Making Homemade Vanilla Extract

Reader Contribution by Erin Baldwin
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Last summer, we purchased a small bottle of locally made vanilla extract from a friend of my sister’s who was selling her products at our local Farmers’ Market. I popped it open as soon as I got home and the aroma was intoxicating; after the first time I cooked with it, I vowed never to use store-bought extract again.

After doing some research, I learned how simple it is to make extract at home and this past weekend that’s just what I did.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Ingredients: Vanilla beans (any variety) and vodka (or bourbon, rum or brandy)

Ratio: 5 beans to 1-cup vodka


CUT the vanilla beans lengthwise in half and put them into a glass container.

POUR in the vodka, close the jar, and store in a cool, dry place.

SHAKE the jar every week or so.

WAIT eight weeks or more, and then your extract will be ready to use. 

I purchased vodka from a local distillery, Smooth Ambler Spirits, near Lewisburg, West Virginia, and ordered Madagascar vanilla beans from Beanilla.

In about eight weeks or more, once the vanilla is done extracting you can strain it into another bottle or simply leave in the beans and the extract will continue to age and evolve. As you use the extract, you can continually add alcohol and, if the extract begins to thin over time, add more beans to keep your extract going for years.

For my first time making extract I decided to use the standard recipe with Madagascar vanilla beans and vodka, but you can get as creative as you like, experimenting with other types of vanilla beans and spirits. Pair up your extract with a decorative glass bottle, and you have the perfect homemade gift.

Once your extract is done, hold on to those beans. Try making vanilla sugar or homemade Kahlua with your used beans.

Anyone else making your own vanilla extract? What are your favorite varieties and flavors?


Smooth Ambler Spirits: 


Beanilla Homemade Vanilla Extract:

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