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How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

Are you wondering how to make homemade vanilla extract? EASY! You only need two ingredients to get started and it’s perfect to add to your cookies and cakes.

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I first thought to make homemade vanilla a few years ago when I was thinking about what Christmas gifts to get my kids’ teachers.  I wanted something unique AND something they would actually use.  Now, teachers are asking me for it because it’s such a great gift.  They can use it for months and months and it’s so much better than what you get at the grocery stores.

I remember baking when I was little and the smell of vanilla flavor when my Grandma added it to her cookies.  Every time I smell it, it brings back so many memories.  Now my kids always ask for a smell it when we’re making cookies and they’ll have that memory forever too.

hand putting vanilla bean in brown bottle

How to make homemade vanilla extract recipe

When I was updating this post with some new links, I discovered that I was ranking for vanilla essence. I had to google it because I didn’t think vanilla essence and extract were the same things. I was right! They are close, but not the same thing. Vanilla essence is processed using artificial flavors. They call this imitation vanilla.

You can buy this in most grocery stores and it will be less expensive than real vanilla extract. These two products are interchangeable.

Making vanilla extract is VERY easy. All you need is 2 ingredients: vanilla beans and 80 proof vodka. I have so many people ask how I make homemade vanilla extract so I thought I would just type it up!

Ingredients for homemade vanilla

  • Vanilla Beans

I order my whole vanilla beans online.  I buy them at a place called Beanilla. I’ve had a great experience using them. I do not get paid to promote them. I love their products! You’ll have to Google it because they blocked me from linking to them!

There are many different kinds, but I usually just stick with Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans.  Tahitian vanilla beans, Mexican vanilla beans and Madagascar vanilla beans are all good too.

  • 80 Proof Vodka

I’m sure many of you moms already have this in your cabinet and that’s fine to use. 🙂

vanilla beans and vodka

How to make vanilla extract.

First, you need to split the bean open with a sharp knife.

vanilla bean

Next, you need to scrape out the seeds from the inside.  It’s kind of sticky, but you can just run your knife along the bean and they come right out.

vanilla bean being cut by a knife

Once I’ve done all 5, I cut them in half.  The jar I use is short, so I do this so they’ll fit in.  If you have a taller one then you won’t have to do that.  Here’s a pack of cute containers I found that’s the perfect size.

If you don’t want to purchase any new containers, you can just add your split vanilla beans to the bottle of alcohol.

Pour your vodka in and close the lid tight. Store in a cool, dark place, like the back of your cabinet or pantry, and let sit for at least 6 weeks.

 That’s it!  It’s really easy. I only make an 8 oz jar at a time, but have two jars that I alternate.  When I’m using one, the other is sitting so I will never run out.

Tip 1

 Leave the beans in and only take them out when it’s completely empty.  They will continue to add flavor.

Vanilla bean being put in a brown bottle

Here are a few recipes of my top baked goods that use vanilla!

Make pure vanilla extract for gifts.

Vanilla is a GREAT and inexpensive holiday gift for teachers and neighbors. To do this, add the correct amount of vanilla beans to a vodka bottle. After the wait time, transfer to smaller bottles.

Make sure to start your vanilla right after Halloween and it will be ready to use when you give it to them at Christmas.  They’ll be able to make their Christmas baked goods with it. Here are some cute labels just for vanilla extract you can buy on Amazon.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Making homemade vanilla extract is so easy and perfect to add to your cookies and cakes. You only need two ingredients to get started.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword baking
Prep Time 10 minutes
Author Holly- Keeping Life Sane


  • 1 cup vodka
  • 5 vanilla beans


  • Slice the vanilla beans open with a sharp knife and scrap out the seeds using a sharp knife.
  • Add vanilla beans to jar and pour vodka in jar and close tightly.
  • Store jar in cool, dark place for at least 6 weeks before using.


Tip 1-  Don’t remove the beans until you’ve used all the vanilla.  They will continue to add flavor.
Recipe Rating


Wednesday 13th of April 2022

You need at least 1oz of beans to 8oz of alcohol for it to be an extract, otherwise is just vanilla flavored. This is why you need to weigh your beans and not go by count, because an ounce could be as few as 3 beans to as many as 12 beans. Also if you split your beans it takes between 4-6 months for the extract to develop, if you leave them whole it takes a year.

Isabel Zaldivar

Monday 21st of October 2019

Hi, thank you , now I can make my own vanilla extract, Question, have you tried doing coffee extract?, have a great day and many blessings to you and family


Tuesday 22nd of October 2019

No, I haven't, but I can think of a million things I can use it for.

Janet Archuletta

Thursday 24th of May 2018

Hello Holly, I was watching my Grandson's this morning and just had to make chocolate chip cookies for them to take home but saw that I had no eggs. I hit Google for eggless chocolate chip cookies and yours was the first that came up! I did look at a couple others but was drawn back to yours) I LOVE IT! My grandson's were thrilled that he could eat some of the cookie was I. I will definitely be coming back to your site to see what else I can cook.

I have done a luncheon every year close to Valentine's day for the last "41 years" with my friends and have made them a gifts every year...I saw that you make your own vanilla and am going to make for my Valentines lunch 2019! One question, how long is the timeline that the vanilla will last? Thank you so much and enjoy Memorial weekend.



Friday 25th of May 2018

I don't think it really goes bad because it has an alcohol base.


Sunday 11th of February 2018

Is there a non alcoholic base that could be used to make vanilla extract? Would be helpful :)


Monday 12th of February 2018

Vanilla is normally made with an alcohol base, but I just did a quick Google search and found 2 recipes that used food-grade glycerin. I found it on Amazon- (This link is an affiliate link. That means I get a VERY small percentage if you buy using it with no extra cost to you.) If you use it, please let me know how it turns out.


Saturday 22nd of August 2015

What do you do with the seeds? Thanks for this idea.


Saturday 22nd of August 2015

I usually just trash them, but I bet they are good in ice cream!