You can make vanilla extract with brandy, bourbon, or rum instead of vodka. This will change the taste a bit, much like if you used a different variety of vanilla beans.
How long do I need to let homemade vanilla sit before using it?
If you’re using a pint size jar to make your vanilla, wait at least 2 months before using. The flavor will increase with time, so it is ok to let it sit longer.
If you’re using a quart size jar you’ll want to wait at least 4 months before using.
What is the shelf life of homemade vanilla extract?
Your vanilla will keep indefinitely in the amber bottles, but I would recommend using it within five years. This shouldn’t be too difficult to do since it’s so delicious and you can always gift extras!
Where to buy bottles for storing vanilla extract
Use mason jars to store your vanilla while it is infusing over a few months. After that I like to store extract in amber glass bottles to preserve its freshness.
You can get a 12 pack of amber bottles with caps pretty cheap on Uline. This two pack from Amazon is a little more expensive but comes with cute chalk labels if you’d rather use those than the PDF I provided!
Can I reuse vanilla beans after making homemade vanilla?
After transferring your extract to the amber bottles, you can refill your jar with fresh vodka, using the same beans you used previously. The resulting extract won’t be as potent, and you may need to let it sit longer, but it will work to reuse.
Alternatively, if you are storing your vanilla with the beans long term you can just add another splash of vodka every time you use some out of the mason jar.
Can I just put vanilla beans in a jug of vodka?
If you want to make this easy recipe even easier, place your cut vanilla beans right in your jug of vodka. You may need to pour out a little bit of vodka to make the beans fit (I recommend making a few spiced screwdrivers as a way to enjoy that vodka), but you can store this just like you would a mason jar.
Make sure you are using enough beans for your amount of vodka if you choose to go this route.
What is double-fold vanilla?
Double-fold vanilla is a stronger vanilla made with more beans. I’m making single-fold vanilla by using 6 beans per 16 ounces of vodka. If you want a stronger vanilla and don’t mind the price, feel free to add more beans to your jar before adding the vodka.
What is the best way to turn homemade vanilla extract into a gift?
I think ready to use vanilla extract makes the best gift, packaged in labeled amber bottles. If you weren’t planning ahead, you can always put a few cut vanilla beans into one of the amber bottles, top with vodka, and label it with the date that it will be ready to use. Adding a pretty bow of twine or ribbon or wrapping in a new kitchen towel turns it into a pretty little gift!
Recipes using homemade vanilla extract
- Banana Bundt Cake with Vanilla Glaze
- Vanilla Almond Vegan Baked Oatmeal
- Summer Fruit Salad with Honey and Vanilla
- Boston Cream Whoopie Pies
- Vegan Cookie Dough for One
- Vegan Cookie Dough Bars
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream
- Chocolate Oat Bars
More essential recipes
- Honey Simple Syrup
- How to Make a Flax Egg
- Healthy Taco Seasoning
- Butternut Squash Puree
- How to Cook Quinoa
If you make this recipe, be sure to rate it, leave a comment, or tag #theliveinkitchen on Instagram!
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 12 vanilla beans
- 4 cups vodka
- Wash one quart size mason jar or two pint size mason jars in warm soapy water, rinse, and allow to air dry.
- Using a sharp paring knife, cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise, leaving the top ½ inch of the bean uncut.
- Place the vanilla beans in the mason jar (or divide between the two if using two jars) and top with vodka (dividing if necessary).
- Screw the top on tightly, give the jar a shake, and store in a cool, dry place for 2-4 months, shaking once a week or so.
- Use a funnel to transfer the vanilla to smaller amber glass bottles for long term storage.
I’ve never made my own vanilla extract, but I should! It’s so easy and you’re right — way better than the imitation stuff! 🙂
What a lovely recipe! Thanks for the great idea. My wife and I use Infinity Jars and they are absolutely great for keeping these vanilla extract fresh for a long period of time.