Homemade Vanilla Extract

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist Gluten Free, Grain Free, Recipes, Snacks and TreatsComments: 139

bottle of homemade vanilla extractOne of the most lovely gifts I received this holiday was from my friend Lindsay, a member of the local buying club I coordinate.

She gave me this beautiful bottle of homemade vanilla extract shown in the picture to the right that she had made herself.  I was very touched and not just because I really love handmade gifts. Anyone who spends any time in the kitchen knows that vanilla is one rather expensive flavoring that you use frequently in so many recipes!

In fact, vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron due to the intensive labor required to grow the vanilla seed pods.

Many types of vanilla beans

Lindsay took the trouble of preparing test batches of vanilla extract out of a number of different types of vanilla beans to decide which she thought tasted the best.

She eventually settled on “Near Gourmet Bourbon Planifolia Vanilla Beans” (splits) to make homemade vanilla extract as holiday gifts.  These are beans grown on the island of Madagascar just off the coast of Africa that have actually split on the vine or during the curing process.

Lindsay explained that many commercial vanilla extract manufacturers prefer “splits” because often they have a higher vanillin content – typically 0.23 grams of vanillin per 100 ML versus the usual 0.18 grams per 100 ML for high quality extract grade beans.

In addition, these vanilla beans have a higher moisture content than the typical beans used to make commercial vanilla extract – roughly 30% vs 20%.  If they hadn’t split at some point along the way, either on the vine or during the curing process, they would be considered gourmet grade.

Is organic vanilla necessary for homemade vanilla extract?

Lindsay’s research on vanilla beans also turned up some information on the production of vanilla beans.  She was delighted to learn that nearly all vanilla beans are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides for three basic reasons.

First, vanilla only requires a light composting of forest materials in order to thrive.  Secondly, vanilla has few insect or animal predators as long as it is properly cultivated.  And finally, the mostly small farms that grow vanilla do not have the resources for chemical treatments nor can they afford the expensive fair trade or organic certifications.

As a result, Lindsay decided that paying the premium for organic vanilla beans to make her homemade vanilla extract was simply unnecessary.

Go gluten free with your homemade vanilla extract

If you decide to make vanilla extract to give as a gifts, then I would recommend using potato vodka instead of regular vodka.  This will ensure a gluten free product that will be usable even for those friends and family who are avoiding gluten or have a grain allergy.

Lindsay was kind enough to share her homemade vanilla extract recipe with me and said it was fine to share as a blog as well, so here is the ridiculously easy method to make vanilla extract that will not only taste far better than even the organic stuff at the store, but will save you a bundle too!

Homemade Vanilla Extract


1 large bottle of potato vodka
6 whole vanilla beans for every 8 ounces of vodka (where to buy)


Place the appropriate number of vanilla beans for the amount of vodka you are using straight into the vodka bottle and replace the cap.  Slicing each bean lengthwise first is fine but isn’t necessary and didn’t seem to make much of a difference to the flavor when Lindsay tested each approach.

Each bean should be fully submerged in the vodka.

Leave the vodka to slowly extract the vanilla flavor from the beans for at least 6 weeks in a dimly lit place like a cabinet that isn’t too warm.  Ideally, 8 weeks is required for the majority of the vanilla flavor to be extracted from the beans.  Gently shaking the bottle occasionally will help move the process along.

After 6-8 weeks, carefully remove the vanilla beans and pour the vanilla extract into small amber bottles (like these) if you will be giving to family or friends.  If making the vanilla extract for yourself, simply place the vodka bottle into the pantry (appropriately labeled) for your personal use.

Recipes to Try with Your Homemade Vanilla Extract

Thai Custard

No Box Vanilla Pudding

Halibut in Vanilla Spiced Brown Butter

Homemade Vanilla or Chocolate Pudding


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Picture Credit

Comments (139)

  • ( : David’sKate : )

    We did this very thing for gifts this year! It was fun and easy and well received! And we’re also enjoying the less expensive REAL vanilla ourselves! Vanilla seemed to be the gift to give this past year as we received two large bottle of the fake stuff!

    January 6th, 2013 3:10 am Reply
  • Julie m

    I know I’m going to sound stupid, but here it goes 😉
    So the vodka becomes vanilla extract? Is that safe for kids? Like flavoring non-baked goods?
    Sorry for my silly question :)

    January 6th, 2013 4:16 am Reply
    • Audrey

      If you look at the ingredients label of real vanilla extract you get from the store it will say it is something like 98% alcohol.
      This recipe pretty much gets you the same stuff as from the store, both have alcohol in them.

      January 6th, 2013 12:16 pm Reply
      • Melissa

        The alcohol is what preserves the extract. Without it, you would have to keep your extract in the refrigerator and it wouldn’t last for nearly as long! With the alcohol, the extract is good for a few years, just stored in the pantry :) You can extract stevia in almost the same way.

