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Homemade Vanilla Extract

Those of you that have read my blog for awhile know that I am trying to avoid packaged and processed things. Vanilla extract was one of those things that I had never thought about really being processed. I never thought about making my own. But after seeing a couple of sites talk about making their own vanilla extract I thought I might give it a try.

I know what you are probably thinking, because I thought it at first too, why make your own? Well, have you looked at your bottle of extract, if it is like mine it contains corn syrup? Yes, corn syrup. I have no idea why they put corn syrup in vanilla, but they do.

Have you noticed the other ingredients in your extract? Alcohol, yes extracts contain alcohol, most around 30% some more. So, before some of say you can’t believe I am doing this, alcohol is alcohol. What I am using for this extract is 40% alcohol, so, what I am making is no different than the extracts you are buying in the stores.

So here are the ingredients: vodka

and vanilla beans.

Pretty simple isn’t it. When I decided to do this I had no idea what vodka costs. We have never bought or even looked at vodka. I sent my husband to the liquor store, quite a distance from where we live and where he practices. I can just hear what people would say when they saw the local dentist/church deacon walking out of the liquor store with a bottle of vodka. I am sure rumors would fly. 🙂 Since we don’t ever buy hard liquor, he had no idea if different vodka would make a difference for my project, so he just bought the cheapest bottle, which was $6. I am assuming for vanilla extract cheap is fine, but I could be wrong.

Now on to the vanilla beans, these were expensive. There was no way I was going to buy them in the store at about $5 a bean, because I needed 10 vanilla beans. There are a lot of sources online, but I wanted to order it from someone reputable. I decided to order the Vanilla Beans from Amazon. (Update: I have ordered from several different sellers on Amazon and they have all been fine. I read some of the reviews before I order, but have never had a problem.)

As far as the cost, overall this is cheaper than most store bought real vanilla extract. It will depend on where you buy your vanilla though. If you buy it from a warehouse store like Sam’s or Costco it may be cheaper to buy it. But I am not doing this for the cost. I am doing it so that I know what is in it. Also, from what I have read online homemade extracts taste much better.

This project is really easy, but it does take patience. All you do is make a slice down the side of the vanilla beans. You want to cut into the bean, but not completely through the bean.

You then place 10 beans into a bottle of vodka.

Then you let it sit for several months, shaking it once a week. I dated the bottle so that I would know the date I started it.

Here is what my vanilla looked like at one week.

See it is already looking like vanilla extract. I will keep you posted on my vanilla project. My vanilla should be ready to use in a few more weeks. I am curious to see if I see a difference then using the store bought extracts. I do know that I will now have a really large supply of vanilla.

So have any of you ever made homemade vanilla extract? If so is it better? Do you think it is cheaper?


Lynn's Kitchen Adventures


  1. I’ve been wanting to make mine for awhile now (for the same reasons) but I wasn’t sure how it would taste. I can’t wait until you try it and let us know. I’m sure it is better than store bought, but with the initial expense I’ve just put it off!

  2. JUST ME, THE MOM says

    Wow! That is amazing, I had no idea how they made vanilla. I may just have to stick with the Costco stuff, but looks delicious!


  3. shopannies says

    I would also like to know how this turns out

  4. Hi Lynn thank you for posting this recipe as I was telling my husband about this process but did not have the recipe. I am looking forward to making my own this way. Here is a stupid question, but how many fluid oz is the Vodka? I want to make sure I have right size for the job. Thank you for posting and I can’t wait to hear what you think about it in oh about six months is it? Would be great and in time for the Holiday season baking.

  5. CompleteLee Blogger says

    Have to laugh at your assessment of buying vodka. I don’t think I could bring myself to do it, lol!

    My vanilla extract doesn’t have corn syrup in it, so there are varieties out there you can buy without it.

    Thanks for sharing your post!

  6. Wendy, the size of the vodka is 750 ml. From what I have read 8-12 beans is what you need for that size. I don’t think there is an exact amount. You can buy the vodka is smaller sizes but for the savings we went with the bigger bottle. I am guessing I will just be well stocked with vanilla for awhile. 🙂

  7. I am so glad you are doing this. I am eager to see how it turns out for you. I have been thinking of making my own vanilla for a while now, but have never gotten around to it.

  8. Anonymous says

    I have been doing this since 1976. I was taught through a cooking demo by the chef of the Kennedy White House. You can obtain really good beans from sites on Ebay very REASONABLE. I have ordered numerous times and love the quality.

  9. I bet it would be yummy in a mixed drink as well. Vanilla Vodka is pretty expensive!

  10. This is wonderful! I should try that myself. Yes, vanilla beans ARE expensive. I just bought ONE for $10 a few days ago! Ridiculous! Well good luck to you and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  11. Jerri - Simply Sweet Home says

    Great tip. I laughed at your vodka buying story too because it reminds me of my hometown. (Alcohol sales are always voted down because people would rather go somewhere else to buy it.)

    I don’t drink personally; actually my husband thinks I would have fit in very well with the Puritans, but I do find it funny that people feel like they have to be secretive about buying it.

