How to Make Vanilla Extract
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Vanilla prices have soared in recent years. Learn how to make your own vanilla extract, so you don’t have to settle for the imitation stuff. It’s easy, and makes a great gift. I’ve even included free, printable labels, as well as instructions for making non-alcoholic vanilla extract.
What You Need:
- 3 vanilla beans
- 1 cup vodka
- A pint jar
- A knife
- A cutting board
Buy the cheapest vodka you can find. Pricier vodka doesn’t make for better extract. To save on vanilla beans, opt for grade B beans. They’re about $1 cheaper than grade A beans, and work well for extract. $2 a bean is a fair price to pay for grade B vanilla beans. You used to be able to get grade A beans for $1 a piece, but ever since a cyclone wiped out most of Madagascar’s vanilla farms back in 2017, prices have settled around three times what they used to be.
The good news is that vanilla beans can be used to make several batches of extract before they need to be replaced. So, even though bean prices are up, you’ll still save a ton by making your own vanilla extract. I recommend buying your beans online. They’ll be cheaper and fresher than anything you’ll find at the grocery store.
How Much Does It Cost to Make Pure Vanilla Extract?
Here’s a breakdown of what it’ll cost you to make 8 ounces of vanilla extract:
3 vanilla beans = $6
1 cup of vodka = $1.67
Total Cost = $7.67
These days 8 ounces of pure vanilla goes for anywhere from $20-$40 a bottle (yikes!), so you’ll save at least $12 on your first batch. You’ll save even more on subsequent batches. Since vanilla beans can be reused several times, that means each additional batch of extract you’re able to make from your beans will only cost you $1.67. What a steal!
And the best part? Making your own vanilla extract requires absolutely no culinary skills and only about two minutes of your time.
Here’s a video to take you through the process.
And here are step-by-step instructions.
What You Do:
Cut a slit down the side of each bean to expose the vanilla seeds.
Then, cut the beans in half, and drop them in your pint jar.
Fill the jar half way with vodka, so that the beans are fully submerged. Then, screw on the lid, and you’re done.
Allow your extract to develop over two to three months. The vodka will darken as it extracts more vanilla flavor from the beans. The jar on the left was just made. That jar in the middle was made about a week ago. And that bottle on the end was made several months ago.
When you’re happy with the color and flavor, pour the vanilla into another jar or bottle. Then, use the beans to start another batch. This will ensure that by the time you’ve used up your first batch, you’ll have more ready to go.
I usually get at least three batches of vanilla out of my beans. When they stop turning your vodka brown, you’ll know it’s time to replace them.
But don’t throw your beans out. You can still use them to make vanilla bean powder.
How to Make Non-Alcoholic Vanilla Extract
Cooking for kids, or someone else who can’t have alcohol? To make a non-alcoholic vanilla extract, just use a mixture of food-grade liquid glycerin and water in place of the vodka. It’ll do the same job.
Liquid glycerin is readily available online. To use it in your vanilla extract, mix together 3/4 cup glycerin and 1/4 cup water; then, use in place of one cup of vodka.
Glycerin doesn’t extract the flavor from vanilla beans as fast as alcohol does, so expect it to take longer for your vanilla to develop. That jar of vanilla extract shown above was made with glycerin, so with a bit of patience you’ll end up with a dark, flavorful extract.
Extracts made with glycerin are called glycerites. They’re sugar-free, gluten-free, and as long as you use a vegetable-based glycerin, they’re vegan, too. Glycerin is an excellent preservative, so your non-alcoholic vanilla extract will keep for at least four years.
In terms of taste, glycerites have all the vanilla flavor that you’re used to, without any of that alcoholic bite. They’re a little more syrupy in consistency than normal extracts, but that won’t affect any recipes that you use them in.
Printable Vanilla Extract Labels
Homemade vanilla extract makes a great gift. Decant it into smaller bottles (I like to use 4 oz. amber Boston Round bottles). Then, add one of these free, printable labels.
These labels are designed to print on full-sheet shipping labels. Use Avery 8165, if you have an inkjet, or Avery 5265, if you have a laser printer. I like to print my kitchen labels on vinyl sheet. Since it’s water-proof and dishwasher-safe, you can label a bottle once; then, refill it over and over. Just make sure you buy vinyl that’s made to work with the type of printer you have. It’s available for both laser printers and ink jet printers, and the two aren’t interchangeable.
Many web browsers have their own built-in PDF viewers, but they tend to be buggy. If you’re having trouble printing or editing one of our printables, click here for help.
How to Make Vanilla Extract
Here’s how to make your own pure vanilla extract, including how to make a non-alcoholic version.
- Total Time: 2 minutes
- Yield: 8 ounces 1x
- 3 vanilla beans
- 1 cup vodka
Cut a slit up the side of each vanilla bean.
Then, cut the beans in half, and place them in a pint jar.
Cover with the vodka.
Wait at least two months, before using. This will give the extract time to develop a rich color and flavor.
- Save money by using grade B vanilla beans.
- To make non-alcoholic vanilla extract, use a mixture of 3/4 cup food-grade liquid glycerin and 1/4 cup water in place of the vodka.
- Prep Time: 2 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Category: Extracts
- Method: Extract
- Cuisine: Global
Keywords: how to make vanilla extract, how to make non-alcoholic vanilla extract
Thank you once again for the reminder that there are SO many things that can be homemade AND that are cheaper to do so. I have been redoing my “master” grocery list with an H next to the items that can be homemade AND that you have so graciously shared recipes for so that I can add the ingredients to my shopping list (ahem…butterscotch chips…have the cocoanut oil;) Also, I was curious I don’t see anywhere on the blog where you talk about the Instant Pots everyone is raving about. I have a crockpot that I use but I was wondering if you have an Instant Pot and if so, what are your thoughts as well as what are your go to summer entree recipes when it is too hot to cook? Thank you SO much for all that you do.
In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing loads of recipes for things that are cheaper to make yourself, ditto for easy dinner recipes (including summer recipes). My youngest daughter and I have developed oodles of easy and tasty dinner recipes over the last few months. I’m currently working to get them all written up and photographed.
I don’t own an Instant Pot yet. Maybe I will eventually, but for now I haven’t really felt like I need another appliance to make quick meals. I already have my go-to quick dinner recipes, which are a mix of stove/oven recipes and crockpot recipes. I did buy an air fryer at a thrift store, though. I haven’t had a lot of time to play with it, but it’s become our go-to for cooking our homemade chicken nuggets (that recipe is on my list to share).
My husband would also agree that butterscotch chips belong on the master grocery list. He has not minded having to test all of the ice cream toppings that I’ve been making 🙂
Thank you so much and I look forward to the recipes. One of my FAVORITE things are your roasted vegetable roasting time list which is in a sheet protector in the beginning of the side dish section of my recipe book But what I have done to it is I found in The Old Farmers Almanac a list of how each herb is best used in the kitchen and paired with what and on your sheet I noted at the top how much olive oil, salT and pepper to use with each and next to each veggie a suggested herb and then when each veggie is in season (like right now my peas which I planted on St Patrick’s day for luck…and here in Michigan it is still snowing at that time and you should have seen the looks I got when I planted AND the looks I got at how big they were on Memorial day which here is the START of planting season;)…per another blogger I have been reading as long as you…are finishing up and I have been enjoying roasting them per your guidelines and adding sage from my herb garden. I too done wAnt another kitchen gadget for my kitchen and thank you for your thoughts on that. Your married to a smart man and yes, a test kitchen is the place to be during these crazy times. Thank you again