Vanilla Extract Recipe: Make it at Home and Save a Bundle

Whole vanilla beans and vodka are all you’ll need to make your own vanilla extract for baking. This recipe is super easy to make and much less expensive than buying commercially made extract.

brown bottle of homemade vanilla with vanilla beans

Here’s how it goes at our house: Plan to make my own vanilla, but forget. Then my husband (the baker in the family) sees that we’re low. He picks up a big bottle at Costco, perpetuating a vicious cycle. Every bottle we get from the store? That’s one more piece of plastic that we have to figure out what to do with.

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DIY vanilla extract recipe

Making my own in a reusable glass bottle makes sense from a waste perspective. But here in Hawaii, it makes sense from a locavore perspective, too. Several small farms grow vanilla right here on the island. (Check out this little look at my friend Chuck’s efforts at growing his own.)

How ridiculous to buy an imported version in plastic!

Even if you don’t have access to a locally grown crop, it makes sense to make it yourself. It eliminates waste, plus a single batch of homemade vanilla can last indefinitely, since you can keep topping off the jar as you use the vanilla.

whole vanilla beans

Related: Switching from Boxed and Canned to Home Cooking

Make your own vanilla at home

Inspired to try to make your own? Here’s how you do it. It’s not really a recipe so much as it is just putting a couple of ingredients in a jar. Then waiting, of course. Once it’s ready, you’ll be off and baking. Use your homemade extract just as you would the store-bought version. Stir it into homemade yogurt, sugar cookie dough, or this tangerine jam with ginger and vanilla.

This recipe would make a great gift for your favorite, baker, too! Package it up in pretty jars, tie on a ribbon, and print out several easy recipe cards to go with it.

Related: Ten Tips for Healthy Food and a Sustainable Diet on a Budget

homemade vanilla extract in a swing top glass jar

★ Did you make this homemade vanilla extract recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★

brown bottle of homemade vanilla with vanilla beans

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

This homemade extract is super easy to make and will save you a bundle of money.
4.82 from 16 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 32
Author: Kris Bordessa


  • 2 whole organic vanilla beans
  • 2 cups vodka


  • Split vanilla beans down the center with a knife or scissors.
    2 whole organic vanilla beans
  • Slip the beans into a recycled glass jar or a canning jar. Use a jar that holds two cups of liquid.
  • Pour vodka into jar and allow it to sit for three to four weeks.
    2 cups vodka
  • Leave the vanilla bean in the jar and when your supply starts to get low, add more vodka. (Eventually, you may need to start fresh when the beans start to lose their oomph.)


  • As you use the vanilla, you can top off with more vodka.


Calories: 35kcal | Carbohydrates: 0.1g | Fat: 0.05g | Sodium: 0.1mg | Potassium: 0.1mg | Iron: 0.002mg
Did you make this recipe?Mention @attainablesustainable or tag #attainablesustainable!

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

49 comments… add one
  • Velma Cochran Dec 31, 2023 @ 13:23

    Do you have an opinion of using a pressure cooker to speed up this process? I’ve heard of folks doing this in just 45 minutes in PC.

    • Kris Bordessa, National Geographic author/certified master food preserver Jan 2, 2024 @ 7:43

      I haven’t tried this!

  • Amber Dec 2, 2023 @ 13:03

    I’m very happy to have stumbled upon your site! Thank you! (It was my search for a clean ingredient marshmallow-fluff… and the fudge ) My ingredient-ignorance bliss was shattered earlier this year and my family is on a make-our-own journey.

    I just read another blogger’s vanilla extract instructions using 4-6 vanilla beans per 8oz of vodka in a glass jar for 3-4 weeks… quite a difference from your method quantities… I prefer yours in my frugality! Any thoughts? Do you think more beans expidite the process? Or overpower the alcohol flavor, perhaps?

    I appreciate your time and thank you again for your blog!

    • AttainableSustainable Dec 29, 2023 @ 9:58

      I think it might make for a little different flavor outcome, but I’m not sure! Try it one way and adjust it to your liking.

  • Rita Stacy Jan 17, 2023 @ 6:14

    Where can we purchase the little glass bottles with corks?

