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How To Make Vanilla Bean Extract

Affiliate Disclosure | in Recipes | by | with 77 Comments


Have You Ever Wandered . . .

Into a liquor store with a toddler in tow at eleven in the morning, plopped down half a gallon of vodka on the counter and smiled? It yields quite an interesting response, I assure you.

Of course, I had **slightly** different plans than the cashier guessed – homemade vanilla extract! Not only is it more delicious than store-bought, it’s far more affordable. I’m planning to give some away for the holiday’s this year along with coconut vanilla sugar and a few other goodies I’ll be sharing with you.

If you love the idea of a handmade holiday season but dread the thought of a bunch of unfinished projects, this is the tutorial for you! Just a few minutes of your time now + at least six weeks for the extract to ripen = amazing homemade gifts that will bring warmth and joy to your holiday events. All for a fraction of the cost of other goodies, of course!

Savings Analysis

Store-bought vanilla extract costs an average of $2.75 per ounce. Here’s the breakdown for this recipe:

  • Spirits – I used vodka for this batch. My cost was $0.49/ounce
  • Vanilla Beans – I found this variety set of 40 vanilla beans for $19.99. That’s $0.50 each.

Total store bought cost – About $11 for 4 ounces

Total homemade cost – About $3.46 for 4 ounces


A Note On Ingredients

The main spirits used to make vanilla extract – vodka and bourbon – are now often made from GMO-plants and/or enzymes derived from genetically modified organisms. (source) Rum is sometimes used as well, though I was unable to find a definitive answer on whether it is likely to have GMO origins. Manufacturers claim that “none of the genetic material makes it through the distilling process to the final product,” but to my knowledge that has not been independently verified. (source)

In a report on Kentucky bourbon and GMO’s, author Twilight Greenaway writes:

“This question of the genetic material passing through the distillation process came up repeatedly while I was researching the issue, and while it’s an important one, the fact is that neither Brown-Forman, nor the Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA), nor The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) have made any scientific research public that proves their point. The KDA did not respond to my inquiries either.)” (source)

Organic options are hard to find, but there are certain sources that are still likely to be GMO-free. If you’re looking for vodka, here’s one option. This one looks good, too. Bourbon is a little more tricky. There are brands that still strive to be GMO-free, but due to the fact that the corn used is grown in the United States cross-contamination may be an issue.

Rum, which is derived from sugarcane, would not contain GMO’s unless they come from enzymes used in the fermentation process. I was not able to find any data on manufacturing processes either way, but fortunately there are a few organic options if you’d like to go this route.

Should I Split The Vanilla Beans?

A lot of tutorials call for splitting the vanilla bean to accelerate the infusion process. Personally, I have found that split/unsplit vanilla beans yield the same results in the same amount of time. The difference, in experience, is that the extract made with split vanilla beans tends to be a little more cloudy, whereas the unsplit is clear.

My advice? Skip this step and then, if you’d like, remove the whole bean after the infusion process is complete. Cut the end off, squeeze it like a toothpaste tube to remove the pods, and then use them to make vanilla bean coconut macaroons or some other delicious treat. Of course, if you buy the vanilla bean set I mentioned earlier you will have some split pods to use as well. By all means use them to make extract or vanilla sugar.


How To Make Vanilla Extract



  1. Place vanilla beans and liquor in a container, seal tightly and give it a good shake.
  2. Store in a dark cabinet for at least 6 weeks, shaking occasionally.
  3. When the extract has reached the depth of flavor that you prefer you can remove the vanilla beans to be used in a recipe. However, it is also fine to simply leave them in.
  4. Store in either a dark container or in a dark cabinet.
How To Make Vanilla Extract

From Left to Right: Extract on Day 1, Day 4 and Day 50



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77 Responses to How To Make Vanilla Bean Extract

  1. Melinda says:

    I found an organic vodka that I am going to make vanilla with. Ocean Vodka is made from sugar can and good mineral water. It is a new company, I was at their “plant” and saw the cane sugar growing.

  2. Chandell says:

    Thank you for sharing your recipe for vanilla along with information (and source links) about GMOs. It is nice to see that information side-by-side with recipes. Can you please provide a resource link for those adorable bottles.

  3. Amy says:

    Mine still tastes so strongly like vodka. I got expensive vodka because I needed it gluten free. I use it for cooking but I am hesitant to use it in frosting (or anything that I don’t bake). It’s been a few months. Does that taste/smell ever go away?

    • Heather says:

      Hmmm, I haven’t had that experience so I’m just guessing here, but it might help to add a few more vanilla beans. Sometimes if they are a little on the dry side they may not impart as much flavor. There could be other factors, too, I’m not sure!

