Homemade Vanilla Extract

Saturday 6 July 2024


Homemade Vanilla Extract

One thing which I have always wanted to try doing it to make my own Vanilla Extract. When I was staying at my sisters right after I moved back to Canada she had her own homemade Vanilla Extract and I enjoyed using it when I was baking at hers.   

Homemade Vanilla extract tastes a bazillion times better than store bought and contains only two simple ingredients.   Alcohol (Vodka)  and Vanilla Beans.  It does require some time to make it however.  You can have it ready to use in as few as 8 weeks, but trust me when I tell you that if you leave it for four to six months you will be rewarded with the best vanilla extract ever. It is truly worth the wait.

Homemade Vanilla Extract 

I started making mine last year before Christmas.  I am not a person who goes into the Liquor store at all so I gave my sister the money to go in and get me a pint of best quality Vodka.

One thing I liked about the U.K. was that alcohol was sold in the grocery stores. You could pick up whatever you wanted right along with your groceries. It was very convenient.  Here in Canada you need to go to a dedicated store and they are all Government run.

I used to keep an assortment of good wines for cooking and some spirits as well as liquors all for cooking purposes when I was in the U.K. They are much more difficult to procure here.

Homemade Vanilla Extract


Pure Vanilla extract is an essential in the home bakers store cupboard.  I never use artificial these days, although I might have done so when I was younger.  Truth be told however, there is no comparison when it comes to flavor.  The real deal makes a whole world of difference.

It can be quite expensive however.  I bought a bottle from Amazon when I first moved back. I bought a one liter bottle of Totonics Mexican Vanilla for $59. I have my doubts as to whether it was pure vanilla extract or not. It said on the bottle  that it contained Vanilla Bean Extract, and I did not have any problems with the flavor of it.  I really wanted to make my own however.

Homemade Vanilla Extract


Basically you only need two ingredients.  A good alcohol and some quality vanilla beans.

Grey Goose Vodka is supposed to be the best vodka to use. That was not available here where I live so I got the next best thing which was Smirnoff. You can also use other alcohols from what I have read.  The criteria is that it be at least 80 proof.  A good bourbon would be lovely, as would brandy or rum.

Vanilla beans. Yes, you can buy vanilla beans at the grocery store, but they are rather pricey in comparison to buying them online.  Sometimes you can join a Vanilla Bean co-op. Then you can order vanilla beans as a group for a much lower price.  You do have to wait however until everyone is wanting to put in an order.

fresh vanilla beans

I bought my Vanilla Beans online. Here are some of the options available.  Both have unique qualities

Madagascar vanilla beans -  Madagascar vanilla beans are known as the gold standard for vanilla beans in the vanilla bean world and come from the Islands of Reunion and Madagascar situated in the Indian Ocean. Madagascar vanilla beans have a very rich, full-bodied, almost woody flavor. They are the most frequently used beans because they are so versatile.

Tahitian vanilla beans - Tahitian Vanilla is much more rare and comes from the Oceana, a cluster of Islands in the Pacific ocean.  Tahitian vanilla beans have a much more delicate flavor than Madagascar beans. Tahitian vanilla beans have light floral overtones, rather than being sweet and strong.

It all depends on how you plan on using them. For baking purposes I recommend the Madagascar beans.  The vanilla beans in the above photograph (from Shutterstock) are an example of Vanilla beans you do not want to buy.  These look dry and brittle.  A good vanilla bean should be pliable and not brittle and have a bit of a shine to it.   If they look like the beans in the above photograph, do NOT buy them.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

You can make Vanilla Extract using as few as six vanilla pods.  Added to 1 cup of alcohol they will yield you 1 cup of vanilla extract, which ounce for ounce is going to be a lot cheaper (and better tasting) than any artificial vanilla you can buy at the shops!

You can also reuse the vanilla pods to make more vanilla extract after you have finished making your first batch, which is what I am doing now.  My first batch it on the right up there. You can see how dark and rich it is.  I used 10 vanilla beans, cut in half and split.  

Homemade Vanilla Extract

On the left is the batch I just started.  I removed my beans from the first pot and added them to a second one and poured in more vodka to cover.

Using the larger amount of vanilla beans results in what is known as Double fold vanilla and that is what I made. Single fold vanilla uses fewer beans. The double fold however has a much deeper and richer flavor.

