Table of Contents
  1. What is vanilla extract?
  2. What alcohol is used to make vanilla extract?
  3. Watch how to make this homemade vanilla extract:
  4. How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

I have a love-hate relationship with vanilla extract. The smell is amazing and I always end up adding more to every recipe. The little bottles drain much quicker than they should and I’m left with the realization that I buy a lot of vanilla extract. Imitation vanilla works and has some flavor, but I have issues with the “synthetic” flavors and would rather be able to control the strength of my vanilla. This extract is super easy to make as you can control all the ingredients as well as the strength.

What is vanilla extract?

True vanilla extract is made by macerating vanilla beans in alcohol and extracting their flavor. The dark color and deep fragrance come from the vanilla beans themselves. After months of sitting in the alcohol, they leech into the liquid and create the extract we use in most baked goods.

Vanilla extract is probably the easiest thing that can be made at home. It just takes some time and patience. Making vanilla extract at home allows you to create the optimal ratio of beans to alcohol, giving the best flavor. Your baked goods will have never been better!

Large narrow bottle filled with clear alcohol sitting on wood board with vanilla beans inside of bottle

What alcohol is used to make vanilla extract?

Traditionally, vodka is used to make vanilla extract. Vodka is neutral-flavored and allows the vanilla bean flavor to shine.

The important part is the alcohol content. The alcohol should be 70 to 120 proof. Anything less and the beans could spoil. Anything more and the beans could dry out from a high amount of alcohol content.

You can use other alcohols in the same proof range, such as rum, if a slightly different flavor is desired.

Close up view of white bottle filled with vanilla beans and clear alcohol sitting on wood board

Once you try this homemade vanilla, you’ll stop spending so much money on “premium” vanillas and only use this!

Watch how to make this homemade vanilla extract:

Large bottle filled with brown liquid sitting on wood board with vanilla beans sitting beside with crock filled with wooden spoons in background

How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

5 from 6 votes
Making vanilla extract at home is a pretty simple process with two ingredients! Combine vanilla beans and a strong alcohol and in about a year, there will be plenty of vanilla extract to go around!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Total Time 365 d
Servings 48 tsp


  • 3 cups vodka
  • 3 oz vanilla beans


  • Place the beans in a tall glass airtight container. Pour the vodka over the beans, making sure they are completely covered.
  • Place in a cool, dark place, agitating once per week to incorporate the vanilla essence into the vodka. For optimal flavor, it's best if the extract sits for one year before use.


  • Use a cleaned and sterilized jar to make the vanilla.


Serving: 1tspCalories: 3kcalCarbohydrates: 0gProtein: 0gFat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0gMonounsaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0mgPotassium: 0mgFiber: 0gSugar: 0gVitamin A: 0IUVitamin C: 0mgCalcium: 0mgIron: 0mg
Course Baking Component
Cuisine American
Difficulty Easy
Method Mixing

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I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper or designer, but I like to play each on The Gray Boxwood Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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  1. Just got some vanilla beans into our gift shop, curious to see if they sell. They come from a fair trade company called Level Ground, 10 beans for $12.50. Crowded Closet

    1. Betsy, How exciting that you are selling Vanilla Beans. They are versatile and must in my kitchen pantry! And that is not a bad price! I may have to come by and try these out!

  2. Kaleb…..I heard about this video and had to come check it out myself…awesome! I want to make my own because I’m too cheap to buy the real stuff and…dare I say it…I purchase imitation. AGH!!! I can hear the horror in your gasp. Haha. One question – I am not an avid purchaser of vodka – what is a “premium” brand you would suggest?

    1. Chris!! Never buy imitation again!!!!! It does make a difference, but I understand. Premium brands can be hard, Grey Goose is one of the top ones I would suggest but it is an “investment” if you are not used to buying better vodkas. Most important is not buying the cheapest option, the flavors are more harsh. If you are more comfortable buy mid priced, somewhere between the higher priced and lower.

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you Kaleb! Today celebrates my 1st Vanilla Extract Making! Love your videos especially the cookies! Cooking the butter amazing! Using Molasses yummy! I shared your seedling with my husband I don’t have a green thumb. Continue, continue I follow you on FB.

  4. Thanks for this awesome tutorial, for clear and well-tested information, and for advocating for homemade extract with a ratio of 1 oz beans to 1 cup alcohol! As an administrator of a Vanilla bean Co-op, we see a lot of less-than-stellar recipes, so I appreciate yours. Homemade vanilla is the best!

  5. Kaleb, I love your videos! Where did you get your vanilla beans? I made my own vanilla last year, but your beans look way better than mine!!! Thanks for all you do to inspire us! Love your kitchen!!! Judy

  6. 5 stars
    Will you provide a source for good vanilla beans (online preferred) – we live in a small town (57601) and I am not finding any locally.

  7. I love your videos and recipes. Where may I purchase vanilla beans in bulk? I would like to make vanilla extract.

  8. 5 stars
    I’m so glad I found this and can’t wait to explore the rest of your website. I live in Ireland where all vanilla extract has sugar in the ingredients. (Actually, everything in Ireland has added sugar. It’s mind-boggling.) I ordered a huge bottle of vanilla extract from the States, and now I’ll have this ready when I use that up. I’m off to shop for fun-looking carafes to make this in for myself and for gifts. Thanks!

  9. Just when you think it couldn’t get more interesting, along comes homemade vanilla extract! Never ever crossed my mind, but you have to admit what a brilliant idea. Only way I’d enjoy vodka! I always buy real vanilla but am amazed at the cost. The entire spice aisle has gone the same way as well. Always best to buy quality!

  10. Have a question. In video you said to use 1 oz. vanilla beans but actual recipe calls for 3 oz. which is better to use. I am excited to make for Christmas gifts.

  11. I am going to make your vanilla extract recipe in a flip top bottle like you had in your video. How would I sanitize a flip top bottle? I never canned or sanitized a glass bottle before. If you could guide me in the right direction that would be great!!

  12. Once the year is up to start using the vanilla, I know you can continue to add vodka as you run out but how often do you add fresh vanilla beans to keep this going year after year ?

  13. Hi. Where do you purchase vanilla beans? They are so expensive. How many individual beans per bottle did you use?
    Sandy love your recipes

  14. 5 stars
    Help!! I need you to print a cookbook of your fabulous recipes (or a combo of recipes and gardening hints!).
    For some reason it’s hard for me to print out your recipes & I don’t want to lose them. I’m a mature woman/Grandma who loves to cook and used to garden. I have had some surgeries making it hard for me to garden like I used to, so I do love watching you getting “your hands dirty!”
    I also don’t cook like I used to but your techniques have inspired me to do more cooking.
    Thank you for your inspiration….cookbook please!!
    Sincerely, Susan Bern