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Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Once you have baked with Home­made Vanil­la Extract, you will nev­er go back to adding store-bought vanil­la to your fam­i­ly-favorite recipes!

Post may con­tain affil­i­ate links. See my Affil­i­ate Disclosure.

Home­made Vanil­la Extract is a must in my kitchen, now. Cer­tain recipes can nev­er have the rich, depth of fla­vor we rec­og­nize and love, with­out the addi­tion of vanil­la. It has nev­er been more evi­dent to me that the qual­i­ty of the vanil­la has a tremen­dous impact on the fla­vor of what you’re bak­ing, than when I was mak­ing our daugh­ter’s wed­ding cake. 

That there is a fla­vor dif­fer­ence between “Imi­ta­tion” Vanil­la and “Pure” Vanil­la Extract is hard­ly a kitchen secret. (Anoth­er fla­vor­ing syrup/extract that is so much bet­ter made from scratch is my friend Kris­ten’s Elder­flower Cor­dial.) Once you begin mak­ing your own extracts and syrups, it will be hard to accept any­thing less.

It’s a fair­ly uni­ver­sal piece of knowl­edge. But, what I, (and maybe you), did­n’t know is that even when I was buy­ing “pure” vanil­la extract, some brands were adding water, sug­ar or oth­er ingre­di­ents. Be sure to read your labels. 

Anoth­er key fact to keep in mind is that many vanil­la extracts avail­able at the store are “sin­gle-fold” vanil­las, using only one or two beans per cup of alco­hol. This results in a much weak­er fla­vored vanil­la. We will be cre­at­ing high-qual­i­ty “dou­ble-fold vanil­la”. It uses 6 beans per cup (8 oz) of alcohol.

The Ingredients

homemade vanilla extract ingredients

Vod­ka: You can use dif­fer­ent kinds of alco­hol to make vanil­la. It just needs to be a neu­tral fla­vored one. Vod­ka, bour­bon, brandy, or even rum, should work. Be sure not to use any fla­vored or spiced alco­hols as they can over­whelm the fla­vor of the vanil­la. What­ev­er alco­hol you choose should be between 70 and 90 proof to make the best vanil­la. I, per­son­al­ly, pre­fer the least expen­sive vod­ka, I can find.

I’ve used brandy, before, and felt that the alcohol’s fla­vor over­whelmed the vanil­la aro­ma and the taste I want­ed. Bour­bon made fab­u­lous vanil­la, but the fla­vor was not appre­cia­bly dif­fer­ent from that made with vod­ka, and vod­ka is much less expen­sive. I have nev­er tried rum, but if you do, I would love to hear your expe­ri­ences. The nice thing about the alco­hol for extracts is that it doesn’t have to be expen­sive to make high-qual­i­ty vanil­la. I buy the bot­tom-shelf, cheap­est brand I can find at Wal­mart and my vanil­la is always spectacular!

Vanil­la Beans: I pre­fer *Mada­gas­car Bour­bon Vanil­la Beans (affil­i­ate link). They pro­vide the vanil­la fla­vor we are most used to. The bour­bon does not refer to the alco­hol used in the extract, but to the island where the beans are grown.

Tahit­ian Vanil­la Beans are more flo­ral with a strong aro­ma. They also have notes of cher­ry and almond.

Mex­i­can Vanil­la Beans are moist and fla­vor­ful. They have sweet and woodsy notes accom­pa­nied by spicy under­tones that resem­ble clove and nutmeg.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Why Making Your Own Vanilla Makes Sense

With the sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in qual­i­ty and fla­vor, comes a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in cost. Weath­er con­di­tions, plant short­ages and mar­ket con­cerns all affect the price of vanil­la beans, through­out the year. Over the past five years, dra­mat­ic short­ages have mul­ti­plied that cost many times over, as you must cer­tain­ly have rec­og­nized when you pur­chased vanil­la extract, at the store, now.

So, when I pay the extra for a “pure” prod­uct, like Mada­gas­car Bour­bon Vanil­la, that’s exact­ly what I want it to be. I’ve decid­ed the one way to be cer­tain I get the best val­ue for my extract dol­lars is to make my own. When you see how easy it is to make and how much the rich, depth of vanil­la fla­vor enhances your baked goods, you’ll be a con­vert, too!