        January 6th, 2013 2:45 pm Reply
        • Maureen

          This is only part true, actually a serendipitous side benefit. The alcohol is what pulls the phenols from the bean into solution. I use 25% water in addition to the alcohol in order to extract water soluble flavonoids as well. And I *always* split & scrape the beans-it does make a difference in my experience, and I like the seed specks in some of the things I make with it.
          My favorite source is Beanilla, where I can purchase the Madagascar beans, plump and juicy, for about $56/#

          January 6th, 2013 4:25 pm Reply
          • Kat

            You usually only use a small amount of vanilla in recipes by comparison to the other ingredients. So any alcohol is really negligible and will cook/bake out leaving only the flavor behind.

            January 8th, 2013 12:28 pm
    • susan

      Julie M
      I had the same question. This is the first I had ever heard about making it on your own. So thank you for asking.

      January 8th, 2013 12:14 pm Reply
  • David

    There is no such thing as a stupid question. I am not an expert by any means but in most applications you only use a small amount of vanilla extract so there shouldn’t be a problem for kids consuming the extract. Also true vanilla extract sold in stores contain alcohol, its just not labeled as vodka and most people don’t give store bought vanilla a second thought.

    January 6th, 2013 8:39 am Reply
  • Cristina @ An Organic Wife

    I made homemade vanilla extract last summer, which I used for myself and also gave as gifts for Christmas. It tastes SO much better than store bought! I read that many store brands only let their beans sit in the alcohol for 5 days or so, then take them out in order to get production going. That accounts for the lack of flavor.

    January 6th, 2013 9:08 am Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Thanks for sharing … yes, I was shocked at the amazing flavor of the vanilla extract Lindsay made. I surely won’t ever be buying vanilla again.

      January 6th, 2013 10:55 am Reply
  • Carrie S

    What’s the best way to purchase the vanilla beans? Where do I look? Also, can you share the names of some potato vodkas?

    January 6th, 2013 11:16 am Reply
    • Audrey

      They are super cheap on ebay, at least they were for me a couple years ago. I bought Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans & was very happy with the quality. You can buy them by the pound or 1/4 or 1/2 pound, etc. Buy a bundle and split them with your friends.

      January 6th, 2013 12:18 pm Reply
      • Audrey

        All things relative of course… by cheap I mean relative to what you’ll find price-wise for 1 or 2 beans in a jar in the spice isle of a grocery store.

        January 6th, 2013 12:19 pm Reply
        • Michelle

          I haven’t check ebay, but I get mine at OliveNation. Always excellent quality.

          January 6th, 2013 12:32 pm Reply
      • Audrey

        I looked up the seller i bought from: VanillaProducts
        You can get 30 beans for under $20, or a pound (over 100 beans) for under $30.

        January 6th, 2013 1:17 pm Reply
    • Saeriu

      You can buy organic ones from MountainRoseHerbs.com.

      January 7th, 2013 4:53 pm Reply
  • Billie

    Since potatoes are on the list of the dirty dozen…should we worry about using an organic potato vodka? Or is there something in the process of being prepared for and becoming alcohol that negates the need?

    January 6th, 2013 11:24 am Reply
    • Denise

      My question exactly. Is there such a thing as organic potato vodka? And how much is “one large bottle”? I don’t buy alcohol and I don’t know what “large” would be.

      January 6th, 2013 2:05 pm Reply
      • Maureen

        The vodka is always at leach triple distilled, but you can buy vodka that is distilled 5 times. This removes grain residue as well as that from potatoes. Even with gluten intolerance in my house and using *a lot* of vanilla (double strength), the regular vodka never made any difference. If you are concerned however, there is also grape vodka.

        January 6th, 2013 4:29 pm Reply
        • Anna@Green Talk

          I bought Rain organic potato vodka which was about $25 for less than a liter. Square One is more expensive but is grain based. I was told that it doesn’t matter with vodka if you are gluten free or not since the distillation takes out the issues. My friends who have celiac dink vodka without problems.

          Sarah, some people use 1 cup of alcohol with 3 beans. However, you use 1 cup for 6 beans. Why the difference?

          January 6th, 2013 5:00 pm Reply
          • ann

            According to the USDA to be labeled as 1x “pure vanilla extract” the product must have 13.35 oz (I believe) per gallon of 35-40% alcohol. So, it really depends on the weight and length of your beans to determine how many you will need per cup of alcohol. Therefore, 6 beans per cup for a Madagascar (planifolia) is about right.

            I also made some with a “Tahintis” (Tahitian vanilla) and I got over 200 beans per pound with those. So, to make 1x strength I needed 1.5 beans per oz of booze.

            I used light rum, dark rum, grain vodka, kosher grape vodka, and potato vodka, bourbon, and cognac with both varieties of vanilla beans, I also experimented with 2x and 3x strengths. The 3x (triple strength) actually got a bit viscous – like a thin syrup. It is amazing!

            October 31st, 2013 3:38 am
  • Naz

    Hi Sarah, first of all love your work… I’m a long time reader but not much of a commenter!

    Anyway this looks fantastic and will definitely give it a go :)

    January 6th, 2013 12:00 pm Reply
  • Kathryn Estay via Facebook

    I made my own and I am never buying store bought again!!!!!

    January 6th, 2013 12:08 pm Reply
  • Kristin

    t recipe I have from another blog let’s hers sit 5-6 months. has anyone done both 6-8weeks and 5-6 months? which did you like better?

