Making your own homemade blend of vanilla extract is quick and easy. Trust me, it will take all of your recipes to the next level! Plus, it only takes 2 simple ingredients to whip up!

This list of pantry staples is super handy. Whether you want to make your own basic ingredients free of preservatives or you’re missing something while cooking, here are a few recipes to keep in your back pocket: homemade buttermilk, half and half, and pizza dough!

Hero image of vanilla beans in a glass jar being extracted by a clear alcohol.

Why You Should Make Homemade Vanilla Extract:

You’ve probably seen me talking about how pure vanilla extract is a must-have when it comes to baking. It doesn’t taste artificial and it gives desserts a rich, sweet flavor. The only problem is, high-quality vanilla extract can be pricey, so here’s how you can make it at home instead!

You only need a handful of vanilla beans and high-proof alcohol to make your own extract. Most vanilla extracts are made with vodka (that’s what I used) but you can also use things like rum or bourbon. Some people swear by using bourbon and say that it gives vanilla extract an extra pop of flavor! It’s really fun to make your own blend and see how it transforms your favorite desserts.

Ingredients You’ll Need

It only takes 2 (super simple) ingredients to make the best bottle of homemade vanilla extract. You’ll have to make a couple different batches using different types of alcohol to see which one you like best! If you’re looking for measurements, you can find those in the recipe card below.

  • Vanilla Bean Pods: You’ll need about 12 of these bad boys. Each bean needs to be sliced lengthwise to expose the tiny seeds inside. Don’t be shy, get in there and scrape out all that goodness! And don’t worry if it looks a little messy, that’s part of the fun. As long as the flavor gets infused, that’s all that matters!
  • Alcohol: Helps extract all that delicious vanilla bean flavor and infuse it into the liquid. And the best part? You can use your favorite kind to customize the flavor of your homemade vanilla extract. Vodka, rum, brandy, and bourbon are all great options. Just make sure it’s 70-100 proof so it can do its job properly.

How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

It’s so easy! To make your own vanilla extract, all you have to do is put your ingredients in an airtight bottle and let it do its thing. The hardest part is waiting! It takes about 6 months, give or take, for the flavors to infuse. Unfortunately, this isn’t a quick fix if you’re needing some pure vanilla extract, but trust me- it’s worth the wait! I like to think of it as a delicious time capsule that will take all of my desserts to the next level.

  1. Split Beans: Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla beans down the center so the beans inside are exposed.
  2. Add Beans and Alcohol to Jar: Add all your split beans to a jar tall enough to have all the beans completely covered in alcohol. Then pour in the alcohol of your choice, so long as it is at least 70-100 proof (35-50 percent alcohol by volume). Add the lid and close tightly. Shake a few times so the beans release the caviar into the alcohol.
  3. Store: Then store in a dark, warm place. Vanilla is best left for at least 6 months to extract, but 8-12 is even better. The longer the beans sit in the alcohol, the stronger the vanilla extract will be.
2-photo collage of vanilla extract being prepared.

Tips and Tricks

If this is your first time making homemade vanilla extract, here are a few simple tips to help you out.

  • Different Alcohols: You can use a variety of different alcohols for vanilla extract, such as vodka, everclear, white rum, gold rum, spiced rum, or bourbon. If you choose a dark alcohol or a more flavorful alcohol, it may require several months longer before it is ready to be used, possibly up to 24 months. 
  • Speed Up Extraction: If you would like to try to expedite the extraction process, chop the vanilla beans up before adding them to the bottle. This will help them extract a bit faster than 6 months, more like 3-4 months. 
  • Taste Test: At any point during the extract process you can do a taste test to see how strong the extract has become.
  • For Gifting: If you plan on making an extract to gift, it’s best to give them a full year to extract so it’s ready to use for the recipient. 

A bottle of homemade vanilla extract, completely extracted.

How to Store Homemade Vanilla Extract

Vanilla beans prefer to be warm rather than cold, so storing in a dark, warm spot in your kitchen is best.

The good news is, because alcohol acts as a natural preservative, you can basically use your vanilla extract indefinitely! It will lose its flavor over time though, so I recommend using it within a couple of years.

A measuring spoon filled with vanilla.

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