    • AttainableSustainable Jan 19, 2023 @ 7:33

      Look at your local health food store. Otherwise, Amazon usually has good options!

  • Dee Feb 9, 2019 @ 11:51

    Just bottled my first batch. Is it normal to still be quite alcohol ‘tasting’. I’ve only ever used store bought.

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 9, 2019 @ 14:26

      It tends to mellow as it matures. It IS alcohol, though.

  • Michelle Mar 24, 2018 @ 22:21

    So easy to make. I will definitely make this again. Great recipe.

  • Kris Oct 2, 2016 @ 7:24

    I love this and want to make my own. How do I know where to get good quality vanilla beans? I’ve seen them at world market, whole foods, grocery stores.

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 5, 2016 @ 11:02

      I honestly don’t know how to tell a “good” bean from a bad one. I’m feeling like making sure it’s *fresh would be more important.

  • Tara Oct 1, 2016 @ 11:02

    Would you try whiskey, or would that be too flavorful? That’s usually the only liquor in our house.

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 1, 2016 @ 11:12

      What’s the worst that could happen? (I’m a big experimenter!)

    • Carol Mar 28, 2023 @ 3:21

      I was thinking rum would be another alternative.

      • AttainableSustainable Mar 30, 2023 @ 3:49

        Try it! 🙂

  • Ashley Apr 16, 2014 @ 1:41

    I wish I had a vanilla farm right down the road! So I’ve got a bottle that someone gave me and I’m about half way through. Can I take the beans out and start a new bottle with them? The old bottle will be fine for using right?

    • Carol Mar 28, 2023 @ 3:25

      Read above where they tell you how to keep the extract going with using the same bottle and adding Vodka.

  • Jackie Patti Jan 1, 2014 @ 8:53

    I buy beans in bulk off Amazon cause they’re much cheaper.  At first, I stored them in the freezer until I needed to make extract, but eventually… basically, I put a bag of them in a quart sized jar and fill with vodka (or Everclear when I have it, but it’s illegal in PA, so depends if I’ve been shopping in MD lately).  I didn’t even cut them, on the theory the alcohol would extract stuff eventually anyways.

    I pour that into a more normal sized container for actual use, and like you, top off the original bottle.  With the one batch of beans, I’ve had my extract going for 2 years now.  It’s still darker and more flavorful than the stuff you buy in the stores. 

  • renee Oct 16, 2013 @ 3:35

    I made my own vanilla extract 2 yrs ago after reading this post. It has been wonderful and now I am making bottles for family for x-mas. My question is for others who have done this for several years. Mine is ready for new beans. Should I strain out the old tiny seeds from the bottom of my bottle, or leave them in there and just add the new pods?

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 16, 2013 @ 6:46

      Good question. I’ve added a second bean/booze to mine without cleaning out the jar, but I usually rinse it after that. I don’t know if there’s a “right” answer, but that’s what I do!

  • Elise Johnston-Agar Dec 23, 2012 @ 23:51

    i live in Dominica now where vanilla beans grow, but we’re missing the natural pollinator & have to fertilize the flowers ourselves with a needle (very cool for kids). The local rum is used, which is pretty terrible on its own but fine for the beans,

  • kath Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:31

    made this and love using it- and it is such a conversation starter when I bring it out if I am cooking in front of friends.

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:35

      And when you tell your friends about it – and how easy it is – you might have another convert, thus diverting one more plastic bottle from the landfill!

  • Madeleine Booth-Smits Jun 11, 2011 @ 19:17

    Thanks heaps for this post. I had NO idea it was so easy. I’ve just amde my own please check it out on Love your blog. xx

  • Deanna Jun 3, 2011 @ 3:02

    I bought one of those kits and it says to let it soak for 4 months…I haven’t opened it yet but it gets darker as time passes. I’m waiting until I run out of store bought to open. The package says the bean can be used to make 2 recipes…we’ll see how it turns out. Thanks for sharing!

  • Vera Marie Badertscher May 31, 2011 @ 4:03

    I had no idea it could be made so easily, everyone says. As for me, I had no idea it was all alcohol!

