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Homemade vanilla extract can save you so much money and it’s made with just 2 ingredients – vodka and vanilla beans. Simply soak the vanilla beans in vodka for up to 12 months for the best vanilla extract you’ll ever try.

homemade vanilla extract in clear glass jars

I use vanilla extract so frequently. It’s practically in every recipe on my blog. Some of my favorite ways to use it are in a basic vanilla cake, vanilla cupcakes, and vanilla buttercream frosting.

But, the price for quality pure vanilla extract has gotten outrageous. This is why I had to learn how to make vanilla. And believe it or not, it’s super easy and so much cheaper to make your own yourself.

I like to make a large quantity of vanilla extract because I use it every day in my baking. Small bottles do not last me long and I found myself repurchasing vanilla extract every couple weeks. That can really add up in cost.

Another great thing about making vanilla at home is you can make double fold vanilla extract for the price of a store-bought bottle of single fold vanilla extract.

What is the difference between single and double-fold vanilla extract?

  • Single-fold vanilla extract is required to use 13 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol. This is considered commercial grade vanilla extract. Nielson-Massey is an example of quality commercial brand vanilla and it’s often my go-to when I must purchase extract.
  • Double-fold vanilla extract is what professional bakers use. It uses 23 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol. This rich vanilla flavor can’t be duplicated by doubling the amount of single-fold vanilla you use.

For what you’ll pay for high-quality single-fold vanilla, you can make your own double-fold vanilla extract at home.

Do keep in mind the cost of vanilla beans will go up and down throughout the year but it is still cheaper to make your own extract.

vanilla beans

Ingredients

  • Alcohol – I like to use vodka but you can actually use a variety of different alcohols. Look for the cheapest you can find at 80 proof.
  • Split vanilla Beans – Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans are rich, dark and creamy with an overwhelming sweet, buttery aroma. It’s my favorite variety for homemade vanilla. You only need the Grade B beans. Currently, I buy bulk vanilla beans on Beanilla. I get the 8 ounce pack and divide it btween two 750ml bottles of vodka.
    • Tahitian vanilla beans are also a great choice! But, honestly, you can use any type of vanilla bean.

What you’ll need to make pure vanilla extract:

  • Glass Jars: Amber colored glass jars are best since they shield the vanilla extract from light.
    • These clear jars are great also but you’ll need to make sure to keep the vanilla inside a pantry or cupboard, away from light.
  • Labels: I love these chalkboard labels because you can wipe them off and reuse them. They’re also waterproof!

What is the best alcohol to make vanilla extract?

80 proof vodka is the best alcohol to use. But other alcohols to choose from are brandy, bourbon, or rum. Each one will offer a different flavor extract.

Can I reuse beans after making vanilla extract?

I don’t recommend reusing the beans to make more extract. The flavor has already been extracted from them. However, you can toss them in sugar to make vanilla sugar or scrape out the insides and use it in baked goods.

vanilla beans in a clear jar of vodka

How to make homemade vanilla extract

Choose your alcohol. I like to use vodka because it’s the most versatile. If you choose to use brandy, bourbon, or rum, the vanilla will have a different flavor that may not be suitable for all recipes.

With the 750ml bottle, you can make the vanilla extract right in the same bottle. There’s no need to spend money on glass bottles unless you really want to. If the bottle contains a speed pourer, the little plastic piece in the neck of the bottle, gently pop it out using a butter knife.

Cut the vanilla beans in half then slice the beans down the center to split them open. If the beans are too dry to split, cut them into 1-inch pieces instead. Place all the beans in the bottle with the alcohol.

Replace the lid and store the bottle in a cool place out of direct sunlight for 2 months. Shake the bottle every couple of weeks. The longer you let the vanilla age the stronger the flavor will be.

vanilla beans in a clear jar of vodka

How to store homemade vanilla

Keep the vanilla extract out of direct sunlight. I tuck mine away in the pantry for safekeeping.

