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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

How To Make Vanilla Extract

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Never run out of vanilla extract again! Learn how to make vanilla extract at home with this easy, delicious two-ingredient recipe. It tastes better and is more cost-effective than store-bought vanilla, and it makes great gifts! 

Homemade vanilla extract in glass jars.

Mmm…vanilla. The secret ingredient that makes desserts, baked goods, and oatmeal extra delicious! It is an essential pantry staple that enhances the flavor of anything it’s in with a sweet and slightly spicy aroma. The only thing better than vanilla is a homemade vanilla recipe! 

I usually buy pure vanilla extract from the grocery store, but sometimes I’ll reach into my cabinet to discover I’m all out of vanilla while cooking or baking! Avoid future baking dilemmas by learning to make your own vanilla extract at home.

Making vanilla extract is actually super simple! All you need is three easy ingredients: fresh vanilla beans, plain vodka, and time! It just requires at least 1 month to properly infuse for the best flavor. Start making your own homemade vanilla extract so you always have some on hand in the future!

🙋🏽‍♀️ What Is Vanilla Extract?

Vanilla bean extract is made by soaking the whole vanilla beans in alcohol (typically vodka). The rich flavor of the extract comes from the seeds inside the vanilla bean pods – they contain a component called vanillin, which is where all the flavor comes from! It has an intense, sweet, aromatic flavor and is a common ingredient used in baking.

👩‍🍳 Why You’ll Love This Vanilla Extract Recipe

There are probably thousands of homemade vanilla extract recipes out there! So why is this one the best? Here’s what makes our recipe better and easier than most!

  1. Simple Ingredients: All it takes is two easy ingredients to make vanilla extract: vanilla beans and vodka!
  2. Easy: You literally can’t mess this recipe up. You don’t even need any fancy equipment to make it!
  3. Cost-Effective: Making this homemade vanilla recipe will save you money! I provide tips and tricks to getting that delicious, deep vanilla without needing top shelf alcohol. The cost of the ingredients is affordable and our vanilla recipes yield a large quantity. 
  4. Long-Lasting: Homemade vanilla extract made with vanilla beans and alcohol lasts indefinitely when stored properly! Vanilla extract is like wine – the flavor improves with age.
  5. Amazing Flavor: The real vanilla beans in this recipe make a flavorful gourmet-tasting vanilla extract that rivals store-bought versions. 

🥘 Ingredients

This vanilla extract recipe only takes two ingredients to make! See the recipe card below for exact ingredient amounts, nutritional information, and detailed instructions.

Ingredients for how to make vanilla extract at home.
  • Vanilla Beans: There are several varieties of beans with slightly different flavors: Madagascar beans have a creamy, rich flavor, Tahitian vanilla beans are rich and floral, and Mexican vanilla beans have a darker, smoke-like flavor. Choose whichever flavor you like the best! 
  • Vodka: Plain vodka is the best alcohol to use in this recipe because its neutral flavor lends itself well to the flavor of vanilla. It is not important to use expensive alcohol brands, just be sure to use 80-proof vodka.

🔪 How To Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

This is a super easy, step-by-step process for how to make vanilla extract at home!

Open the Vanilla Pods: Carefully split the vanilla pods in half lengthwise with a sharp paring knife.

Vanilla bean being split apart by a knife.

Combine With Vodka: Begin the extraction process by placing the vanilla beans in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and cover with 16 ounces of vodka, making sure they are completely submerged. Cover the jar and give it a good shake.

Vanilla beans infused with vodka in two glass jars.

Let it Rest: Infuse the vanilla beans in the vodka for at least one month (2 months is great for a stronger flavor) in a cool dark place, shaking it occasionally.

Strain: After the vanilla extract has been infused, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth and pour it into bottles, a glass jar, or a glass container.

Vanilla beans infusing in vodka in a jar.

💭 Expert Tips

  • Let it Sit: Allow the beans to infuse in the vodka for at least one month. For an even stronger flavor, wait 2-3 months. Vanilla extract is like wine – the flavor improves with age. The end result is worth the wait!
  • Shake Frequently: While the vanilla sits, shake the jar every week or as often as you remember to help infuse the flavor. 
  • Store Properly: For the longest shelf life, store vanilla in dark glass bottles at room temperature. If using clear bottles, be sure to store them in a cool, dark place like a cupboard. 
  • Make More in Less Time: You can make a more concentrated vanilla extract to save time and money. Use twice the ratio of vanilla beans with the 16 ounces of alcohol in this recipe to make a double-strength concentration of vanilla extract, also called double-fold vanilla extract. Use half the amount normally used in vanilla recipes.