  • Jennifer Margulis May 27, 2011 @ 18:36

    So cool! Who knew???!!! I love your “vicious vanilla cycle.” I buy organic vanilla in bulk (I think it comes from Madagascar) and bring my own glass jar so I don’t have the plastic or Costco issues. But I want to try this! I think my kids will love doing it too.

    @MyKidsEatSquid, how can anyone go through an I don’t like vanilla stage?! Shocking!!

    • Susan May 28, 2011 @ 8:30

      I had no either you could make your own vanilla either! Sounds like a cool projec.t

  • MyKidsEatSquid May 27, 2011 @ 17:56

    I’m going through an ‘I don’t like vanilla’ stage so I’m omitting it when I see it in recipes. That said, I think this is a wonderful idea. My mom used to make her own flavored vinegars. I’ve been meaning to try that myself.

  • NoPotCooking May 27, 2011 @ 11:03

    My MIL bought me a “kit” for this once. It always seemed as if the vanilla did not taste as good as the stuff I buy from Penzey’s. Any idea why?

    • Kris Bordessa May 27, 2011 @ 11:41

      No idea. Maybe the vanilla wasn’t very fresh or good quality? (It seems like maybe they’d use a 2nd rate vanilla bean for something like this.)

  • Sheryl May 27, 2011 @ 10:50

    That’s all? Really? So easy!

  • sarah henry May 26, 2011 @ 4:39

    Who knew it was that easy? Thanks for this. I’ll give it a go.

  • Julie May 25, 2011 @ 17:53

    I had no idea that this was even possible! How cool!

  • Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart May 24, 2011 @ 11:25

    I had no idea it would be this easy. Wild. Seriously. Wild.

  • Madeleine Booth-Smits May 24, 2011 @ 10:52

    Wow thanks for this post. I will totally make my own. I had no idea it was so easy. Will buy some pods asap.

  • Living Large May 24, 2011 @ 3:42

    I had no idea it was this easy either. You’ve inspired me to give it a try!

  • Patti May 23, 2011 @ 13:39

    You have a vanilla farm down the road? How cool is that?! I second the suggestion on the vanilla sugar. Yummy on toast!

    • Kris Bordessa May 24, 2011 @ 7:51

      It is very cool! I actually want to try to grow some myself, but that’s still to come.

  • Kris Bordessa May 23, 2011 @ 12:48

    Elaine, honestly I don’t know if it makes a difference. I used cheap, because, well, I’m cheap! The vanilla smells just divine.

  • Elaine May 23, 2011 @ 12:47

    Thank you! I usually buy high quality vanilla but use it quickly! would you recommend a top shelf, well, or cheap vodka?

    • Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi May 23, 2011 @ 13:24

      You can also make this with rum. If you make it with rum, use a good rum. If you make with vodka, it matters less.

      • Kris Bordessa May 23, 2011 @ 13:39

        And, I’ve read, brandy. Vodka is the only one I’ve tried so far, but I may try a different kind of booze next time. Wonder what would happen with a *mix of alcohol? Hm…

        • Brittany Nov 10, 2020 @ 9:08

          You can use tequila blanco also

          • Kris Bordessa Nov 23, 2020 @ 17:23

            Interesting — it doesn’t impart a heavy tequila flavor?

  • Lisa Carter May 23, 2011 @ 12:32

    Kris, I must admit I read the title of your post and thought, “Yeah, right.” Make vanilla?! I had no idea it was as easy as this! How very, incredibly cool. I bet it tastes so much better than store-bought as well. I will definitely try it. Thanks!

    • Kris Bordessa May 23, 2011 @ 12:47

      Lisa, funny. I do aim for *doable* projects. Thanks for sticking with me and realizing that it’s so easy!

  • Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi May 23, 2011 @ 12:29

    Don’t forget that when it gets too full of vanilla beans, you can pull out old bean casings and use them to flavor your sugar. Just toss them into a sealed glass jar with sugar and you’ll have gently vanilla flavored sugar in no time. Two for one!

    • Kris Bordessa May 23, 2011 @ 12:46

      Excellent point! Thanks, Melanie.

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