    January 6th, 2013 12:12 pm Reply
    • ann

      Most definitely at least 6 months. I did taste tests along the way, and the flavors deepened and changed each time. It was still quite raw at 8 weeks. After about 7 months, I put fresh beans (about 1/2x worth) into each gift bottle and put in my extract. This way it will continue to get stronger and more developed as time goes on. I ended up with about 150 bottles of varying size.

      October 31st, 2013 3:45 am Reply
  • Elizabeth D’Ettorre via Facebook

    I’ve been doing this for years, it appears that I have not been putting enough vanilla pods in it. Excited to try it again. Even with less pods it is soo good and I do give it as gifts to special friends

    January 6th, 2013 12:12 pm Reply
  • Rebecca McCullum Weide via Facebook

    Aren’t vanilla pods VERY expensive? Is it really less expensive?

    January 6th, 2013 12:13 pm Reply
    • Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

      If you buy in bulk, no, they’re not. At a normal grocery store you’re looking at maybe $2 per bean, which is very high. I usually pay $0.20 – $0.35/bean when I order online. That makes it very affordable. I think I calculated that I spend about $1 per 4-oz. bottle, vs. $4 – $10 I’d pay at the store. Way cheaper.

      January 6th, 2013 2:40 pm Reply
  • Candace

    Hi Sarah,

    Love your blog and your website; thank you for so much thoughtful giving. I do not do any alcohol due to severe candida. Does the alcohol convert? I have found alcohol free vanilla and it is ok. Thoughts???? Thanks.

    January 6th, 2013 12:14 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Hi Candace, when you use alcohol in a dish, the alcohol evaporates when you bake or cook with it so it should be fine for you to use the alcohol version. This is why vanilla extract is even fine for children.

      January 6th, 2013 2:57 pm Reply
      • Maureen

        Ditto Sarah, but also the glycerine does not extract nearly as much flavor from the beans as alcohol does. It should be just fine as you describe. Plus, you are only using a small amount (such as, 1 Tbsp. in a half gallon of egg nog-that doesn’t amount to a lot!)
        I’ve been making double strength vanilla for years-by the quart! We love it!

        January 6th, 2013 4:32 pm Reply
        • jason and lisa

          hey maureen.. what is your recipe for double strength?? we like a good strong vanilla at our house also and want to make sure that if we age it for months, we make it right the first time..

          -jason and lisa-

          January 7th, 2013 1:21 pm Reply
      • Callie

        What if you aren’t cooking with the vanilla but adding it to something like a smoothie or plain, homemade yogurt for flavor? Is it still safe for children and babies since you’re not cooking out the alcohol?

        October 26th, 2014 1:57 pm Reply
  • Loretta St John via Facebook

    We make our own, as well.

    January 6th, 2013 12:15 pm Reply
  • blanche

    I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for 6 years now. I always use a good tasting vodka to produce the best tasting extract like Ketel One, so use a vodka that you like the taste of. I had no idea that vanilla beans are generally considered untreated, so thank you for the information Sarah! My source for buying organic vanilla bean pods is Mountain Rose Herbs, which are reasonably priced. I buy 1 oz. at a time (which is about 8 long pods in a glass tube) for $7.00. I just received my latest shipment last week, which included my restocking of vanilla pods. This is the link in case any of you are interested: http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/bulkherb/v.php#h_v_van_p

    January 6th, 2013 12:15 pm Reply
    • blanche

      I forgot to mention, I leave the split bean pods in the jar of vodka. I don’t remove them as it’s not necessary.

      January 6th, 2013 2:45 pm Reply
  • Lainie Hendrix via Facebook

    I absolutely love the flavor I create when I make my own homemade vanilla extract. It is fantastic! I also find that it’s less expensive to make my own than to buy organic extract.

    January 6th, 2013 12:16 pm Reply
  • Charlotte Lee via Facebook

    I made them as gifts this year and yes, quite a bit of vanilla to make legal grade extract. For organic, fair trade, grain free vanilla, it was still a fraction of the cost!

    January 6th, 2013 12:22 pm Reply
  • Francesca Tropea via Facebook

    Yes! We also make almond extract, cinnamon extract…

    January 6th, 2013 12:23 pm Reply
    • Carol

      I didn’t know you could make almond also, how do you do that? It is even more expensive than vanilla and I use more of it.

      January 6th, 2013 5:35 pm Reply
    • susan

      oh! would you plese post those recipets for the almond and cinnamon extrat?

      January 8th, 2013 12:19 pm Reply
  • Rachel Holland via Facebook

    I gave homemade vanilla as gifts this year too! I’m going to play around with some different types of liquor this year and see how they turn out.

    January 6th, 2013 12:23 pm Reply
  • Samantha Levesque via Facebook


    January 6th, 2013 12:28 pm Reply
  • Kay F Hoffman via Facebook

    My sister made some and she gave some to me and I loved it. Unfortunately I already used it all but it was a real treat.

