Homemade Vanilla Extract is both fun and easy to make. It only takes two ingredients – vanilla beans and vodka – to make this perfect Christmas gift. However, it takes time for the vanilla beans to infuse the vodka which is why now is the time to start thinking about that perfect gift for family, friends and co-workers.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Table of Contents
I’ve been making my homemade vanilla extract for a number of years. In fact, I keep it in a 1.75 liter Vodka bottle, that I periodically top up with extra Vodka when the liquid runs a bit low.
Why Make Your Own Vanilla Extract
There are a lot of reasons that you should consider making your own vanilla extract.
- It’s super simple to make and has no fillers like water, sugar, and coloring (check out the ingredients list the next time you’re in the store)!
- Homemade vanilla extract is significantly cheaper than store-bought vanilla extract. In fact, this recipe costs a little over $1.00 per ounce compared to much more expensive store brands.
- Homemade vanilla extract has a virtually indefinite shelf life and can be replenished with the addition of more vodka when the liquid runs low.
- If you start now, you will have the most prized gift for those on your Christmas list.
Equipment and Ingredients for Homemade Vanilla Extract
To make this homemade vanilla extract, you’ll need bottles with tight seals, a funnel, a sharp knife, and if desired, something to make labels.
The recipe for this homemade vanilla extract requires only two ingredients – Vodka and vanilla beans. It’s important that the Vodka not be flavored. In addition, there’s no point in using expensive Vodka.
I generally use Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans from Amazon.com. However, just do a search for vanilla beans and you’ll see that there are a lot of options.
For gifts, I like to use 8.5-ounce swing-top bottles that I get from Amazon.com. Also, I make labels for the bottles using Avery 22816 2 x 2″ square labels.
Making the Homemade Vanilla Extract
Step 1: To start, I cut the vanilla beans down the middle with a sharp paring knife.
It’s not necessary to cut all the way through the bean. Rather you want to expose the actual seeds. The seeds provide both the color and the flavor to the vanilla extract.
Step 2: Next, I placed five beans in the sterilized 8.5-ounce bottle. My rule of thumb is to use five to six beans per 8-ounces of vodka.
You might want to cut the beans in half, but I leave them whole.
Step 3: After I inserted the beans into the sterilized bottles, I poured the vodka in with the help of a small funnel.
Then, I removed the funnel and secured the caps on the bottles.
Step 4: Once I’d capped the bottles, I gave them a good shake. Every now and then, I shake the bottles again.
Step 5: When I give the Homemade Vanilla Extract as gifts, I like to place a label on the bottle. I include the date that I bottled the vanilla extract.
I store the vanilla extract in a cool, dry place for the long wait to perfection.
Homemade Vanilla Extract takes at least 8-weeks of aging before it is ready to be used. However, the longer it infuses, the better it gets. I like to give it at least 5-months of aging before giving the vanilla as a gift.
The wait is totally worth it. Those on your gift list will secretly thank you every time they reach for this amazing gift. As for you, you’ll never use store-bought again! Yum!
Frequently Asked Questions
You should use 80 proof alcohol to make vanilla extract. If using vodka, it’s important that you use an unflavored variety. Also, there’s no point in using an expensive brand of vodka because the flavor comes from the vanilla beans. In fact, the vodka that I use costs around $15 for a 1.75 liter bottle.
You can also use bourbon, brandy or rum to make vanilla extract.
I have not personally tried making vanilla extract without alcohol, so cannot comment on how it would work or taste. However, there are recipes online that do not use alcohol.
I consistently use Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans because I think that these beans produce superior taste. They are, however, the less expensive vanilla beans.
Vanilla beans come in different grades. I consistently use Grade-A beans which are plump and pliable with lots of little seeds that can be easily scraped out. They have a soft texture and a relatively high moisture content. Grade-B beans which are less expensive than Grade-A tend to be dry and brittle making it difficult to slice and scrape out the seeds. Both Grade-A and Grade-B vanilla beans can be used for making vanilla extract. However, you will typically need fewer Grade-A beans per batch of vanilla extract. Also the vanilla extract made with Grade-A beans will take less time to mature than that made with Grade-B beans.
I like to order my vanilla beans online. The last batch that I purchased came from Amazon. Just just do a search online for vanilla beans and you’ll see that there are a lot of options.
Most of the world’s supply of vanilla beans comes from Madagascar which is an island off the east coast of Africa. Over the last several years, severe storms have ravaged the island’s vanilla bean crops, significantly driving up the cost. More recently, the costs have started to come down.
I purchased the bottles used in this recipe from Amazon. This particular order included not only the bottles, but also two collapsable funnels. Whatever bottles you use, just be sure that they have a tight seal.
If you’re looking for some more edible gift ideas for Christmas, check out my Ultimate Easy Edible Gift Guide.
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Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup (8-ounces) Unflavored vodka (See Tip 1)
- 5 to 6 Whole vanilla beans (See Tip 2)
- Wash and sterilize the bottles that will be used. (See Tip 3)
- With a sharp paring knife cut the vanilla beans down the middle. Place the beans in the clean bottle. Pour in vodka. Seal the bottle, and store in a cool, dark place. Let the vanilla extract age for at least 8-weeks before using, occasionally shaking the bottle. (See Tip 4)
- Note: When the vanilla extract gets low, add more vodka to the bottle.
- It’s important to use unflavored vodka. Also, you don’t need to use an expensive vodka. If desired, you could use bourbon, rum or brandy in place of the vodka.
- I like to use Madagascar Bourbon Grade-A vanilla beans. My rule of thumb is to use 5 to 6 per 8 ounces of liquid.
- If you’re using swing-top bottles, it’s best not to put them in the dish washer. The reason is that the metal for the swing-top could corrode.
- The longer the vanilla beans infuse, the better. I like to wait at least 5 months.