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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

Ingredients

Supplies

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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Comments

  1. Judy says

    I have a couple of questions. Do you use the same amount called for in a recipe? I’m just wondering if it is stronger than store bought vanilla. Also, at the end of 2-3 months when it is ready do you remove the beans? If they remain in the bottle does it continue to get stronger? Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Judy. Yes, just use the same amounts… after a few months the strength is the same as store bought vanilla. Just leave the beans in the bottle. When it gets low, add more vodka, the beans should produce good extract for up to 7 years!

      • Chandra says

        I keep looking at those bottles and thinking of how many chocolate martinis they would make! Ha! I’m going to try this! (The vanilla extract making, I mean, not the chocolate martinis!)

  2. Susie Dippold says

    I have always wondered if this would work!! Thanks for sharing. Nothing better than “good vanilla extract” like the Barefoot Contessa always says. It also sounds like the beginnings for a great cocktail.

  3. says

    I’ve got the same vanilla beans you do Matt, although I didn’t end up using them for the original reason I purchased them for and they got dried out so I could not split them. I decided to just break them into 1″ pieces and stick it into the vodka that way. A few days later, I came to check on the bottle to see what was happening, the liquid was darkening and the vanilla beans had opened up like a straw…perfect :) Also I got my vodka from Trader Joe’s for only $5.99 a bottle!!!

  4. Christina says

    This is great I never even considered that you could make your own vanilla extract! I go through so many of those little bottles a year!

  5. Sharon says

    I have been making this for the last year and think it it is best I’ve ever tasted. This puts even the Mexican pure vanilla extract I used to buy to shame. Try putting a few 1″ pieces of split vanilla beans into a small (16 oz.) container of sugar and you’ll have vanilla sugar to use in your cup of coffee or tea. It is yummy!

  6. Fiona says

    I’ve just come across your website today when I was researching home-made dishwasher powder. What an awesome website. I have been on it all afternoon. I’ve printed off the dishwasher powder, laundry powder and toothpaste recipes and now vanilla extract! I would never have thought in a million years you could make your own vanilla and easy is it. We too are on a super economy drive (and environmental) to save money. We have moved to a 5 acre property, have chickens, vegetables, fruit, beef and lamb. We do a lot of baking because I refuse to buy cakes, biscuits, muesli bars etc. so we go through tonnes of vanilla and I will only buy pure vanilla not the rubbish imitation stuff. Now I know I can make my own is magnificent. I’m from Australia and will be spruiking your website wherever I go. Well done Matt :)

  7. Heather says

    I too have just come across your website and am amazed at all the EASY was we can save money and make our own products. I just love all your ideas. Thanks so much

  8. Fiona says

    Hi Matt, this will probably sound like a dumb question but how many beans do I put in each bottle. The ingredients are 1 bottle of vodka but there are 4 in the photos.

      • landon says

        can i put more vanilla beans in? right now i have a 1 cup solution going that has i believe 12 beans in it… we have not tried it yet but now i feel like i may have put to much in?

  9. Sherry says

    i made this today and it seems like i have a lot of tiny specks of vanilla bean at the bottom of the bottle and when i shake it, it’s everywhere!! should i not have cut the vanilla bean? i feel like that’s why it got ‘messy’.

    • says

      You’re fine Sherry, if you want to get the beans out before using you can filter it, but the internals of the vanilla bean are what give it the flavor, so you’re best to use it like it is.

  10. says

    I have done this but only with 3 or 4 beans that I didn’t slice. But I did not re-use them to make more vanilla. The vanilla is good. Yours looks like it doesn’t take as long to get a nice strong vanilla! I will try your method next.

    Also, when I finished a bottle of vanilla, I put my beans in the bottom of my sugar container to get ‘vanilla sugar’ for cookies and such. YUM. Do you think I could still do that with the sliced vanilla beans??

    • says

      Good idea w/the vanilla sugar Fawn! Yeah, you can also use the sliced beans to make your vanilla sugar. Be sure to come back and let us know how this vanilla turns out for you.

