Saturday, March 9, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

So I am mildly in love with my sense of smell. How's that for an interesting line to lead off a blog post? Seriously though, I may have an addiction. I love having Scentsy warmers running all over my house, I love smelling the air after a rain storm, and mostly...I love the smell of my house after baking. It just makes everything feel so warm and cozy.

Most of the time, I find that this is due to my gratuitous use of vanilla. Mmm...vanilla. I typically buy the imitation stuff at around 99 cents a bottle, but it just seems a little weak. The "real" stuff is crazy expensive and I can never justify shelling out a fistful of cash for an itty bitty bottle. So you can imagine my delirious happiness when I discovered that I can make my very own vanilla for just a little more than I pay for the imitation stuff.

Yup, you betcha. Baking awesomeness.

As with the homemade vanilla sugar body scrub, the homemade vanilla extract is relatively inexpensive and easy to make. Thank goodness. I love uncomplicated projects.

Here's what you'll need:

- Glass bottles (I picked these cutesies up at Cost Plus - they're actually oil and vinegar dispensers)
- Vanilla beans
- Vodka
- Scissors (preferably kitchen shears)
- 30 days (Don't worry...this isn't like Amish Friendship Bread. It doesn't need any attention.)

The glass bottles and the scissors were easy. I got the bottles when I grabbed the jars for the scrub. I already owned a pair of kitchen shears.

The vanilla beans were a little tricky. I know next to nothing about vanilla beans. Madagascar, Tahitian, Mexican, Bourbon, Tonga...are you kidding me with this? To help myself out, I found an awesome online site for buying these beauties. Yup. Super helpful. They have descriptions for each type of bean to help you pick your poison. I wound up choosing Tahitian beans (Grade B) and bought a 25 bean package for $17.50.

As for the vodka, you can select more or less any kind that isn't going to overwhelm the flavor. I'd stay away from the uber budget brands, but I got my bottle of Svedka for relatively cheap. I think it was right around $10.

Take each bean and cut it widthwise to open the pod, then cut each pod in half lengthwise so that you have 4 little pieces.

Use about 1 piece per ounce in your jar. My little oil dispensers were a little over 9 oz. each and I didn't fill them all the way up. I wound up using 8 pieces per jar (i.e. 2 beans each).

Once the beans are in the jar, fill up to the desired level with the vodka and seal the top.

Allow the mixture to sit for about 30 days before use. This will allow the vodka to leach out enough of the vanilla from the beans and give you the full bodied vanilla flavor.

And that's it. Voila! I used up about 8 oz. of vodka and 2 beans for each jar. The jars themselves cost me about $1.50 each (though if you're making it for yourself, these could obviously be reused). Based on what each item cost me, this works out to about $6 per bottle. Reusing the bottle results in an actual vanilla price of $4.50 per 8 oz. bottle.

I purchased my last vanilla extract (imitation of course) from the store for $0.99 for a 4 oz. bottle. The 1 oz. pure vanilla extract bottle was on "sale" at that time for $6. Six dollars?!?!? Are you kidding me? That would make my awesome little 8 oz. bottles worth over $50 each!! Holy crap. Obviously you'll pay a little more to make real thing, but you're still not paying the ridiculous store price. And you get the good stuff.

It's worth it. Trust me.

*** Bonus information for you (thank Erin). Costco sells their pure vanilla extract for $7 for a 16 oz. bottle. Some reviews state that it contains sugar and is thus not pure vanilla extract, but it also gets high marks for flavor and quality by multiple users. So...if you don't want to wait the 30 days, you're set.


  1. I have been meaning to get around to doing this. Vanilla over here is around 8 or more Euros for about 4oz! I have also heard that some people use rum instead of vodka if they want a slightly different flavor, but vodka will give you the most pure taste.

    1. I've never heard of the rum trick. I'll have to try it.

  2. Thanks for sharing this process! I too love the scent of vanilla. I hadn't thought about making my own extract though and I tend to throw a dash in just about any recipe. I'm going to give this a try!
    Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

  3. For whatever it is worth, Paula Deen's recipe calls for 2 vanilla beans with 1/2 cup bourbon and whatever extract you use you replace with bourbon. For example, when you use 1 tsp extract, replace it with 1 tsp bourbon. Shake it a few times then use it again. This process will keep you in vanilla extract for about a year, even more savings. I also read a recipe using peach brandy. You could have a pantry of different vanilla extracts for whatever is appropriate for your recipe. Thanks for this particular item. I like the idea of having nice looking bottles for my extract.

    1. Interesting. I'm going to have to give that a whirl. Thanks for stopping by!!

  4. I have really wanted to do this! Thanks for the easy tutorial.


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