In this guide to making the perfect homemade vanilla extract you will learn:
- When to make your homemade vanilla extract so it’s ready for holiday baking.
- Step by step instruction in how to make homemade vanilla extract.
- Instruction to store your homemade vanilla extract properly.
- Instruction to store vanilla beans properly.
- Cost to make homemade vanilla extract.
- Types of vanilla beans used to make homemade vanilla extract.
- What type of alcohol to use for homemade vanilla extract.
- Where to buy the best vanilla beans.
- Ideas for using spent vanilla bean pods.
- Recipes for your new homemade vanilla extract.
- Frequently asked questions about homemade vanilla extract.
- Ideas for edible Christmas gifts
- Christmas in July ideas
This post was created in partnership with FITNCLEAN Vanilla. All opinions are my own and I only endorse products that I know and love.
[Missouri Girl Home is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com].
I’m making a list and I’m checking it twice…in July.
That’s right it’s Christmas In July time!
For some that means Christmas jammies, Christmas movies, and hot chocolate but in my house it means preparation, organization, and some pre-holiday baking.
Around this time of year, I start to get the first itch for fall and the upcoming Christmas season.
The secret to Christmas shopping: Do it early and plan ahead
First on the agenda is Christmas Shopping and gift planning.
Christmas shopping starts early in my home, usually in July when the summer sales hit. My kids love all things summer so I tend to pick up tons of things on clearance for the next year. My kids love it and I get to save a little money. Which really means I get to buy more presents!
Each year I try to make a little homemade gift for neighbors and friends, so this is the time of year that I start to brainstorm possible ideas.
My favorite homemade gifts for Christmas
Here is a list of just a few of my favorite homemade gifts:
- sugar scrubs
- salt dough ornaments
- cinnamon dough ornaments
- monogrammed ornaments
- edible gifts
Edible and Food Christmas gift ideas
Edible gifts are my favorite to gift to friends and family for Christmas.
To see a complete list of my edible Christmas gifts, CLICK HERE.
Of all the edible gifts I have given over the years, I think my absolute favorite were bottles of amazing homemade vanilla extract.
I have been making my own vanilla extract for years. When you see just how easy and cost effective it is, you’ll understand why.
There is only one itsy bitsy little consideration when making vanilla extract.
Good vanilla extract needs time for the flavor to develop.
You will need to allow a minimum of 8 weeks before the homemade vanilla extract is ready, but the longer you wait, the better. The optimal time for a good, strong vanilla extract is 4-6 months.
That makes Christmas In July the perfect time to make homemade vanilla extract so it’s ready to use for Christmas baking and gifting this December.
However, if you’re a little late to the party, no worries! You can still make the homemade vanilla and gift it immediately. Your friends can just let the anticipation build waiting for their little gift to mature.
Supplies needed for homemade vanilla extract
- Grade B Vanilla Beans (or extract grade)
- Glass storage containers
- Vodka or other alcohol of choice
- Funnel or measuring cup with a spout for pouring
NOTE: If using clear glass containers, you will need to store the vanilla in a cool, dark location (like in a kitchen cabinet) that is away from direct sunlight. You can also buy tinted or amber colored glass containers to avoid this.
I got these cute little glass containers at Hobby Lobby for 50% off. Their sales cycle often so you can get them frequently for a great price.
Types of Vanilla Beans Used for making Vanilla Extract
There are many different types of vanilla beans based on the location they are grown:
Each one of these vanilla beans have it’s own distinct flavor. The most common vanilla beans used for homemade vanilla extract are Madagascar and Tahitian.
Vanilla Bean Grades
There are three grades of vanilla beans:
- A- have a higher moisture content and are a higher quality so it’s perfect for cooking or baking.
- A/B- gourmet grade with some imperfections, slightly lower moisture content than grade A, and with a lower seed density.
- B- lowest moisture content and are typically the beans used to make vanilla extract.
The vanilla beans I used were grade B Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans. I have also used Tahitian beans in the past and thought it made an excellent vanilla extract.
FitnClean Vanilla Beans
These Madagascar vanilla beans (affiliate links to follow) by FitnClean Vanilla were absolutely amazing! I ordered them from Amazon and was extremely pleased with the quality.
The vanilla beans were packaged well, arrived promptly, and the smell was just incredible. I have ordered vanilla beans in the past but these were by far the best quality vanilla beans I have seen.