    January 6th, 2013 12:34 pm Reply
  • Ashley

    I wanted vanilla beans for a rootbeer recipe over the summer, so, my mom and I made about a gallon of vanilla extract at the same time. wonderful stuff, you don’t need to put as much in your recipes either as it is more potent. Best place to buy the beans for price is on ebay!

    January 6th, 2013 12:36 pm Reply
  • Kristin ‘Heidt’ Weigel via Facebook

    I use ciroc vodka which is made from grapes then buy organic vanilla beans on amazon and it is so much cheaper

    January 6th, 2013 12:37 pm Reply
  • Susan

    I noticed that the picture of your vanilla shows it in a dark bottle, and I now that I think of it, it has always come in a dark bottle when I buy it at the store. Is this important?

    January 6th, 2013 12:39 pm Reply
  • Angela Westmoreland via Facebook

    Absolutely easy and delicious.

    January 6th, 2013 12:43 pm Reply
  • Ashley Trujillo via Facebook

    You can buy the pods on ebay for a very reasonable price.

    January 6th, 2013 12:50 pm Reply
  • Laura Hernandez via Facebook

    Is the homemade vanilla gluten free?

    January 6th, 2013 12:55 pm Reply
    • Amanda

      Read the article! lol

      November 18th, 2014 12:20 pm Reply
  • Tiffany Davey via Facebook

    Vanilla extract is also good for sore teeth. So this will be great for both kitchen and medicine cabinet!

    January 6th, 2013 12:56 pm Reply
  • Mandy

    Yep, I’ve also seen another one submitted a couple of years back by Modern Alternative Mama (that may be the first post at the top, David’sKate, who owns it, but not sure). That one says to leave it at least one month, preferably six. Haven’t tried it yet myself… and I do have some organic vanilla beans around… had them for a while, though, don’t know if they expire…

    January 6th, 2013 12:58 pm Reply
  • Elizabeth Proctor via Facebook

    @Sarah, when you say 6 – 8 whole beans for every 8 oz. vodka do you mean whole bean pods or is one suppose to remove the beans from the pod and use those individual whole beans? So basically, what I’m asking is, are you counting individual beans from a pod or the entire pod when you recommend 6 – 8 whole beans?

    January 6th, 2013 1:04 pm Reply
    • blanche

      Use whole pods. I split them with a knife (but you don’t have to), leaving the caviar intact, and drop it into the glass jar and add vodka to the top. when it gets starts to get low, I add another bean pod, or more, and top off with vodka. You can have a perpetual bottle of vanilla extract for the rest of your life.

      January 6th, 2013 2:54 pm Reply
  • Amina Sadr via Facebook

    any alcohol-free recipes to make it?

    January 6th, 2013 1:04 pm Reply
    • Maureen

      You need the alcohol to extract the flavor. Glycerine works about half as well, literally. Don’t be afraid of the alcohol; it amounts to so small an amount in whatever you are consuming, and it bakes out of baked goods, steams out of hot beverages.

      January 6th, 2013 4:35 pm Reply
  • Freda Mooncotch via Facebook

    Is it dark or clear? What gives it the dark color? And I noticed my Madagascar vanilla has sugar in it.

    January 6th, 2013 1:06 pm Reply
    • blanche

      it will be amber color.

      January 6th, 2013 2:55 pm Reply
  • Susie Johns Foster via Facebook

    a neighbor gave me some for Christmas.

    January 6th, 2013 1:18 pm Reply
  • Shadoe Mckee via Facebook

    I want to do this for Christmas next year!! Thank you!

    January 6th, 2013 1:19 pm Reply
  • Heidi

    When you say 6 beans, is that the whole thing? Or the little bean pods inside the bean? This always confuses me.

    January 6th, 2013 1:30 pm Reply
    • blanche

      The long intact beans are called pods. I refer to the tiny vanilla flecks that are inside the pod, as caviar.

      January 6th, 2013 2:59 pm Reply
  • Sarah A.

    How can you tell if a Vodka is “Potato” Vodka or not?

    This recipe looks great! Can’t wait to try it! Thanks Sarah for promoting this!

    January 6th, 2013 1:31 pm Reply
  • Shannon Rice via Facebook

    We order ours from Mexico because the bottle we bought ran out and I was so sad, so we found it online. It’s a liter, and inexpensive, and oh my goodness, heavenly.

    January 6th, 2013 1:37 pm Reply
  • Sara James via Facebook

    Shannon, would u be willing to share the name of it?

    January 6th, 2013 1:48 pm Reply
  • Kelly

    I’ve been making my own vanilla for a year and a half but before that I used about a fourfold vanilla from an old job that was definitely stronger. So for my jar of extract, every time I used up a vanilla been I added it to the jar and just let them accumulate. There is a certain amount/percentage of beans you need to add to be a true extract and not just a vanilla flavored liqueur. Finally, recently I added about a tablespoon of vanilla bean powder (powdered whole vanilla beans) from Mountain Rose Herbs and my vanilla finally tastes like a true at least double vanilla extract. To that end I would recommend chopping up the vanilla into little bits to increase the surface area for extraction, especially if you are going to decant the end product into other bottles for use anyway. The flavor will be even better and stronger.

    January 6th, 2013 1:49 pm Reply
  • Sara James via Facebook

    Potato vodka…where does one find this?