    • Wendi says:

      Info I found on the Internet talked about all distiller liquor being gluten free. The distilling process takes the gluten out of it. But please correct me if I am wrong!

      • Sydney says:

        While all distilled liquors are gluten free by nature, not all finished products are. Some cheaper whiskeys and bourbons will have a bit of mash added back into the distilled alcohol to improve the depth of flavour. In addition, any alcohols stored in wooden vats, barrels, or casks are suspect unless you have clarity from the manufacturer, as wheat paste is still used in sealing the wood. Contact with the wheat paste is innocuous to non-GF folks, but it means cross-contamination for us. Some information is available online as to which are actually gluten free, but I find it’s always best to contact the manufacturer directly.

  4. Monica says:

    Great post! I made some vanilla extract this way and it is delicious. I found a local Iowa brand of organic vodka at Hy-Vee…yay!

  5. Monica says:

    I forgot to ask my question! Is it important to get organic vanilla beans?

  6. Dianne says:

    Since I don’t drink the ‘hard’ stuff, can you explain how the different vanilla extracts are likely to taste when made with the various spirits? I’d like to try this, but want to like it when it’s done! Thanks.

  7. ~Kate F. says:

    Hello, I am curious about your lovely containers. They look perfect for gifting. Where did you find them? Thanks!

  8. Krystal Wight Armstrong says:

    I did this last year for Christmas presents; so good! I bought a couple of those larger bottles of SKYY Vodka at Costco (before I knew to think about GMO alcohol), so I’m glad to see that it was one of the safe options according the ‘Non GMO Journal’ you linked to. Thanks for that! I still have one almost full SKYY bottle in my pantry with a bunch of the beans and rich extract in it. It’s such a ridiculously huge bottle of extract I have no idea how to use it all! So please share any more great recipes you have to use this in : )

  9. Alisa says:

    So, can you re-use the vanilla beans for another batch of extract? Or do you need to get fresh beans each time you make the extract?

  10. Vanessa - Natural Family Today says:

    This is great! Real vanilla from the store is so expensive sometimes. I will be trying this for sure!

  11. sarahkeister says:

    I’ve been making home made vanilla for years, using this same process outlined above. It is always delicious and always tastes like the really expensive stuff that one can purchase from places like Penzey’s Spices. My personal favorite, especially for smoothies and homemade icecream, is vanilla made with Brandy. Brandy somehow makes the vanilla taste more like vanilla. It is reminiscent of vanilla aged in old oaken casks. The idea that you wouldn’t like any homemade vanilla, (at least any with enough v. beans) is relatively funny once you have tasted it. The more likely thing is that you will become such a snob you will never like the store-bought kind again!
    Regarding ways to use up extra vanilla. Well, it keeps an awfully long time, I would just look at it as something that I did not need to buy for awhile. But if you are really looking…. It is delicious added to a glass of full-fat raw grass-fed milk with a small amount of honey or maple syrup. Hot or cold it tastes like white chocolate cocoa. For extra nutrition, add a pastured egg yolk to above and give it a quick whirl in the blender. Talk about silky!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Karee says:

    can you use potato vodka?

  13. Lin says:

    I’ m in Australia and I love using bunderberg rum. I use the vanilla beans over and over and just leave them in the bottle while using. Homemade vanilla just gets better with age. Great in cake mixes, junkets, icecream, milk, and yogurt. Love simple recipes like this especially when they last forever.

  14. How To Make Homemade Vanilla Bean Extract | DIY Home Sweet Home says:

    […] How To Make Homemade Vanilla Bean Extract […]

  15. Julia says:

    After reading all the comments I did some research into the differences in the types of alcohol. Vodka and Whisky are grain alcohols while Brandy is made from grapes/wine. (The original name is “brandywine”) Some of them appear to be made with Madagascar Vanilla…. I am intrigued, and am going to try making some using brandy! :-)

  16. Tiffany says:

    Your homemade vanilla extract is beautiful! Thank you for the link love <3
    ~ Tiffany

  17. elise says:

    How would you make vanilla extract with out using alcohol? I’m allergic to pretty much all alcohol

  18. ginhoegun says:

    Had no idea this was so easy! Thanks for the tips. :)

  19. Melissa says:

    I’ve bought vodka and brandy. I’m going to try them both. I have pint mason jars. How many vanilla beans to the jar should I put? I know the recipe calls for 4, but you used small jars. I’m about to head to the store for the organic vanilla beans and making th vanilla tonight. I’m excited!!

  20. Kathryn Lindsey says:

    I started some vanilla about 4-5 weeks ago but it seems like it’s hit a plataue and is not getting any darker. I didn’t split the beans and I do shake it from time to time. And it does smell amazing but I was really hoping for it to turn that deep rich brown color. Do you think if I added more beans it would help the color get darker?