FITNCLEAN Vanilla Beans are:
Free of chemical pesticides and fungicides
You can order by quantity and type on Amazon (CLICK BELOW FOR PURCHASE OPTIONS)
FITNCLEAN Vanilla also has wholesale options available directly on their website with free shipping at:
Types of homemade vanilla extract
Once you have your container to store the vanilla and your vanilla beans, then you’ll need to consider what type of vanilla extract you want to make.
Vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol for a prolonged period of time.
Vodka is used to make standard vanilla extract. Other popular options to use are brandy, rum, and bourbon.
I love to use brandy vanilla extract in my pumpkin pies and bourbon vanilla extract is the secret ingredient in my pecan pie (recipes coming this fall!).
How to make Homemade Vanilla Extract
Pick the type of vanilla bean and type of alcohol
Once you have your storage containers and have decided the type of vanilla you want to make, then you’re ready to make your vanilla extract.
Determine how much homemade vanilla extract you want to make
First, measure out the amount of liquid your container holds. This is important because the amount of alcohol in each container will determine how many vanilla beans you need to add.
There are varying opinions on how many vanilla beans to use per ounce. Typically it’s 2-3 per cup of alcohol. For this recipe I used 1 vanilla bean for every 1/3 cup (2.67 ounce) of alcohol.
Fill your glass bottle with the alcohol
Next, fill your container with alcohol of choice by 1/3 cup increments. If your container holds 2/3 cups of liquid then you will use 2 vanilla beans, if it holds 1 cup of liquid then you will use 3 vanilla beans.
Keep in mind, if you purchase a 750 ml bottle of alcohol and are wanting to make exactly 10 bottles of extract, then you will need to use just under 1/3 cup of alcohol per bottle so you will have equal amounts in each bottle.
Cut the vanilla beans to size
Then, slice the vanilla beans lengthwise.
Now open up the vanilla bean pod and scrape out the seeds, or “vanilla bean caviar”, with the flat end of a knife.
Look at all of the vanilla bean caviar I got from just one of the vanilla beans! If you don’t have this many seeds, don’t worry. You will still have amazing vanilla. Some beans are just drier than others. I have had moist ones with lots of seeds and very dry ones. They all made good vanilla in the end.
If you don’t want as many seeds in your vanilla, just chop the vanilla bean up and put it in the alcohol without scraping the seeds out. I just happen to love the extra texture the seeds add to my desserts. Or you can use some of the seeds in other recipes.
Add the vanilla beans and seeds to the alcohol
Add the vanilla bean seeds and the pod to the alcohol. You may need to cut the pod in half for it to fit. Don’t forget to label the vanilla extract and you may even want to add the date so you’ll easily remember when it can be used.
Allow the vanilla to rest for at least 2 months before using
Finally, the hard part begins: the wait to use this incredible vanilla extract. It takes time for the alcohol to extract all of the flavor from the vanilla beans.
You can give the bottle a little shake every 2-3 days to help the vanilla infuse into the alcohol.
The picture above was on day one.
The picture below was just 3 weeks later. You can already see how much the vanilla beans have infused into the alcohol by the depth of color.
Now it’s time to personalize your homemade vanilla extract with festive bows and trendy labels. Just look at these cute reindeer labels!
How much does it cost to make Homemade vanilla extract?
Here is the cost for all materials needed to make 10 bottles of vanilla extract:
750 ml bottle of vodka, regular price at Target (about 25 ounces) = $8.00
10 Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans = $22.00
10 small glass containers (that holds at least 1/3 cup liquid) at $1 each (50% off at Hobby Lobby) = $10.00
The grand total for 10 bottles of homemade vanilla extract (each with just under 1/3 cup alcohol and one vanilla bean) = $40.00.
If you do the math, that’s just $4.00 for each 2.67 (ish) ounces of pure homemade vanilla extract. This is a steal considering the average cost of a 2 ounce bottle of pure Madagascar Vanilla Extract averages around $12.00 and up!
So now that you have the most amazing homemade vanilla extract, what to do with it?
Soft and Chewy Vanilla Sugar cookies
These Vanilla Sugar Cookies are one of my favorite holiday cookies. They are soft, chewy, full of yummy vanilla flavor, and are OH SO GOOD.
When making vanilla extract, there are many questions. Here are some of the more common questions:
What kind of alcohol do I use to make homemade vanilla extract?
