Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe - On The Go Bites (2024)

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Homemade vanilla extract recipe is a baker’s secret ingredient. Far superior to grocery store vanilla, even the pure vanilla from great companies like Nielsen Massey.

Unless you are ready to part with a considerable amount of money, making your own homemade vanilla extract takes 2 ingredients and 10 minutes time and you’re done. It’s not cheap to make but gives a richness to baked ingredients that’s hard to come by.

How To Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

Two ingredients, that’s all. Vanilla beans and vodka.

The key to vanilla extract is using the best quality vanilla bean you can buy. But believe it or not, the quality of the vodka doesn’t matter a bit, it’s all in the beans.

I can see you vodka drinkers out there, you would never think of buying the stuff in plastic bottles. But for extract it’s the alcohol content and proof that matters. As long as the alcohol is 35-40% or 70-80 proof, that’s all that matters………for vanilla extract that is (most vodka will fall in this range). I’m aware that sipping on a martini takes a better-quality vodka, but really, for vanilla extract don’t waste your money on the good stuff.

Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise in half. If you need to cut crosswise as well into smaller pieces to fit the jar, that is fine.

Slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Feel free to cut the vanilla bean in shorter pieces if needed to fit your bottle. You just need to make sure that the beans are completely submerged. Gently slice the bean lengthwise, without cutting all the way through. Place in jar, cover with alcohol, shake, and wait, and wait, and wait. Your best flavor will begin to happen around 8 weeks…6 months is even better, but I never make it that long!

What Kind of Vanilla Bean to Use For Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

The type of vanilla bean you use will determine some nuances to the flavor and aroma of your vanilla extract.

Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans, Grade B – these are the most common vanilla beans used and what will give you the cleanest traditional flavor that you are familiar with.

Tahitian Vanilla Beans – these beans will give you a floral almost chocolaty taste. It pairs well with bourbon instead of vodka. This type of vanilla extract is delicious but a little different taste than what most bakers are after because it’s not like traditional vanilla extract.

Mexican Vanilla Beans – these vanilla beans will give you a gentle, spicier kick in the vanilla extract recipe

What Exactly Is Vanilla Extract Anyway?

Vanilla beans are harvested from orchid plants. These orchids aren’t as pretty as the orchids all of us have on our desk or in our home. Well OK, maybe you don’t have orchids around, but my house is never without a pretty orchid, they are hardy and need very little attention, thus perfect for me! They remind me of visiting my grandmother in Florida where she always had orchids and air plants all around her pool area.

The growing, harvesting and curing process are extensive and arduous. So if you ever wonder why vanilla beans and good quality vanilla extract is so expensive, that is why.

Then let those beautiful beans soak away in some alcohol and you’ll have the secret to professional bakers in your own cupboard.

What Kind of Alcohol And Why Use It For Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Vodka is usually your go-to bet for our homemade vanilla extract recipe. Unflavored vodka that is. Because vodka is a clear liquid and has little taste it will yield little to no flavor to the vanilla extract.

You can also use bourbon, brandy or rum. Bourbon is a nice complement to the floral Tahitian vanilla beans. Just make sure that the alcohol is minimum 35% alcohol or 70 proof. Most vodkas meet that criteria.

The purpose of the alcohol is to steep or cure the vanilla bean to pull the oils out into a liquid environment.

Use any vokda as long as it’s 70-80 proof, just about any vodka out there. The quality of the bean is what counts.

Is There Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract?

Yes, natural food stores sometimes carry vanilla extract that uses glycerin instead of alcohol as the solvent. You can also try using a vanilla powder if you want to avoid the alcohol.

Why Make Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe?

Because it’s far superior to typical store-bought vanilla extract, even the really nice brands like Neilsen Massey or from nice spice houses like Penzeys. Most commercial bakers use what’s called double fold vanilla extract and that is their secret weapon, and now you too can have that secret ingredient.

You can’t just double the amount of extract that you are using to get the bold, rich flavor of your favorite bakery. It’s the percentage vanilla bean to liquid that wins. The more fresh vanilla beans you add to your vodka (or liquid) the richer your vanilla extract recipe will be.

How Long Does The Vanilla Extract Recipe Take?

