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Vanilla from Vodka

I make my own vanilla extract. (For some reason, this statement sounds really domestic in my head).

Why would I make my own vanilla extract, when there is a perfectly good product (Neilsen-Massey – the BEST if you’re going to buy) out there? Because I can. It’s easy. It’s affordable. And it’s good for you! You can make your own high-quality extract for a fraction of the cost; without any added sugar (or god forbid, corn syrup!) or other additives.

Does this sound crazy? It’s not. I promise – If you do any baking, I feel that making your own vanilla extract is totally worth it!

You only need a few items to make this, and of course, patience. It takes about 2 months to “brew” and become the proper strength.



Homemade Vanilla Extract:

* Vodka (or alcohol of choice)

* Vanilla beans (3 beans for every cup of liquor used)

* Jar w/lid

* Cutting board and sharp knife (to split the beans)



Split the vanilla beans in half, lengthwise, starting about a quarter-inch from the top. If you cut them all the way in half, don’t fret. I just happen to like to keep them connected at the top.



Place the beans into your jar(s).

Fill with the appropriate amount of liquor. (One cup of liquor for every 3 vanilla beans).


Screw the lid on tight and give the jar a shake.


I find it handy to put a post-it note on top with the starting date, so I can keep track of my various batches.

Now, store it for two months. Come back every week, or every other week to give it a swirl and shake, to keep things trucking along. I keep mine in the pantry, or in the dark corner of my kitchen counter. Don’t go setting it in the fridge or on a windowsill, but aside from that, you can put it pretty much anywhere that is convenient for you. 


As for the tools needed…  I am partial to Ball jars, but you could use any container (I’d use glass) with a tight-fitting lid.

For beans… I have ordered my vanilla beans from a couple of different sources, and my current fave is Beanilla Trading Company (or Beanilla products on Amazon). The Tahitian beans that I have brewing now are the best that I’ve used thus far. I’m no expert – I just know what I like – so if you have a different preference, by all means, use whatever kind of vanilla beans you like. For that matter, you can (to some degree) use any kind of alcohol that you want…. I happen to use vodka. Medium-low priced vodka. I’ve heard of others using clear or spiced rum, or bourbon even. I am a vodka gal at heart, and I think it gives the cleanest vanilla taste, so vodka it is.


I now have a jar of vanilla “brewing” at all times. Once it’s finished, I pour it into a different bottle or jar, to keep for myself or to give to a friend. Clean your jar, toss your used beans, split open some new ones, and go again. Plan ahead, so you won’t run out!


4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve had bad luck with vanilla beans — bought some expensive ones and they smelled like gasoline. Threw them away. (Are they supposed to smell like gasoline?)

    This is the second post I’ve seen about making your own vanilla recently. Might give it a try — however, I do love the vanilla (double strength) I get from Penzeys.

    Maybe I’ll try to make my own and do a taste test along-side Penzeys.

    March 15, 2011
    • They definitely aren’t supposed to smell like gasoline! That sounds awful. I would have tossed them too.

      My most recent beans came vacuum-sealed… when I opened them, they smelled really, really vanilla-y.


      March 18, 2011
  2. Whoa, that sounds so easy!

    March 15, 2011
  3. Wow – what a great idea! I go through vanilla like crazy. This would be so much better. I’ll have to try it.

    March 22, 2011

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