    January 6th, 2013 1:50 pm Reply
  • Jennifer Landress Waller via Facebook

    You can also top it off as it starts to get low … our beans re-steeped several times!

    January 6th, 2013 1:59 pm Reply
    • Karen

      I’ve also been doing this for years. I just use the cheapest vodka from Trader Joe’s (I think it’s about $4.99 or 5.99) and stick the vanilla beans (split first) in it.

      January 6th, 2013 2:28 pm Reply
  • Mary Ellen Colfer via Facebook

    Yup I make my own extract too.

    January 6th, 2013 2:32 pm Reply
  • Sarah Harding via Facebook

    Freda it’s dark because of the beans.

    January 6th, 2013 2:36 pm Reply
  • Debra Goulet via Facebook

    Where do you go to buy vanilla beans in Groveton…lol…Health food stores?

    January 6th, 2013 2:39 pm Reply
  • Sarah Couture Pope via Facebook

    If you buy the beans at the store they are expensive. If you buy online they are really cheap .. like 10% of the store price in some cases.

    January 6th, 2013 2:50 pm Reply
  • Sarah Couture Pope via Facebook

    Modern alternative Mama posted on the blog post that she calculated her price for homemade extract at $4 for a 4 oz bottle versus $10 at the store. Plus homemade tastes WAY better.

    January 6th, 2013 2:51 pm Reply
  • Christine

    I have considered making vanilla extract, but stumped on where to find the beautiful dark glass bottles…Where can I get those? Also I have never heard of potato vodka…is there a link to where we can purchase both of these items?

    January 6th, 2013 2:53 pm Reply
    • blanche

      Christine, you can buy brown (amber) bottles from Mountain Rose Herbs in various sizes http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/supply/glass_bottles.html

      January 6th, 2013 4:24 pm Reply
    • Irene

      Specialty bottle in Seattle has great jars. Swing top too if you want to bottle your kombucha. They will ship just a single item, too.

      Most Eastern European vodka is made from potatoes. Belvedere is one brand.

      January 6th, 2013 8:33 pm Reply
  • Nicole

    This is great! I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but I keep forgetting and I also wasn’t entirely sure how to go about it. I’m glad you posted this.

    January 6th, 2013 2:55 pm Reply
  • Caitlin Campbell

    I always use this as inexpensive Christmas gifts for our beloved teachers at semester break. We perpetually have a large bottle of rum with pods brewing on top of the cabinets and just refill our smaller bottle in the cupboard as needed. I have extracted with both Vodka and Rum and prefer Rum’s flavor. It is distilled from sugarcane, so I don’t think you would need to worry about gluten either.

    January 6th, 2013 3:14 pm Reply
    • blanche

      Good to know Caitlin using Rum to extract vanilla. My friend uses Rum for just about everything that calls for alcohol because it’s distilled from sugar cane. THANK YOU!

      January 6th, 2013 3:47 pm Reply
  • Cindy Ellis Bauman via Facebook

    Started making my own of this about a year ago. I will never go back to store bought! Homemade is so much richer and tastier! : )

    January 6th, 2013 3:20 pm Reply
  • Deborah Bills via Facebook

    I did 4 beans to 1 pint of vodka last year and it needed at least 6 months to steep before really being good. I am trying rum this year. I heard you could use rum too. Anyone tried the difference? You can ask for potato vodka from your local liquor stores they’ll know which ones are and aren’t.

    January 6th, 2013 3:50 pm Reply
  • Alicia Jimenez via Facebook

    Great info!!

    January 6th, 2013 3:59 pm Reply
  • Laura Waldo via Facebook

    Potato Vodka can be purchased at most Liquor Stores. Schramm Vodka is Certified Organic, it is produced by Pemberton, a small distillery in British Columbia. Other brands of Potato Vodka include: Luksusowa, Monopolowa, Vikingfjord, Cold River, Glacier, Chopin (Chopin makes 3 varieties…rye, potato and wheat vodka so those with Celiac Disease need to be aware of cross contamination), Blue Ice (blue bottle is potato vodka…risk of cross contamination with wheat in their distillery), Superfly, Chase Marmalade, Vesica, and LiV. O.K. that list makes me sound like a bit of a lush, but I hope it helps reach you make a great batch of Vanilla Extract.

    January 6th, 2013 4:14 pm Reply
  • Amanda Wayne via Facebook

    I’ve heard you can use bourbon to soak the beans

    January 6th, 2013 4:20 pm Reply
    • Kelly

      You can use any distilled spirit you want I suppose, I would be careful about the bourbon you choose though since it comes from corn mash and I would be concerned about GMO contamination. I have heard that Maker’s Mark claims not to use GMO corn though they are not certified organic. I usually use mostly vodka and sometimes gold rum. I particularly like the flavor from the occasional hit of rum in the extract.

