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vanilla extract

Recipe: homemade vanilla extract

As I get ready for another shoot, I find myself short on time – again. Consider it your lucky day because this post will be short on words, so you can scroll the photos and see a quick and oh so easy recipe at the end! We have snow in the forecast. A cold front is moving in with winds and that rain/snow mixture and I realized if I didn’t get myself down to Boulder before the storm, I’d miss out on the lovely local blooms. Here is some of our local color in case you think I always travel elsewhere to get my photo on :) Colorado is starting to burst with color and it will continue through October.


there are many different colors and kinds of tulips on pearl street

flowering trees are going gangbusters at the public library

and let’s not forget the lilacs



You can see the rest of the photos on the photoblog: tulips and flowering trees and lilacs.

I had read so much about homemade vanilla extract on other blogs that I knew it was my destiny. When I ordered a few hundred vanilla beans and gave dozens away to friends and family, I still had about 80 left. I’ve been making my way through the stash, but a few months ago – right around the time I made all of that beloved Buddha’s Hand Citron Vodka – I had lots of cheap vodka on hand and remembered what was stored in my cupboard.


when you have a lot of vanilla beans

slice them open lengthwise



This recipe is so simple. Slice the beans, drown them in vodka, then forget about them for 2 months while they chill out in a cool and dark location. If you aren’t much of a planner, then this won’t work so well for you because of that whole waiting thing.

place them in jars

fill with cheap vodka



You’re supposed to give the bottles a shake every now and again. You can see the color seeping out and staining the vodka lovely shades of deep amber and brown. It’s so pretty you almost don’t want to give it a shake.

bedtime for vanilla beans – store in a cool, dark place

after a month (you’re suppose to shake them, but i liked the stratification here)



I had run out of my store-bought vanilla just the other day when I remembered my homemade vanilla in the office closet (hey – it’s cool and dark). It smells like a bouquet of flowers. Vanilla bean is magical like that. I thought it might taste like… vodka, but it tastes like vanilla flowers and the flavor it imparts is ten times better than any vanilla extract I’ve used before. Very nice. Easy. Peasy. And now I have LOTS of it!

vanilla better than you’ve ever known it



Homemade Vanilla Extract
[print recipe]

3 whole vanilla beans per 8 oz. of vodka
clean glass bottle or jar
8 oz. cheap vodka

Split the vanilla beans lengthwise and place them in a clean glass bottle or jar. Fill the bottle with vodka. Seal the lid or top tightly and place in a dark and cool location for 2 months. Shake the bottle from time to time.

Source: Apparently the link I had in my post wasn’t clue enough for some of you guys! If you go to Saffron.com they have AMAZING deals on bulk vanilla bean purchases including organic vanilla beans. That’s where I got mine from.

55 nibbles at “vanilla extract”

  1. Daiming Zhu says:

    I made my own vanilla extract not-so-long ago too, but I used cognac instead, because I did not have any vodka. I even posted about it! I’ve heard that brandy works just as well, although I think i prefer the clearness of liquid to the already-brown of cognac.
    Beautiful photos, as always.

  2. Beth McMillan says:

    I’ve done this myself a few times – the problem of course is that it tastes great as a drink as well! A difficult thing to keep in the cupboard for baking when you could be mixing it with a soft drink for a cool, richly flavoured bit of evening deliciousness!

  3. Jessica says:

    Cool! I’ve always wondered how people made vanilla extract at home! Definitely going to try this out.

  4. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) says:

    I recently made my first batch, and am impatiently waiting for it to be ready!!

  5. Belinda @zomppa says:

    WOW! I didn’t know that this is how you make it – thank you thank you thank you!

  6. Josh says:

    How long does something like this last? Mainly because 8oz of vanilla extract goes a very long way.

  7. Y says:

    Ooo wow. I love all your different jars. Have been meaning to make my own extract too, but somehow never got round to it!

  8. Valerie says:

    Does it matter how new or old the beans are? I have some beans that I’ve had for quite a while that are getting fairly stiff and hard. I know I could use them in vanilla sugar – could I use those for vanilla extract or do they need to be fresh one?