  12. Jenn at the Back Porch says

    I’ve heard about this method before but have never tried it. I could never find the vanilla beans cheap enough to justify it but, it may be something I try later on. I’d love to hear how it tastes compared to store bought stuff! Good luck!

  13. Stacey at BeMoreBalanced says

    Love this post. I had no idea what the ingredients of vanilla were. Kudos to you for making your own. I may have to try it myself. I’ll check back to see how yours is going.

  14. Very cool…are you going to bottle it up for friends too ? That is a lot of vanilla to use, even for as much as I bake during the year !!!

  15. While I have never made my own, I get mine from the Amish store. I do not think I ever could go back to what you get at a normal store….

  16. Charity McKenzie says

    Well, I’m definitely interested in how this turns out, just like everyone else. If I had to guess, though, I’d say it would turn out ALOT better with some halfway decent vodka. Cheap vodka does have a very different (and often very unpleasant) taste.

  17. I saw your link on Blissfully Domestic the other week, and I came back! This is a great idea; I never thought to do this.

  18. newlyweds says

    What a neat idea, I bet it is so much better than store bought. Can’t wait to hear how it turns out.

  19. I think that’s fairly cheap for such a large bottle and so “real”. I’ve been thinking and trying to do more whole and less processed and this is something I hadn’t even thought about! Thanks!

  20. janrenee612 says

    I am making my own vanilla extract right now. I am just using Vodka and some vanilla beans I bought online. But today I looked at a small bottle of vanilla extract that I bought a while ago, and it said it’s ingredients included water and corn syrup. I was wondering why the corn syrup so I googled it and found this website. Can anyone tell me the purpose of the corn syrup? Lynn, have you tried yours yet? I used triple the amount of beans the recipe I found called for. That was only because I had no idea how many beans came in a quarter of a pound! About 25 actually.

  21. I love my vanilla extract. I need to do a post about how much I like it. I have been using it for awhile now. I let it sit for about 3 1/2 months. Than I ran out of store vanilla, so I started using mine. At first it was not a real strong vanilla taste, but now that it is about 6 months out, it is even better. I love it. Yours might be a little strong with that many beans. If it is, just add more vodka and let it sit longer. It will be fine. I have no idea why they put corn syrup in vanilla. I have wondered the same thing. It seems like they put it in most things now. They sneak it in everywhere.

  22. After reading your post, I ordered some beans from eBay. I just mixed mine up today. I got two bottles and am using 2 types of beans. I plan to give some as Christmas gifts. A few years ago someone brought me some vanilla from Haiti and it was the best I’ve ever used. I am hoping this will be similar. Thanks for posting about this!

  23. I just wanted to comment on this old post. i just got in to making vanilla and researched the heck out of it.

    i found Madagascar extract grade B beans (ideal for extract) from a reputable seller on Ebay for 20 dollars a POUND. i got over 150 beans. these are extract grade high quality beans perfect for this task. and only 20 dollars. there is one specific seller i recomend. (Vanilla products usa) they have a web site and are power sellers on ebay with 100% positive feedback.

    good luck.

    PS. i use high quality vodka. “kettle one” with the low price i paid for vanilla beans i thought i would splurge on the vodka.

  24. I am so happy I discovered this recipe and am very keen to try! i would suggest using a better quality vodka. i am looking into organic vodkas for this exercise since some vodkas can use all sorts of chemicals in the vodka making process (however that works).

  25. I forwarded Lynn’s recipe to my sister because she is always coming up with different ideas to make and I knew she would want this. She is indeed making it as we speak, 2 weeks old as of now. I was as her house yesterday and saw the vanilla in process; and just seeing it inspired me to make it. So I ordered my vanilla beans today. Can’t wait to have homemade vanilla!! Thanks so much Lynn for sharing.

  26. I just started mine tonight–been meaning to ever since I read this post! LOL! Anyway, my husband thought I was crazy when I asked him to stop and buy me “cheap” vodka. He couldn’t get his head wrapped around this since I always want the best vodka. Can’t wait to try it!

  27. I would like to try this too, and we’d have to go somewhere out of town to buy it also. Don’t want to ruin that testamony.
    Can’t wait to hear how it turns out.

  28. Hi, I just loved reading about all the goings on about the Vanilla beans extract. Here in S.A. they cost R12.75 cents for two beans.. As we are 17 Rand to one dollar, you can imagine what 10 beans would cost us. The Vodka is cheap, R39,99 a bottle. My daughter makes shooters with jelly for parties, that is how I know. Here the bottle stores are even open on Sundays, and most of them belong to the Supermarkets.
    Thank you for sharing, at some point I will try it too.

  29. Ann WIlliams says

    I have done this and people always say my Toll House cookies taste better than theirs. It absolutely must be the vanilla!


  1. […] to pay for it?  She makes her own homemade vanilla extract! Spurred on by my friends Laura and Lynn, I recently gathered the ingredients:  cheap vodka and not-so-cheap Vanilla […]

  2. […] also thought we’d try out a whole grain cracker (note: one box) and that I’d experiment making my own vanilla extract, so I bought some vanilla beans. It won’t be ready until Spring and by then what I have will […]

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