Homemade Vanilla Extract . How To-sday

November 11, 2014 separator DIY Tutorial

Homemade Vanilla Extract for the Holidays

This post for homemade vanilla extract was originally published back in November 2012, and it’s still one of my more popular projects. I thought I’d just let everyone know that I still regularly use my own little bottle! I top it off with more alcohol when it runs low, and I’ve added a couple vanilla beans over time. I’m bringing it back to the surface because if you want to make this for holiday gifts, it’s a good time to go ahead and get started.
My friend Sarah is epic. Seriously. When she makes s’mores, she makes them from scratch – from the graham crackers to the marshmallows. Her baked goods are legendary, and her kitchen is like Disneyland compared to my own meager gadget offerings. Read on to the end of this post to meet Martha and Stewart Siamese and Sarah herself! Lucky for us, Sarah and I are going to be working together on some foods features from now on! This first one is amazing – super easy with a huge impact and high gifting potential!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

What You Need
Homemade Vanilla Extract
1.   You’re going to need one vanilla bean for a two-ounce bottle or two beans for a 4 ounce bottle. Cut them each in half so that they’ll fit in the bottle. 

Homemade Vanilla Extract
When you cut them, all the little seeds will ooze out the cut ends. It looks kind of like caviar, which is pretty sick, but it smells awesome, which is not sick at all. 
2.   Now you’re going to slice down the length. Make sure you start the cut about half an inch from the end so that it stays together. You just want to cut it open to release the seeds and flavors. You can do this with kitchen scissors or a good, sharp paring knife.
3.   Stuff your beans into the bottle. So, for the little bottles, you’ll stuff two halves in, for a total of one bean. For the bigger bottles, you’ll put it four halves, for a total of two beans. 
4.   If they poke out the top, especially on the smaller bottles, you can push them in further, and they should bend. If you can’t bend it, just snip off the ends with your kitchen scissors or paring knife. 
5.   Booze time! Use a funnel with a small end, or if you don’t have one that’ll fit into the bottle opening, just use a measuring cup with a little spout. Top each bottle off with straight vodka. 
This is about when your pretty little project starts looking like a bunch of specimen jars off American Horror Story or something. Power through – it’ll be pretty soon. 
6.   You should have the labels printed up already from my free download in two sizes. Cut them out, and stick one onto each bottle. Definitely do this last so that you don’t drip anything on the label and ruin it. 
7.   Tie a cute little bow around the neck, and your vanilla is officially gift-worthy! We used one-inch ribbon because the neck is so short on these.
8.   Store the bottles in a cool, dry place for about 6-8 weeks. You should take them out and shake them up weekly. They’ll start to develop that rich, brown color over time (which will look awesome with the light blue labels,  by the way!). 
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Homemade Vanilla Extract
These are Sarah’s epic Siameeesies, Martha and Stewart. I love them. Clearly they love me, too.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Do you have any questions about how we did this? Leave ’em in the comments, and I’ll get right back to you! 😀


    1. Hi Ingrid! Yes, it’s a common ingredient in recipes for cakes, cookies, and other sweets.

  1. 1 pint vodka – 11 beans,cut in 1/2 ” pieces – table spoon dark kayro syrup

    1. I’m sure the Karo syrup is a nice sweetener, and I’d definitely be interested to try your extract! I do prefer to keep it to the vanilla beans and alcohol so that mine is a pure extract.

  2. Will this work in a 16 oz bottle? I’d like to make it all in one batch, and maybe share it later.

    1. You could certainly do a bigger bottle. Just use the same ratio of vanilla beans to ounces. 😀

  3. Is it too early to do this for next Christmas? How long can I keep the unopened bottles? Thank you, this is a great idea!

    1. Mary, I don’t think it’s too early at all. The alcohol content will keep anything from spoiling, and the longer you let the vanilla sit, the better the flavor will get! 😀

  4. Did you strain the bottles before giving them out at all? I made mine about 3 weeks ago and there are a lot of floaties… 😉

    1. Jody, we didn’t strain at all. The floaties are just part of the beans and tiny vanilla seeds and add to the flavor. 😀

  5. Such fun packaging!

    We haven’t gotten to the vanilla extra stage yet, but we made vanilla sugar a couple weeks ago: just put used vanilla bean husks in sugar and store in a jar for a week!

