Homemade Vanilla Extract-DIY Gift Idea

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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.

diy homemade vanilla extract in small bottle with ribbon

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 now-you still have plenty of time before Christmas to make your own homemade vanilla extract!

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.
two bottles of homemade vanilla extract with vanilla bean pods

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

collage of making vanilla extract

Time needed: 42 days and 5 minutes

How to Make Vanilla Extract

  1. Clean Bottles

    Clean bottles thoroughly and allow to dry.

  2. Prepare Vanilla Beans

    Using sharp knife or scissors, cut each of the vanilla pods up the center leaving attached at the end.

  3. Soak beans

    Place 4-6 beans per 8-ounce bottle. Fill bottle completely with vodka ensuring beans are completely submerged.

  4. Soak

    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.

homemade vanilla extract in bottle with ribbon

Tie a pretty bow or the printable label below if you’d like and you’re ready to give a memorable gourmet gift this holiday season!

Click here or on the label to print your own. I print mine on sticker paper and cut apart by hand.

homemade vanilla extract printable label

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.

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  1. I made 2 different batches using Madagascar beans and vodka. Different brands of Madagascar beans. Both batches were very tart – not the sweet and creamy kind my daughter made. I cannot use my vanilla because I’m afraid that the food will be ruined as it is that bitter. Where did I go wrong? Why so bitter?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Unfortunately Lana I can’t think of any other way to make it than with alcohol, I’m sorry not to be more help. ~Melissa

  2. I really like this idea and your instructions are perfectly simple! Pinning and probably making for Christmas gifts! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Girl! At first I was all- why aren’t you drinking that Grey Goose?!?!? LOL. But now I am convinced it is a good use for it! Love this, I am sure it smells so amazing!

  4. Love this! I have all the ingredients to make my own right here and didn’t even know it! What a great gift idea too! I’m totally doing this for my MIL who is an avid baker, she’ll love it!

    1. Yes, Jeannie, when I bought the beans at my grocery store they were expensive but online if you buy a larger quantity (like if you’re going to make multiple gifts) it’s much more economical. Plus, don’t forget like a previous commenter said, you can add in more vodka as you use it to keep it going!!

  5. Someone gifted homemade vanilla to me last Christmas and I love it! She told me that I can add more vodka to the beans as it is depleted and it will continue to produce great Vanilla! I love the bottles you chose!

  6. I need to get on the ball and get this bottled – what a cool gift idea for Christmas!! Pinned!

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