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Making Real Vanilla Extract

Submitted by: ancestralchef on December 14, 2012
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Making Real Vanilla Extract


I know this might look like a muddy bottle of cheap vodka to you, but it is in actual fact a delicious and highly prized (by me) bottle of my own vanilla extract. Fresh Madagascar vanilla beans with vodka (yes, it’s cheap vodka!). No sugar. …





I know this might look like a muddy bottle of cheap vodka to you, but it is in actual fact a delicious and highly prized (by me) bottle of my own vanilla extract. Fresh Madagascar vanilla beans with vodka (yes, it’s cheap vodka!). No sugar. No coloring.

It smells delicious, and I’ve made enough to last me quite a long long time. It’s also amazing how much cheaper it is to make your own. I initially balked at having to pay $28 for my vanilla beans (around 50 beans), but they were well worth it. And my vodka was only around $10. So for approximately $30 (because I only use around 30 beans), I can make 1 liter (or 33 ounces) of completely pure vanilla extract. The brand of pure vanilla extract I used to buy (Simply Organic) is $16 for 8 ounces on Amazon. So basically, it’s double the price to buy rather than make your own vanilla extract!

The method is simple, and this is how it works:

Of course, you start with a bottle of vodka. If you want to make a smaller amount, you can clean out a small glass bottle with an airtight cap and fill two-thirds of it with vodka. You can also use rum or other spirits, but vodka is supposed to be the most “unflavored” of alcohols, which is why I went with it. There’s also a debate as to whether one brand of vodka can actually taste “better” than another since they are supposed to be tasteless, so I went with the cheap brand.


Next, get some really good fresh vanilla beans. I went with these Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans.


Slice each bean in half lengthwise with a sharp knife (so much easier with a sharp knife!) so that the “caviar” is exposed. See those black bits inside the beans – that’s the non-fishy version of “caviar.” At this point, your entire kitchen will be smelling like it’s edible!


Then chop up the beans into 2 inch long pieces. The whole point in chopping them up is to increase the surface area that’s exposed to the vodka. This makes the extract so much stronger in vanilla taste and better.


Simply place all of the pieces of vanilla into your bottle of vodka (or your alcohol of choice).


Sit it in a dark cupboard for 2 months (or up to 3 months) – shake up the bottle every few weeks (and taste test it). Then start enjoying! I tried mixing it with some coconut kefir the other day with quite delicious results – see photo below showing it before I swirled the mixture.


Note from Suzanne — Want a handy printable? I have one here:
Homemade Vanilla Extract

ancestralchef blogs at Ancestral Chef.

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18 comments | RSS feed for comments of this post

  1. 12-14

    Another great source for vanilla beans is …if you google, they usually have a 20% off coupon code, plus they always have free shipping on vanilla beans.

  2. 12-14

    I purchased an $8 bottle of vodka on sale in this size and I’m waiting on the vanilla beans I purchased on Ebay 25 for $9.12 (that includes shipping). Can’t wait to start on this. This is the first recipe I’ve seen that you actually chop the beans themselves. So, it’s not advisable to scrape the seeds out of the bean into the bottle for more flavor?

  3. 12-14

    If I taste test it every few weeks, there might not be any left after 2-3 months…should I make an extra bottle for cooking.. 🙂

  4. 12-14

    I was recently gifted a large bundle of very fat, fresh Madagascar beans by a friend who lives near there. We both happened to be arriving in Nairobi at the same time, so she brought them for me. What a treat! I use a lot of extract and have a huge bottle steeping now. Vanilla syrup is another great thing to make and keep on hand. Delicious in iced coffee!

  5. 12-14

    Do you think this would work with cinnamon sticks too?

  6. 12-14

    Thanks for letting me guest blog and share my vanilla extract recipe!
    prvrbs31gal – I’ll have to look into that place next time I need vanilla beans.

    Justquilting – you can scrape the seeds out, but it’s a lot more work actually, and you’ll need to do better filtering at the end to make sure the seeds are filtered out. I found it to be quite flavorful just by splitting the beans in half and chopping them up.

    SuzieQ – that’s why I made a whole liter of it! 🙂

    Kenya Cook – vanilla syrup is a fantastic idea!

  7. 12-15

    I make my own vanilla too and now have a few people doing it after hearing how easy it is to do.

    I never chopped my beans though….sounds like a good idea.

  8. 12-15

    Just got an e-mail… 20% off at through 12/20 with code HOLSAL.

  9. 12-15

    Your vanilla looks delicious! I’ve got some bourbon vanilla steeping in the cupboard, same recipe–just used bourbon instead of vodka. One question I have, after the 2-3 months of steeping do you need to remove the vanilla beans? I made a pretty big bottle, it will probably take me a year to go through it and am just curious how long those beans can hang out in there.

  10. 12-19

    Mrs.TeaPie – cinnamon extract sounds like a great idea. My only concern is whether cinnamon sticks would dissolve rather quickly so that it would be difficult to remove just the extract (without any bits of cinnamon in it), but it might work with some filter paper.

    Cheryl – it’s best to pour the extract through a strainer into a new bottle (or several smaller bottles) to store, because the vanilla beans do start falling apart after several months. I’ve seen people fill up cute small bottles to give as Christmas presents for friends.

  11. 12-19

    I’ve read lots of online recipes and blogs on making your own vanilla and your the first person to mention that the beans dissolve after time. (I haven’t gotten around to making my own and experience it myself).
    I was thinking about this earlier today over my morning coffee and was hoping for a cinnamon/ginger extract to put in my holiday coffee as soon as I acquire a bottle of vodka. Maybe putting the flavors in a tea bag and then pour the vodka into a quart canning jars and check on it regularly. You would be able to then fish out the teabag spices.

  12. 12-23

    Mrs.TeaPie – the vanilla beans don’t dissolve, but just start falling apart so that your vanilla extract might have some particles in it rather than be completely clear, but this only happens after many months. I think the tea bag idea is perfect, although you might need a few tea bags to put the vanilla beans into.

  13. 12-24

    RE: cinnamon extract. I suspect the papery sticks of (true) cinnamon will dissolve or break apart after soaking awhile but that the much, much sturdier cassia sticks (often sold as cinnamon) would withstand the soaking. Difference between cinnamon and cassia is explored here:—part-1/

  14. 10-15

    I’m sorry did I miss how many beans are used in this recipe? I was thinking of giving this a try using EverClear. so does it made the size of bottle to how many beans or still the same.
    thanks…yep I’m a newbie on here 🙂

  15. 10-15

    sorry on my last post I just realized I should have said Blue Goose instead of EverClear

  16. 10-15

    Kimmi – it’s around 30 vanilla beans to 1 liter of alcohol. Hope that helps!

  17. 10-20

    Thank you so much a few friends have decided to give this a try…already been snooping on amazon for the beans.

  18. 10-29

    I get my beans from a place called Arizona Vanilla, they are reliable and I have used them for 15 years. Beautiful beans from Madagasgar or Tahiti and other areas and their prices are very good.I don’t slice my beans just a slit in the middle so vodka gets up in the bean. Homemade vanilla extract is wonderful!

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