📖 Variations

  • Different Flavors: Feel free to infuse your vanilla with any other flavor extracts you like! Some of our favorites include: peppermint extract, orange extract, lemon extract, and almond extract.
  • Different Beans: Rather than using just one type of vanilla beans, you can try using different types of whole vanilla beans and even blend multiple varieties together for a more complex flavor.

✔️ Vanilla Extract Substitutes

When you don’t have vanilla extract on hand or have the time to let the vanilla beans infuse, the following are great options to substitute vanilla extract in recipes.

  • Vanilla Bean Paste: This blend of vanilla extract and vanilla powder can be used as a 1:1 vanilla extract substitute. 
  • Vanilla Powder: Made from grinding up vanilla beans into a fine powder, it has a stronger more pronounced flavor than vanilla extract. Use half the recommended amount when using in recipes. 
  • Pure Maple Syrup: Use a 1:1 replacement of maple syrup instead of vanilla extract. Since maple syrup has a sweeter flavor than vanilla extract, you may want to slightly reduce the sugar in your recipe to balance the sweetness. 
  • Honey: Use honey the same way you’d use maple syrup as a 1:1 swap for vanilla extract in recipes. 
  • Rum, Brandy, Bourbon, or Vanilla Liqueur: All make great vanilla extract replacements in baking recipes because they have a slightly sweet aftertaste. Use a 1:1 substitute with vanilla extract. 
  • Almond Extract: Adds a nice depth of flavor to baking recipes and can be replaced 1:1 with vanilla extract. It will also add a subtle nutty flavor. 
  • Vanilla Essence: Made from synthetic vanilla instead of natural vanilla beans. The vanilla taste is not as pronounced as vanilla extract, so use twice the amount that the recipe calls for. 
  • Vanilla Flavored Plant-Based Milk: Unsweetened vanilla almond milk, soy milk, or oat milk all work well to replace vanilla extract. Substitute it in a 1:1 ratio. 
  • Vanilla Sugar: A combination of granulated sugar and vanilla beans that can be substituted for vanilla extract in baking recipes. Use 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar per teaspoon of vanilla extract. 
  • Instant Coffee or Espresso Powder: Add a pinch (not a 1:1 substitute) to bring out the flavor in chocolate-based baked goods recipes. 
  • Other Spices or Citrus Zest: If vanilla isn’t the main ingredient in the recipe, substitute warm, sweet spices to add depth of flavor like cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg. Alternatively, add some lemon, lime, or orange zest!

Related: 10 best substitutes for vanilla extract

🍽 Serving Suggestions

This recipe for homemade vanilla is delicious and can be used in a variety of ways. Add it to your favorite baking and sweet dishes like these vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, homemade ice cream (like this lychee ice cream), vegan vanilla pudding, gluten free brownies, and cakes. You can also mix a few drops of vanilla into oatmeal, coffee, cocktails, or even smoothies! It can even be a nice touch in savory sauces like BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, or grill marinades.

Finally, this vanilla makes a great gift! Package small bottles or mason jars of homemade pure vanilla extract for Christmas gifts this holiday season! Tie some festive baker’s twine around the bottle’s neck and add a homemade label. 

🫙 Storage Directions

Storing: Store vanilla extract in a large glass container or smaller bottles in a cool place away from direct sunlight. If stored correctly, it will keep for a long time! This extract cannot be frozen.

❓Recipe FAQs


Vanilla extract is not necessary in terms of the structure of a baking recipe. However, leaving it out of a recipe will change the flavor. Vanilla extract enhances the flavor in cookies, cakes, and muffins and other recipes.

What is the best alcohol to make vanilla extract with?

Vodka has a neutral flavor that lends itself well to taking on the flavor of vanilla. You can also use different alcohols like rum, brandy, or bourbon.

How long does homemade vanilla extract last?

Aged homemade vanilla extract without the beans will last indefinitely when stored in a cool, dry place! High-quality store-bought vanilla extract typically lasts up to 5 years and vanilla essence or imitation vanilla extract will typically last 2 years at the most.

Does making your own vanilla extract cost less than store-bought?

