Just your friendly neighborhood PSA: if you want to make homemade vanilla extract for the holidays (either to bake with or give as a gift), now is the time! Homemade vanilla extract is super simple to make, but it needs to sit for a while (8 weeks or more) so it’s time to get started!
This is the first year I’m making my own homemade vanilla extract, but I’ve only heard great things! And if this tastes better than store-bought, then I’m sure I’ll be hooked. We’ll be making this together!
If you’re giving vanilla extract as a gift, choose a nice bottle, tie with some ribbon, and add a note as to when it’ll be ready to consume (it doesn’t have to be ready when you give it, so you have some time!).
As always, I do include a few affiliate links in this post for products I truly use and love. This just means that if you make a purchase after clicking one of those links, I’ll earn a little money (at no cost to you) to keep the kitchen up and running, which I promise to use to create more fun content like this! One of those affiliates is with Amazon, which requires a very clear disclosure: as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you have any questions about affiliates, please reach out!
What you need to get started
- Vodka – You don’t need to use anything special here. Choose a vodka that is fairly neutral (certainly not flavored) and 80 proof. I like to use Prairie Organic Spirits vodka beucase it’s a nice, smooth, organic vodka that doesn’t break the bank. You can also make vanilla extract with bourbon, brandy or rum, but note that you will taste a difference. But that could be a great thing!
- Vanilla beans – You can use any kind of vanilla bean, but I used these Madagascar Vanilla beans that I ordered on Amazon.
- Small bottles with lids – I used these small 4 oz. glass bottles from Amazon (knowing that I intend to give these away as gifts), but you could use any size / shape bottle, as long as it has a lid to close.
And seriously, that’s it! You may also want to label your bottles so you remember when you made them and when they’re ready to use. If you’re making just one batch it’s easy enough to remember, but if you have multiple going, you’ll want to keep track.
How to make homemade vanilla extract
- Wash and dry your bottles
- Cut your vanilla beans in half, longways, to expose the vanilla bean paste inside. Make sure they’re also short enough to fit into your bottle, and place them inside
- Fill with vodka and close with the lid
- Give them a good shake and store them in a cool, dry place. You’ll want to shake them every week or so, but they’ll be ready to use in 8 weeks! The longer they sit, the more flavorful they will be, so feel free to let them sit longer!
- Once you’re ready to use the vanilla, you can top it off with a little more vodka to keep the bottle full. Add a fresh vanilla bean whenever you have one on hand / think about it! This will keep your extract going indefinitely (seriously…. you can keep this going for years!). Alternatively, you can remove the vanilla beans, and use up the bottle until empty.
Homemade vanilla extract FAQs
How long do I have to store before using?
Let the vanilla extract sit for at least 8 weeks before using. The flavor will only get better the longer it sits, so feel free to give it more time!
What if I forget to shake the bottles?
Don’t sweat it! Shake them whenever you think about it. Once per week is a good goal, but sometimes that just isn’t realistic, so shake them whenever it comes to mind.
There are little floaters in my bottles – what should I do?
The floaters are the seeds from the vanilla bean — this is a good thing! This is the most authentic vanilla extract, so don’t worry about it. They’ll be delicious and you won’t even taste them.
Do I need to take the vanilla beans out?
You can either add a little more vodka to the bottle each time you use it, and make this a continuous bottle of extract, or you can remove the beans and use the bottle until empty. As long as the beans are covered in vodka, they’ll remain preserved and continue adding flavor!
How many beans do I need to put in each bottle?
I’d recommend at least 3 vanilla beans in a 4 oz. bottle, but you can always add more or less — it’ll just change how strong the flavor of the extract will be.
I’ve written up a quick set of directions below, but let me know what you think! Have you made any fun vanilla extract variations that we just need to try?
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 12 vanilla bean pods
- 16 ounces vodka
- 4 glass bottles with lids 4 oz. each
- Clean and dry your glass bottles.
- Cut your vanilla bean pods in half to expose the vanilla bean seeds. Make sure the vanilla beans are short enough to fit into your bottle (cut if needed!)
- Add the beans to the bottles (3 beans for each 4 oz. bottle) and pour in vodka to cover and fill.
- Close each bottle and give a good shake! Store in a cool, dry place, shaking once per week. They're ready to enjoy after 8 weeks, but you can always let sit longer!