How to Make Vanilla Extract

Make Your Own Natural Vanilla Extract

I adore the scent of natural vanilla. It can be used in so many recipes and is perfect in my superfood coffee. I even use it as a base for my homemade perfume (recipe coming soon).

Unfortunately, as Food Renegade revealed, store bought “pure” vanilla extract can often contain corn syrup or sugar. There is also a big difference between pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla which usually contains:

Water, Alcohol (26%), Natural Flavorings (Including Extractives Of Cocoa And Extractives Of Tea), Vanillin And Other Artificial Flavorings, Corn Syrup, And Caramel Color.

Homemade Natural Vanilla Extract

I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for years because it is not only less expensive, but the flavor is unbeatable. It is also one of the most simple recipes to make.

Vanilla extract could also be called vanilla tincture, as it is essentially a tincture of food grade liquor and whole vanilla beans.

With just a natural, non-GMO alcohol, some vanilla beans and time, you can create your own vanilla extract.

There are several types of vanilla beans. Any will work, but here’s the difference:

  • Madagascar Vanilla Beans: Traditional, rich flavor and aroma.
  • Tahitian Vanilla Beans: More floral and fruity flavor and aroma.
  • African or Ugandan Vanilla Beans: More smokey, bold flavor.

I personally prefer Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans, which have a rich and floral flavor and aroma.

You’ll also need a high-quality liquor that is at least 35% alcohol to make the extract. I prefer to use spiced rum, after finding out from Mommypotamus in this post that there is a non-GMO and corn-syrup free spiced rum and Papagayo rum is another great option.  From what I’ve read, Four Roses and Wild Turkey bourbons are also non-GMO, but those are the only two I’ve been able to verify. You can also just look for an organic rum, vodka or bourbon.

Now that we all know about the differences in organic alcohol and vanilla bean types, here’s the super-easy recipe:

5.0 from 11 reviews
How to Make Vanilla Extract
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Homemade natural vanilla extract with only two ingredients is amazing and fragrant for baking, cooking or coffee.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces of organic or non-GMO Spiced Rum, Brandy, Bourbon or Vodka
  • 7-8 Vanilla Beans (I got mine here)
  • A glass jar (taller is better)
  • Time
Instructions
  1. Slice vanilla beans in half lengthwise to reveal inside of beans. Cut if needed to make them fit into your jar.
  2. Place in glass jar.
  3. Pour alcohol over the beans.
  4. Cap tightly and shake gently.
  5. Store in a cool, dark place for at least a month, shaking occasionally. I prefer to leave 2-3 months for best flavor. I also just use straight from the jar and replenish the alcohol as I go.
Notes
Note: If you need a sweeter vanilla extract for a recipe, just add a little raw honey or maple syrup for a corn-syrup and refined sugar free option.

Ever made an extract or tincture at home? What did you make?

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Reader Comments

  1. I have been making vanilla extract for the last year, and it is awesome! I also buy my vanilla beans from Mountain Rose Herbs. I love to use their vanilla beans for sugar scrubs etc. too for my business (organic beauty) and you just can’t beat that smell. <3

    • What can you use instead of alcohol? I am on medication in which I cannot have any alcohol.

      • Glycerin. Buy food grade glycerin and use 7-8 vanilla pods for 500 ml. However it will take longer than alcohol based recipes.

        • Thank you Giorgia, I’ll give it a try!

  2. Hi. Can this vanilla extract be used in body butters instead of essential oils for a nice smell?

    • Im also to interesting in knowing if this can be a replacer for the essential oils. It would be a lot cheaper scene my vanilla extract tens to set around longer?

    • For cosmetic use make vanilla infused oil. Soak vanilla beans in jojoba or almond oil.

  3. Where did you get the glass container for the vanilla? Do you need an amber-colored container for storage, or does it not matter?

    • Hi, this is the second time I’m going to make vanilla extract for Christmas gifts. I found all different types of bottles on Amazon. I chose some vintage looking ones that had a cap just like Wellness Mama’s. I had labels made from tinyprints, but instead of regular labels, I had the labels made up on some of their larger return address labels. (You don’t have to just use them for addresses!) With the larger return address labels, I had a better selection of size, design, and could put more info on the label.
      Have fun!