  9. Julie says:

    I did this and gave it as gifts last Christmas! It was a big hit :)

  10. Kirsa says:

    this is very easy and I should really plan this as coming christmas gifts.
    i’m wondering, is there a saturation point ? or should you remove the beans at some point to avoid too much of a strong flavor ?

    what do you think of the quality of the source you used for ordering the beans ?
    I want your bottles. :D

  11. My Kitchen in the Rockies says:

    I make my own vanilla sugar like this as well. A lot of my German recipes call for it. I have never thought of making my own extract. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Janet says:

    This is a fabulous idea for gifts!
    And as for those flowers; I was just thinking that a photo expedition to the Pearl Street Mall today, in the snow, would be really fun! I’m hoping the tulips will survive — they are actually pretty hardy.
    In both cases, thanks for the inspiration!

  13. ailo says:

    Do you have any opinion on the difference between the tahitian and the regular planifolia? I’ve been wanting to bake with actual beans for a long time and you’ve provided the final impetus to acquire some.

  14. nico says:

    Very cool, but I think it is a waste to use the seed to make extract you could use just the beans, but if money is not an issue for you, that is fantastic…

  15. Alexandra says:

    Do you know if you boiled these in the vodka (refluxed so it wouldnt evaporate) would it happen quickly? The only reason I thought of this is because of my organic chemistry lab in which i perform extractions on a daily basis… So silly. But I feel it might compromise the flavor or something.

  16. marianne says:

    Wow, Jen! I think I want to try this – seems so easy and so good.

  17. Mollie says:

    Sigh. I adore lilacs…

  18. Cynthe says:

    Hadn’t thought of making homemade vanilla extract. Love that it’s easy. And awesome gift idea. Will be giving this a go….SOON. Thanks!

  19. Ruth Ann says:

    I never thought of making homemade vanilla extract. What a good idea!
    While you’ve got the vodka out, you could make homemade limoncello too.

  20. Jean says:

    Wow, what a nice stash of vanilla extract you now have…

  21. Whitney says:

    I made some this winter and it is awesome! i have a bunch of vanilla beans left still, should make more.

  22. Manisha says:

    You remembered to look in your pantry?! That’s not good for me, Jen :-D

  23. Lisa says:

    Ruth Ann, do you have recipe for limoncello? love to have it. We bought some back from Italy and it was comsumed quickly. Thanks.

  24. M. says:

    I would love to try that….
    it looks so pretty…I’m adding it to my “to do list” :)

  25. BethieofVA says:

    Do you think vodka makes better extract than bourbon?

  26. John Jezl says:

    I’d be curious how the quality would differ between an extract using vodka vs. an extract using grain alcohol (“Everclear”). I use grain alcohol for making limoncello as it’s supposed to get better extraction of oils from the zest, so wonder if the same principle would apply here.

  27. Irene says:

    I add about a tablespoon of dark rum to mine and hooo, boy, is it good!

  28. Tia @ ButtercreamBarbie says:

    gorgeous pix and yummy extract.
    do you use it just the same as you would storebought?

  29. Erin says:

    I’ll definitely have to make this because I’ve always wanted to try making my own extract!

  30. Lori says:

    From the moment I fell in love with Tartelette (Helen) and Canelle et Vanille (Aran)’s pastries, I went and bought a ton of vanilla beans and started my concoction then. I am all the better for it.

    I need to get out and photograph some lilacs. So pretty. I wish I could capture spring green in a bottle.

  31. F. Suzanne Moore says:

    A friend sent this to me and now I want to attempt to make vanilla also, even though I have several different kinds in the cupboard. I am imagining vanilla vodka latte.

    I love vanilla in anything, even Pepsi. (I hope that does not come across as the equivalent of cursing in the kitchen!)

    FSM in Eureka, CA USA

  32. melissa says:

    I made mine a couple of years ago, with a gold rum base. Rum is gorgeous for vanilla extract because it gives it that extra depth of flavor. It took about a year before I could use it.

  33. Another Foodie says:

    This is fantastic. Vanillia extract is so expensive to buy, more so in Korea — about 8 bucks a tiny bottle! Thank you so much for sharing.

  34. beetred says:

    I made some a few weeks ago and am impatiently waiting to pop them open!

    I found via tastespotting, your pictures are beautiful!

  35. Liz says:

    Just curious as to which type of vanilla beans you purchased since it looks like the price varies a lot? Thx!

  36. Madame Sucre says:

    I love this.. but how to make it if we cant have any alcohol in our food… ? any other thoughts? Plz email me if you can find another way to do it without alcohol.. I really appreciate it ! :)

  37. Andrea says:

    I just love the colour that the extract turns! I made this for a number of friends as Christmas party gifts. I was even able to find some great oil/vinegar type containers with a spout for dispensing the vanilla. I also love that Costco now carries vanilla beans on a regular basis!

