Making Vanilla Extract (Is That It?)

Scene 1: Here we have a focused woman determined to learn how to make a very valuable baking aide. Her emotion is that of someone who is expecting a long and hard process ending in a few hairs being yanked out over frustration. Her laptop is up and running with Google ready and waiting for her search requests. Her sleeves are pushed back and fingers poised, ready to type. Her reading glasses are so clean they’re sparkling.

She wants to make vanilla extract. The baker’s elixir. The other black gold. She goes through so much of it that making her own will certainly be worth it after time. But she won’t hold her breath because deep down inside, she’s expecting the worst. She’s expecting to pay out so much and have to redo the recipe enough times, that she’ll have no choice but to buy the imitation version just to make up for the massive amount of time and expense gone into it.

Scene 2: Searching, searching. Results. Reading. “Take the vanilla..” Her eyes tighten as she eases closer to the screen, “..and put it into a container..” Her mouth is watering. She can’t stand the suspense. “..then pour alcohol over it and wait.” Uh, what? That’s it?

Cut! All that drama for nothing. Tsk, tsk. Vanilla beans and vodka. HA! Okay folks, here it is. As easy as it gets.

Homemade vanilla extract

3 (Madagascar) vanilla beans
8 oz vodka* (any kind)

Get these ready: Storage bottle (see resources below), knife, funnel. This recipe has more to do with the size of the beans. Other recipes will say 5 beans per 8 oz, others will say 2… the beans used here are long and really plump, so 3 will do just fine. Mexican vanilla beans are thin, while Tahitian** (Tahiti) vanilla beans are very thick and meaty. Madagascar beans are perfect because they’re somewhere in between and that’s why I chose to use only 3.

Slice them open and place them inside the container.

Fill with vodka to cover the beans. Any kind of vodka will do so don’t worry about buying the best or the highest proof, even. All you need is something to extract the vanilla out of the bean and it doesn’t take much to do it.

Let this sit on the shelf for two months. Swirl it once in a while to help release more vanilla flavor from the beans. I’ll put up more pictures as the mixture starts to turn dark so you can see the progress. After two months, remove the beans*** and strain through a coffee filter.

Store and use for up to two years.

*Tip: Vodka isn’t the only alcohol you can use. According to, you can also use bourbon, rum or brandy. Bottoms up! (But make the extract first.)

**Tip: There’s a reason why Tahitian vanilla beans are bigger (and more expensive). When the plant was introduced to the area, it didn’t just adapt, it mutated! It became a whole separate species and is the meatiest vanilla bean anywhere. It’s also in short supply and high demand, and you can pay up to 5 times more for it. Wow.

***Tip: If you’re doing more than one bottle for gifts or what not, save all the beans because they can be combined and used a second time! Stuff a bottle with used beans (standing room only) and fill with vodka, repeating the above process. Cool!

Update: After only a day, the mixture already looks different! Can’t wait to see it after a month. Stay tuned.

Update: Just under two weeks and the vanilla has a lot more color to it. Fabulous!

Update: I was putting dinner together when I looked up and saw the vanilla. I ran to get the camera. At this point, it’s ready. Yay!

vanilla, baby!


Vanilla beans (
Glass storage bottles (