DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract

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Homemade_Vanilla_ExtractIt’s the first day of December, people!  I’m sure I don’t need to remind you, but you only have less than 25 days left for Christmas shopping, and even less than that to prepare your Christmas baskets full of homemade goodies!  Do you have your Christmas baskets planned out?  This year, part of my basket will include the gift of homemade vanilla extract.  Store-bought pure vanilla extract is expensive, but you can cut your costs by making it at home with just two ingredients: vanilla bean pods and alcohol (preferably vodka or bourbon).

I started brewing my vanilla extract back in September so that it would be ready for Christmas, but it isn’t too late to start on yours now even for this gifting season.  Placing a “Do Not Use Until” date on the bottles will inform your recipients when the vanilla is ready.  Even if your friends can’t use it right away, they’ll appreciate that you prepared it for them for later use.  And, it never expires.

If you plan to give the vanilla extract away as gifts, I suggest using 4-ounce dark glass bottles, such as these Amber Boston Round Glass bottles I bought for only $.68 each!  I then created labels on my computer and printed them out on sticker paper.  If you’re not able to design your own personalized labels, click the label icon below for a free printable I created just for you!

Vanilla Labels Photo(Click image above for free printable)

 A few notes about homemade vanilla extract:
*This is my favorite place to buy vanilla beans.
*Continue to add used vanilla bean pods from other recipes into the brewing extract instead of tossing them out.  Top off extract with more vodka as you use it up, along with more vanilla beans.  Or, just keep a 2nd bottle brewing for when the first is used up.
*If using the vodka bottle to brew your vanilla extract, take out 2 shots worth before adding the bean pods so the vodka doesn’t overflow.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 24+ ounces vanilla extract (Six 4-ounce gift bottles)

  • 750 mL bottle of vodka
  • 9 vanilla bean pods
If brewing for home use:

Pour out 2 shots worth of vodka and store for another use. Slice each vanilla pod in half vertically, leaving one side attached at the end. Drop vanilla pods in the vodka bottle and replace lid. Let steep in a cool area in your pantry for 12 weeks before first use. Shake every couple of weeks.

If brewing for 4-ounce bottled gifts:

Slice each vanilla pod in half vertically and horizontally. Place 1 1/2 pods (6 sliced segments) in each 4-ounce bottle. Using a funnel, fill each bottle with vodka. Replace lid tightly and let steep for 12 weeks. If giving away before the 12 weeks is up, include a tag with the bottle that states the "Ready for Use By" date.

Source: Inspired by Confections of a Foodie Bride and Bethany Actually

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  1. I asked for vanilla beans for Christmas just so I could start making my own extract. I love the bottles and labels you used!

  2. I never realized it was so easy to make vanilla extract!

  3. I LOVE this idea. I definitely want to do this for christmas gifts. Every baker will love this homemade gift 🙂

  4. I did homemade vanilla last year! Such a great gift. I love your labels!

  5. So easy!! I love the labels and the idea of the “do not use until” date!

  6. I love the instructions for brewing the extract individually! Great idea!

  7. This is such a great idea, especially with those lovely bottles! I want to make this but I’m afraid I’ll be greedy and keep all the lovely vanilla to myself!

  8. So neat! Love it!

  9. I love these bottles, and how cheap they are!!!! I’m saving these for my next giveaway party favors.

  10. I am making this too and am going to blog it next week! I will be sure to link to your blog too! Bloggers unite!

    <3 Pinterest!

  11. I love those labels!! How sweet of you to share them. 🙂

  12. Awesome gift, Nikki! 🙂

  13. This looks awesome! I would love if you shared this in my holiday recipes Blog Hop. Enter it for a chance at a Wilton Pre-Baked Gingerbread Tree Kit!

  14. Which Avery labels should I buy to print!?! Thank you!!!

    • Hi Denise, I linked within the post to the sticker paper I bought from Amazon. I haven’t used Avery sticker paper, but I’m pretty sure they have a similar option.

  15. This is my first time making homemade vanilla. We used bourbon because I read on other recipes it was okay to use vodka, rum or bourbon. Only problem is we are nearing the 3 month mark at the end of January and it still smells strongly of alcohol. Is this normal with the homemade stuff? I just hate the idea of going to use it in something and not getting the vanilla flavor. I split the beans and used the right amount of beans per amount of alcohol, shaking it often. We did have it down in the basement on the shelf with all our canned goods. Pretty cool down there and most definitely dark. Hubby thought maybe it was too cold so it’s now up in the kitchen cabinet above the sink. Just not sure what our final product should smell like and hubby tried it a few weeks ago straight from the bottle and said it tastes only like alcohol. I can only smell a teeny tiny hint of the vanilla beans. I bought them from and have used several of the others in other cooking and have been impressed with them. Just not sure what is up with the vanilla and I really had hoped to be able to use it at the 8 week mark but was afraid to!

