Make your own pure vanilla extract with 2 simple ingredients: vanilla beans and vodka. Simple to make and makes a great gift. Give a bottle of homemade vanilla extract with a favorite cookie recipe card! This post contains affiliate links.
Pure vanilla extract would be amazing in our homemade marshmallow recipe!
Watch our step by step video!
Pure vanilla extract was one of those things that seemed like it would be complicated to make—that is, until I found out that it is literally vodka + vanilla beans. That’s it. It’s basically fool-proof, smells amazing, is delicious in baked goods, and is a wonderful gift to gift during the holidays.
The vanilla beans are so potent that when you run out of extract, you simply add more vodka and let it age again for a second go-around!
I decided to make a dozen bottles for gifts this year and made sure to make some for myself. I’m thoughtful like that, haha. These small bottles are great for gift-giving, but with the insane amount of baking that I do, I think a mason jar would be more my style for personal use.
I’d seen pure vanilla extract recipes and tutorials floating around for years. It’s not new or rocket science. Apparently, everyone has been making it this way since the 1800s. It was one of those things that I was like, “I’d like to do that sometime” but never did until the gals at Tried and True Moms reminded me about it on Instagram. I also learned a few tips from the Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) and about a dozen other websites. I may have been late to the game, but was just happy to finally be on board.
Here is how we made ours. Ruby was right there with me every step of the way and can’t wait to bring a bottle to her teacher for Christmas. This is a great gift to make before the craziness of the holidays begins. Make a batch at the end of summer or fall and it will be ready by Christmas!
Pure Vanilla Extract Ingredients
- Vanilla Beans (grade B): 2 pods per bottle
- Vodka (80 proof): a 1.75 L bottle will fill about 15 bottles
- 4 oz. bottles: any glass bottle with a good lid will work
- labels: nice for gift-giving
- small kitchen funnel
Vanilla extract isn’t cheap to make so I decided not to use the 8 oz. canning jars that I had on hand and ordered small 4 oz. bottles for gift giving instead. Each jar of finished vanilla extract ended up being about $6. That is with a new jar and cute label. If you are making a batch for yourself just use what you have on hand, skip the label and write on the jar lid with a sharpie pen. A bottle the same size at the store it would be $7-$10. So while it isn’t exactly cheap to make, it is still more affordable than store-bought vanilla.
How to Make Pure Vanilla Extract
To make your own, you’ll need vanilla bean pods. You can find these at Costco and other grocery stores, but I found that Amazon is the cheapest place to buy them. I used 2 pods per jar.
Slice each pod down the middle with a sharp knife. Take in the amazing aroma and slide them into the bottle. You’ll need to trim the pods to make them fit. I cut mine in half.
You’ll also need alcohol. You can use rum, brandy, bourbon, or vodka. I went with vodka because it has the most neutral flavor. I don’t drink, but I’d imagine it’s the cheapest as well. Don’t waste your money buying anything expensive because this large bottle of Smirnoff 80 proof is just fine.
Using a small kitchen funnel, fill the bottle with vodka, and add the lid. Give it a good shake.
Labels for Pure Vanilla Extract Bottles
I thought it might be helpful to attach a label on each bottle with the date that it will be ready. I made these at the end of October so I put a January date on them. Don’t let the fact that the vanilla needs to age stop you from making it and giving it away right away. The recipient can simply store it in their cupboard for a month or two and watch the beautiful amber color appear.
Vanilla is best when it has had a chance to age. The longer the better. A good rule of thumb is to allow it to site 2-3 months before using it. 6-12 months is ideal.
Things I learned about making vanilla extract
- Vanilla extract doesn’t have an expiration date. It will last indefinitely.
- When the bottle runs out, add more vodka and let it age again. The pods are potent enough for a second go-around. You can continue to do this until you notice that the vanilla has lost its potency.
- I found quite a few ratios for alcohol and vanilla beans and met in the middle with mine. 1/2 cup vodka + 2 vanilla pods.
You can see how it has darkened after sitting for a week (photo above). It will continue to darken the longer it ages.
Pure Vanilla Extract Recipe
Pure Vanilla Extract Recipe
- small funnel
- 12 (4 oz.) bottles
- sticker labels
- cutting board
- 1.75 L vodka 80 proof
- 24 vanilla pods
- You will need 2 vanilla beans and 1/2 cup of vodka for each (4 oz) bottle that you plan on making. Slice each vanilla bean in half, lenghtwise.
- Place vanilla inside bottle. Trim the vanilla to make it fit.
- Pour vodka into the bottle using a small funnel. Add lid. Give the bottle a gentle shake.
- Store vanilla extract in a cool/dark place for at least 2 months before using. Periodically turn the bottle over to disperse color.Vanilla will darken as it sits.