    • Heather says:

      It probably would, but I recommend that you taste it first and see how the flavor is developing. Maybe you won’t want/need to!

  21. Susanna says:

    Its been about 7 weeks for me and my vanilla hasn’t gotten darker and it still tastes like alcohol… I also didn’t split the beans..what should i do?

  22. Maia says:

    Hi, I’m trying to find a gmo free rum in North Carolina and it is so hard! I prefer the taste of vanilla from St. Martin and they use rum 😉

    Thanks so much for this recipe!

  23. Carolyn says:

    Bourbon that is sold primarily in the international market is GMO free. Four Roses and Wild Turkey do not use GMO corn.

    • Maia says:

      Thanks! Will try that since I can’t get the rum. Am used to being near NYC – in North Carolina can’t buy certain alcohol that I could even buy in Tennessee.

  24. joyce wang says:

    what exactly do the three different liquors differ in the final taste of the the vanilla extract? and can i replace one teaspoon for one teaspoon of the store bought vanilla extract and this homemade one?

    • Katie Campbell says:

      Hey Joyce, the liquors are totally different. Have you ever had Rum Cake? or Bourbon Pecan Pie? Or a Vodka Martini? They all taste very different. Vodka is considered tasteless, but in all honesty tastes like alcohol. At a cooler temp, not as nasty. :) Rum is darker in color and is regional in flavor… meaning each region that makes it imparts its own flavor. While these flavors are nuanced, they are more like burnt caramel and warm wood. Of course each type of rum tastes different. I recommend getting the tiny bottles, like 4 of them and tasting them. Bourbon is delicious and has many different flavors like sweet, leathery, smoky, cinnamon, woody, caramely… etc. each bourbon has a flavor profile all its own… If I were you, I would buy the small 3-4 ounce tiny cute sampler bottles and make extract with those. They range in price, but are definitely the cheapest for experimenting! Buy Absolute Vodka, Captain Morgan’s White Rum, Myer’s Dark Rum, Maker’s Mark Bourbon, and Buffalo Trace Bourbon. Make Vanilla with each of these. Then make a small vanilla cookie recipe with each one. That will give you the best idea of exactly how each one will taste in a recipe with the smallest amount of money. As Heather said this would be a really nice gift! Especially if they got a vanilla sampler pack each made with 3 or 4 different alcohols! I’m going to do this too! Happy Extracting!

  25. Tammy says:

    I wanted to find out how to make it without alcohol. Is that possible and will i still get good vanilla extract. Thanks

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  27. Emily says:

    I pinned this one on Pinterest! I used it to make Christmas gifts this year. I got the variety pack of beans, and tried each of the different types of alcohol. My favorite? RUM!

  28. Julie says:

    Hello! I have a quart sized ball jar that I used to make vanilla. I left the beans in the jar and have been using it a little at a time. It is about half way gone now. The last time I tried to use it, it smelled so strongly and tasted so strongly of alcohol. What would cause this to turn back from vanilla to a more alcohol taste? Do I need to just add more beans and fill it up with vodka? Or should I start over completely? What do I do with the liquid I already have in there? Thanks for the help!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Julie, I’ve not heard of this kind of issue before so unfortunately I’m not sure what to advise. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

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  31. Amanda says:

    Is it better to use a dark color bottle?

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  34. Becky says:

    Last year I decided to make my own vanilla extract. I walked into the liquor store 8 months pregnant and told the cashier “I need the biggest bottle of your cheapest vodka.” He just stared.

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  37. Jennifer says:

    Does anyone know what exactly do the three different liquors differ in the final taste of the the vanilla extract? Thanks.

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  40. Ronda says:

    I put four vanilla beans in a bottle of vodka about a month ago, and it still doesn’t seem vanilla-y. It has turned gold in color, but when I smell it, I’m not getting much vanilla scent. But I haven’t been shaking the bottle, so maybe I just need to start doing that–loosening up that flavor. :)

  41. Cazare says:

    Hi, Can i share How To Make Vanilla Bean Extract on my facebook?

  42. Trina says:

    Hi, I have been making homemade vanilla extract for years now. I made it with rum and it wasn’t quite the same as with vodka. If you go into you can find good vanilla beans and neat bottles. I make mine with 6-8 beans and 8oz of a good vodka. Store in a dark place for 2 months and shake now and then. Yum!

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  46. Lisa says:

    Has anyone ever reused the vanilla beans for another batch of vanilla extract?

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  48. Lisa says:

    I was wondering what size bottles you used and where you got them from? I love them.


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