The recipe I’m shar­ing will make EIGHT 1/2 cup (4 oz) bot­tles of Mada­gas­car Bour­bon Vanil­la Extract. It’s the vanil­la bomb! You’ll have plen­ty for your own kitchen and some for gift­ing, if you like. What a great addi­tion to gift bas­kets you make for Christ­mas! Any­one would love to receive this won­der­ful bak­ing elixir, fash­ioned by your very own hands.

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe Saves You $$$

Com­par­ing the prices of two dif­fer­ent brands of Mada­gas­car Bour­bon Vanil­la, I found at Wal­mart, one was $20.95 for a 4 oz bot­tle and the oth­er was $6.44 for 1 oz (that’s $25.76 for 4 oz). 

Our cost for this recipe, all in, using Grade A beans, and includ­ing the vod­ka and the bot­tles which are only need­ed for gift­ing, is only $5.95 per 4 oz bot­tle! That’s less than 1/4 the cost of store-bought and YOU con­trol the ingredients. 

If I make this for per­son­al use, I elim­i­nate the cost of bot­tles and my cost per 4 oz. is only $4.62. Less than 1/5 the cost of store-bought vanilla. 

Homemade Vanilla Extract

The Bot­tles: $15.99/12 (which comes to $1.33 per 4 oz. bot­tle ) I only pur­chase these for gift giv­ing. See my note below on how I bot­tle this for us at home which is ZERO cost for bottles.

If you make this for your own per­son­al use, and not for gift­ing, you can cer­tain­ly use one large bot­tle and place all the beans into it. I put the beans direct­ly into the bot­tle the vod­ka comes in. That’s no cost for bot­tles. Since I bake often, and use quite a lot of vanil­la that makes the most sense for my own kitchen.

The Beans: $31.96/25 beans (which is $3.84 per 4 oz. bot­tle ) This is for the Grade A Mada­gas­car Bour­bon Vanil­la Beans, I prefer.

The Vod­ka: $10.98/1.75 liter (which is $ .78 per 4 oz. bot­tle) It comes out to about $1.56 per cup and the recipe calls for 4 cups to make 8 (4 oz) bot­tles. I buy the 1.75 liter bot­tle at Wal­mart and it’s the cheap­est bot­tom shelf brand I can find. Find the cheap­est in your area.

The Difference Between Grade A and Grade B Vanilla Beans

vanilla beans

I buy *Grade A Mada­gas­car Bour­bon Vanil­la Beans. Grade A beans should be soft, flex­i­ble and moist. The vanil­la oil from the beans should be obvi­ous on the out­sides of the skin. High-qual­i­ty beans pro­duce extra­or­di­nar­i­ly fla­vor­ful extract. Mada­gas­car Bour­bon beans pro­duce a rich, dark and creamy fla­vor with sweet and but­tery under­tones that are supe­ri­or for bak­ing and for drink recipes. The beans are won­der­ful­ly fra­grant and your lus­cious vanil­la extract will be, too.

*Grade B Mada­gas­car Bour­bon Vanil­la Beans work just as well, as A, but they are dri­er and will most like­ly need to soak even longer, in the alco­hol before your vanil­la is ready to use. The ben­e­fit is that they are slight­ly less expen­sive. Whichev­er grade you pre­fer, it will always be more cost-effec­tive to make your own Home­made Vanil­la Extract.

How to Make My Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Clean and ster­il­ize the bot­tles and lids you’ll be using by run­ning them through the hottest cycle on your dishwasher. 

I pre­fer these *dark amber bot­tles, I found on Ama­zon, when I make extracts for gift­ing. The bot­tles are a per­fect 1/2 cup (4 oz) size, that’s great for gift­ing or for use in your own kitchen, too. I like the “vintage‑y” look of them, plus dark bot­tles help to keep the light from degrad­ing your extract. Like high-qual­i­ty oils and vine­gars, always store vanil­la extract in a cool, dark cab­i­net or pantry. 