8 weeks will give you a wonderful, rich vanilla extract like you’ve never tasted before. If you have the patience, leave the beans in the bottle for 6 months and the extract will be that much stronger. It will last for at least a year.

How To Store Your Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Store at room temperature and away from light. Meaning don’t leave it near the stove or in your kitchen window. A typical cabinet is perfect.

Store in glass bottles. Clear bottles are pretty but amber colored ones will help protect the vanilla extract from light. Either will work.

A 2-4 ounce bottle is typical for most people. At the grocery store it’s not uncommon to see little 1 ounce bottles. Use a funnel to make transferring the vanilla extract from a large bottle into a smaller gift jar.

I keep my homemade vanilla extract in a larger canning jar and pour it into a smaller bottle to keep in my baking cabinet. It’s easier to add the additional vodka.

To keep your vanilla extract going, add additional vodka as you use the extract. Make sure to keep the vanilla beans covered at all times by the vodka to keep them from drying out and/or going bad.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Your homemade vanilla extract recipe will keep indefinitely with just a little care.

-You’ll need to make sure that the beans stay submerged in the alcohol at all times.

-As you use the vanilla extract, keep adding unflavored vodka to cover the beans.

-Shake every week or so.

-Store in a cool environment and away from light.

-That’s it, not too many rules

Want a great hostess gift for your next Christmas party? Instead of a bottle of wine bring a bottle of homemade vanilla extract with your own label attached and a recipe to someone who loves to bake or cook. Unique and will be valued.

You can get cute bottles and twine from Amazon or your local cooking or baking store. It’s easy to add a tag or print your own labels. Try mine here.

Recipes To Use Your New Vanilla Extract

Brownie Brittle is a delicious different kind of snack

Pancakes, hey they’re a classic that gets a nice kick from a dose of homemade vanilla extract

Homemade Ginger Ale, it’s really easy and delicious. Makes a great mocktail too

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe - On The Go Bites (10)

5 from 3 votes


Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

10 minutes, two ingredients and you have the best vanilla extract available. It's the secret weapon of professional bakers and now you can have it in your ingredient arsenal too!


Prep Time 10 minutes

Total Time 10 minutes

Servings 8 Ounces

Author On The Go Bites


  • 8OuncesVodkainexpensive 70-80 proof
  • 5WholeVanilla beansbest quality, you can use less beans


  1. Have a clean 8 ounce bottle handy with a fitted lid.

  2. Gently slice vanilla lengthwise in half, no need to scrape. Place beans in jar. Fill with vodka. Shake. A funnel will make filling the jar easier.

  3. Always keep the vanilla beans covered with alcohol. You cut the beans into smaller pieces to fit the jar if necessary.

  4. Shake every week. Allow at least 8 weeks, at this point the majority of the curing process has happened.

Recipe Notes

How To Store your Vanilla Extract Recipe -You can keep the extract indefinitely, as long as the beans are submerged in the alcohol and the bottle is kept out of light and heat. Your cool kitchen cupboard, away from the stove is perfect.

Vanilla Extract is the perfect hostess gift at your next Christmas or holiday party. If your host likes to bake, then homemade vanilla extract is better than a bottle of fine wine. Make tags or labels with your name, use date and instructions and a favorite recipe. Feel free to use my templates here.

Buy fun, unique bottles at your favorite craft or baking store or view some others here.


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Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe - On The Go Bites (2024)


Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe - On The Go Bites? ›

Two ingredients, that's all. Vanilla beans and vodka. The key to vanilla extract is using the best quality vanilla bean you can buy. But believe it or not, the quality of the vodka doesn't matter a bit, it's all in the beans.

What is the best alcohol to make vanilla extract? ›

The FDA dictates that a pure vanilla extract needs to be at least 70 proof or 35% alcohol, and this makes Vodka an ideal choice for vanilla extraction.

How many vanilla beans to make 16 oz extract? ›

Just remember this ratio: 6 vanilla beans per 8 ounces of alcohol. So if your jar is 12 ounces, use 9 vanilla beans. If it's 16 ounces, use 12 beans.

