Homemade Vanilla Extract

Yes, it’s after Christmas. Yes, I’m posting a holiday gift idea when gift giving is probably the last thing you want to be thinking about. In my defense, I had to wait, otherwise it would have ruined the surprise for our parents, who each received a set of these for Christmas. For what it’s worth, this is not a last minute gift. I let mine steep for about 6 months. So you should be thanking me for giving you such a fabulous gift idea you can get started on so far in advance. You’re welcome.

Homemade vanilla extract. It sounds so… complicated. So involved. Something akin to distilling your own whiskey or something. But you’d be surprised how simple it is. As easy as pouring some booze into a bottle with a few vanilla beans, and then forgetting about it for 6 months. I think we’re all capable of that.

For this particular batch I purchased three different varieties of vanilla beans: Madagascar, Tahitian, and Tonga. I just love the idea of comparing the subtleties present in each variety (obviously, because I’ve done it before with eggplant, summer squash, figs, and garlic) and the three-extract sampler made the gift that much more special. The final product was packaged in 4oz amber bottles and stickered with a lovely designed label indicating the variety. I knew our parents would appreciate them so much more than a store-bought present.

Hooray for planning ahead.

(Psst! If you like the labels I designed here, you can download a free printable pdf of them to use for your very own homemade vanilla extract!)

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Makes 16 ounces.


6-10 fresh vanilla beans (more beans will yield a stronger extract in shorter amount of time)

16 oz. (2 cups) vodka or other liquor


Split vanilla beans and scrape out seeds. Cut pods into 1" pieces. Put both seeds and pod pieces into a glass jar or bottle. Fill with vodka and seal. Store jars in a cool dark place, gently shaking the mixture several times a week. For best results, allow to brew for at least two months, if not longer. The extract will get better with age.

Strain out solids prior to using.

You can also refill the bottle with more vodka as it is used. Occasionally you may also want to strain out the old vanilla beans and replace them with fresh beans. This is also a great use for old beans or beans used for other purposes (once you've scraped out the seeds for your other recipe, simply cut up the empty pod and add it to your extract.)

Did you make this recipe?

Let us know what you think!
Leave a Comment or share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #loveandoliveoil.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Guess what? I’ve got another giveaway for you! I wanted to include this one in giveaway week, but since these bottles were actually given to family members, that would have ruined the surprise. So I had to wait. Call it a belated Christmas gift, if you will.

Beanilla, online retailer of gourmet vanilla beans and vanilla products and where I purchased my beans for this project, has so kindly offered one lucky reader a gift set that includes 3 Madagascar vanilla beans and 3 Tahitian vanilla beans, plus a 1/2 ounce jar of ground vanilla. I truly believe in having fresh vanilla beans on hand at all times, and Beanilla is a quality and affordable source (ie: not the dry and dull beans that they sell in the grocery stores for $10 a pop). Do yourself a favor, buy a bunch. When the price per bean is so reasonable, you don’t have to treat them like precious objects; you’ll find yourself using them to gussy up your everyday dishes and baked goods.


To Enter:

Simply leave a comment on this post with the answer to this question:
What is your all time favorite vanilla recipe?

Entries open through 1/8/11 at 11:59 CST. I’ll be randomly selecting the winner the morning of Sunday, January 9th. Prize will be shipped to the winner directly from Beanilla. Beanilla is willing to ship this prize internationally.

Want Extra Entries?
Increase your odds of winning! In addition to the main entry comment, leave a separate comment for each bonus entry.
1. Follow @loveandoliveoil on twitter and tweet the following:
I just entered to win a vanilla sampler from @beanilla and @loveandoliveoil! Enter here: http://bit.ly/eHuESh
2. Like Love & Olive Oil on Facebook (or if you are already a fan just say so!)

Be sure you enter a valid email address, because if your name is drawn and I can’t get a hold of you within 48 hours, I will choose an alternate winner. You may also want to add me to your address book (lindsay AT loveandoliveoil DOT com), as I’d hate for your congratulatory email to end up in the spam folder.

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644 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. I love the vanilla flavor of snow cream!

  2. Vanilla Latte’
    I have a batch started, it is going to be a long wait!!

  3. My favorite vanilla recipe is vanilla buttercream frosting, it’s soo easy and soo good!

  4. Vanilla bean ice cream!

  5. I love making homemade vanilla buttercream!

  6. I tweeted.

  7. And I “liked” you on Facebook! Don’t know why I hadn’t already done that…

  8. My favorite vanilla recipe is a White Russian made with homade Irish Cream Liquor an homemade Vanilla Vodka!! The Best EVER!!