Yes! The average cost of pure vanilla extract at most grocery stores is about $20 for an 8oz bottle – and can increase depending on how pure you want your vanilla extract to be. Making homemade extract can be a great way to save money on this expensive spice because you can make it in a large batch (thanks to that indefinite shelf life!) so you will always have some on hand!

What type of vanilla beans should I use?

You can use any type of vanilla beans for extract! Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans are commonly considered the gold standard for their smooth, rich flavor, but Tahitian vanilla beans and Mexican vanilla beans work just as well in this recipe! You can also use a blend of different types of vanilla beans to get a more complex vanilla flavor.

What is the difference between grade A and grade B vanilla beans?

Grade A vanilla beans are longer and have a higher moisture content than grade B beans. Because grade B vanilla beans have a lower moisture content, they are most commonly used in vanilla extract recipes.

How to make vanilla extract at home - homemade vanilla extract stored in a glass jar.

🥣 More Delicious Dishes To Use Vanilla Extract!

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📋 Recipe Card

Homemade vanilla extract in glass jars.
Print Recipe
5 from 21 votes

How To Make Vanilla Extract

Making your own vanilla extract at home is super simple and cost-effective. Once you taste homemade vanilla extract, you'll never go back to store-bought!
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time30 days 10 minutes
Course: Baking, Condiment
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Vegetarian
Servings: 16 ounces
Author: Anjali Shah


  • 16 oz plain vodka
  • 8 vanilla beans


  • Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise.
  • Place the vanilla beans in a jar and cover with alcohol, making sure they are completely submerged.
  • Cover the jar and give it a shake.
  • Infuse for at least one month (2 months is great for a stronger flavor) in a cool dark place, shaking it from time to time.
  • Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth when you are ready to pour it into bottles.


Storage Directions
Store vanilla extract in a glass container in a cool place away from direct sunlight. If stored correctly, it will keep indefinitely! 
Recipe Card Notes 
  • Let the vanilla beans infuse for at least one month. For an even stronger flavor, wait a few months. Vanilla extract is like wine – the flavor improves with age.
  • There’s no need to use top-shelf alcohol. Just be sure to use 80% proof.
  • Store vanilla extract in a cool, dark place.

36 responses to “How To Make Vanilla Extract”

  1. This is such a great recipe to have on hand! I always run out of vanilla extract when I am baking during the holidays; you’ve saved me a trip to the store!5 stars

  2. I didn’t realize it is so easy to make vanilla extract at home! Definitely adding this to my must-try list!5 stars

  3. I decided to make this homemade vanilla extract as holiday gifts this year and everyone said they loved it! Now I have to make more!5 stars

    • Hi Mary! Yes you can! You can reuse them for one other batch. You might want to add in a fresh vanilla bean along with the used vanilla beans into the new batch though, just to pump up the flavor a bit!

  4. This is so great! I had no idea that there were so many substitutes. I will also be making my own now that you’ve shown me the way 🙂5 stars

  5. Hey Anjali,
    I was on here looking for this recipe and thought I’d leave a little note. I’ve been using the vanilla that you gave me from your sister in all my baking recipes and it makes a HUGE difference! I put it in my (from scratch) pancake batter and it adds so much flavor. I usually use that imitation vanilla because I always thought vanilla is vanilla but not anymore. This one is so flavorful. I just ordered my bottles today and I can’t wait to get started on my vanilla.
    Thank you!!5 stars

    • Hey Michelle!! It’s so good to hear from you! Wooohooo – I’m so happy this has made all of your baked goods more tasty! That is great to hear, I’m sure my brother’s girlfriend will love to hear this too 🙂 Hope you are doing well!

  6. This is such an amazing idea that I’ve never thought of before! Will definitely be giving this a go soon!5 stars

  7. Wow! I can’t believe how simple it looks to make your own vanilla extract. Thank you for sharing 🙂5 stars

  8. This is such a great idea! What sort of recipes have you been incorporating this into?5 stars

    • Hi Tess! I’ve been using this in all of my oatmeal recipes and in a lot of baked goods like healthy muffins and cookies!

  9. Ok, this is just awesome! Never thought to make my own. Everything homemade is always so much better. I put vanilla in my oatmeal too…sometimes in my smoothies too 😉 Totally have to try this soon! Thanks, Anjali 🙂5 stars

    • Thanks Kelly!! I’m so glad you found this helpful! And yeah it’s just so easy to make — as long as you have a little bit of time to wait it out it is totally worth it! Enjoy!

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