Wednesday, January 23, 2019


It's that time of year, time to start a batch of vanilla extract.  I've posted this before but it's always a popular post and is always enjoyed by new blog readers.

Vodka for vanilla extract
It starts with a bottle of Vodka.  You don't have to use a premium high end brand, just something good.  We've used Smirnoff for years.  This size bottle is $11 at our local liquor store.
We used to order from another website but they have been out for the last year or so and we had to find a new source.  We don't get anything for posting this but people always ask us where to get vanilla beans so we wanted to share.  We get Madagascar "Grade A" for our extract making.  

Now here is a warning: wherever you buy, don't be shocked but vanilla prices have skyrocketed in recent years.  I remember our first batch of 10 beans when we started doing this was about $12.  Not anymore.  It's a worldwide thing, failed crops, weather, the import/export fees, etc, have all combined to drive up the cost of vanilla beans.  

This package of 10 beans was about $36 (and it was even on sale too) but had the best price for the quality that we found.  

Vanilla beans
I pull the beans out of the package and put them on a cutting board.  You always want to use good, plump beans like these above.  They should be moist.  You don't want the beans that come in a test tube like container at the grocery store and have been sitting there for months. 

I slice them in half.  Not necessary but it exposes the beans to the alcohol much quicker.  All the flavor is inside!  It makes for a rich and wonderful extract. 

Homemade vanilla extract
I pour off a bit of vodka into a cup so I can see how much the beans displace.  Then when they are all in, I pour as much of the vodka back in as will fit.  

Screw the top on and that's it!  You're done!

It will be ready in about 3 months but we like to let it age and so we don't use it until at least six months or later if we haven't run out of the previous bottle yet.  That's why we are always starting one while still using another one.

EDIT:  Keep it in a dark place out of sunlight, like a pantry or cabinet and every few days or once a week, just take the bottle and gently turn it from end to end a few times just to mix things up.  It will get darker and richer as time goes by.

People have asked do you filter it when it's done?  You can, absolutely.  One year we gave smaller bottles away as gifts at a party and I used one of those gold mesh coffee filters to filter it.  When we use it for our baking however, we just pour it out as we need it.  As it gets to the lower part of the bottle, we will filter of course. 

How easy is that?

DIY vanilla extract
On the left is the full new bottle, on the right is our current bottle, beautiful, dark and already half gone (2nd Man loves his homemade vanilla extract). 

So our total cost (this year) is $47.  Sounds like a lot (and it is, ha) but we end up with about 25 ounces of wonderful, quality vanilla extract.  Nielsen-Massey (a top end extract) has an 8 ounce bottle for sale for $36.  We have three times that much for just a little more.  That's a win.


  1. Great post. Homemade is always better. Do you keep it on the counter?

    1. I updated the post, thanks for asking about that, totally forgot to put that in, ha. Yep just keep in a cool, dark place. Turn it a few times once a week or so.

  2. Awesome! I can't wait to try this and give it away as gifts!! Thanks for the great idea!

    1. It makes wonderful gifts. We did that a few years back. You can pour it through a coffee filter so your gift recipients just get "regular looking" vanilla extract, ha.

  3. Any post which begins with the words “It starts with a bottle of vodka” is sure to prick my interest...

  4. Replies
    1. It's the best!! And so rewarding. Not to mention, it smells like heaven.

  5. Looks good and probably tastes good too! I checked to see the price of real vanilla at Costco and it's $32!!!! Oh goodness. Glad I have a bottle that's over half full so it will last me awhile! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Yep, there is a worldwide shortage for some reason in vanilla beans. Prices have skyrocketed over the last few years. Thanks for the kind words!

  6. This post was what brought me to your blog site about three or four years ago, and I've enjoyed reading your blog ever since!

    1. Awww, thanks for this. That means a lot. Here's to lots of new adventures!

  7. 1st Man; I think my process is just a bit different than yours, but in the end we both get good tasting vanilla.

    Start off with 1 quart/liter. Actually I buy 2 bottles of booze: vodka, light rum, bourbon, or whatever as long as it’s around 40%.
    Like 1st Man had mentioned; Nothing fancy, just the cheapest stuff I can find @ the grocery store or your local liquor store.
    I put one bottle in the cupboard (no, this one is not to tide me over, :) ). This is for me to use as my ‘top-up’ bottle which I will start using once I start decanting my own extract.
    Saving the old beans, I will continue to add a few new beans along the way and just keep the process going. If your old beans get too mushy, just throw away and add new ones to the mix.
    The more beans you add; the faster the extract will be ready.
    Starting out with about 5 new beans and then adding 3-4 used beans per month after that. The longer you let it set; the batter.
    (just like the Energizer Bunny - you just keep going, and going, and going. :)

    1. Hmm, I like that idea! Thank you for this. Might try that now with this bottle when we begin to use it up. Thanks!!


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