    • Hi Lisa, My homemade vanilla extract does smell like a mixture of vanilla and alcohol (strong alcohol smell) and so does the stuff I bought online that I’m still using up. Also, testing the vanilla straight from the bottle by itself is not a great way to go, as the alcohol will overpower the vanilla. Instead, pour a little into a glass of milk and see if the flavor develops. Hope this helps!

      (And, yes, you can use bourbon and rum…so that shouldn’t be the issue.) 😉

      • Thanks for this Q & A. I was going to ask the same question. I gave bottles as gifts without trying the recipe first, and the bottle I kept for myself smells strongly of alcohol to my pregnant nose. I was worried since I gave it out to my family – lots of teetotalers. 🙂 The tip for testing in milk was very helpful and I liked tasting my vanilla flavored milk!

      • I started my homemade vanilla mid October using rum. I finally decided to try it and was so worried about the strong smell and flavor. I’m going to try the milk test now but if it isn’t quite ready what can you suggest?

        • Hi Christine,
          I usually allow mine to steep for at least 12 weeks, so yours might not be ready yet if you started mid-October. It may need a couple more weeks. When I gift them, I write on the label (linked above) the “ready by” date. 🙂

          • Thank you so much for the reply! I was so worried that my vanilla was ruined and I had wasted alot of money. I will be putting do not use until on them and Christmas will be saved!

  16. Hi – I have a quick question for you! I am going to “attempt” this but wasn’t sure about the “quality” of the alcohol you should buy? (ie. does a cheap vodka work just as well?) THANKS!

    • I don’t think the quality matters too much, but when using alcohol in recipes, I always suggest using one that you would want to drink. I don’t drink vodka, so that doesn’t matter to me much with this recipe. 🙂

  17. Could you make this in the big bottle and then pour it into smaller bottles to give away, rather than brewing it in the individual bottles?

  18. I just realized I bought 80 proof not 100 proof vodka does it matter?

  19. Vicky Horton says:

    Love the idea of making homemade vanilla. Question where do you get the vanilla beans to make it. I want to try it but not sure wher you get the beans.

  20. Can you use vanilla flavored vodka?

  21. Is it possible to use clear plastic spice bottles. I have kept several and would like to use them.

    • Hi Marie,
      You can use them, but I wouldn’t recommend it for long storage so to avoid the “off” taste that can leach from the plastic.

      • Thanks for your quick response. That is what I had concluded as well, but thought I bet ask first just in case someone had tried it before. Thanks again. Marie

  22. This is awesome! I found you while looking around for ideas for Christmas gift baskets. I’m definitely going to do have this vanilla in for this year. Also, your other posts ABOUT gift baskets will be helpful too 🙂 Just wanted to say thanks. I’ll probably blog about my experiences making this, so if you keep track of link-backs, be on the lookout!

  23. Did you strain it at all? I cut the beans down the middle and there is a lot of stuff floating in the bottle!

    • No, I don’t strain it, but you can. The “stuff” floating in the bottle is actually the vanilla beans that are found inside the pods. 🙂 They leave beautiful vanilla specks in your food, but you can strain them if you don’t want them. 🙂

  24. Jen Henson says:

    I just made 10 bottles. I am going to put a “don’t use until” date on them. I’m so excited to give these out (and keep one for myself) 🙂

  25. hi, im sory for all the questions. I just made this vanilla extract and was about to print out your label template, i don’t have any program on my laptop to be able to open this and make the labels larger and insert our names int eh from my kitchen to yours line… did you do it or is there any way you could send me some label template to my email that are about twice the length? i am so sorry i am so hoping you can help! i have to get these out next week for my christmas gift baskets ahh

  26. Hi! I am getting ready to make some homemade vanilla extract in a few weeks but I’m wondering if you know how long the extract lasts? Would it last longer if I removed the pods after the steeping time frame?


    • Hi Stacey,
      As far as I know, it lasts indefinitely. Or, at least long enough for me to think that! 🙂 You want to keep the pods there, as well.

