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How to Make Vanilla Extract

How to Make Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract adds delicious flavor to many dishes and is remarkably simple to make.  All it takes is some vodka, vanilla beans and time!  This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled if you do a lot of baking or if you’d like to make vanilla as gifts or party favors.  People love it and you’ll feel good every time you use it!

Homemade Vanilla Extract:


  • 2-3 vanilla beans
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 Tablespoon rum or bourbon (optional)


  • Glass jar (I use a mason jar) with a tight fitting lid


  • Slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise.
  • Put the beans into your jar and cover with vodka.  If necessary, smush them down so they’re completely covered.
  • Store in a cool dark place for 2 months or longer.  If you think of it, give them a shake every few days (this is helpful but not necessary). The longer it sits, the darker and more flavorful it will be.  Some people let it steep for a full 6 months!
  • When it’s reached you’re desired strength, just strain and enjoy.


  • Never ending vanilla extract: After a couple months I pour a small 2 oz bottle of vanilla to keep on hand.  Then I top off the jar with 2 more ounces of vodka.  This creates a self perpetuating jar that you can top off many times until the beans wear out (you’ll be able to tell because the flavor and color will be lighter).
  • Optional ingredients: I use vodka for this recipe because its light flavor lets the vanilla take center stage.  Adding just a splash of rum or bourbon adds some smokey sweetness without being overpowering.  However, you can make vanilla extract out of almost any liquor (recommend around 80 proof).  Depending on your taste preference  you could try it using bourbon, whiskey, brandy, rum or whatever.
  • Spent beans: Your discarded vanilla beans can be used to make vanilla sugar.  Let your beans dry off and use 1-2 beans for every two cups of sugar (normally one would be enough but since yours have been used, a second bean will boost the flavor).  Scrape what’s left of the seeds into the sugar and give it a stir.  Then bury the pods in the sugar, cover tightly and let it infuse for a couple weeks.
  • Where to find beans: Vanilla beans are crazy expensive!  You can find them at the grocery store but the mark up is terrible.  I usually buy them in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs when I do supply orders (otherwise the shipping is cost prohibitive).  A google search turns up many other options such as Amazon, ebay and various small sellers.


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