Homemade vanilla extract is easy to make and makes an easy homemade gift for the foodies in your life! Making your own vanilla extract requires just 2 ingredients: vodka and vanilla beans, and is much more affordable than store-bought.
I have a few "foodies" in my family and this year I've been brainstorming different DIY homemade Christmas gifts for them.
This homemade vanilla extract recipe is the first of a few I'll be sharing and it's SO simple-the extraction process does take at least 6 weeks to be ready to gift so that's why I'm posting it
Printable labels at the bottom of the blog post!
Why I love this homemade extract recipe
- Quality pure vanilla extract can be pricey.
- Store-bought vanilla extract can be filled with imitation vanilla with artificial ingredients.
- The real vanilla extract is also diluted compared to a good homemade version. This big difference in vanilla flavor will translate to your baked goods, so make your own to not only save money but also improve your recipes like maple vanilla cheesecake or cream cheese cookies!
- It is very simple to make, the hardest part is waiting for the extraction process to take place!
Supplies and Ingredients
- Small bottles with airtight lids - I usually use these 8 ounce bottles with lids attached. They are perfect for gifting too!
- Funnel - not necessary but it makes things a lot easier! I like these collapsable silicone funnels.
- Vanilla Beans - You can sometimes find whole vanilla beans in the grocery store spice aisle but I often just order mine online. Look for Madagascar beans, Mexican vanilla beans, or Tahitian vanilla beans. Grade B vanilla beans are specific for making extract but you can use Grade A as well. Vanilla beans are expensive, but 5-6 of them make 8 ounces of extract and you can reuse the beans to make a new batch after the first bath is complete. Compare that to $4 for just 1 ounce of store-bought extract.
- Unflavored Vodka - no need to splurge on expensive alcohol, the flavor of the vanilla extract comes from the vanilla bean, not the vodka. Choose an unflavored version at least 80 proof. You can also use rum, bourbon, or brandy to try different combinations. Just make sure you stick to an alcohol content of 80 proof or above and no artificial flavors or ingredients added in.
What is the difference in types of vanilla bean?
Madagascar vanilla bean pods are the most commonly used for making vanilla extract-they have a creamy, buttery taste and tend to be a little less expensive and easier to find in stores.
For a slightly more "fancy" extract choose dark, rich Mexican beans or rich chocolatey Tahitian varieties. Any of these beans will make a good vanilla extract that will be the perfect gift for the foodies in your life.
Step by step
Time needed: 42 days and 5 minutes
How to Make Vanilla Extract
- Clean Bottles
Clean bottles thoroughly and allow to dry.
- Prepare Vanilla Beans
Using sharp knife or scissors, cut each of the vanilla pods up the center leaving attached at the end.
- Soak beans
Place 4-6 beans per 8-ounce bottle. Fill bottle completely with vodka ensuring beans are completely submerged.
Replace lid on bottle and give it a good shake. Store in a cool dark place away from direct sunlight for at least 6 weeks, shaking the bottle once weekly. The longer it's stored the darker the liquid will become and the more delicious it will be, if you have time I recommend leaving it 6-12 months for the best flavor.
For some other DIY gift ideas check out these posts:
This blog post was originally published October 2013 and updated with photos, video, and a printable label in November 2020.