  11. says

    Hey there! Just discovered you through ReNest :)

    I was looking at eBay to find out the pricing on the vanilla beans, and I wasn’t sure what kind you bought? What’s the difference between Tahitian and Madagascar Bourbon beans? Can I use either? For some reason, the Madagascar seen to be way cheaper.

    I am totally addicted to baking goodies ;) This will save me a bundle. (Also, it could be way healthier- I just read that some imitation extracts might be derived from coal tar. YUM. )

    • says

      Hey Regan… you rock – thanks for checking us out. :)

      We used the Tahitian beans, not sure about the others but I say buy both to try them out and see which you like better – then be sure to come back and let us know! :)

      God bless

  12. says

    Will do! Thanks a bunch! :)
    I set up a post regarding DIY dish detergent. I have used it in a few loads now, and so far so good! I made sure to post a link back to you so any readers can discover your site! Thanks again.

  13. priscilla mix says

    Hi! I was wondering if someone took the beans in a food processor or blender, then ran the vodka through a coffee maker using the beans with a filter? I dont know if it would take the alcohol out of the vodka too by heating it…I know you dont have to use “only plain water” in your coffee maker! I have made double processed tea and coffee for years….but wonder if that way the vanilla would be ready immediatly

  14. Azeret says

    just came across your web site, and its a great idea for the vanilla cause all I use was the one from Mexico, my grandma d goes to mexico every year and we get like 12 bottles if not more, we are hooked on that cuz its the best. so I will try this and see how it goes.. so excited since I have been makeing alot of things as well, we are a family of 5 and well if I can make it and save money at the same time why not!! Oh and the toothpast one will try as well we go threw that like crazy also.

  15. Amber says

    I have been wanting to try homemade vanilla extract for a while now, but one big question has been holding me back. Does the raw extract still contain alcohol? I know in most recipes it would be cooked, and the alcohol wouldn’t be an issue, but my favorite frosting recipe is not cooked and calls for vanilla. Would I end up with vodka flavored frosting?

    • says

      Hi Amber. All vanilla contains quite a bit of alcohol, so you won’t have any problems w/this recipe. It will contain alcohol, like the store bought stuff, but it will not make anything taste like vodka. Use with confidence.

    • says

      I think it hits a wall after a few months of soaking up the beans but Betsy and I still have ours sitting in the basement waiting to be used. It tastes great. We gave away a ton of bottles at Christmas last year and people love the stuff.

  16. CandyD says

    Wow! Love the site!! And I’m so glad to see a recipe for homemade vanilla extract. It is so much better than the traditional stuff in the stores because it’s not diluted with dark corn syrup!

  17. Janine says

    Cant wait to try this. I do live in an area where you can get cheap vanilla from Mexico but I am definitely going to make my own. It is nice to know more about the products you consume!

  18. Jane says

    I hope this isn’t a stupid question…but if I am using mason jars for this, do I need to sterilize the jars, or is it sufficient to just wash them? Thanks!

  19. Amelia says

    Watching Dr. Oz the other day and he said that dabbing vanilla extract on our skin will keep gnats away. We’re going to try it here to see if it works to keep sand no-see-ums away as well. If we’re lucky maybe it would work to keep mosquitoes away, too?

      • Robin says

        Amelia,
        We live in Illinois and the Buffalo gnats were awful this year! The only thing that worked was vanilla body sprays or real vanilla dilluted and used in a spray bottle like the body spray. My husband got “ate alive” while I did not and smelled good too! Good luck!

  20. Tricia says

    Was curious if this recipe would work the same using peppermint leaves and lemon peel to make peppermint and lemon extracts??

  21. Sue Bornick says

    I understand one can also make black walnut extract from the soft outter shells & alcohol. Has anyone ever tried this? It is suppose to very healthy. Just curious.
    Thanks,
    Sue

  22. hippiemom says

    Im so excited to try this! I just hope I dont look like a lush going to the store and buying all the vodka so I can make some for my family too! lol:)

  23. MtnHigh6610 says

    How many beans to you use for each bottle?? I had heard you could do this, but was to scared to try it with the beans I had.. so I made vanilla sugar!! So great to add to recipes in turn of reg sugar

  24. Sue Bornick says

    Hey Matt,
    I have a quick qustion you may know, or not know the answer, but I am curious. When you buy vanilla, it is usually sold in brown bottles. I know that when we purchase medications, some are in brown bottles to maintain shelf life. Would this be true of home made vanilla too, or should we not be concerned about this?
    Thanks,
    Sue

    • says

      Brown bottles are supposed to increase shelf life. We store ours in the basement, where it is not in direct light, which has the same effect as darkened bottles. You can do either, neither, or both, obviously the more measures you take the longer your shelf life will be. The same is true for olive oils and many other food stuffs. Hope this helps!