How long should homemade vanilla extract sit? ›

You only need 2 ingredients for homemade vanilla extract: vanilla beans and vodka. Let the vanilla beans infuse the vodka for as little as 8 weeks, but for optimal flavor, wait at least 6-12 months before using. Homemade vanilla is more cost efficient than store-bought options.

How do you test homemade vanilla extract? ›

The simple taste test method for speed and ease is to simply dip your finger into the finished extract and take a quick taste. This method is convenient but requires an experienced palate because your extract is highly concentrated.

Should I use vodka or Everclear for vanilla extract? ›

Vodka is the preferred alcohol for extractions like this, as its flavor is neutral and does not compete with that of the vanilla beans.

How many vanilla beans for 8 oz vodka? ›

For best flavor you'll want 4-5 vanilla beans for every 8 ounces (1 cup) of vodka. The quality of the vanilla beans is more important than the quality of the alcohol, so you don't need to buy an expensive bottle. Alcohol: 80 proof Vodka, (or brandy, rum, or bourbon, if preferred, for different flavor).

How dark should homemade vanilla extract be? ›

Don't be fooled by extracts that claim to be pure, imitation and clear vanilla utilize artificial flavors. Pure vanilla extract should be dark brown; the color of Vanilla Beans used in the extraction process.

Is it cheaper to make your own vanilla extract? ›

A bit of simple math reveals that homemade vanilla extract is the more economical choice. Say you buy two 4-ounce bottles of the good vanilla extract from the grocery store every year. If each jar costs $18, that's $180 over a five-year span.

What kind of vodka for vanilla extract? ›

But BEWARE the trap of buying flavored vodkas for vanilla extract. They don't always marry well with vanilla beans and the result can be disheartening. Stick with plain Smirnoff and you'll do just fine. Ciroc - A five-times distilled French vodka will deliver a beautiful, pure extract.

Can bacteria grow in homemade vanilla extract? ›

Some people suggest sterilising the jar first but bacteria cannot grow in 40% alcohol so I didn't bother with this step. And because of the alcohol it will last for years. Give it a quick shake, then store in a dark place like the pantry for about 2 months. Keeping it out of the light helps keep the nutritional value.

Why does my homemade vanilla extract still taste like vodka? ›

Answer #2: Alcohol is normal. Remember that all "Pure" extracts are required to have a minimum 35% alcohol content, which is just as much alcohol that is in hard liquor.

What are the best vanilla beans for making vanilla extract? ›

Grade B vanilla beans, on the other hand, are considered 'extract-grade beans', and they are primarily used in making vanilla extract.

How do I know when my homemade vanilla is done? ›

Look for these signs:
  1. The liquid should be dark golden or brown. The darker the color, the stronger the vanilla flavor.
  2. If you've left the vanilla seeds in the bean, there should be lots of little flecks that have settled to the bottom of the jar. ...
  3. There should be a noticeable vanilla aroma.
Jun 25, 2019

What is floating in my homemade vanilla extract? ›

Vanilla bean pod particles may also break down over time, so it isn't uncommon to see specs or "floaties" in your extracts, especially if you sliced or cut your beans before submersing them. This is normal.

What are the black specks in homemade vanilla extract? ›

If you purchased a bottle from me at a craft fair, you will notice little black specks in it. These specks are the vanilla bean and add extra flavor.

What kind of alcohol is used in Mexican vanilla extract? ›

I buy my Mexican vanilla beans from Voladores Vanilla. Vodka: You will need vodka with at least 35% alcohol content. The vodka acts as the solvent to extract the flavor compounds from the vanilla beans. This is important for proper extraction and preservation of the vanilla flavor.

Does it matter what vodka you use for vanilla extract? ›

But BEWARE the trap of buying flavored vodkas for vanilla extract. They don't always marry well with vanilla beans and the result can be disheartening. Stick with plain Smirnoff and you'll do just fine. Ciroc - A five-times distilled French vodka will deliver a beautiful, pure extract.

What's the best Bourbon for making vanilla extract? ›

Woodford Reserve: A rich and complex flavor profile featuring notes of vanilla, toffee, and toasted oak. Bulleit Bourbon: This bourbon boasts a spicy and slightly fruity character with hints of vanilla and maple, adding a unique twist to your homemade vanilla extract.

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