I’m Kristina - freelance graphic designer, backyard farmer, cookbook reader, project starter, and new mom to a gorgeous little boy.

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April 14, 2011

homemade vanilla extract

Yesterday’s post was so satisfying for me. I woke up wondering if I’d published something completely lame and whiny (the blogging equivalent of drunk dialing, maybe?), but it turns out lots of you can relate. Which is awesome. And maybe just by putting it out there things will begin to simplify. Maybe.

Now. Onto something totally different.

Homemade vanilla extract!

I’ve been meaning to start my own since January when I saw a big jar in my neighbor Ruth’s kitchen. (Enter the reality I mentioned yesterday… things don’t always happen as I intend around these parts.) Once she told me how to make it, I was like, um, DUH! Why doesn’t everyone do this??? It reminds me of the Homemade Pantry section on Kiss My Spatula. Which is without a doubt something you should all check out and is IMO completely worthy of aspiration.

It’s a bit of a cost commitment up front, but you won’t have to buy vanilla for a very long time. And once it’s all done brewing you can apparently jar it up and give it away as gifts. Hello xmas pressies!

What you need for a jar this size:

A big jar with a sealing lid (preferably tall enough to accommodate vanilla beans)
7 cups vodka
21 vanilla beans

(the ratio of beans to vodka is 6 beans for every 2 cups of vodka).

The only reason I chose the above amount is because I needed 7 cups of vodka to cover the vanilla beans. I’m sure you could make this in whatever size batch you like, if you cut up the beans into smaller pieces. I think choosing good quality vanilla beans and good quality vodka probably equals good quality vanilla extract, but use your judgement there. My beans are from Penzeys (a Christmas gift from my friend Carol) and I used Absolut vodka (not top top shelf, but good enough I figured).

Put the beans in the jar. Add vodka. Seal. Wait two months or so and try it! If you need to add more vodka during the extraction process, do it. Maybe throw another bean in there for good measure. Supposedly once you have it started, you can add more vodka and beans as you use your stock to keep it going for a long time.

Vanilla beans are expensive, but they are less so if you buy them in bulk. Here are some good places to buy them:


Most importantly, definitely do not buy them at the grocery store! It will cost a fortune.

I’ll report back when my vanilla is fully extracted.

**UPDATE! Brent from emailed with their official ratio for FDA quality single-fold vanilla extract. 5 beans for every 1 cup of vodka (or maybe bourbon! I like where you guys are going with that). Which significantly increases your start up costs, but maybe the vanilla is way more amazing? Just thought I’d share.


  1. Kris said on April 14, 2011

    When I found out about homemade vanilla last year I thought the same thing. Duh! Except I used rum. I love seeing that big jar in my fridge and it might be my imagination, but my baking is infinitely better with it! Can’t believe I spent loads and loads of money on all those little jars of vanilla in the past…

    btw…just read yesterday’s post and since I’ve been reading your blog I have to say it’s my favorite. : ) I had been feeling the same way about blogging and it has hindered my writing as of late.

  2. stephanie said on April 14, 2011

    thank you for this recipe. as soon as we get settled into our new seattle home this summer, i am definitely going to make this.

    and, a sincere thank you for putting into words in your previous post exactly how i have been feeling as of late. for our big cross-country move, we have had a reason and inspiration to simplify our lives. (three trips to goodwill already!) but, i, like you, still find the need to buy things during the simplification process. i made a trip to anthropologie last week to pick up a few staple clothing items that will help me simplify my closet- this makes sense in my own head somehow?!
    we just turned off our cable and i have taken a week long break from the computer at home (which means my blog is behind in posts and photos and i have not tweeted in seven days) but i feel so much better being technology free for at least part of my days. my husband and i agreed to at least 2 computer free days each week. i think you should try it…i know you will find peace.

  3. christina said on April 14, 2011

    i *love* this…i want to make vanilla!! BUT do you know if you can make it *without* vodka? we don’t drink over here! or is vanilla extract just alcohol?? oy…

  4. Jamie said on April 14, 2011

    Wow. Have always bought the “imitation” kind at the grocery store and thought to myself a million times, “Why am I buying imitation and why is there not another option here?!” Going to Amazon right this minute…

    Plus it’s nap time here on the East Coast, so what else for a semi-SAHM to do?!

  5. Rachel (heart of light) said on April 14, 2011

    Ha! I told D I was planning to do this and he looked at me like I was crazy. I’m still going to do it. Just need to get around to ordering the beans.

  6. Katie said on April 14, 2011

    Way to go! I saw a similar recipe on Simply Recipes (linked below) and made Christmas presents in ’08. Bought the beans bulk on Beanilla, a handle of TJ’s vodka, found inexpensive, pretty jars (they looked like maple syrup jars), split the beans lengthwise then put a few in each jar with the vodka, and voila! I still top mine off when it gets a little low and it’s going strong after 2+ years.

    Christina- all vanilla extract is booze, actually. I never knew until I made it myself, but if you smell the storebought stuff, you can tell.

  7. Kristina said on April 14, 2011

    I know, right? The things they convince you to buy ready-made.

    @rachel – tell him it’s the OPPOSITE of crazy. It is super super sane.

    @christina – yeah, extract = booze I’m afraid.

    @katie – thanks for the link! I’m kind of winging it.

  8. bridget said on April 14, 2011

    fabulous idea. i love it.

    and i loved your post yesterday too. i for one have a semi-messy life that i probably just show nicely on my blog, but, chances are, if you’re seeing it on my blog, it’s because it was worthy of being photographed/talked about… not because it’s an everyday occurence!!

  9. Sara said on April 14, 2011

    I’ve been planning to do this for a while now but for some reason I keep forgetting. Thanks for the reminder, I’m off to order some vanilla beans.

  10. alyson said on April 14, 2011

    oh my. so I’m guessing one would use bourbon for those bourbon vanilla extracts? totally doing this.

  11. johanna said on April 15, 2011

    Awesome! I’ve been meaning to make this myself. I live in Kentucky, and I love KY bourbon barrel vanilla extract. I wonder if adding a bit of bourbon would do the trick?

  12. Kristina said on April 15, 2011

    If someone makes vanilla bourbon extract, you HAVE to share!!! That sounds amazing.

  13. Marty J. Christopher said on April 15, 2011

    A blog I read made homemade vanilla extract for their wedding favors. Then bottled them and made them all cute and fancy.

  14. bigBANG studio said on April 16, 2011

    OMG, vanilla beans + Maker’s Mark. Cannot WAIT to try this. I had no idea is was so simple!

    On another note, I have a recipe (which I received as a wedding present- so, so amusingly wonderful and weird) for BACON BOURBON. It involves a long process of fying bacon, smoking bourbon, and making your kitchen smell like heaven for days.

    big hugs.

  15. Sherisa (Lélephant Rose) said on April 22, 2011

    This is absolutely amazing!! Cannot wait to try and share my results! :)

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