How to Make Vanilla Extract

Why make your own vanilla extract? Well let’s see. It’s easy to make. You’ll never run out of vanilla again. It might even be economical, given that you’ll never run out of it. It’s fun to watch the extract change colors? I don’t know. Sometimes we just make things for the heck of it. In this case, Garrett gave me a dozen or so vanilla beans, sharing what he had been given by this generous company. Vanilla beans are produced in several countries, and Garrett has a good write-up on his site regarding the differences between the varieties – Madagascar, Bourbon, Tonga, Mexico, Tahiti, etc.

Did you know that each vanilla bean comes from an orchid that has been pollinated by hand? Once the vanilla seed pod has developed, it must be hand picked as well. After picking the curing process takes several months. So if you’ve ever wondered why vanilla extract, and especially vanilla beans, can be so expensive, this is why.

How to Make Vanilla Extract

Commercial vanilla extract usually has simple syrup (sugar water) added to the extract to give it a sweet aftertaste. You can do this if you want, but if you are using the vanilla for baking, there really is no need.



  • 3 vanilla beans
  • 1 cup vodka
  • glass jar with tight fitting lid



1 Use kitchen scissors or a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down each vanilla bean, splitting them in half, leaving an inch at the end connected.

2 Put vanilla beans in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid (mason jars work well). Cover completely with the vodka.

3 Give the bottle a good shake every once in a while. Store in a dark, cool place for 2 months or longer.

Lasts for years. You can keep topping it off with vodka once in a while as you use it, just remember to give it a good shake.

You can also make vanilla sugar by putting a split vanilla bean into a jar of white, granulated sugar. Great way to infuse the sugar with vanilla flavor for baking.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Many people have asked about the bottle I used for making the vinegar. The bottle is from an empty bottle of Italian balsamic vinegar that I cleaned out. The brand of balsamic is Leonardi Balsamico which you can buy in Italian specialty stores or online. ~Elise


Wikipedia on Vanilla
Know Your Vanilla - A Guide to Vanilla Varieties - notes from Garrett
Adorable labels and instructions for your homemade vanilla extract from Style Me Pretty

Never miss a recipe!

Subscribe to Simply Recipes free via email:

Showing 4 of 141 Comments

  • Traci (Soup of The Day)

    Excellent! Thanks, I would have never thought of making my own vanilla extract. SO easy though!

  • astrorainfall

    WOW, it looks so simple. I just assumed it was one of those things that you buy from a store. Thanks for sharing.

  • ken

    Considering that the alcohol usually bakes away anyways, does it make a difference using a higher quality vodka over something that comes in a container that bounces?

    Great question. I used some midrange Smirnoff for these. Reading through the comments some people use fine vodka, some the cheap stuff. I honestly don’t know if it makes a difference. ~Elise

  • FoodJunkie

    I bought a large batch of vanilla beans on the internet and everytime I use a bean I drop it in a bottle of white rum. The result is excellent! I will try it with vodka too.

    I love the idea of just plopping the used beans in the bottle of rum. Couldn’t get much simpler than that, and otherwise what are you going to do with that used bean? ~Elise

View More Comments / Leave a Comment