      January 8th, 2013 1:15 pm Reply
  • Laura

    @ Billie and Denise: Schramm Vodka is Organic, it is produced by Pemberton, a small distillery in British Columbia. Other brands of Potato Vodka include: Luksusowa, Monopolowa, Vikingfjord, Cold River, Glacier, Chopin (Chopin makes 3 varieties…rye, potato and wheat vodka so those with Celiac Disease need to be aware of cross contamination), Blue Ice (blue bottle is potato vodka…risk of cross contamination with wheat in their distillery), Superfly, Chase Marmalade, Vesica, and LiV. O.K. that list makes me sound like a bit of a lush, but I hope it helps reach your goal of making a great batch of Vanilla Extract.

    January 6th, 2013 3:29 pm Reply
    • j

      Thank you Laura. Finally an informative answer.

      January 6th, 2013 4:16 pm Reply
  • Vikki

    I was worried about additives in store-bought vanilla; and I don’t like the taste of the home-made varieties. Alcohol was also a concern for me due to candida. I switched to powdered vanilla and won’t be going back. It is pure vanilla goodness and at a pinch you can make your own (google instructions).

    January 6th, 2013 5:24 pm Reply
  • Brittany Hughes Ardito via Facebook

    Definitely gonna have to try this!

    January 6th, 2013 5:38 pm Reply
  • Kathy

    Just this past couple weeks a handful of friends and I have been wanting to make vanilla extract and so the search began for the most economical bulk order we could find. Our research lead us to Saffron.com.They sell whole vanilla beans at the lowest price we’ve found so far…$19.95 for 1 pound (85 -100 whole beans) plantifolia Chef Quality (split whole beans) each 7″- 8.5″ long. I should clarify that they do sell in smaller quantities and have an assortment of vanilla beans to choose from. As a newcomer to ordering vanilla beans they’ve been very patient with my questions and quick to respond. We look forward to finalizing our order with them in the days to come. Just curious…has anyone else heard of this company or ordered from them?

    January 6th, 2013 5:54 pm Reply
  • Rene Whitehurst via Facebook

    I did this last year for Christmas and I discovered I still have some vanilla beans left over. Does anyone know if I can still use them?

    January 6th, 2013 5:56 pm Reply
  • Laura Waldo via Facebook

    Rene, if they are sealed tightly they will be fine.

    January 6th, 2013 6:05 pm Reply
  • Sabrina Watson via Facebook

    Where can you get vanilla beans?

    January 6th, 2013 7:22 pm Reply
  • Ginger Jilek via Facebook

    I made my own this year and I only have to use half of what recipes say because it’s amazing!

    January 6th, 2013 7:34 pm Reply
  • Kim

    http://www.beanilla.com/glass-bottles-jars has dark bottles.

    January 6th, 2013 8:24 pm Reply
  • Sarah

    Hi Sarah,
    This is an unrelated question, I hope you don’t mind. In a previous post you had mentioned that when you use baking soda in your bath water that it replaces soap and shampoo for that bath for you. I am looking to replace shampoo and body wash on a baby with very sensitive skin. How much baking soda do you put into your bath water?

    January 6th, 2013 9:10 pm Reply
  • Kristin Cusamano via Facebook

    Rain- organic vodka

    January 6th, 2013 10:40 pm Reply
  • Rene Whitehurst via Facebook

    @Sabrina Watson I get mine at http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/

    January 6th, 2013 11:17 pm Reply
  • Kerri

    I did this for Christmas presents this year too! I let mine “steep” for a year and it is beautiful and delicious. :-) I blogged about it here http://itstimetogreen.blogspot.com/2011/11/making-my-own-vanilla.html

    January 7th, 2013 12:10 am Reply
  • Darcy

    Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for the post, it is very timely! I bought vanilla beans but haven’t finished the last store bought bottle of vanilla extract but soon . . . One thing I was told, though I should have thought of it right away, is that the vanilla beans should be stored in glass and preferably in dark glass or a cupboard.

    Thank you so much for your blog!

    January 7th, 2013 9:44 am Reply
  • Janice

    What the heck is potatoe vodka?? :) I don’t drink alcohol, so never go in liquor stores. Does vodka say on the label what it is made from ( like potatoes or grapes)? I can’t imagine any liquor store selling “potatoe vodka”! Where does one get it?

    January 7th, 2013 10:59 am Reply
  • Katie P.

    I can’t wait to try this – great gift idea!!

    January 7th, 2013 1:20 pm Reply
  • Nashira

    Love it!! Thanks!

    January 7th, 2013 9:18 pm Reply
  • In The Kitchen, Keepin’ It Real via Facebook

    Love that you consistently give us these how-to’s. thank you!

    January 7th, 2013 9:32 pm Reply
  • Sarah

    All vodka is gluten-free unless there is a gluten-containing additive for flavor. And I cut my beans into 2in sections for better extraction. Less work than splitting them. It is also an important recommendation to use organic vodka. Pesticide-free and a better working environment for the laborers, and isn’t that what we all want? :-) We made extract for Christmas gifts this year and it was a big hit! We’re definitely done buying it from the store. Such a HUGE savings!

    January 8th, 2013 1:15 pm Reply
  • Gord Cooper via Facebook

    I love vanilla extract….

    January 8th, 2013 8:09 pm Reply
  • Sara

    Great post! I just bought a 1 L (about 33oz) bottle of potato vodka from Trader Joe’s. Do I need to put 24 pods or beans in the bottle? Thanks!

