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Picture this – you’re in the grocery store and your healthy chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for pure vanilla extract but you’re trying to save money on groceries and the imitation vanilla is much cheaper. What do you do?

Good news. You never have to choose between pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla extract again.

By following this simple recipe, you will learn to make your own homemade pure vanilla extract for less than the cost of the store bought imitation.

Making homemade vanilla extract is easy and cost effective.

All you need to make Vanilla



Process for making the Extract

Using the funnel, remove approximately ½ cup of vodka from each bottle to make room for the vanilla beans. Using your cutting board and knife, slice each vanilla bean lengthwise along one entire side of the bean. Place the beans in the vodka bottle, replace the lid, and shake. Store the vanilla for 2-3 months in a cool, dark room.

Shake the vanilla once/week to agitate the beans and speed the extraction process.

Making this will save you a lot of money

Savings depend on quantity.  I made 76 ounces using 3 – 750ml bottles of vodka and ¼ lb of vanilla beans, which provided the following savings:

Store bought cost

One 2 ounce bottle of store brand pure vanilla extract cost $4.99.  Total cost = $2.50/ounce.

Homemade cost

Three bottles of vodka (“a fifth” or 750ml) cost $10 each for  a total of $30. 750ml x 3 = 2250ml which is equivalent to 76 ounces. ¼ lb of vanilla beans (approximately 36 beans) is equivalent to 4 ounces and cost $10. Based on these calculations, 76 ounces of pure vanilla extract cost $40. Total cost = $0.50/ounce.  Imitation vanilla cost approximately $1.00/ounce. This reveals that homemade vanilla extract is 5 times cheaper than store bought pure vanilla and twice as cheap as imitation vanilla.

Pictures of the Project

When we began…

Homemade Vanilla Extract

When we finished…

Homemade Vanilla Extract

How things look after one week of storage…

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Based on the ease and savings of this project, making homemade vanilla extract is a great way to save money and increase freedom!


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  1. says

    hey Matt, could i uncork the bottle an add in 4 more beans? also here in India you get pure 100% vanilla paste, i have already used a tablespoon sachet its the bean extract and nothing more, i assume that must work too? the first bottle is a mere try out, will be leaving the bottles for about 2 years till full maturity.

  2. Marta says

    You have good timing! I started my first batch last week, it is for me and also a bunch of Christmas gifts! Looking forward to baking with it when it it is ready.

  3. Tabitha Higgins says

    My mom spends a fortune on vanilla extract for her “famous” chocolate chip cookies and its always a concern so I told her I would research how to make it ourselves. I have rum and vanilla beans in the pantry so I’m starting right now! Thanks for the information.

  4. says

    So…just want to make sure I know what to do with it after those 2-3 months… The vanilla extract is what’s left in the bottle? Throw out the beans and use what’s left over? Cool…

    • says

      Sean is right Carrie. Don’t throw out the beans, keep them in the vanilla and just refill w/alcohol when it’s empty. We keep two bottles in rotation so we always have some handy.

      • Denise Lacey says

        I have had my beans soaking in the vodka for almost 3 mos. now. Not wanting to appear dumb, but after the 3 mos. is up and you divide the vanilla ext. into individual bottles, you can save the used Van. beans and just fill the bottle with more vodka? You don’t have to use new beans? You will get the same strength of Van. extract even tho you are using used beans so to speak? Also, I wondered if you have to filter the extract when it’s finished, I am assuming not. First time with this but see the value in doing it this way and I know what I’m getting in the end. Thanks for your help

  5. says

    Hey Matt, ive come to a standstill, the wine bottle cork has broken up and is in the vanilla bottle…. is that a problem, would i need to drain it remove the cork and put back the extract? is leaving the cork in there a good or bad idea. my friend said it could add a woody flavor to the extract ! PANIC MODE ! theres red lights flashing in my head. Help me out !

    • says

      I would leave it. If you want to bother, dump the vanilla into another bottle (thru a filter if you want), then transfer the vanilla beans.

  6. kim says

    Hi!!! Going to give this a try but just want to know if this is safe for the kiddos, I know alcohol burns off whens its cooked but Im very conscious using it in recipes when my babies will be eating too!! LOL sorry might be silly but rather be safe then sorry!! thank you!!