  25. Vicki says

    Laundry detergent…check. Dishwasher detergent…check. Deodorant…check. Rinse agent and fabric softener…check. Castile soap…check. Avoiding three aisles of the grocery store for at least six months…priceless. Vanilla extract – you’re next!

  26. Pat says

    On my second batch of your recipe for homemade laundry soap…I love it!! Also have had my vanilla extracting for about a month now…it smells absolutely heavenly! I have a question on reusing the vanilla beans and wondered if you’ve ever done this. I went searching on the internet for other vanilla recipes, and some sites suggest reusing the beans. I also found that many use the cheaper Grade B vanilla beans; supposedly, because they’re dried out, it takes less time in the extraction process.

  27. says

    Hi Matt,
    I was just looking for some homemade laundry soap recipes and found you! Am I ever glad I did. I go through vanilla like it’s going out of style (I use it to bake my dolls, yes you read that right) and now I can make it myself. Thanks for sharing all your recipes!
    ~Rene~

  28. Cindy says

    Wow, love your site! Do you have a recipe for pure almond extract? I go through this quickly putting it in hot milk to get to sleep and also in my lactose free yogurt.

    • says

      We don’t have a recipe but I can make one up since any extract is the same basic process. Grind up the almonds in a food processor or blender, not into nut butter, but just chopped up finely. Use 6 Tbsp chopped almonds and 2 cups vodka. Store 6-8 weeks and shake once/week.

      • says

        I just mixed up my first batch of almond extract . I have just ordered vanilla beans so that i can make the vanilla extract . I have always wanted to try … Thanks so much for all the information.

  29. Kristel says

    I am wondering if you can store this in plastic bottles or do they have to be glass? To give as gifts it is much cheaper to buy plastic amber bottles, but don’t want to compromise quality!

  30. says

    Dang, if only I had read your article a few days ago – I knew there was a recipe that called for vanilla beans and vodka, and unfortunately I ponied up for the ultra expensive vanilla beans sold in twos at the grocery store. Fortunately I got them half price. But I would have paid less for 1/4 lb. through eBay. I tried your link to the glass bottles, but it took me to metal tins, so I’m unsure which bottles you use. I think I’ll try finding some at our local import store or Ikea. This is the first time in my life I’ve bought vodka! (I’m going to use some of the vodka in America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe for pie crust too.)

  31. says

    Also Matt, how do you split the bean pod without damaging the beans inside? Or does it matter? I’ve never tried it, but those pods look so skinny, I don’t have any confidence in my ability to split them without making a mess and ruining them. And they’re way too expensive to ruin!

      • Pat says

        I was going to buy the amber bottles sold here, but buying a small quantity (20-30 bottles) made the 8 oz bottles about 1.60 each with shipping. So I scored some 6 oz glass Coke bottles at a thrift store, cleaned and boiled them, and then used cork to seal them. The cork was expensive, but I still spent less than half of what I would have on these amber bottles. Then I found COOL antique soda water bottles for less than a buck a piece. Did the same with them. Next year I will just splurge on buying 120 of the 8 oz bottles and keep them around for other gifts. I also made up my own antique-looking vanilla flavoring label. Thanks for the great Christmas gift idea. Now I need to decide what will be my next DIY project. I’ve made your laundry soap and vanilla, and also made hand sanitizer. I’m think I’m going to ask my hubby to buy me your book for my birthday!! : )

  32. says

    hmmm…my vanilla extract experiment smells VERY strongly of vodka. Is it because I forgot to shake it each week or is it more likely that I just got my measurements totally wrong? Any way of saving it – it’s been sitting there for months or do we have to admit this one lost…? Thanks for the help!