    February 8th, 2013 5:14 pm Reply
  • Maureen

    *24 beans will be a good amount for the 33 oz bottle of vodka.
    *I also make coffee, chocolate, lemon, orange, stevia, etc. extracts. Principles are the same. I grind the coffee to a chunky consistency, use cocoa nibs for chocolate, whole leaf stevia with a vanilla bean for the stevia, etc. To make almond extract you would want to grind the almonds in a coffee/spice mill and leave it for longer.
    *I do not use glycerine ever because it does not pull as much from the vanilla (or coffee beans,etc.) as alcohol does, with a little water added for water soluble compounds.
    *Bourbon or rum make an especially rich extract which complements the flavor of vanilla.
    *You can also use grain alcohol, if it is available (not legal here in Pa.)

    February 8th, 2013 11:27 pm Reply
  • Marriah

    Someone told me to use Gray Goose because it is very high quality vodka. I just read the back and it is made from wheat. Is there a major difference, aside from price? This was pricey, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to return it to the store and I don’t drink vodka so if there is no issue I’ll just use it. Any thoughts?

    February 10th, 2013 9:13 pm Reply
  • Teresa

    I’ve been making this wonderful vanilla extract recipe for years. What I’d REALLY like to make is the potato vodka! It’s the liquor that makes our vanilla extract and our tinctures so expensive.

    February 12th, 2013 8:33 pm Reply
  • Sebastian

    I really love this topic and I found that isn’t hard as I thinked to make your own vanilla extract. Really useful tips and tricks I discovered here.
    Very useful post Sarah . Thanks a lot. Your effort will be worth in my kitchen. 😉

    April 2nd, 2013 10:18 am Reply
  • Chris K

    I want to make this for Christmas this year. Now my ADD brain has to remember to start it eight weeks before Christmas.

    April 7th, 2013 9:10 am Reply
    • blanche

      Make it now Chris K! It won’t spoil! Plus when the season hits, you’ll be way ahead of the umpteen to-do lists :0)

      April 7th, 2013 4:23 pm Reply
  • Heather

    All plain vodka is gluten-free, despite being made by wheat. The way vodka is made, gluten cannot stand up to it. There are two things vodka goes through to become vodka: 1) it is distilled, which is where the ethanol is formed from condensation, and 2) vodka is then filtered, (typically multipe times) to get any impurities that might have escaped the distillation process, which would help. The plethora of flavoured vodkas is what you have to worry about when it comes to gluten-free or not, since alcohol companies are not required to list what ingredients they use for the flavouring. Luckily, because vanilla extract requires a plain tasting vodka, then you don’t have to worry about that!

    Rain is a delicious organic vodka that would be great for vanilla extract. :)

    May 16th, 2013 6:45 pm Reply
  • Sherri

    What is the purpose of adding water to my vanilla extract, and how much should I add. I’ve had it brewing since April, when I saw someone mentioned adding water. Do I need to add some to it now? Thank you for your help.

    May 28th, 2013 10:59 pm Reply
  • Maria

    Where can I get that bottle online?,


    August 27th, 2013 7:21 pm Reply
  • Guy Collier

    Tried several vanilla extract recipes.Have left ten to twelve Madagascar beans in 100 proof
    vodka for as little as one month and as long as three years and still can’t get that strong vanilla smell and taste I find when tasting Danncy brand Mexican extract.Got any ideas?
    Thanks: Guy Collier

    September 6th, 2013 5:50 pm Reply
    • Reya

      Perhaps try using Mexican Vanilla Beans to achieve the favors of the Mexican Vanilla Extract. Having grown up in Mexico, I agree the vanilla has a distinctly different taste, but they also use different beans. Good luck! Hope you develop a great recipe for yourself and to share!

      September 2nd, 2015 2:59 am Reply
  • Annika

    Not sure if anyone else has mentioned this, but ALL spirits are gluten-free unless a gluten-containing product has been added to the product after the distillation process. If you really want to be safe about it you can use potato vodka or check with the particular company you’re buying from, but chances are if you have a reaction to a particular spirit you’re reacting to an additive (eg flavouring added after-the-fact) or it’s a placebo effect.

    September 22nd, 2013 12:51 am Reply
  • Tiffany

    I made my own for the first time a year ago. We found a recipe that suggested just leaving the beans in the bottle – stylish, if you use a clear bottle for gift-giving. But also, you just pour in some more alcohol now and then and refresh it!

    My question now, though, is how long that will work before I need to start over. I suspect my vanilla is getting weaker, but since it’s been gradual I haven’t even realized it! LOL!

    October 10th, 2013 2:04 pm Reply
  • Maureen

    Tiffany, just keep adding a few more vanilla beans each time and you can have essentially a “perpetual” vanilla extract. I do this for about a year after which I set that quart aside with more alcohol and a little water, and then start a new one. This was I have a “back-up”, weaker but still quite useable extract while keeping a more potent one on hand for what I need.

