{Holiday Neighbor Gift} Homemade Vanilla Extract

I know, I know… It's still September and we are more worried about apple pie and getting ready for ghouls and goblins, but this fabulous neighbor gift takes some time to make. Homemade vanilla extract is not only elegant and refined, but simple to create for yourself. Don't be scared… it's not laborious hours pressing each and every vanilla bean.  All you have to do is make a simple concoction and then let is SIT. 

I have spent countless hours watching cooking show after cooking with the host always saying, "make sure you use only the best vanilla!"  For years I was perplexed.  How on earth am I supposed to know what the "best vanilla" is?  I have now found out… the best vanilla is the vanilla that you make yourself.  Here is what you will need…

  • Whole Vanilla Beans – I recommend ordering them online, it's way more cost effective.  I ordered mine from Beanilla Trading Company. I decided on the beans from Madagascar.
  • Vodka – I used the cheapest Vodka I could find. In all of my research, many people say it really doesn't matter. Now, here is the caveat… I don't drink so I don't really know the quality of my vodka vs. other kinds so if you know vodka better you may have more of a preference.

That's it… other than packaging, but I am going to save that post for another day.  Here is what you need to do.

First, you need to carefully slit your vanilla beans length wise starting just below the tip of the bean…

My beans were rather long so I also cut them in half.  Then all you need to do is add your beans to your vodka.  Here is the ratio to follow…

2 large vanilla beans to 1 cup of vodka

If your beans tend to be on the puny side, I would use 3 beans per cup of vodka.  Place your split beans in your liquid, seal and then store in a cool, dark place like a pantry. 

Give it a good shake every few days and after 2-3 months you will have a lovely homemade vanilla. Obviously, the longer you let it sit,it will become darker and more developed.  After your desired amount of time run your new vanilla through a strainer and a couple of layers of cheese cloth and then package it up. 

I am planning on keeping a bottle for myself and then packaging some fun bottles to give away to family and friends for the holidays! 

Here is my cost breakdown…

  • Vodka – $1.35 per cup
  • Vanilla Bean – $1.10 per bean
  • Bottle – $1.00

The bottles I am using hold about a cup of liquid so the total cost for one bottle is $4.55.  I will be generous and round up for other packaging needs like printing, fabric, bottle embellishments and such and I will say my total is, $5.00!  Not bad for an elegant and thoughtful gift for family, friends, teachers and such for the holidays!!

For all of the information on bottles and packaging click here to visit the How to Package your Homemade Vanilla post!


  1. says

    I’ve done this for years now and love it. I don’t strain, just use all those yummy vanilla seed that happen to come out while pouring. I also have to say “YOU HAVE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LABELS ON YOURS”

  2. Andrea says

    This was already on my to do list for next week! I was going to check out Ikea to see what kind of bottles they have and maybe even the dollar store. Can’t wait for the packaging and label ideas!

  3. says

    Thanks so much for this idea….I will definitely be making some of this for Christmas gifts. My mom will LOVE this….she is one of those that always says “use the GOOD vanilla”! Thanks again!

  4. says

    I love this idea!

    I started my vanilla in July, it was my first post to get linked up to link parties, including here! {new to blogging}.

    I just sampled mine last week, it’s a good thing there are a few more months until Christmas, it’s ok now but it just keeps getting better!!!

  5. says

    I am super excited about all the buzz about the Whipperberry DIY Vanilla post and I PROMISE to have a packaging post next week.

    However, in the mean time you can start your project by calculating how many vanilla beans you need for your bottle of vodka and then place the vanilla beans directly in the large bottle. This will make it easier when when you strain the liquid gold when you are finished and make bottling much easier. Let me know if you have any more questions!

  6. says

    Okay here comes the the ding dong because no one else has asked this question. Since you use Vodka does the alcohol ‘cook out’ when you bake? {stop laughing} ;)

    • says

      Not a ding dong question at all. If you look at the ingredients on the back of your normal store bought vanilla you will find that the primary ingredient in it as well. Yep, total surprise to me to. They make it the same way commercially too!

  7. says

    What a wonderful gift – so fun to both give and to receive! I can’t remember the last time I bought a bottle of vanilla, as I’ve been doing this for years. My mom, who would never buy a bottle of vodka, just brings me her empty vanilla bottles for me to “brew” for her. :) Looking forward to all the rest of your info for gift giving!

  8. SherryE says

    OK…I started my vanilla months and months ago…I just bottled the first batch..the next batch will be at the end of November….I thought I had a label picked out…UNTIL I SAW THIS!!!


  9. Jessica says

    I’ve been looking through all of your posts… Where is the info on how to do the labels and where to buy the bottles?

  10. Samantha says

    Just wanted to say that the best price I found for ‘woozy’ bottles (which are the shape of yours :-) ) is from the Cape Bottle Co. < $2 each, shipped! (Only downside is you have to call to order… 888-833-6307)

  11. Laurel says

    I buy vanilla beans from ebay. I’ve used this seller several times. They are cheaper than anybody else, have good extract-grade beans (I can’t tell the difference in the grades of the beans), always gives you a little gift of extra beans, and has INTEGRITY (refunded me a couple of dollars because he was able to ship it cheaper than he thought).

    The seller is vanillaproducts. Here’s a link to his store: http://stores.ebay.com/Vanilla-Products-USA?_rdc=1

  12. says

    I’ve been making homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract for years and though I have used vanilla in vodka, it was what I was using for drink concoctions. Why I never thought to let it develop more and become an extract is beyond me!

    Now, if only I can stop myself from drinking the vodka before its useable as an extract?

  13. says

    I love this! Devasted that I had no idea it could be DIY’d so simply. (I went my whole life without knowing and in the past week Ive seen this on multiple blogs) Im totally doing this next year.

    Gorgeous packaging too.

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. Sonia says

    Hi Heather:
    Thank you for such a wonderful post. I would have never have thought of making my own vanilla extract. This comes in very handy as my wonderful vanilla I purchased in Costa Rica is sadly almost over and I’m not going to Costa Rica anytime soon. But I wanted to ask, what happens to the alcoho? Does it evaporate? I don’t drink either and wouldn’t want to use alcohol in my cooking. Thank you!

    • says

      Sonia- great question! If you look on your regular vanilla that you purchase at any store, the main ingredient is alcohol. Also, your lovely Costa Rican vanilla was probably made by this same method. Any time you use an extract you are cooking or baking with alcohol. I’m not sure whether the alcohol fully bakes out, but we’ve all been using it for years so I wouldn’t worry about the homemade vanilla being any different.
      Thanks for a great question!

  15. says

    Just have to share with you!! I bottled my vanilla last night and it smelled sooooo good!! I pulled out my bottle of McCormick and the difference in smell was amazing! I had my husband smell and he said the homemade smelled more natural. Thx for such a great idea!! I can’t wait to put the labels on. THANKS again xoxox

    • says

      Oh YAY!! I open my bottles every once in a while to just smell. It’s HEAVENLY isn’t it! We did the smell test too and their is NO comparison! Thanks so much for sharing…

  16. natalie holoubek says

    Is this photo vanilla after 2 months or longer? Mine seems much lighter after 2 months. Maybe needs to wait longer?


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