If you decide to transfer the vanilla extract to smaller jars, these amber-colored jars are great for protecting the vanilla extract from light.

You can use the extract as soon as 8 weeks but it will become more rich and flavorful with age. For optimal flavor, let the vanilla age for about 6 months. If you have the patience, wait 12 months before using it.

How long does homemade vanilla extract last?

Vanilla can last indefinitely as long as it’s stored properly. But, it will have optimal flavor within the first 5 years. You’re never supposed to refrigerate or freeze vanilla extract. Keep it in a cool dry place like the pantry.

Aged vanilla extract in a clear glass jar

Tips for success

  • Stick to the recipe! The vanilla bean to alcohol ratio yields a wonderfully luxurious double-fold vanilla extract.
  • Letting the vanilla extract sit for 6 to 12 months will yield the richest vanilla essence.
  • If you are using split beans, you don’t need to cut them because they are already sliced open.

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homemade vanilla extract in clear glass jars

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Yield: one 750ml bottle
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Learning how to make homemade vanilla extract is the easiest thing ever. It requires only 2 ingredients and will save you so much money!

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces Grade B Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans, about 20-24 beans - SEE NOTE 1
  • 750 milliliters 80 proof plain vodka, brandy, bourbon, or rum can also be used - SEE NOTE 2

Instructions

  1. Cut the vanilla beans in half and slice them down the center to split them open. (If you purchased the split beans I recommended, you don't need to slice them. They are already split open.)
  2. Combine the alcohol and vanilla in a large, clean jar and seal. Make sure the alcohol completely covers the beans.
  3. Store the jar in a cool dark place for at least 8 weeks, shaking a few times a week.
  4. When the extract is done, you can leave the beans in or remove them but the beans should always remain submerged in the alcohol to prevent them from going rancid.

Notes

  1. Grade A or B vanilla beans can be used. The only difference is the grade B beans will not look as pretty but this shouldn't matter since they are only being used to infuse alcohol. Grade B vanilla beans are also cheaper. I like these beans from beanilla best.
  2. You can use any alcohol you desire but bear in mind that this will also affect the final flavor of the vanilla. Plain vodka will yield the most versatile result.
  • The longer the vanilla extract ages, the better it will be. 6 to 12 months will yield optimal results.
  • If you purchase a 750ml bottle of alcohol, you can drop the beans right in the same bottle without needing to purchase additional bottles for storage.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1 teaspoon
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 12

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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45 Comments

  1. ahh, finally a blog post that really spells out the sensible choices for home-made vanilla extract…

    I have been doing it exactly this same way, right down to the bottles and labels… I use organic vodka, 20-25 madagascar beans, organic when available, and a full year extraction.

    Thank you for a clear and attractive recipe with photos and all !

  2. Thank you so much! I just made 2 bottles. I used 750ml vodka, I put in 25 grade b Madagascar beans. Did I over do it with 25 beans.
    I sliced and cut in half. Been shaking them everyday! Looking amazing!!!
    Im starting a 3 rd bottle now all for gifts.

    1. Is this a recipe for double fold or is this commercial grade?

  3. Rita Broden says:

    I started my first 2 batches of single fold vanilla extract last July 1st, 2020. As instructed, I split my vanilla beans lengthwise and put them into the vodka bottIes and shook the bottles once a week. I have, since then, started 12 more batches of double fold extract. I will be steeping all of them at least 10 months, some of them 12 months. I have used vodka, rum, Everclear, and bourbon so that I can know first hand how each performs upon maturation. Also, on my last 12 batches I split the beans in half lengthwise and then cut them into small pieces and put them into the liquor bottles. The results from the smaller bean pieces are remarkable!! The Everclear batch is beautifully clear with a gorgeous color to it. The other liquors look cloudy compared to the Everclear. OH! I also shake my bottles every day now! Just sharing info!!!

  4. Donna Snyder says:

    I have read many recipes that say beans can remain in containers and reused for more vanilla extract. You say no. Confused.