    October 10th, 2013 3:10 pm Reply
  • Victoria T

    I go to the local Bourbon Street Liquor store by me and they always have higher quality Vodka and sometimes bourbon on sale. So this way I get a higher quality spirit at a reasonable price. Whatever you do , do not use cheap vodka or bourbon. (I made that mistake with my cranberry extract for syrup one time disaster) I have made vanilla extract with both vodka and bourbon both came out very good.Sarah love your blogs.

    October 10th, 2013 5:23 pm Reply
  • elly

    What brand of Vodka do people recommend? I made some and maybe it’s because I’m not used to alcohol, but it’s very alcoholy tasting. (I do like to use a lot of vanilla)

    October 10th, 2013 7:12 pm Reply
    • ann

      I liked the product I got with 3 Olives the best. I did not like the Absolut very well. Luksusowa was pretty good, and gets extra points for being potato vodka and labeled gluten-free. But, the finished extract had a bit of a sharpness to it. I had some 42 Below and it was pretty good. The Kedem (kosher grape vodka) had a bit of sharpness to it, but, hey, it can be used at Passover. I don’t think I’d spend the money on Grey Goose. I think the sharpness comes from the tannin in the vanilla pods. You don’t taste this in your finished baked goods.

      For rum I used Cruzan since that is what I’m drinking right now both light and dark.

      I used Cognac, and with Tahitian beans it is heavenly. Lovely delicate flavors. Think Creme Brulee,

      I had Even Williams bourbon. I didn’t love it. The vanilla flavor was weak in it.

      From my grand experiment and for my personal use I will probably always make a 2x-3x strength. I will probably also use a mix of planifolia (Madagascar/bourbon beans) and tahinis (Tahitian beans grown either in PNG or Tahiti) This will give me the bold flavors of the former and the sweet floral delicate flavors of the latter. I find that I much prefer my mixed bottles the best. 3 Olives will be my stand by vodka unless I think I need to start with something labeled gluten-free. I’m also looking forward to a new bottle of cognac, but this time much stronger!

      As far as some people asking about water – it depends on what the proof of your alcohol is. You want it to be in the range of 35-40% for food safety and maximum extraction. My guess is if you are using vodka that is 80 proof, then basically, 60% is water already since 40% is alcohol. If using straight grain alcohol, then by all means, use some water. Studies show that you extract more goodness at 35% than at 95-100% alcohol content.

      Someone mentioned saffron.com. I got my Tahitian beans there and 1/2 of my planifolia. Juan, the owner, is a trip. He is very passionate and knowledgeable. He explained to me why sugar is added, and there is a chemical reason for this. Basically, you add 1-2% to bind the vanilla and alcohol and it takes away the sharp flavor you might have from extraction. I used none – 2% organic cane depending on how the batch tasted. (I think i had 24 batches going at once last year). The sugar did improve some of the extracts immensely; others needed no sugar at all. For my 2 oz gift bottles this amounted to 1/16-1/8 t. per bottle. It isn’t as if it tastes sweetened or syrupy.

      October 31st, 2013 4:56 am Reply
  • Amy

    I am really looking forward to making vanilla as Christmas gifts! I’m seeing some complaints on Amazon about the amber bottles not being food safe and/or having an odd smell to them. Although ambiguously, some reviewers say the bottles aren’t suitable for food–only for “lab” purposes. Can anyone provide a different source for amber bottles?

    October 12th, 2013 12:39 pm Reply
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  • Teresa Saylor Evin via Facebook

    My sister made some last Christmas and gave it to me as a gift!!!

    August 4th, 2014 5:19 pm Reply
  • Amanda McConaghy via Facebook

    I made some over a year ago and can’t handle it. The alcohol taste is awful!

    August 4th, 2014 5:23 pm Reply
  • Emily Keffler via Facebook

    Bourbon and rum also make good and unique bases for vanilla extract.

    August 4th, 2014 5:58 pm Reply
  • Melissa Steppe via Facebook

    been making vanilla for a couple years now, never will buy at a store again

    August 4th, 2014 6:04 pm Reply
  • Pam Cadwell Hall via Facebook

    My vanilla beans came in today and they added some Bourbon Planifolia Vanilla beans grown in Madagascar! Can’t wait to make my vanilla extract!

    August 4th, 2014 6:18 pm Reply
  • Ericka Eskam via Facebook

    I make 2 big 1.75 liters of rum with about 40 beans per bottle each year. I use a large Mason jar. When it’s cured, I pour into 4 oz glass bottles for easy gifts and I’ll never buy store bought again :-) Good luck! Olive Nation has great prices and beans.

    August 4th, 2014 7:09 pm Reply
  • Cristin Hickman Ledbetter via Facebook

    I made this last Christmas for gifts and everyone loved it!! I received a few messages from friends and family recently saying they ran out and can hardly wait until Christmas…I guess I know what I am making again this year!

    August 4th, 2014 10:07 pm Reply
  • Kalina Martin via Facebook

    Buy vanilla pods in bulk online and save. I store in the freezer till I want to use in a ziplock bag.

    August 5th, 2014 2:13 am Reply
  • Jamie Kosmicki via Facebook

    In my experience, vanilla made with bourbon tastes best by far!

    August 5th, 2014 7:58 am Reply

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