    1. Vanilla sugar is delicious, Esther, and it would make a great gift, too!!

  6. Do you leave the vanilla beans in the bottle after they’re done sitting for the two months? Sorry if this is a silly question lol

    1. You can leave them in there forever and just keep adding more alcohol to top it off. 😀

  7. Deborah – It’s such a fun project and gift! You can probably highlight all the dots and then use the ‘replace color’ function in Photoshop. I’m no expert at Photoshop though – I google instructions for everything! lol

    – Lindsay

  8. This sounds SO exciting! Is it possible to get little pink dots on the tags instead of blue? Can I manipulate them in photoshop after I download? Thanks!

  9. FYI . . . bought the vanilla and the (brown) bottles . . . just need the vodka! SO excited about giving this as Christmas gifts this year!! Miss your face but am so glad for Le Salad!

  10. hrhkatrina – We got these all for $20. You can use the link in the materials section to buy them for cheaply!

    Anons – Thanks for the question and answer! You can definitely just top it off with more alcohol to let the bean renew the flavor. It’ll take ages to run out that way! I have to say that I think for the size of bottles we used, a full bean seems perfect, since they’re so large. I would definitely use more in a larger bottle though.

    – Lindsay

  11. I made vanilla extract for Christmas gifts last year. I did a lot of research and found a ton of useful information on VanillaReview.com. You really need to use 6 beans per 8 oz of vodka to make single fold vanilla (anything less and you are making vanilla flavored vodka). I personally use 8 beans per 8 oz of vodka. Also Grade B vanilla beans are best for making extract. Using Grade A beans, you are putting more water into your extract. Grade B beans have less moisture and you need fewer Grade B beans than Grade A beans to make extract. I get my beans from Vanilla Products USA (Madagascar Grade B Extract beans).

    Also you should use the amber colored bottles to help keep light away from the vanilla bean which causes it to deteriorate. Even with the amber colored bottles, the vanilla should be stored in the dark.

    To the previous poster asking about whether you should discard the beans after two months. No, just keep them in the bottle. You can top off your bottle and the beans will continue to flavor the vodka. Of course, the more you top it off, the flavor over time will become weaker. Also over time the beans will just disintegrate and you will want to add some fresh beans. I have had my bottles of vanilla for 13 months and just last month added fresh beans to it (left the other beans in it). I use one bottle for my baking and then have a mason jar that I will refill my smaller bottle from.

  12. Thanks for the great idea!
    I do have a question. After the 2nd month, do you remove the vanilla bean and discard?

  13. Thank you for sharing! I am pinning this for future gift ideas AND for my own :o)

  14. How much did all those vanilla beans cost? The cheapest I’ve ever found them is $7 a piece. That looked to be about $200 in vanilla beans in the pic. is there an online source for cheap beans?

  15. Thank you for this helpful post! Looking forward to trying it! And thanks for the link to the labels as well. Very pretty!

    To a different commenter: I know some people will make vanilla sugar rather than using alcohol. This might be an option to give to your friends who cannot have alcohol.

  16. I’m so glad you like the project, everyone!

    Anonymous – Regular vanilla in the store also has a high concentration of alcohol. It’s what extracts and preserves the flavor from the beans. I think vodka is the alcohol of choice for diy because it’s got a clean, neutral flavor compared to other liquors. When you’ve infused it, you can use it just like regular store-bought vanilla. You won’t taste vodka, you’ll taste the strong, bitter vanilla flavor, just as you do with store-bought.

  17. This looks like a great idea….I have a few questions though

    Does regular vanilla that we buy in the store have vodka in it?
    Why vodka?
    Once the two month infusing is done do you use it like regular store bought vanilla and do you taste the vodka in it?

    Sorry about the questions but I would love to do this but have friends that do 12 step programs and of course they cannot have the vodka. thanks for your time and great ideas.

  18. I had my first vanilla bean encounter a few weeks ago when I was making some shortbread, and now I’m kind of obsessed with them! Thanks for this tutorial – I totally want to do this!

  19. Thanks for the link on the vanilla beans! I’v always wanted to make my own vanilla extract but the beans can be so expensive! Thank you! I’m going to try it as soon as my order comes in 🙂

  20. Awesome post! I saw this somewhere else awhile back and have been really wanting to make my own extract ever since! The only thing that has kept me from it is sourcing some vanilla beans…thanks for the link! I might just take the plunge and buy them in bulk…too bad it might be too late to do this for my Christmas presents, but I will put it on the list for next year for sure! Thanks for sharing. Love your presentation too.

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