    1. The thing with this is the beans must remain submerged in the alcohol at all times or the exposed portion will turn rancid, ruining the whole batch. I personally don’t even like to leave the beans in the containers once I start using the vanilla. You could transfer the beans to a new container and start another batch of vanilla but because most of the flavor has already been extracted, the new batch will have less flavor if any at all. Does that make sense? I just don’t see the benefit in reusing beans…

    2. Rita Broden says:

      Donna,
      Like Jen says, the beans already used in an extract are ‘spent’ beans. Much of their flavor has already been extracted from the bean. I don’t plan on reusing my spent beans. If you want the experience of using the whole vanilla bean, or merely the ‘caviar’ from the vanilla bean, I would recommend buying beans specifically for that purpose. Just passing along my thoughts!!

  5. I purchased 40 Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans — and they weighed in at around 4 oz. A previous comment mentioned 4 oz of beans per 750ml of vodka. But the recipe calls for 20-24 beans per 750ml. Is the # of beans the more important thing or the total weight?

    Confession: I already dumped the 4 oz (40 beans) into the 750ml bottle of vodka. So I’m just wondering if I went way overboard.

    1. So the weight is going to vary depending on the quality of beans and how dry they are. I use grade B split beans because they are cheaper but they tend to be drier. This means it takes more beans to get good flavor infused in the vodka. If you have full beans that are grade A, then you can get away with using fewer beans. I hope that makes sense.

      1. Thanks for the answer! I had 40 Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans, a mix of grade A and B, each around 5″ long. The total weight was 4 oz.

        I ended up pulling 20 of them out of the first 750ml bottle and putting them in another 750ml bottle. So now I’ve got two 750 ml bottles going, each with 20 beans. But still feeling a bit unsure, since each bottle has 2 oz of beans rather than 4.

  6. Ellen Daly says:

    Great article, I want to try the recipe. I’ve got a bottle of pure grain alcohol 190 proof, would this be suitable to use? Also what type of rum would you recommend? I’ve got a white overproof rum or would a spiced rum be more suitable?

    1. 190 proof alcohol is perfectly fine to use. Any rum you desire is also fine to use. You decide based on the flavor profile you wish for the vanilla to have.

  7. So 1+1 does not equal 2?
    I am considering making a double. Less alcohol = less investment.
    I can use half of the double, so it goes just as far as a full single. no cost change
    So, if I can do all of this, and then get a more potent double, not we are saying a double is better than 2 singles.

    I ordered 3 ounces for either a 750 single or a 375 double. The 750 is a better value, so I use half and drink half… winner

    I hope someone is still around to clarify my thoughts. My question is, why would I make a single?

    1. The difference between a single and double-fold vanilla is the amount of beans per x amount of alcohol. Double fold has a deeper flavor and tastes best in baked goods because you are using more beans per alcohol. If you decided to use 3-ounces of beans in 375ml of alcohol, you’d have a very potent vanilla and could certainly use less to make it go further.

  8. I have a small bottle of homemade vanilla someone gave me as a gift about five years ago. I put it in my fridge(which I’ve read you’re not supposed to do). How long does it last? I just smelled it and it smells better than it did when I first got it.

    1. Vanilla can last indefinitely as long as it’s stored properly. But, it will have optimal flavor within the first 5 years. You’re never supposed to refrigerate or freeze vanilla extract. Keep it in a cool dry place like the pantry.

  9. Question, if I were to just use the vodka bottle I purchase, if it is a plastic bottle is it still okay just to add the vanilla beans to that? Or do the beans/vodka need to be in a glass jar to steep?
    Thank you!

    1. The plastic bottles are fine to use. I’ve used them before with no issues. Just make sure to keep it out of direct light, preferably in a cabinet or pantry.

  10. Hi – Is this a single fold or double fold recipe?
    4 oz vanilla beans per 750 ml 80 proof plain vodka
    Thanks!