  9. I love a vanilla milkshake! It sounds boring, but it’s not!

  10. ostakaka—a scandanavian dish made with vanilla flavoring.

  11. also a fan on facebook

  12. I love using vanilla for cookies; snickerdoodles & oatmeal/apple!

  13. I am a fan on facebook.

  14. Butter cookies! I use lots of vanilla because I bake alot, and there is nothing better than REAL vanilla. I won’t use anything else.

  15. I LOVE creme brulee !!!. The better the vanilla, the better the brulee !!

  16. Vanilla Bean Butter Cake!

  17. I love barefoot contessa’s brownie pudding, which calls for vanilla bean – using the bean instead of extract makes a huge difference, even with all the chocolate!

  18. I love our homemade vanilla ice cream anytime of year! I also like the vanilla custard I make for trifle. Yum!

  19. Vanilla bean ice cream – nothing better!

  20. Homemade Vanilla Caramels!

  21. Homemade vanilla custard! Fan on FB. Thanks for the recipes!

  22. vanilla bean coconut milk ice cream :)

  23. Homemade Vanilla Pudding–WARM!!!

  24. I would have to say my homemade shortbread. Yes, I have been adding vanilla to that for many years and it is so tasty.

  25. My favortie vanilla recipe is…. carmel vanilla popcorn :) Yum!

  26. Mexican Wedding Cakes

  27. I like to use it in pecan pie

  28. vanilla bean crème brûlée!

  29. My new favourite vanilla recipe is your recipe for homemade vanilla extract. I love vanilla in everything and usually add more than the recipe requires. I’m definitely going to make this.

  30. Ah!!! Some one else that makes their own homemade vanilla with vodka!!!!
    That is my most favorite recipe. I also like to use it in rice pudding.


  32. I “LIKED” YOU ON FB!!!

  33. OMG how do I pick just one? But you can’t do a really great cream cheese frosting without it!

  34. Favorite recipe is a simple arborio rice pudding with vanilla bean in it…fragrant and delicious!
    (liked on FB and posted on Twitter!) :)

  35. I love vanilla milkshakes!

  36. I love vanilla malts!

  37. I love vanilla gelato topped with a shot of espresso!! SO good. Thanks for sharing this giveaway!!

  38. Fresh vanilla bean scones. YUM!

  39. Oh my, do I love me some vanilla beans! I never cooked or baked much with them until culinary school, and now I am in desperate love. My favorite vanilla flavored confection is undoubtedly creme brulee. Yum!

  40. I love homemade vanilla extract added to Tennessee Boiled Custard at the holidays. I enjoy making vanilla extract using beans and vodka to give away as Christmas presents with jar cookies – recipients appreciate the time and effort you give to the present.

  41. Just found your blog – and its great. My absolute favorite vanilla recipe is Vanilla Roasted Pears, from the blog Smitten Kitchen. The house smells amazing and the dessert is crazy good (and simple). Add a little vanilla ice cream and perhaps a chocolate truffle and I’m in complete bliss! Plus since its pears, its healthy right?

  42. Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream!!

  43. I just really love plain homemade whipped cream with extra vanilla extract. soo good! also I’m already with you on Facebook :) Thanks for the giveaway!

  44. Apple Bread!

  45. Vanilla pound cake is the best!

  46. I add a little vanilla to my french toast egg mixture with cinamon, nutmeg, great mix.

  47. Have never made my own vanilla but have to try this. I bought pure vanilla when I was in Mexico a couple years ago and am almost out. I use vanilla in just about everything I bake. I used extra in frosting this year for my Christmas cookies. Also love to use it when making french toast. Thanks for the recipe. Think I’ll make this for my girlfriends for Christmas!

  48. I like Love and Olive Oil on Facebook.

  49. This looks so good, I definitely want to try making some. My all time favorite would have to be vanilla bean ice cream.

  50. I also Liked you on facebook.
    Thanks and good luck everyone!

  51. Well, I’ll enter another giveaway and if the Lord wills, I’ll win. If not, I won’t, but I’ll have fun reading all the posts, at least. :-)
    I think so far, of all the ways I’ve used vanilla, my favorite has been just a tiny drop or two in our fruit smoothies we make in our VitaMix (am I allowed to mention brand names here???).
    Oh…and just to show how utterly lacking in culinary knowledge I am…this is the first time I knew that liquor was used to make vanilla extract!
    Uhhmmm…yeah…true statement. Guess I never read the ingredients.