  7. Diane says

    Lemon or orange extract can be made the same way. Just add the yellow (or orange) peel to the alcohol (leave out the white pith). I’ve been making homemade vanilla extract for quite awhile, and it works great. I like that I can adjust the intensity of the flavor by using more or less vanilla beans as I see fit. Makes great gifts!

    • Lochi says

      How much of the lemon or orange peel should I use to how much alcohol? Thanks.

    • says

      You should be able to give it a shot by now Sean – let us know what you think, we love it and use it all the time. Actually Betsy is mixing us up a drink of homemade coconut milk, homemade vanilla, and a little cocoa powder. :)

  8. Lisa Quenon says

    I always give homemade gifts for Christmas…thank you so much for sharing this…now I know what everyone in my family is getting for Christmas!! Awesome!! Thanks for the site for vanilla beans as well. I priced them in the store the other day…each individual bean sold for something like several dollars. Too rich for my blood! Thank you. Thank you!

  9. Marie says

    Hey all, I was wondering if anyone ever had mold grow on the inside of your bottles? I have 3 bottles going now that are all about 10 weeks. I noticed on one of the bottles near the neck of the bottle (where there is no vanilla) there is some yellowish residue – which I think may be mold but I’m not sure since I can’t imagine anything growing in a bottle of vodka. Thoughts?

  10. Krystal says

    Just wondering, do you have to use corked bottles? I would like to use screw top.

  11. Sheena E. says

    After you brew it for 3 months…transfer to glass containers…how long will it last from there. I don’t do a TON of baking so I am not sure if I would use a whole 750 ml. of the stuff hehe. Thanks for all your great info! :-)

    • says

      To see the shelf life I would look on the labels for pure vanilla extract on store shelves, this stuff would be about the same because it’s the same thing. We have been using ours successfully for years now – same batch.

      • Sheena E. says

        Ok great! I want to do this for Christmas gifts as well and would want to put that on the label. Thank you!

  12. Mari the Kiwi says

    I have been making my own for about the last 4 yrs using brandy instead of vodka. Would never go back to the shop brought stuff.

    I do it in smaller 200ml bottles with 4 beans slit lengthwise and cut smaller. I leave the beans in the bottle and use the extract then add more beans and more brandy. I also use the brandy beans in cooking sauces etc and mince them up for pavalova or custards.

    Stupidly I bragged to friends and family about my yummy vanilla, and I now have to make quite a quantity just to give away as gifts. Have 4 regulars for Xmas.

    Because this is in alcohol it will keep indefinitely if capped securely and the cap kept clean. Mine is just kept in the cupboard and not in the fridge. Never had any problems with it.

  13. Cat says

    Hi and bless you for your great information on how to make vanilla. I started mine about 3 weeks ago in a very large bottle. Using 3 beans for every cup of Vodka and I just received my brown 4 oz. bottles in the mail. How many beans do I need to transfer to the small bottles to keep continuing to brew? Do you think I should transfer it already? Also, we aren’t drinkers so my husband made me go into the liquor store for the Vodka! :) That felt really strange!

    • says

      I would let it finish brewing in the large bottle, then you can transfer it to the small bottles with no beans, or including 1 bean in each for the cool look.

  14. Quentin Packard says

    The reason to choose between imitation and pure vanilla extract is the addition of heat. Heat boils off many of pure vanilla’s subtle flavors, leaving only vanillin, ultimately wasting money without adding flavor. So the rule is, if you are cooking or baking, use imitation, if you are not cooking use pure or your excellent homemade.

  15. Sean says

    each time i get a notification i remember that i have two bottles that need to be shaken up….haha

  16. Laurie says

    Where can I buy fair priced vanilla beans to make my own extract? I want to make this for Christmas gifts.Thanks!

  17. Melva says

    Question – I started my vanilla extract batch on 7/25/12. It is starting to
    become a dark brown color – will it get as dark as when you buy vanilla

  18. kim says

    I’m SO happy to have found this site. Thank you everyone! I have lemon and orange trees. I’ll be making ALL of the above as Christmas presents. I think I’ll make “samplers” using the mini alcohol bottles.

  19. Sean says

    i havent shaken up the bottles, its almost like i dont have anymore energy to walk over to the cupboard now.

  20. Heather says

    Great idea, but it’s a LOT of vanilla extract for me. If we’re going for inexpensive, I’ve found that buying the extract at Costco is even cheaper than making it.