  27. Norma Whitmire says:

    This is a question: Can the plastic bottles that the vodka can in be used for the packaging. ? I just put the split and scraped bean in in original bottle. Is this ok.? If not I have wasted a half gallon bottle of vanilla

  28. Thank you for this post. I found that is super easy to do. Also, I really need to do make this, maybe as a gift for my family and my friends. Every
    cook man will love this 🙂

  29. I made this vanilla extract last year . I loved it! so did my friends. I just ordered my vanilla beans and jars to make again this year. Thank you for sharing!

  30. Harry Whetchis says:

    just opened my experiment a couple of days ago to see if it was ready for gifting. I have Tahitian and a Madagascar beans in cheap vodka.. The vodka smell was overpowering.. It then occured to me that the initial mix was beans, booze and a capped bottle with no air space.. (wasn’t sure if there would be any negatives from the air) Turns out.. I poured the liquid into glass bowls to let the volitile esters escape (insert joke about guard beining mysteriously drunk) The smell was significantly reduced while air in the room seemed saturated with the smell. I still have several panic days til Christmas.. hope this works

  31. Hi, I have been wanting to make vanilla for some time now. I recently purchased some beans but now that I have read your blog and some others, I’m wondering and wanting to know do you have to let it set for 8 to 12 weeks? Can it be months? We’re in Feb now…the longer the better? Or is this not true? Great blog and site btw.

  32. Candy Kentner says:

    When using the vanilla extract in a recipe do you use
    The full amount it calls for? Or do you use half since
    It’s pure?

    • Nikki Gladd says:

      Hi Candy,
      I use the full amount (and sometimes just a tad bit more). The same when using any pure vanilla extract and not just homemade. 🙂

  33. Deda Flora says:

    What brand of Vodka is best to use?

    • Nikki Gladd says:

      Hi Deda, I don’t think there is specifically a best brand, but I usually use not the cheapest, yet not the most expensive. I know I’ve used Skyy, but can’t remember other brands off hand. As long as it’s not a flavored vodka, and not the absolute cheapest, you should be fine. 🙂

  34. Jonie Anderson says:

    I started my vanilla in February and just made 6 – 4 oz bottles. They are amazing! I used Stolichnaya brand vodka and it was perfect. I wanted to know if I can reuse the beans to make another batch or should I toss them and start over. Thank you so much for posting. I can’t wait to give these away for Christmas.

    • Nikki Gladd says:

      So glad to hear it Jonie! You can reuse the beans, but they will become less potent with each use so you will need to add at a couple of fresh ones, too. 🙂

  35. So, I want to try this! However, my bottles I have are 16oz. How much Vodka and how many beans do need to use?

    • Hi Bekah,
      For the 16 ounce bottle, I would use 6 vanilla beans and then fill with the vodka. (It will use about 2/3rds of the bottle of vodka called for in the recipe.)

  36. I started making vanilla in February. I used a bottle of makers mark and a bottle of absolute. I put quite a few vanilla beans in each bottle, but it is close to Christmas and neither seems ready. Freakingout!

    • Nikki Gladd says:

      Hi Cory,
      Have you been shaking the bottle every few weeks? Did you cut the vanilla pods to expose the beans? I bet it’s ready since it’s been brewing that long. It’s sometimes just hard to tell. Give it a try in a recipe and see what happens! 🙂

  37. Beth Tappen says:

    I have been brewing a batch since mid July, about 5 months. I am getting ready to bottle it for Christmas gifts and it also has an overpowering alcohol smell. I noticed that the store bought stuff, though saying it is pure vanilla extract, also contains sugar. Ever added any sugar or sugar syrup to the mix? How much? Have any of you used this for baking in place of your usual store bought with good results?


  38. After the vanilla is done brewing do you take the beans out? Does it matter if you do or not? Thanks in advance!

  39. Cathy Daugherty says:

    My beans have been in vodka in a qt jar for about a month. I didn’t think I had enough vanilla beans, so I bought more. My question: Did this hurt anything, me opening the jar and letting the air to it?

  40. Made it last Christmas and it was hit!! Used Infinity Jars for storage and it became an exclusive gift.
    They are absolutely great for these vanilla extract for a long period of time and easy top-up.

  41. I read on another blog that once the beans are no longer covered in the jar (from using the extract) that the beans should be removed from the jar. Is that your experience as well? My bottles have a small opening, similar to yours pictured here. How do you recommend removing them?

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