Cut the vanil­la beans down the side, length­wise. And then, cut the pieces small enough to fit inside your bot­tle (2″-3″).

sliced vanilla bean

Place the pre­pared beans in the bot­tles and cov­er with alcohol. 

Inex­pen­sive vod­ka, high-qual­i­ty vanil­la beans and some bot­tles to store it in are all you need to make pre­mi­um Home­made Vanil­la Extract. You can TOTALLY do this! 

NOTE: For some­one like me, who bakes fre­quent­ly and goes through a lot of vanil­la, you can do what I do. Amber bot­tles are saved for gift­ing, only. For per­son­al use, I add the vanil­la beans direct­ly to the vod­ka bot­tle. One large bot­tle of vanil­la extract makes more sense for me. I just store it in my dark pantry, out of the light. Take out the cost of the bot­tles and my vanil­la costs even less than we cal­cu­lat­ed, above. Yay, for sav­ing money!

The Recipe

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

  • Author: Glen­da Embree
  • Total Time: 10 min­utes
  • Yield: 4 cups 1x


Home­made Vanil­la Extract will put you off of ever buy­ing it in the store, again.  The deep, rich fla­vor is unmatched!


Units Scale
  • 24 Grade A Mada­gas­car Bour­bon Vanil­la Beans (or beans of your choice)
  • 4 cups vod­ka (least expen­sive you can find)
  • 8 (4 oz) *amber bot­tles with lids (if you will be gift­ing the vanilla)



  1. Slice vanil­la beans open, lengthwise. 
  2. Place 3 split beans in each of eight (4 oz) bot­tles cut­ting them into small enough pieces to make them fit the bottles. 
  3. Pour 1/2 cup vod­ka over the beans in each bottle.
  4. Tight­en lids on bot­tles and tuck away in a cool dark cab­i­net to “ripen”.  Let the vanil­la set at least 2 months.  The fla­vor will be deep­er and rich­er the longer you let it sit.  A good way for me to know when I need to make the next batch is to start a new batch when I hit the half-way point on the last batch.


To cut costs and make stan­dard sin­gle-fold vanil­la, cut the num­ber of beans to 12 and add 1 1/2 beans to each bottle.

If you make this for your own per­son­al use, and not for gift­ing, you can cer­tain­ly use one large bot­tle and place all the beans into it.  Since I bake often, that’s exact­ly what I do for my own kitchen.  I buy a 750 ml bot­tle of vod­ka, then split and drop 18 beans right into the bottle.

  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 0 min
  • Cat­e­go­ry: Sea­son­ing
  • Method: hand mix
  • Cui­sine: Amer­i­can
homemade vanilla extract
Novem­ber 25, 2019

Com­pare the pic­ture above, to the one below. On Novem­ber 25, I start­ed a new bot­tle of vanil­la. Now, only eight days lat­er, look at what has already begun to hap­pen! Imag­ine the full­ness of fla­vor that will have devel­oped at the end of the full two months!

Eight days lat­er, on Decem­ber 3.

Finishing Touches

Now, just screw the lids on your bot­tles and store in a cool, dark place to allow it to “ripen”. It will take a min­i­mum of 2 months and the fla­vor will become deep­er and rich­er, the longer it sets. 

I do add one more step if I’m giv­ing the vanil­la as gifts. I like to add pret­ty labels, so every­one knows what’s inside and the date it will be ready to use. That way, if I grab a bot­tle out of the cab­i­net for a quick gift, it’s already labeled. I can just place it in the bas­ket or gift bag, with­out hav­ing to stop and label it. Down­load some free print­able labels HERE or by click­ing the image below. Just print them out on peel and stick labels. I for­mat­ted them to fit on Avery Labels #25395.

Go! Be a vanil­la extract cre­at­ing champ! Make fab­u­lous and afford­able gifts for the bak­ers in your life. You can do this! Your baked goods and the peo­ple who love to eat them will adore you.

Recipes to Use Homemade Vanilla Extract In

Homemade Chocolate Cake

chocolate cake

Chocolate Crinkles

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies on two pieces of Christmas burlap one is red and white checks, the other brown with red snowflakes

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