Love and Olive Oil

Homemade Vanilla Extract

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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.)

All images and text © Lindsay Landis /

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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:
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. Valilla Fudge.

  2. I just liked you on FB! Love your photography :)

  3. The Olive Orchard just followed you on Twitter. Love all things olive oil! Pour. Savor. Share.

  4. My personal favorite vanilla recipe would have to be Crème Brulée, but only with a perfectly caramelized top and fresh, ripe berries on the side.

  5. definitely madagascar vanilla frozen yoghurt!! so delicious and utterly simple, mixed with raspberries, mmmm!

    also, im already a fan on facebook :)

  6. Vanilla bean caramels. Thanks for the vanilla source tip!

  7. I love vanilla bean oatmeal in the morning.

  8. Non-dairy vanilla milkshakes!

  9. So many responses! But not to be outdone,… Poached pears! something like this one:

  10. I’m a fan on facebook as well!

  11. and not to be outdone… Poached Pears with vanilla!

  12. I also just signed up for Twitter, and tweeted my first tweet, thanks to you…. :)

  13. Vanilla bean cheesecake… I am smiling just thinking about it. =]

  14. Oh, and I am a fan on Facebook!

  15. hii hmm mine would be vanilla bean ice cream… HEHE

    i already follow you and like you on facebook :)

  16. Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

  17. Oh wow, how weird Stella before me said the same thing! I like on Facebook and followed on Twitter and I think I just missed the time frame on this giveaway :(

  18. Mmm I love everything vanilla, but I would have to say a simple vanilla custard, along with some fresh berries of sorts…mmmm heaven.

  19. I also love making homemade vanilla extract and one of my favorite vanilla recipes is homemade vanilla marshmallows … Yum! Thanks for the giveaway!

  20. My favortie vanilla recipe is vanilla bean cupcakes with vanilla bean buttercream!

  21. I love vanilla pound cake! SO good!

  22. Vanilla ice cream, best way to showcase vanilla!

  23. Definitely vanilla buttercream frosting

  24. Pure vanilla extract added to hot chocolate gives it so much more flavour and makes it all the more of a decadent, yet easy, homemade treat. I also love plain steamed milk with vanilla and a smidgen of sugar.

    My favourite thing to have made for me with vanilla is proper soft vanilla caramels. I’m a great baker, but a dismal candy-maker, despite many attempts of “easy and simple” recipes, to the point that I’ve given up.

    And finally, over Christmas, I made a couple of pies; I found a Butter Tart Pie recipe that I liked, but substituted the raisins for equal parts cranberries and chopped pecans. The vanilla was a distinct and important element to what quickly became a new family favourite.

  25. Mmmm, those look like a wonderful gift!!! Lucky parents ;-)

    Honestly, I’m not a huge baker, but I’ve been known to make some banana bread, and I’m a believer in putting a little vanilla in the mix.

    I gotta say though, in the off chance I won the beans, I’d probably do exactly
    what you did with them, and gift the extracts to a wonderful friend of mine who has emotionally supported me so many times. She would certainly put them to good use!

  26. And, followed you on facebook!

  27. Vanilla Creme Brulee. Because vanilla beans are plump, fragrant and beautiful and being able to see the seeds and taste them is best!

  28. I’ll eat vanilla anything…I suppose I’d have to say peanut butter blondies with hefty doses of salt and vanilla!

  29. Vanilla Bean Tea is definitely a favorite.

  30. a fan on facebook… and homemade vanilla bean ice cream on a warm chocolate gooey brownie can’t be beat!

  31. Vanilla sugar cookies. Mmm! :D

  32. I’m a big Facebook fan. I also tweeted :)
    Love your blog. It gives me great ideas and it’s so beautiful!

  33. TODAY! I made vanilla pudding. It was awesome. New favorite.

  34. Homemade marshmallows made with homemade vanilla! Mmmmmm.

  35. GIVEAWAY is now CLOSED. Thanks all for entering!

  36. i of course know that the giveaway is over, but i just wanted to comment on one of the types of vanilla beans you used! my boyfriend went to tonga a little over a year ago, and said it was the coolest place he’s ever traveled to. everyone there pretty much does nothing for a living, but it’s okay, because everyone does nothing. and the majority of his diet while he was there, at least, was fresh coconuts. how amazing does that sound?!

    anyway, i’ve been following you two for a while now, and i love your blog and all of the beautiful recipes it houses!


  37. I’ve just found your blog, and I must say, it is gorgeous! I can’t wait to try out some of your recipes.

    I recently saw another post about making your own vanilla and after seeing this one too, I’ve decided I simply must try it! (I never knew before this that it was even possible… nice to know I don’t have to spend all that money on pure vanilla extract anymore!) Though I do have a question… will the quality of vodka affect the end product at all? I know nothing about vodka, but my fiancé has a bottle of Karkov (left over from a roommate, I think) which he says is horrible stuff… will it make the vanilla extract taste bad if I use it for this instead of putting it down the drain or something? :-P

    • Interesting question. I would assume the quality of vodka would affect the outcome of the vanilla, but I don’t know how or if it’d be that noticeable. We used Sky vodka for ours. I say give it a go, can’t hurt, right?

  38. My all time fave – rhubarb vanilla bean jam. so beautiful and flavorful!

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