With only two ingredients, and a mix-and-wait process, this is one of the easiest recipes you may ever try. You and your whole house will smell like vanilla, and you might save money.
I haven’t bought vanilla extract in a while because of the cost. I wanted to use only the really high-quality organic vanilla but the price kept rising and rising!
Using maple syrup in baking can give enough flavor that you don’t realize that there is no vanilla in a recipe. However, the smell of vanilla is marvelous and brings back earliest memories of baking with my mother. And I don’t want everything to taste like maple!
The solution: homemade vanilla extract.
The challenge: waiting the (at least) two months for the vanilla to give its flavor to the vodka. I saw some variations in the recommended wait time and let it go for nine weeks.
Is vanilla extract gluten-free?
Turns out that the vanilla beans aren’t at risk of containing gluten, but your alcohol could be if it’s made from a glutenous grain. Tito’s advertises the fact that it’s gluten-free, making it an easy choice in my case.
Is making your own less expensive?
When I last checked prices, organic vanilla cost around $4 per ounce. An ounce is 2 tablespoons, so that means that each teaspoon of vanilla that I’m adding to a recipe costs around 70 cents. The mind boggles!
I bought “10 Split Extract Grade B Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans” for which I paid $23 (the price has risen since then). I could have paid a little less for vanilla beans from Mexico or Tahiti but I had read that the best flavor came from Madagascar beans.
I found Tito’s gluten-free vodka on sale for $18. If I were to make the vanilla a second time I might use bourbon for flavor, but I was curious about how much color the vanilla extract would get with a colorless extracting alcohol.
This recipe made 2 cups of vanilla extract, or 16 ounces.
Total investment = $41 for 16 ounces, or about $2.50 per ounce. It’s not an earth-shattering money savings but it sure was fun.
It’s a lot of vanilla! I’m storing it in a dark Grolsch bottle. Don’t be confused by the clear bottle I show in the photo; I chose that one to show the color of the extract.
I may give some vanilla as holiday gifts… if I haven’t gotten too attached to it by then.
What can you do with the “spent” vanilla beans?
I was very interested to see that the cut beans turned from a rich brown to nearly black over the two months. I “brewed” the leftover vanilla beans in the remaining cup or so of vodka. I will update if the result is really exciting. UPDATE: I have left the beans and vodka to do their thing, and now have another cup of pretty aromatic vanilla, though maybe less intense than the first batch.
I’ve read that you can dry the beans, grind and mix with sugar to make vanilla sugar.
Or, mix the ground vanilla into bath salts. But I can’t verify either of those from experience – yet.
Do you have to use alcohol to make the vanilla extract?
If you prefer not to use alcohol at all, check out instructions for an alcohol-free version using vegetable glycerin here. The author notes that: 1) the shelf life for a glycerin-based vanilla is a year, while the alcohol-based extract will last 4-6 years and 2) the glycerin-version isn’t considered an extract. Only the alcohol-based product gets that name.
Pin for later!
If you make your own vanilla, it would be fun to know about your DIY experience, and to compare notes!
Recipes that would be great with my vanilla:
Shop How to Make Vanilla Extract
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How to Make Vanilla Extract
- 1 package of grade B Madagascar vanilla beans 10 beans
- 2 cups of vodka gluten-free if needed
- Don't open the package of beans until you are ready to use them, as they deteriorate when exposed to air. See note.
- Use scissors to cut the vanilla beans into 1/2-inch sections.
- Transfer the cut beans to a clean jar.
- Pour the vodka over the beans and cover the jar tightly.
- Place in a dark spot for two months or more.
- Swirl the liquid in the jar every day or two, then replace in the dark.
- At the end of the waiting time, strain the vanilla bean sections out of the vanilla extract. Store the extract in a tightly capped brown glass bottle.