  4. I am assuming the different alcohols provide different flavors to the finished product, or does the alcohol flavor dissipate? Also, Mountain Rose sells one ounce, however I cannot find anything that says how many beans are in one ounce? I know they do not weigh much, even tho I have been making many of my own things this one is new to me and I’m feeling pretty newbie here. Thanks for any and all help!

    • 4 ounces should be plenty. The alcohol does leave a flavor slightly, though Vodka doesn’t leave much. Spiced rum leaves the best flavor in my opinion 🙂

      • Katy, thank you for this website! I refer to it almost daily.

        Are you saying here that it takes 4 ounces of vanilla beans to equal 7 or 8 pods? At $10 an ounce through Mountain Rose Herbs, that’s a $40 bottle of vanilla! I hope I’m wrong. : )

        • 4 ounces is about 25-30 beans, I just order that amount so I have enough on hand to make multiple batches.

          • How long do your vanilla beans last? How do you care for them until you need them again? Refrigeration required?

          • Elyse, you should triple-wrap the vanilla beans (i just used grocery bags), then store in a dark cupboard, no fridge required. I have some (I bought a whole pound+!) that are about 5 years old, and stored this way they are still great!

      • Hi there!

        What type of spice rum do you recommend?

        • I’ve used several non-GMO brands, and most often use Appleton estates

    • I was wondering the same thing. (how many pods per ounce)

        • great-thank you!

        • Per ounce?? That would be 24 beans for four ounces?!! Is that a mistake by chance?

  5. where did you get those bottles you pictured?

  6. Do the different alcohols make the flavors different? Also, you said that you use the extract out of the jar and replenish the alcohol. Do the vanilla beans loose their potency after awhile?

  7. I definitely want to make this, as I have been buying a pre made vanilla paste to use in my homemade almond milk coffee creamer. I also just love the bottle, can you tell me where to find it?

  8. I have a bottle of regular vanilla (made with just vodka and vanilla beans), and a second one made with spiced rum–that one’s got a few cinnamon sticks in it, too. So easy, and so delicious!

  9. Lifting the veil on problematic consumer items that we all take for granted is awesome in itself. But having the information provided to make them for ourselves is truly awesome. Perhaps it is melodramatic but if there is a way to say save the world I believe these are some of the steps that might get us there. Thank you for what you are doing

  10. I use a lot less vanilla beans…one, sliced in half for every 6-8 oz of vodka and have great extract after about 2 months:)

  11. Do you have any suggestions/versions for AIP friendly non alcohol vanilla?

  12. I am so looking forward for your homemade perfume recipe!

  13. Don’t forget to reuse the vanilla beans after the first batch! I usually use mine about 3 times before I throw them out/compost them. It helps keep the cost down and makes it easier to keep making vanilla extract. There really is no reason to buy it from the store…except for convenience, but certainly not for taste or health.

  14. I made vanilla six months ago and it still smells like alcohol and it is only lightly brown. I used the organic madagascar vanilla beans and vodka. What could be wrong?

    • I’m having the same issue. All I smell is alcohol when I open the jar. I’m going to add more vanilla beans and see what happens….

      • I am going to add more beans also………….more time has passed and it still smells of alcohol 🙁

        • If you put it in your coffee can you get Buzzed from the alcohol ? Or even drunk? I understand the alcohol will bake out if you cook with it but if you drink it does it still have the effects of Vodka?

        • If you open the jar and put it in the sun some of that alcohol smell will evaporate without
          loosing the vanilla taste that was so patiently waited for. Think of the how sun tea works and
          try the same thing. Good Luck

  15. I will definitely have to try this recipe! I get my vanilla beans from saffron.com. They have wonderful saffron as well as wonderful vanilla beans. They have excellent products and matched customer service. Give them a try, I prefer them over all of the other places that I’ve bought beans from. They also have a wealth of info on both saffron and vanilla.

  16. shoot! How does everyone deal with the exuberant shipping prices for all these companies like TT and MRH? I’d love to order the stuff to make all these natural recipes but ouch!

    • Karen, if you have a group of friends to form a bit of a co-op, and you can find several things to order at Mt. Rose Herbs, you will save on shipping and sometimes even the prices of items as after a certain number of lbs, the price goes down. My little group usually orders about once/3-6 months and that’s how we save on shipping. Just an idea.

      • How would I go about finding a co-op?

        • Hi Karen,
          If I understand correctly, Jan was recommending that you find your own co-op by finding other people who would like to order together. Sounds like a good idea. I might try putting up something on Craig’s List to find people in this area. Good luck!

