Monday, November 21, 2011


This is all you need to make homemade vanilla extract.  A package of vanilla beans, a bottle of vodka, and a knife (or scissors)!  That's it.  We have been buying our beans online for the last few years from the same place, they have a great quality product.  Their website is

For my "recipe", I buy a package of 20 vanilla bean pods, and then I get a 750ml bottle of Vodka.  Now in this picture, you'll see I got the higher alcohol vodka.  That is only because it's what was on sale and cheaper than the other.  Otherwise, you can get whatever you can find.

Slice each bean in half lengthwise.  This isn't necessary but it does speed up the process by exposing the tiny vanilla seeds.

Speaking of, do you see that on the knife blade and the stuff on the upper right side of the picture?  Those are vanilla seeds, the tiny little black specs you see in vanilla bean ice cream.  That's pure flavor!


Just open the bottle and pour off a bit of the top (now WHERE you pour it is entirely up to you, LOL).  This is a necessity as the volume of the beans will displace the vodka and cause an overflow. You don't have to pour off much, I usually just wait until the beans start causing it to get to the top, then I pour a little out.  Just don't lose the beans you've already put in!

You can either slice them all in half first and then drop them in one at a time, or slice and drop each one as you do it.  Really, it's whatever you feel like, there is no right or wrong way.

Here is a closeup.  As you can see, it's just a matter of dropping them in, one at a time. They don't float, so you don't have worry about that, they will fall to the bottom of the bottle.  Notice how clear the Vodka is in these pictures?  And then see the brownish tint starting and all those little flecks of black?  That's after I shook it up.

After you're done, make sure the cap is screwed on tightly, slap a label on it so you can remember when you started it (I just put on some masking tape with the date) and then keep it in a dark place like the back of your pantry.  With this many beans, you can use it in about 3 months.  However, we like to wait for about 4-6 months to get the best and strongest flavor.  Shake it every couple of days and that's it.  Just wait...and as you can see above in the picture on the right, it will eventually turn a dark, almost cola color.  This was the second bottle of our last batch from almost a year ago.  We pour it into smaller bottles as we need it.

When the time is up, you just filter it out and use it.  This process is easy as well.  What we use is one of those gold, permanent coffee filters you can get just about anywhere, and we add a paper coffee filter to it for extra filtering.  Don't use your current coffee filter, it's best to buy a dedicated one.  We bought a permanent filter JUST for this use.  You don't want coffee flavor in your extract, LOL.  You can also just pour it through two or three paper coffee filters into a bottle.  We sometimes use it just filtered right out of the bottle and into a measuring spoon (this however, takes a bit of finesse, ha).

Either way you do it, you will end up with wonderful, pure, vanilla extract.  Better than what you can get in most stores (i.e. not artificial), and certainly cheaper.  The vodka was $10 for the bottle, the beans were about $15.
This 750ml bottle of vodka will yield about 24 ounces of pure vanilla extract.  At upwards of $8 for a small bottle at the store, it's definitely a cost savings.
Not to mention fun!



  1. That is an excellent tip! Where do you buy your vanilla beans?

  2. You know you like to "test" that first little "sip" to make room for the beans and to keep you smiling haha I'm wise to that trick :o)

  3. Tonya - I should have included that, my apologies. I am at work today but tonight when I get home, I'll update the blog posting with the web address.

    Ginny - Hmmm...yes, I pour it out, yeah, sure, uh huh, that's what I do...LOL!!!

  4. I want to know where to get the beans too. I love baking with them but they're so dang expensive!!

  5. Oh, I love this! This is definitely going on my list of things to try!!!

  6. Kelly - I have updated the blog entry with the website. Their beans are very moist and great quality and seem to be very reasonably priced.

    Bee Girl - Try it, it's SO easy. And very satisfying for some reason. It's just neat to have your own homemade vanilla.

  7. Thanks! I am soooo doing this! yummmmm!

  8. Tonya - It's a great thing to do! The hardest part is waiting!

  9. What is the shelf life of the vanilla extract once it reaches "maturity" around 6 months? I am totally saving this page for my future homesteading adventures!!!

    1. Everything I've ever read says it has an indefinite shelf life. After we strain it, we have used it two years later. Once it's strained there is nothing in there that can deteriorate. It's 100% pure alcohol at that point, just like the pure stuff in the store. So I would say at least two years. We use it so often in baking and such that it rarely lasts longer than six months anyway, ha. Plus we like to make some and filter it to give away at the holidays. We give it to people we know that like to bake so we know it gets used up, ha.

      Enjoy! It's super easy and very rewarding. My favorite kind of adventure project, LOL!

  10. I made this last year and it is amazing. I poured the extra vodka in a mason jar and added beans to that to make extra vanilla. Going to make more this year. Guess I had better go get the vodka.

    1. I am sorry I just saw this comment. I hope yours came out nicely! We always try to have a batch going every six months.


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