How to Make Vanilla Extract

Three Methods:Sourcing Vanilla BeansMake Vanilla Extract with VodkaMake Vanilla Extract Using Other Spirits

If you use a lot of vanilla extract in your kitchen, it's wise to make your own at home instead of buying expensive bottles from the store. Great vanilla extract starts with flavorful vanilla beans. Learn how to source vanilla beans and make extract in two ways: with vodka and with other spirits.


Vanilla Extract Made with Vodka

  • 2 vanilla pods
  • 200ml vodka

Vanilla Extract Made with Other Spirits

  • 4 vanilla pods
  • 1 liter (0.3 US gal) of vodka, brandy or rum

Method 1
Sourcing Vanilla Beans

  1. Image titled Make Vanilla Extract Step 1
    Research varieties of vanilla beans. Vanilla beans are produced in many different countries, and there are several dozen varieties to choose from. They each have a different flavor profile.
    • Bourbon vanilla beans are fruity, with hints of figs and persimmon.[1]
    • Madagascar vanilla beans are full-bodied, with a hint of tobacco. They have a higher vanilla content than other beans, making them a flavorful choice.[2]
    • Mexican vanilla beans are smooth and creamy.
    • Tahitian vanilla beans have a floral scent.
    • Indian vanilla beans are dark and oily with hints of cinnamon and other spices.[3]
  2. Image titled Make Vanilla Extract Step 2
    Buy vanilla beans. Buy whole vanilla beans from gourmet food stores. You can also buy them online if you want a bigger selection to choose from.
    • The vanilla beans you buy should be dark and moist with oils. They should feel dense when you pinch them with your fingers, and they should emit a strong vanilla smell.
    • Don't use vanilla beans that are light in color, dry or crumbly. If you're unsure whether one is still usable, wrap it around your finger. If it bends easily and stays together, it's fine to use. If it falls apart, don't use it to make extract.

Method 2
Make Vanilla Extract with Vodka

  1. Image titled Make Vanilla Extract Step 3
    Slit open the vanilla pods. Line the pods on a cutting board. Place the tip of a sharp knife at the tip of the first vanilla bean. Lay the edge of the knife down the center of the bean, so that it aligns with the bean lengthwise. Press down to slice the bean open. Repeat with the remaining beans.
    • Some people skip the slicing step. Slicing the beans may make the extract more flavorful, but the tiny black seeds, or caviar, can give it a cloudy appearance.
    • If you want to make sure the extract has great flavor but you don't want to cloud it with caviar, slice off the tips of the beans instead of slicing them in half.
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    Place the beans in the bottle of vodka. Put them directly into the bottle and close the cap tightly. Shake the bottle to distribute the contents.
  3. Image titled Make Vanilla Extract Step 5
    Let the vodka become infused with vanilla. Place the bottle into a cool and dark place and leave the extract to infuse for two months. You'll notice the vodka change color to a golden-brownish color.
    • Don't store the vanilla in a warm or bright place, as it might spoil.
    • Shake the bottle every so often to distribute the contents.
  4. Image titled Make Vanilla Extract Step 6
    Transfer the vanilla to amber bottles. Place a colander over a bowl and pour the vanilla extract through, so that the beans are caught in the colander. Use a funnel to transfer the extract to amber bottles, which protect the extract from sunlight so that it keeps for years on end.
    • If you prefer not to transfer the liquid, you can leave it in the vodka bottle, as long as it's stored in a cool, dark place.
    • If the extract doesn't taste strong enough, leave it in the vodka bottle and add a few more vanilla beans. Let it sit for another few months before using.

Method 3
Make Vanilla Extract Using Other Spirits

  1. Image titled Make Vanilla Extract Step 7
    Slit open the vanilla bean pods. Line up a knife with the pod and press down to cut it open, then repeat with the remaining pods. If you don't wish to cut the pods in half, you can leave them intact or simply cut off the tips.
  2. Image titled Make Vanilla Extract Step 8
    Place the vanilla beans into the alcohol container. Whether you chose to infuse brandy, bourbon, tequila, or another type of alcohol with vanilla, just place the beans directly into the container and close the lid. Shake well.
  3. Image titled Make Vanilla Extract Step 9
    Shake the bottle. Since strong-flavored spirits take longer to pick up the more subtle vanilla flavor, the bottles need to be shaken so that the vanilla gets distributed. For a week after putting the vanilla beans in the container, shake it several times a day. In the second week, shake it once a way.
  4. Image titled Make Vanilla Extract Step 10
    Store the vanilla extract. Vanilla extract made with spirits aside from vodka takes longer to infuse. Store it in a cool, dry place for at least three months.
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    Determine whether the extract is ready. Open the bottle and sniff it, then take a taste. If the extract has a strong vanilla flavor, it's ready to use. If you can only taste the alcohol, replace the cap and let the extract infuse for another few weeks before using.


  • Homemade vanilla extract makes an excellent gift for friends and family. Strain it into amber bottles and affix "vanilla" labels on the front.
  • Homemade vanilla extract will keep for several years thanks to the alcohol. However, if you use it a lot, it's a good idea to start making a new one in time to have it ready when the old one is used up.

Things You'll Need

  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Amber bottles
  • Cool, dark storage area

Article Info

Categories: Jams Preserves and Condiments