Monday, September 30, 2013

diy vanilla extract

With September already gone, we are rapidly approaching the Christmas holidays.  Now, do understand that I realize "rapidly" is a rather relative term (we haven't even passed Halloween, of course!), but in terms of making this homemade vanilla for the holidays... well, it's about that time of year.

Making your own vanilla is simple and considerably economical, especially if you reuse the bottles year after year.  Most importantly (to me, at least), homemade vanilla extract makes an excellent (and beautiful) gift, so, without further ado, let me lead you to how I make my version of diy vanilla extract (note:  cited sources did not sponsor this post, but are simply here for reference & because I like them!).


Vanilla beans.  I ordered the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans from Beanilla.  I ordered a half pound this year, which was a lot.  Way more than the predicted 50 to 60 beans.  Last year, I ordered 25 beans, which was not quite enough for me, personally, as I was making vanilla for multiple people... but I still had quite a few vanilla beans.   When deciding how many you need, estimate that you will need five beans per 8-ounces of vodka (and therefore a bottle approximately that size).

Bottles.  You can use anything here, so long as it seals.  I bought these swing-top bottles from The Container Store, but I (more economically) expanded my collection this year with several from Specialty Bottle.  I like the swing-tops because they have a good seal, and they are easy to use when baking, but you can use a corked bottle or even a mason jar.

Booze.  I used cheap vodka, but you can also use bourbon or rum.  The vodka will give you the purest vanilla flavor, and vanilla extract is traditionally made with it; however, bourbon is supposed to add extra sweetness and dimension to your vanilla, so I tried it for two 8-ounce bottles this year.


1.  Slice each bean open lengthwise.

Don't cut all the way through the bean (don't be upset if you do, though); just slice it open.

2.  Open the bean up wide so that the entire inside is exposed.

3.  Add the beans to your sealable jar/bottle and cover with alochol:  you will need approximately 5 vanilla beans per 8 ounces {1 cup!} of alcohol.  Make sure your vanilla beans are covered completely; if you are using shorter bottles, make sure you cut the beans in half horizontally so that they fit into the bottle and can be covered by the alcohol.

4.  Store vanilla in a cool, dark place (don't expose to sunlight!).  Let vanilla beans steep for at least 2 months before using the extract, and be sure to shake up the vanilla at least once a week!  When you do start to use the extract, you can keep topping it off with alcohol for several months if you are using only a teaspoon or so at a time.  You can alternatively remove the vanilla beans when you are ready to use the vanilla.  If you do keep the vanilla beans in the jar, be sure to keep them covered with alcohol to prevent mold growth.

Remember:  the longer you steep your vanilla, the stronger it will be.
Vanilla extract several minutes after adding the beans.  You can expect them to darken weekly.
5.  Share!  These make great DIY gifts for the bakers in your lives!


  1. Seriously very excited to try this project. I have lots of vodka and (as you know) bake quite a lot so this will be a great time. Thanks!

    1. Yay! I'm glad you're going to try it out! It makes a wonderfully fragrant/delicious extract for baking, even according to Mia ; )