    • Julie says

      It is a lot of vanilla extract lol. I did some comps with the Costco in my area since my mom challenged it and actually, cheaper for me to make it than buy it. I would assume it depends on your location and also what vodka and beans you purchase. Cheap vodka is all that’s needed, I just used Aristocrat, $6 a bottle for me in my area. I also received a great deal on the beans through DIY’s recommendation, and the beans seeped in your first batch can be reused to make another batch. It has a long shelf life and you can distribute as gifts to friends if they are into baking and such. Use it in coffee creamer or hot cocoa. You can also use some beans in some oil to make vanilla oil which is really yummy in baked goods instead of regular oil. We literally bake every day in December to the All Recipes Christmas Cookie Countdown so mine will definitely be put to use. It’s a fun thing to watch – my kids get excited to shake the bottles and we’ve taken pictures to watch it transform – it’s a nifty little science experiment.

  21. Elizabeth says

    I have a bottle of established extract, that I need to top off with alcohol. I started it with vodka, but am out. Could I switch to rum, or would that throw off the flavors?

  22. Julie A says

    Just did my first 2 bottles of this – can’t wait to give this out as Christmas gifts! Thanks so much for sharing such a great thing! You guys are truly wonderful people! BTW, purchased your book – LOVE IT!!!! Keep up the great work! God bless!

  23. Rachael says

    I was going to use rum instead of vodka because we already have some in the cabinet, but do you think dark rum is ok? Or should I open the new bottle of clear rum?

  24. Nicole says

    Hi! is it a problem if the vanilla bean floats a little bit on the top of the liquid? It has contact with the air that separates the liquido from the cork. Thanks!!

  25. Heather says

    My vanilla extract is very alcohol smelling. When I use it in my homemade coffee creamer I can taste the vodka at times. Does this mean that my beans no longer have flavor?

    • says

      Hi Heather. How long did you let the beans steep? Flavor extracts are made this way (by letting alcohol extract the flavors over time) so they will have a high alcohol content (just like store bought extracts). I would say just cut back on the amount you’re using in your coffee if the alcohol taste is too strong. Blessings.

    • Heather says

      The beans have been steeping for about 8-9 months. I saw on one of your other posts that you should use about 12 beans. I only have about 6, so I’m guessing that’s my problem.

  26. Rachael says

    Hi, I just saw this and am very eager to try it. I just have a few questions so I don’t screw it up. How many beans do you put into each bottle of vodka? Also, how long exactly should it sit before it’s considered “done” where you can transfer it to a little bottle? Where do you find the extra bottle you used for the extra vodka? Thanks so much! I’m so excited to have found this.

    • says

      Glad you found us Rachel, give it a shot, you’ll love it. 12 beans per 750ml. 2-3 months should do it. The extra bottle was a gift from a friend, not sure where it came from.

  27. Jeremy says

    I am about a month into the process and I notice there are vanilla droppings at the bottom, looks like part of the inside bean. Obviously these wont look pretty as Christmas gifts so I am going to strain them out with cheesecloth. Have I done something wrong?

    • Julie says

      @ Jeremy – Nothing done wrong – there will be some of that during the process, just pieces of vanilla bean. Straining will be ok. I am three days away from my first batch being done and it’s amazing to watch it. (I did actually use some for pie on Thanksgiving and it was fine – my in-laws didn’t know I made it and when they sniffed it said, “it’s vanilla extract, why are you asking” lol.

  28. Jeremy says

    I think I cut the whole bean lengthwise and cut into the bean itself. :-( So I am only supposed to cut the outside peel per say?

    • Julie says

      @ Jeremy – I cut into the whole bean lengthwise – not in half completely – but I know I cut inside the bean itself as well – I have had no issues – you’re good, no worries- make sure to shake the bottles though to help it along in the process.

  29. Sharon says

    If the vanilla lasts only 2-3 months, why would you make so much at one time. I would never use that much in that length of time.

  30. Liz says

    Hey just found this site and hope you can help. I have a batch about 6 weeks out and it has now turned cloudy. Is it still good? the other two bottles I started at the same time are clear. Did I do something wrong? I used beans from a different source for that bottle than the other two–could that be the issue?
    Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks

  31. Debra Jo says

    I made some vanilla extract for Christmas as gifts and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Bought my beans from