You can also just keep the same jar of vanilla and add alcohol to the jar as you use it, creating an endless supply of vanilla extract. Obviously, however, it will get weaker as time goes by and all of the flavor is leached from your beans.

Homemade Vanilla Sugar

Another thing you can do with the spent pods is to make vanilla sugar with it.   Just remove them from the jar of vanilla extract and leave them to dry overnight.  Add them to your bag of sugar and massage them into the sugar, repeating every day until the beans are completely dry. 

I usually keep a fresh split vanilla bean in my sugar container anyways. It is great for baking with, or stirring into hot drinks, sprinkling over fresh berries, or even over your morning bowl of oats.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Here is another view of the extract that I just started using the same beans from my first batch. They had only been in the jar for a couple of minutes and you can already see the change in color happening.

Homemade vanilla extract really is lovely. You get a quality really well flavored extract that is filled with lots of lovely bits of the vanilla caviar.  (The seeds.)  Once you start to make your own I guarantee you will be wanting to do it all the time!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Once you have made your own vanilla extract (remember to wait six to eight months for really pukka extract!) you will be able to use it in any number of ways. Here are some of my favorite "Vanilla"  makes and bakes!

RHUBARB, VANILLA & CARDAMOM JAM - This small batch jam is a  delicious trinity of good taste! The vanilla in this jam adds a beautiful aroma and flavor which goes very well with the flavor of the fruit, and actually enhances it. Cardamom adds an additional flavor note.  There is just a small amount,  only enough to give a hint of warmth and additional fragrance. It lends a gentle almost citrus-like note which goes so very well with the rhubarb. 

CLASSIC VANILLA PUDDING - I know I am boring, but vanilla is my favorite flavor of pudding, rather than butterscotch or chocolate. Rich and creamy this is fabulous chilled overnight and served in tiny pots with a nice dollop of whipped cream on top. Pure comfort.

BEST VANILLA CUPCAKES -These cupcakes are moist and delicious, due to the use of yogurt in the batter. They are finished with a lush buttercream. The two together are amazing! 

Yield: 1 cup (240ml)
Author: Marie Rayner
Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Prep time: 10 MinTotal time: 10 Min
Fabulously wonderfully fragrant. This will add a beautiful note to all of your vanilla needs! For optimal flavor do leave to sit for six to eight months before using.


  • 6 good quality vanilla beans (if you want a deeper, Double Fold quality vanilla flavor you can use 8 to 10)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces/240ml) good quality alcohol (80 proof) (Vodka, brandy, bourbon, rum etc.)
  • a half pint sterile canning jar with a tight lid


  1. Cut your vanilla beans in half and then cut a slit down the side of each bean. Pack the beans into the clean jar.
  2. Pour the alcohol over top of the beans to cover them completely. Screw the lid on tightly and give the jar a good shake.
  3. Store in a dark cool place for at least eight weeks, but preferably six to 8 months! Give the jar a good shake every now and then, at least once every couple of weeks.
  4. Unused, aged vanilla will keep for several years, especially if the beans are kept totally submerged.
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  1. Morning, Marie, we’ve made our own vanilla for years. I love how good it smells when you take the cap off. Enjoy Cindy’s birthday. Tell her Happy Birthday from me. Love and hugs, Elaine (in Toronto).

    1. Hi Elaine! This was my first time. You are right! It smells amazing when you take the cap off! Hopefully we will have a great day! I will pass on your greetings! It is raining cats and dogs at the moment! Love and hugs, xoxo

  2. I make my own vanilla too. So much cheaper and better because I know what is going into it. I always make five jars to give four to my neighbors.

    1. Great idea! It would make excellent gifts. Like you, I like knowing what is going into it! xo

  3. Hi, Marie! I love your blog. I would love to try this but, I am embarrassed to ask: how do you sterilize one bottle?

    1. No worries Ann! Thanks for your sweet comment! Sterilizing one bottle/jar is quite easy actually. I wash them first in hot soapy water to make sure it is clean. Rinse in hot water and then I fill the jar with boiling water and put the lid in a small pan of boiled water. Leave for five minutes and then dump out the boiled water. (I use a pot holder to hold the jar carefully.) Presto, a sterile jar!


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