    • says

      Any extract is mostly alcohol, that’s what extracting is… extracting flavor of *whatever* by soaking in alcohol. If you smell vanilla extract from the store it smells the same because it’s exactly the same thing. Use with confidence.

  33. says

    Caroline, I’m interested to see what Matt has to say about your question. It looks like he has a few questions to answer – must be the holidays. I didn’t think vodka had a smell. I’m going to be sure to shake my new experiment right away!

  34. Pam says

    I got my vanilla beans from Amazon and glass bottles. Just got the little bottles for gifts. We did the first round in June. I’m getting ready to pour it into little bottles for Christmas gifts.

  35. Elizabeth says

    What a WONDERFUL site! I came upon it by accident and have bookmarked it. Thank you so much for sharing all these helpful tips for doing more for ourselves. I make my own bread and my own laundry detergent already, but never even thought of most of these things! I think I’ll start implementing your ideas one at a time.

  36. says

    Great! Thanks Matt – I am a very happy woman with a LOT of useable vanilla extract to get on and use!
    @Jenny – it’s mainly just ‘alcohol’ smell with a touch of vanilla though still. I shall be using it from today.

  37. Mana says

    I have white cloudy bits floating off my vanilla bean.(Half of my bottles) Is it safe to give away or is there something wrong with the vanilla bean? I also did not split it and it’s been sitting in dark storage for 8 months. Should I put a split one in before I give it away as a gift? It’s not smelling very strong. (Used grade A Beans)
    Thanks.

  38. Kristin says

    would this extract be ok to use in homemade vanilla coffee creamer? you only use about 2tsp, but i wasn’t sure about the alcohol since you aren’t cooking with it.
    thanks

  39. says

    I’ve heard of doing this, but always wondered what in the world I would do with so much vanilla extract! I like the idea of giving it away as a gift!

  40. Dee says

    My project is developing a “cream” like substance in the alcohol. I presume this is the water from the vanilla beans. I did not use Grade B beans. I purchased the higher grade before I realized the only difference in the grades was moisture content. Will the straining process at the end of my six months remove the “cream”? I believe this is the same thing Mana is talking about.

    • says

      I am unsure what to tell you since we never experienced this and I cannot find any instances or explanations when researching. If it were mine I would either get it tested (local extension office) or toss it and start over.

  41. Lizz says

    So, from the day you put the beans in the vodka, it’ll be approx 3 months until it is usable extract, right?

  42. Stacie says

    Does it matter what type of vodka? I have Skyy and Absolut Vanilla. I was going to try the Absolut but was wondering if the imitation flavor mixed with the pure flavor would muttle things?

    • says

      You can try flavored vodka if you want but I’m pretty sure they have less alcohol. If it were me, I wouldn’t do it, but it’s up to you… that’s the great thing about DIY.

  43. Michael says

    I must say that you have inspired me to want to see how many things can be homemade to decrease my carbon foot print and make life just a little bit easier is these hard financial times. Thank you for the site and that great book is there more volumes to possibly follow?

  44. Peggy B. says

    Hi All, One of my dear friends, an 83 year old pastor’s wife, has been doing this for years. I bought organic vanilla beans at EarthFare for cheap – $3-4.00? It wasn’t much at all. I purchased my Vodka – haven’t been in a liquor store for 23 years :) and am on the road to making my first vanilla. A few weeks later it dawned on me that I didn’t use ORGANIC VODKA!! I do everything possible organic. I think alot of vodka is from GMO grains. Beware!! They make organic vodka – just search online. I found a store down the street from me that sells it. So, I’ll give away my precious vanilla that is almost ready and do the organic stuff instead. I know recipes don’t call for much vanilla, but why spoil them when you use organic ingredients and blow it on the vanilla! Love your site, just stumbled on it today!! Thanks Matt & Betsy and may the Lord bless you both!!

  45. says

    Hi, i have two questions, firstly, is 6beans in 750ml of vodka alright? whats the shelf life of the homemade extract? i just started with my first bottle, i plan on atleast making 5more bottles.