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Make Your Own Vanilla Extract


Merry Christmas!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. As I've written before, every year we give a little Christmas Eve party and I give out some kind of homemade goodie at the end of the evening.  This year I wanted to do the fun DIY thing of making your own vanilla extract.  I go through so much vanilla extract and the good stuff is so expensive.  I love the idea of making your own from good vanilla beans and then just adding vodka to it to keep it going - after all, that's all vanilla extract is, really - alcohol and vanilla beans.   All you do is pour unflavored vodka into a glass jar, cut a couple of vanilla beans in half and then split them and stick them into the bottle.  You need to let this steep for a couple of months until it is ready to use.  I started all these bottles in October, to give out at Christmas. So everyone got a bottle of vanilla extract and a little bag of caramels topped with Sicilian Sea Salt, which I made.

I got some wonderful Bourbon vanilla beans from Beanilla. They were so exceptional - thick and very moist with wonderful aroma. You can buy a bunch in bulk and use some for vanilla extract and then keep the rest for regular baking in an airtight container in the pantry.  We make homemade vanilla ice cream with real vanilla bean and it makes a big difference.  I ordered the cute little 4 ounce Boston round bottles from Specialty Bottle Company.  You can also get a variety of bottles from Beanilla.

 If you would like to read the differences between the various kinds of vanilla beans, Garrett over at Vanilla Garlic has an informative post about that.

I ordered the fun little labels from Evermine, a great company where you can get custom labels for lots of things, including homemade food items, cds, bottles, etc.  The labels I used were this style and the label on the front was 2" x 2" and the label on the back was 2¾".  You can get them in just about any color. 

Cut the vanilla beans in half and then cut them down the middle, to split them and open them up.  The inside seeds of the vanilla bean is called the "caviar".  Just place a couple of the cut beans right into the bottle.

Add unflavored vodka and seal the bottle and let it steep for 6 to 8 weeks, until it is ready to use.  The extract will last practically forever.  As you use it, just keep filling it up with a little more vodka.  You will never run out of extract.  Eventally it will help to add a couple of fresh vanilla beans to the bottle.  Remove the cap every once in a while and inhale.  It's wonderful.   


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Reader Comments (178)

I am so excited to try to make vanilla extract this year! One question though, how many vanilla bean strips do I put in each bottle? Thanks!!

August 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJainy

I made this last you and it turned out amazing! I still have a few bottles and use it for everything! Thanks for the awesome idea.

August 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I want to make bottles to give as Christmas gifts. I love the bottles you have and was wondering where you got them.

October 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

From The Italian Dish:

Jackie: Read through the post. There are links to sources for where to buy everything in the post. Hope this helps.

October 13, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

You will find all of this information in the post. I made them last year and they turned out awesome, good luck!

October 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I want to make your vanilla extract. Looked on the store bought vanilla extract and it also had corn syrup in it. Do you do this at all or just straight beans and vodka? Could you email me your answer, Know you are busy but hope you find the time. Thank you

October 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commenternana

I'm seeing your website for the first time today and it's awesome! I'd love to make these for Christmas this year and so excited that I'd rather not wait a year. Is 6 weeks enough time for it to steep or does it have to be 8 weeks? I haven't ordered bottles, labels etc. yet so that will take another week. Thanks so much!!!!!!!

October 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Another great recipe! I purchased the brown 4 oz Boston round from the specialty bottle company. For the labels I used the 2x4 inch shipping labels (25 labels per sheet) and created a label on the computer and printed it off. Turned out great. Have 23 bottles steeping and will be ready for Christmas gifts in a month. Love you site. Thanks.

October 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMartha

What a lovely blog and how nice and acurate the instructions .Thank you so much you are grate !!!
One question ,can i put a little sugar in the with the vocta?

January 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSofia Pandi

January 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Hi, this is my first visit to your blog, and I love it. I think this vanilla extract gift is such a beautiful gift. But as I am a moslem, do you think I can substitute vodka with any other non alcoholic drink? Thank you

February 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIka

Just stumbled upon your page thru Pinterest. I was wondering if you have made this with rum? The website says you can use vodka or rum....? Just wondering about flavor.
Many thanks!

April 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

From The Italian Dish:

Shannon- no I have never made this with rum - I don't believe I mentioned rum in the post. It would definitely change the flavor because vodka has no flavor. You can try it though and see if you like it.

April 6, 2014 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I happened across this website while searching for recipes for chocolate panna cotta. While browsing the rest of the website, I found this page on making vanilla extract. I bookmarked it months ago and decided to finally make some yesterday. I used Grade B Madagascar vanilla beans from Beanilla. I made 10 bottles and have them stored away to steep. Some will be for us, some for family and some for Christmas gifts. The rest of the vanilla beans will be used for either vanilla panna cotta or vanilla ice cream...or both.

September 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I skimmed through a few of the comments-- online sites like shutterfly and snapfish often have great deals on labels-- sometimes even free, you just pay for shipping! Design your label however you want and get them in increments of 20. I've also used for gorgeous cards, but haven't tried their labels.

October 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienne

Hello! Beautiful creation and bottling. Question: how do you do your labels? Thank you!

December 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTez

From The Italian Dish:

Tez: That information is within the post and more details are in the comments section.

December 14, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I didn't know you could re-use the vanilla beans! I have been buying new beans every time I make vanilla. How many times can you re-use the vanilla beans??

January 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEva

From The Italian Dish:

Eva: Oh my! No, you don't have to buy new ones every time you add more vodka. I've kept mine going for quite a long time. I probably put new beans in every couple of years!

January 10, 2016 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Thank you for such a fast response. I just re-filled my bottle. I have been using rum. You just saved me some $$- thank you very much!!

January 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEva

What a lovely recipe! Thanks for such a great idea. My wife and I used Infinity Jars for storing and they are just gorgeous. They are absolutely great for these vanilla extract for a long period of time and easy top-up.

March 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKasif Morkel

Love the vanilla extract gift idea and now that I'm retired, i need to cut down on extrvagent gifts. This fits the bill! One it two full beans per bottle? (Cut in half and split).. I want to be sure to have the strength of the flavor correct.. Thanks!!

August 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDale

Beautiful. Can you tell me where you got the labels printed for the bottles?

December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTina

From The Italian Dish:
Tina: It's in the post with links.

December 15, 2016 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Elaine, I am sorry for not paying better attention. Thank you for answering my question. I really enjoyed your article. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

December 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTina

Okay, will you adopt me? I'm only 60.

March 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Buchanan

Hi, I am trying to make my own Vanilla Extract and I saw this on another site that is no longer being maintained do I thought I would come here and access the bottles and such from your blog in case you get a bit of credit. I'm thrilled about the idea of gifting these also. I hope it is ok if I copy your labels not exact but pretty close. You have done such an extraordinary job! I absolutely love what you accomplished. Thank you so much and I will come back and let you see what mine turn out to be. I'm using the swing top bottles because I love the look. Have a great weekend!

October 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBea

Hi! If I make this vanilla extract now (6-11-18), will it still be ok to give as Christmas gifts? Thank you, Robin

June 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

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