The most common alcohol used to make vanilla extract is vodka. Other alcohol can be used to make specially flavored vanilla for baking like vanilla rum, vanilla bourbon, and vanilla brandy.
How many vanilla beans per cup of vodka?
Use 3 vanilla beans per 1 cup of vodka.
What is the best type of vodka or alcohol to use to make homemade vanilla extract?
Any kind of vodka can be used to make homemade vanilla extract. Quality does not matter so feel free to buy the cheapest vodka or alcohol you can find.
What are the best vanilla beans to use for homemade vanilla extract?
Grade B or extract grade Tahitian or Madagascar vanilla beans are the best choice for homemade vanilla extract.
How do I store my vanilla beans?
Vanilla beans need to be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place. They also need to be stored in a way that air will not get to them, especially if you are storing a moist vanilla bean. For best results, wrap the vanilla beans in plastic wrap and then place into a plastic bag.
How do I store my vanilla extract?
Like the vanilla beans, the vanilla extract also needs to be be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place out of direct sunlight.
What are the best homemade vanilla extract bottles?
The type of bottle you use depends on where you will be storing your vanilla extract. If you store it in a cool, dark, and dry place then you can use any airtight glass or plastic container. If you are concerned about sunlight, then you can purchase special amber colored bottles that help keep light from reaching the vanilla extract.
How long until I can use my homemade vanilla extract?
After the homemade vanilla extract is made it will need to sit in a cool, dry, and dark place for at least 2 months. The longer the vanilla beans are allowed to soak, the more intense the vanilla flavor will be. 6 months is considered optimal for best flavor.
What to do with left over vanilla bean pods?
There are many things you can do with left over vanilla bean pods that no longer have their seeds. Vanilla beans are expensive and you want to get the most out of every pod. The pods themselves are full of flavor and aroma. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:
- Seep in warm milk and then use to make a vanilla white hot chocolate.
- Use the spent pods for extra flavor in your homemade vanilla extract. I just keep adding to the vanilla extract jar until it can’t hold anymore.
- Add to maple syrup to make homemade vanilla maple syrup.
- Boil with simple syrup to make a vanilla simple syrup.
- Add to caramel sauce as it is cooling for vanilla caramel.
- Make a vanilla infused jam by adding it to your favorite jam recipe.
- Use to make a flavored coffee or tea.
- Make homemade bath salts.
- Grind up the pod and add to sugar to make homemade vanilla sugar.
- Make vanilla powder by drying out the vanilla bean pod and grinding into a fine powder.
Just remember in all of the ideas above to discard the vanilla bean pod before use.
Do I have to use the vanilla bean seeds in the homemade vanilla extract?
No, you don’t have to use the seeds in your homemade vanilla extract. In fact, most vanilla extracts do not have seeds in them. It comes down to personal preference. If you want a little additional flavor, add them.
How long does homemade vanilla extract last?
If stored properly and the vanilla beans are completely submerged in alcohol then it should last indefinitely. However, it is thought to be best if used within 2 years.
Is homemade vanilla extract vegan?
Yes, homemade vanilla extract is vegan.
Why make homemade vanilla extract over store bought or commercial vanilla extract
Many commercial vanilla extracts have additional ingredients added that may not be as healthy as making it yourself. Homemade vanilla extract is just two ingredients: alcohol and vanilla beans.
Homemade vanilla extract is also significantly cheaper than store bought vanilla extract.
Is homemade vanilla extract gluten free?
Yes, homemade vanilla extract is made with alcohol and vanilla beans so it is gluten free. Pure distilled alcohol is gluten free because of the distillation process, but it is important to be aware of hidden gluten in flavored alcohol or alcohol that has additives after distillation.
Is homemade vanilla extract keto friendly?
Yes, homemade vanilla extract is indeed keto friendly.
Looking for additional Christmas in July inspiration?
Check out this Christmas in July post from Living Life Seasonably for additional ideas including a Christmas Chocolate ball recipe and a Christmas shopping list tracker:
Living Life Seasonably: Christmas in July, A New Tradition.
Don’t forget to check out FITNCLEAN Vanilla at:
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 3 ounce glass bottle for storage
- 1/3 cup vodka or alcohol of choice
- 1 vanilla bean
- Add 1/3 cup vodka to the glass bottle.
- Cut the vanilla bean into 4 sections.
- Add the vanilla bean to the vodka, making sure the bean is completely submerged in the alcohol.
- Allow the flavors to develop for at least 2 months before using, but 4-6 months is best.