This vanilla extract recipe is only TWO ingredients! Pour into small bottles and gift to teachers, neighbors, friends and family!
You will be surprised at how easy it is to make your own vanilla extract. With only 2 ingredients, you can have the best tasting vanilla for your baking recipes! Or, plan to gift them in smaller bottles as a thoughtful homemade gift.
It's September, which means it's time to start brewing homemade vanilla so they will be ready to gift in Christmas baskets! Actually, you can start any time of the year because it never expires. I'm starting to make mine very soon for teacher Christmas gifts this year!
Store-bought pure vanilla extract is expensive, but you can cut your costs by making it at home.
Grocery List for Homemade Vanilla Extract:
- Vanilla beans
- 80 proof vodka
Click here for full recipe ingredients and instructions.
How to Make Vanilla Extract
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. It's best to use dark glass bottles like this to preserve the brewing process.
I 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! Or, I found a couple of cute pre-made sticker labels on Amazon here and here.
Your Questions Answered
What is the best vodka to make vanilla extract?
We use 80 proof vodka, but you can also use bourbon, rum or brandy. Don't spend a ton of money since it's the vanilla flavor you want to shine through. Also do not use flavored types.
What kind of vanilla beans are best?
The first time I made this years ago, I used grade A vanilla beans but that was totally unnecessary. Grade B beans are perfectly fine for making extract, and are much cheaper. We use Tahitian beans.
What if my vanilla extract isn't done in time for Christmas?
If your vanilla won't be ready by Christmas, just place a "ready by" date on the bottle to inform your recipients when the vanilla is ready for use. Even if your friends can't use it right away, they'll appreciate the gift and be excited to use it later. I've included a space for you to write this date on my free printable labels.
Top Tips and Tricks
- 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 second 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.
- Use a small funnel to help pour the vodka into individual bottles.
This recipe was originally published December 2011 and updated September 2020 with new recipe tips and recommended product links.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 750 mL bottle 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 at least 12 weeks before first use. Shake every couple of weeks. Never expires.
If brewing for 4-ounce bottled gifts:
- Slice each vanilla pod in half vertically and horizontally. Place 1 ½ pods (6 sliced segments) in each 4-ounce bottle. Fill each bottle with vodka and replace lid tightly.
- Let steep for at least 12 weeks. If giving away as gifts before the 12 weeks is up, include a tag with the bottle that states the "Ready by" date. Never expires.
- Use a moderately valued vodka, not the most expensive but not the cheapest. Skyy is a good brand to use here.
- You may use bourbon in place of vodka.
- Nutrition information is an estimation only.