{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 have a question, to make one large batch and then divide it out later, can you just stick the vanilla beans directly into the vodka bottle. Then when the batch is “done”, pour them into individual bottles? Just curious if that works vs making individual bottles and letting them sit. Thanks!!!

  2. Kathleen Truluck says

    I was just wondering how you made the label for the vanilla? It is adorable. I would love to recreate something like that!!

  3. says

    Hey Heather.
    Question. I started my homemade vanilla two months ago. Right amount of vanilla beans. Right amount of vodka. Great, cute bottles. But… the vanilla isn’t coming out as brown as yours is. Did you … ahem… enhance the color a little? Just wondering because I don’t drink and none of my friends do, either, so I want to be able to tell people, “It’s light because I didn’t add any color.”
    It’s been “working” for a bit more than two months now.

  4. Nancy says

    Looks like Stravinsky brand vodka. They may be cheap, but rivals and may even be better than some more expensive premium vodkas!

  5. Amelia says

    I have been using this method for making my vanilla for about 30 years. I have found that the better quality vodka makes a more flavorful vanilla. I like to age it at least 6 months before I use it. To give it color, I add a small amount of store bought vanilla to each bottle of vodka. Thanks for posting so others can enjoy.

  6. Tara says

    This is gorgeous! I am so making these for Christmas. Thank you for sharing all the info and such inspiring photos. I just placed my order for the Madagascar Beans you recommended (excellent prices..and only $4 to ship it to Canada! What??!!) Mmmmm…this is going to wow some of the foodies in my life this December!

  7. Tara says

    Hi Heather — I ordered enough beans to make 20-25 8oz bottles when done. Can I make it all up in a big container initially during the sitting period and then divide the finished vanilla into the smaller bottles when it’s done soaking? I need some time to find some ‘perfect’ bottles :) Thanks!

  8. Michelle Day says

    So I’m a bit behind on this project and wondering what will happen if I run out of time to strain before gifting?


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