  38. Mrs Ergül says:

    Me and my friend specially ordered in about 80 or a hundred of those from the states and made our own vanilla extract. you are right. they are so much better than any vanilla extract I have used. even the very expensive ones! It’s cool that where you stay you can store the beans in your closet for in my climate, they gotta go in the fridge and no where else! haha

  39. jenyu says:

    Just in case folks missed it the first time in the post, I linked to my source for vanilla beans – saffron.com – where you can purchase several vanilla beans for amazing prices. They now carry organic!

    Daiming – yeah, cognac or other boozes sound great, but cheap vodka is hard to beat considering it is so… cheap ;)

    Josh – I imagine it lasts quite a while. One thing though – it’s not just vanilla extract. It makes GREAT vanilla cokes (with a kick) and other boozy vanilla cocktails or drinks. I’m worried we’ll blow through it all in one summer!

    Valerie – that I don’t know. However, I did use the stiffer beans that I have and it seems to be fine. In fact, I’d rather use the stiff beans in this extract than for my baking or pastries.

    Kirsa – I’m not sure. I can’t imagine they’d go bad since they’re essentially preserved in… booze. ? I liked the source of the beans, but I’m no expert so take it for what it’s worth :)

    Ailo – I don’t. I had the planifolia in bulk and a few tahitians as a sample. I think I gave the tahitians away before I got a chance to compare. I guess that’s an excuse to get more!?!? ;)

    Nico – money wasn’t so much of an issue because I ordered from saffron.com which gave me a ridiculous number of beans for like… $50. Seriously. When you have that many you might consider using the whole bean for the extract.

    Alexandra – yeah, I wouldn’t know about that, but you could try!

    Ruth Ann – that’s next!

    Manisha – don’t you worry, I’ll bring you some vanilla beans next time I order more xo

    BethieofVA – No idea, sorry. You could ask Joy (joythebaker.com) who made it with both.

    John – Oh, I don’t know… I’d be curious if anyone tries it and compares results!

    Tia – so far yes, I have been. However, it also works as a lovely vanilla vodka to add to cocktails or vanilla cokes ;)

    Liz – planifolia, they’re lovely.

    Madame Sucre – now that’s a pickle. I really don’t know what you’d use instead?

    Andrea – go to the source I list in the post (saffron.com) for vanilla beans in bulk. MUCH cheaper, even cheaper than Costco.

  40. Helene says:

    Jen and Madame Sucre: yes, there is possibility of making an alcohol free version by making a simple syrup instead of the amount of alcohol called for in the recipe and to let the beans marinate a little bit longer.

  41. Talia says:

    Just ordered a big batch of organic beans from saffron: can’t wait for them to come. I’m going to use vodka from my local distiller (tuthilltown spirits) which is not cheap, but I love that we can get local vodka! Since it won’t be a cheap option I’m thinking I’ll definitely use a good amount my vanilla vodka in cocktails as well as for baking.

  42. Danielle says:

    Oh wow! Thanks for the link to saffron! I always hesitate about cooking anything with either real vanilla beans or saffron threads because of the price!

  43. jenyu says:

    Helene – you’re a gem. Thanks for the tip!! xoxo

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  45. joan says:

    I would just like to ask the ideal proof or percent alcohol to be used in extraction for best results. I’m using mango flavored rum with just 16% alcohol to it. Will it do? I followed your said ratio of vanilla beans to vodka which is 3 pods to 8 oz.

  46. jenyu says:

    joan – i’m not sure what the ideal proof is for best results since i’ve only made this once so far. try it and see how you like it. if it’s good, then you’re fine.

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  52. Joe says:

    Hey, thanks for sharing!
    I would loves to try it out someday :D
    Anyway, in which currency you paid (50) to get alot of vanilla pods through saffron.com?
    And cheap vodka is?
    Which brand is consider as cheap vodka?
    And LOVELY!
    Your jars looks so beautiful, may i know where to get the jars as well?
    Please and thank you~! <3

  53. jenyu says:

    Joe – US currency and cheap vodka cost me about $10 for 1.5 liters – the brand doesn’t matter, just go for what is cheapest. The jars came from Hop To It Homebrew (http://www.stompthemgrapes.com/). Good luck!

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