  52. I love vanilla coffee :D

  53. I love vanilla in home-made pralines! I liked on FB! getting your posts -so going to double check and make sure I am on your fan list! thanks for all the delish recipes!! PEACE-Janet

  54. my favorite vanilla recipe is the vanilla agave cupcakes from “vegan cupcakes take over the world” i like to keep vanilla beans in my bottles of agave nectar to make the agave extra tasty!

  55. Vanilla rosemary creme brulee. Not a combo I would think of immediately but SO. DANG. GOOD. I’ve got bottles and vodka, all I need to do is get ahold of some vanilla beans.

  56. Hmmm…narrowing it down to one favorite will be tough. Recently, we made vanilla snow ice cream a couple of weeks ago that was delicious. Can’t wait for the next snow storm so we can make it again!

  57. I absolutely love this vanilla bean/ coconut cream pie I recently baked!

  58. My wife makes the most amazing vanilla bean cupcakes with dulce de leche filling. Amazing! (and so are the cupcakes)

  59. My favorite is old fashioned vanilla ice cream like Grandma used to make!

  60. Nothing with “vanilla” in the title, but my favorite is peanut brittle! My recipe uses quite a bit of vanilla, and using top quality vanilla extract is key to the recipe.

    To top it off, I live in rural Spain, and finding vanilla extract is very difficult!

  61. I love my old fashioned Italian sugar cookie recipe….real vanilla and less sugar than other recipes! Reminds me of my childhood when we used to dunk these cookies made from scratch (using the end of a drinking glass to cut them out) into a nice cup of coffee!
    Ahhhhh…the memories. Would love to do this with a homemade vanilla!

  62. i’m a purist…. just vanilla bean ice cream, straight up

  63. So easy and cheap! If you are into natural this is better then the store bought stuff.

  64. Love vanilla, vanila bean ice cream is the best.

  65. vanilla ice cream..or custard

  66. My favorite vanilla recipe would be simple, delicious vanilla ice cream!

  67. I follow you on facebook already.

  68. I follow you on twitter and just shared about your giveaway.

  69. My mom brought me back vanilla beans from Mexico and I made mini vanilla bean cheesecakes with cranberry topping. Delicious!

  70. I actually got hommade vanilla for a Christmas present this year as well. Excited to use it!

    I recently started my own blog, and was hoping you would have some advice to someone that is just starting out.

    Looking forward to (hopefully) hearing from you!

  71. Creme brulee would be my favorite vanilla recipe.

  72. I *like* Love and Olive Oil on FB too:)

  73. Vanilla cookies. They don’t last long at our house.

  74. I like you on facebook.

  75. I love making deep chocolate espresso biscotti with vanilla extract-so yummy with my coffee!

  76. It’s a toss up between vanilla bean ice cream and vanilla creme brulee… yum! Vanilla is the best!

  77. I’m already a facebook fan!!

  78. Vanilla Bean Frozen Custard…mmmmmmmmmmmm…

  79. Vanilla bean icecream. Simple and delicious!

  80. My favorite vanilla recipe is eggfree and dairyfree vanilla pancakes. :)

  81. I’m also a new fan on Facebook.

  82. My favorite recipe using Vanilla is:
    Vanilla Crème Brulée!

  83. I discovered a delish peach pie recipe that calls for vanilla bean — the flavor combo is excellent!

  84. I’m also a fan on Facebook

  85. Carmel Latte cupcakes with vanilla frosting!!

  86. I love vanilla milkshakes!

  87. I became a fan on FB. :)

  88. My favorite for vanilla is Ice cream and also kefir. I follow you on twitter also! thanks and have a good day:)

  89. I am not entering because I made my own.
    I used a pint of vodka and 3 vanilla beans that I slized open the long way. That was in 2005, and I keep the vodka and beans together. The extract is so potent and delicious. The extract did not really take on its current form until about 2 years. Next time, try leaving in the beans for longer than 6 months. Your time and patience will be rewarded.

  90. Vanilla Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop.

  91. Warm Vanilla Cider

  92. Billy’s Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes!

  93. Vanilla Caramel!

  94. Icing (vanilla of course)!

  95. Hi! My favorite Vanilla recipe is Vanilla Cake! Yum!

    PS, I’m you’re biggest fan on FB ;-)
    No really, I’m physically huge! (jk, I hope….) :-D

  96. Vanilla Ice Cream…I have not yet perfected mine :(

    Maybe now is my chance! :)

  97. Creamy homemade vanilla ice cream with a luscious vanilla/lemon pound cake!

  98. Vanilla bean pound cake!

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