Homemade Vanilla Extract

Let me tell you a secret:  I never, ever use imitation vanilla extract when baking.  Pure vanilla extract is so worth the extra cost.

Have you ever wondered how real vanilla extract is made?  And did you know that you can make your own homemade vanilla extract?  It’s so easy!

You only need 2 ingredients – Vodka (or brandy, bourbon or rum) and vanilla beans.  That’s it!  You didn’t know that alcohol was used to make vanilla extract?  Well, now you do!

homemade vanilla extract

It does take 2 or 3 weeks for the flavors to infuse, but cooking the alcohol (see recipe note below) speeds up the infusion.  You can omit the cooking part, but let the vanilla extract stand for an extra week before using.

homemade vanilla extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract


  • 3 vanilla beans
  • 3 cups vodka, bourbon or rum
  • 3 jars with tight fitting lids


  1. Split 1 vanilla bean and scrape seeds into a clean 1/2 pint jar. If desired, cut the bean in half crosswise. Place in jar. Repeat with the remaining beans and jars.
  2. Cook vodka in a large saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Do not cook longer than 5 minutes or it can overheat and ignite! Pour 1 cup vodka into each jar. Cool mixture to room temperature (about 30 minutes).
  3. Cover jars tightly and let stand at room temperature 1-2 weeks before using, shaking jars once a day. For a cleaner look, pour liquid through a fine mesh strainer into clean bottles with tight fitting lids; discard solids. Store in a cool, dry place for up to one year.


When cooking alcohol, be sure and use a large saucepan to contain the vapors. Do not heat longer than 5 minutes. The vapors can ignite.
If you use bourbon, it will be slightly darker.


Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla extract is usually a lot more flavorful and cheaper than store bought.

Helpful Hint:  You don’t have to use top shelf alcohol for this.  An inexpensive alcohol will work just fine!

DIY Vanilla Extract


Helpful Hint:  I used vodka in my homemade vanilla extract.  If you want it darker, use bourbon.

I received several comments stating that homemade vanilla extract would make the perfect hostess gift or Christmas present.  I totally agree!  Thanks for the reminder!

You may also like:

Easy Homemade Hostess Gifts

Homemade Hot Cocoa

Have you ever made your own vanilla extract?

About Alli

Southern, Morning Person, Jesus Girl, Frugal Party Planner, Writer/Blogger, Mom, Nana, Wife, Beach Bum Wannabe - Let's Have a Party!


  1. I just put it on my calendar for December 1st to start some of this for holiday gifts. Thanks for the very clear tutorial!

  2. This is very interesting to me Alli 🙂 I tend to always purchase Watkins brand extracts because their flavors are wonderful. I have never considered making my own.
    I couldn’t help but remember when my husband decided to make a Rum Cake a few years ago. We know there is alcohol in grocery stores but didn’t know liquor wasn’t part of it 🙂 We made a trip to a liquor store to purchase the smallest bottle of Rum they had. The entire time, we were laughing at ourselves, hoping no one would see us going in, coming out or even Inside! We still laugh about it now sometimes.

    • I have to confess, Shirley, that I make my daughter take a trip to the liquor store when I need to make vanilla extract or rum cake, etc. Can you imagine if someone in my small southern hometown saw the pastor’s wife entering or exiting the liquor store? I would instantly be labeled the town drunk. LOL

  3. This is SUCH an awesome idea – I can’t find real vanilla extract anywhere in Italy (only like this weird vanilla flavor “stuff”)
    Making this the second I find some vanilla beans!

  4. I LOVE this idea! I’ve never tried making my own and no clue it was this easy! What a great idea to try for all the holiday baking that is coming my way!

  5. I saw this on Pinterest recently and wanted to try it. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. How cool I am totally trying this!

  7. Wow it’s this easy. I had no idea I will have to try this. I first have to find vanilla beans….hmmmmm

  8. WHO KNEW?! That’s so crazy and easy to make! I bet it’s much cheaper than buying vanilla extract all the time. And it’s more flavorful, you say? I’ll definitely have to try this! Thanks for sharing!

  9. How cool! I have never thought to make my own vanilla extract, but we go through so much I definitely should. I agree with you no imitation in our house.

  10. I’ve always wanted to do this. Would make a great Christmas gift!

  11. Now that is news to me that vanilla extract is made from alcohol. I really need to try this for Thanksgiving. Pinning! Thanks for the recipe Alli!

  12. I love anything vanilla! I will have to try this.

  13. I have been wanting to try this, but I have to find someone to sneak into the liquor store for this Mormon girl 🙂 I always tell my husband when my Mexican vanilla runs out we need to go back to Mexico. I just ran out last week and this would be far more affordable than a quick trip to Mexico.

    • I always buy as much as I can when I’m in Mexico, but like you said, it’s cheaper to make your own than take a trip to Mexico. I had to get my daughter to go to the liquor store for me. If someone had seen this pastor’s wife at the liquor store, I would have been the talk of the town. 🙂

  14. Now this is something I should be able to make without messing up.

    It’s cooling off a bit now, so I will be cooking a lot more. I’m not a baker so, I need a recommendation on what I would use this with.

  15. I never use imitation vanilla either! Pure vanilla is so yummy. I had no idea it was this easy to make. Wouldn’t a jar of this be a nice Thanksgiving gift… wither a hostess gift or a gift for your guests to take home. Just in time for holiday baking. 🙂 Love this… thanks. PINNED 🙂

    Life With Lorelai

  16. Okay, first of all, it tickled me a little to have a pastor’s wife recommending hard liquor LOL (I know, for the recipe, and this I-sing-in-the-church-choir girl will try it, too! LOL) Second of all, I had NO idea that you could make your own vanilla extract! This is really super cool!!!

  17. I had no idea it was this easy!! I think we have vanilla beans at my farmer’s market, I can’t wait to try this. Pinning for later!

  18. Had no idea they used alcohol to make vanilla extract. But you are correct, the real deal is so worth it. Thanks for sharing the recipe!!!!

  19. This is so awesome! I am so trying this and telling my best friend – she is a cake maker! She would love this!

  20. I always use this kind of homemade vanilla…made by friends. As a pastor’s wife I can’t pull of the trip to the liquor store either.

    • When my daughter brought it to me in a plain brown bag and I opened the bag, I asked her if that was really vodka. I had never heard of that brand before. 🙂

  21. Alli, this looks great!! Thanks for sharing it at Merry Monday!! Sharing.

  22. I guess I never knew how to make homemade vanilla extract. I would love to make some with some rum. I have a feeling I am going to have to add this to my Christmas gift baskets. I usually add a lot of homemade food goods but our garden didn’t do so well with year with all the rain. I would love it if you came and shared this on The Yuck Stops Here link party! I believe the link is in the commentluv.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.