How to Make Vanilla Extract

How to Make Vanilla Extract

It all began with my (as yet unrealized) dream of baking a chocolate chip cake. I want a great vanilla flavor. I learned that you can make your own vanilla extract, and even make extra strong extract for maximum flavor.

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract, freshly made

That led to a lot of Googling to learn how to make my own extract. The best information I have found about how to make vanilla extract is on The Vanilla Review. I like the directions on 504 Main for bottling and labeling it.

I decided to give homemade vanilla extract this holiday season. I am always looking for thoughtful, reasonably priced homemade gifts I can give to family, friends, and co-workers. I usually give cookies and other sweets (which I will blog about come November), but I think people could use less sugar at that time of year. I like that I can make, bottle, and label the vanilla well in advance of the hectic holiday season.

Since I am making a large quantity of extract, I ordered a pound of extract grade vanilla beans. Top grade beans are not only more expensive but have more moisture, so are more likely to mold.

Last night I made a batch. It would be a lifetime supply of vanilla if I were brewing it only for myself. Fortunately, once it is made, extract keeps forever.

To make your own vanilla extract

Sterilize canning jars. You can do it while you chop beans.

Put the jars, lids, and rings in a big pot and cover them with water. Put the pot on to boil. Be sure to put the tongs you will use to remove the jars from the water in to sterilize as well. When the water comes to a full boil, set the timer for 10 minutes.


For each cup of vodka you will need 8 beans. If you are making a big batch, count out the number of beans you will need for a single container and lay that amount next to your cutting board.

Use clean kitchen shears to snip a bean half lengthwise.

Use a dull knife to scrape out the caviar (seeds). I used a little serving knife.

Scraping the vanilla pod

Scraping the vanilla pod

Use the scissors to snip the scraped vanilla pod into small pieces.

When you finish cutting and scraping all the beans you counted out, scrape the pile of cut beans and caviar onto a paper towel. Each paper towel will hold the beans needed for one container.

Repeat the process until you have as many beans cut as you need for all your containers.

Vanilla Beans

Beans sorted into piles, one pile for each jar

By this time, your jars should be sterile. Put some paper towels down. Use the tongs to remove the jars from the water bath and let them dry inverted on the towels.

When the jars are cool, pour one pile of beans in, then pour in the appropriate amount of vodka.

Pour vodka over cut up beans

Pour vodka over cut up beans

Put on the lid, screw on the ring, and shake.

Shaken Vanilla Extract

Shaken vanilla extract

Place the containers in your refrigerator or any cool, dark place.

Jars of vanilla extract brewing in the fridge

Jars of vanilla extract brewing in the fridge

Shake daily or as frequently as you remember.

You can use the extract in 2 months; flavor is best after 6 months. 

After 6 months, use a coffee filter in a strainer to strain extract and discard solids. Discarding the beans reduces the possibility that mold will form on your extract. Fresh beans may be added to increase vanilla strength.

Extract stores indefinitely.

Vanilla Extract
Yields 1
Makes great holiday gifts!
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Prep Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
  1. 1 C vodka (inexpensive is fine)
  2. 8 extract grade vanilla beans
  3. you will also need: 1 pint canning jar
  1. 1. Sterilize the jar by putting it in a pot, covering it, the lid, the rings, and tongs with water, and bringing it to a boil. Boil the jar for ten minutes. Use the sterile tongs to drain excess water and move the jar to a piece of paper towel. Invert to dry.
  2. 2. While jar is sterilizing, cut the bean in half with a pair of kitchen shears or a knife. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod. Cut the scraped bean into small pieces.
  3. 3. Place cut beans and scraped seeds in clean, dry canning jar.
  4. 4. Put on lid and screw on ring.
  5. 5. Shake it up.
  6. 6. Place in refrigerator or other cool, dry place.
  7. 7. Shake daily or as frequently as you can remember.
  8. 8. Extract may be used as soon as 2 months; flavor matures in 6 months.
  9. 9. In 6 months, strain the extract through a coffee filter set in a strainer and put extract into dark brown or green bottles (the dark color blocks light). To intensify the strength of the extract, add additional fresh beans.
  10. 10. Extract can be stored indefinitely.
  1. Although the alcohol retards mold growth, vanilla pods can still harbor mold. Discarding the solids after 6 months reduces the possibility of your extract molding. After 6 months, the beans are spent and there is no advantage to keeping the beans in the extract.
Adapted from The Vanilla Review
L'il Baker Girl