    • There are other places you can check out. Beanilla.com is one. Right now I believe they are having a sale 25 beans for $25 (Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans) and FREE Shipping. Amazon and Ebay also sell beans and I have read comments on other sites of folks recommending them as well as saffron.com and marxfoods.com. Good luck to you! I’m in the research stages, myself and thought I’d share. 😀

      • Awesome-thank you Ellie!!!! I did order some from Amazon. They do not smell like traditional “vanilla” at all 🙁 I put them in my bourbon but so far haven’t gotten any vanilla smell (been about a month) Will it taste like commercial vanilla extract when finished?

        • It’s been three months and I can’t get a vanilla smell/taste at all 🙁 I even cut some of the beans to get the caviar out. I do have some beans left so I may try it with vodka and see how that goes. What I don’t understand is why vanilla beans smell nothing like traditional vanilla. I don’t like the smell/taste at all.

    • I use Amazon Prime-free shipping for most anything.

  17. We love to make our own vanilla extract in our nest…we know exactly what’s in it then. Happy Nesting.

  18. Katie, how often do you add the alcohol to the vanilla for replenishing? I had heard you could do that, but I use about 1-2 TB per day in my morning Paleo tea (yum!) and I figured if I added the 2 TB it would taste too much like alcohol the next day. No? So, now I have my bottle almost gone (thankfully have another started, but not ready so I needed to buy some again. – bummer). But for next time, just curious on this replenishing idea….Can you give specifics from experience?

    • That might be a bit fast to replenish, I typically just refill as I go, but I’m usually only taking out a tsp or so.

  19. Love your ideas,fab! Very inspiring and invigorating. I am planning on making a vanilla extract but I have pure alcohol,would that do?

  20. i have been making tintures for years. vodka is what i have normally used. however i have found with tinture of clove for problems with the mouth, everclear is a better solution. it is a bit harsher. but does the job for the bacteria in your mouth much better. thankyou so much for the information. will definately try the spiced rum for the vanilla!!!

  21. Wanting to try this 🙂 If I order the 4oz beans…use 1 oz for vanilla extract…and add vodka as I go…how do I store the remaining, unused 3oz vanilla beans until I use them? How long are they good for?

    • They can be stored in an airtight container in the pantry but I keep in the freezer

  22. I have java organic vanilla pod (22-25 cm/pod) from indonesian.
    How much pod I have use for 1 recipe?
    Thank you.

  23. How long is the vanilla extract good for once it’s ready?

  24. Does anyone have a recommendation for a potato vodka that’s non gmo that they use to make their vanilla?

  25. In Minnesota (and maybe other places) we have Prairie Organic Vodka, and a large bottle is not too expensive!

  26. Just came across this article and I’m inspired and excited about making my first batch of extract. Even thinking who should I gift these gems to.

    One question, I like the swingtop bottle that you have in your picture. Where can I find these?

    Thank you much.

    Sam

    • would love to know this also! Ty!

      • Sam and Karen – she notes in one of the first comments that (she) found it at a thrift store…bummer I know as I was loving it as well! 🙂

  27. How long will the beans last as you keep replenishing? I’m sure they eventually run out of flavor and you have to replace them, correct?

  28. I’m curious how long I can reuse beans too.

  29. Hi there! Just wondering when your done making the tincture is the alcohol still in there or does it become ” non alcoholic “so to speak. I’m nursing and don’t want to take in any alcohol..

    • Just like real vanilla you purchase at the store, it will contain trace amounts of alcohol. Check with your OB or midwife, but even alcoholics can typically consume vanilla without issue.

  30. Ok thanks for getting back so aoon on that! I know you use this sometimes in your coconut cream… And your kids eat that.. So is it ok for kids to consume that small amount I’m guessing..?

  31. Hi Wellness Mama, how many teaspoons/tablespoons are in this particular recipe (finished product)? Also, if I double the recipe, would it mean I would let it sit for double the number of months too? I made it and it tasted wonderful! Thank you so much. Too bad vanilla beans are so expensive in my country.

  32. We make our own vanilla as well but in lager batches; multiple gallons at a time. 64 beans per gallon is what we use and age it for six months. Four roses is a great bourbon to use for the non-gmo and excellent taste. We make most of our’s out of Weiser’s Canadian whiskey. Great ideas, thanks for sharing!

  33. I am new to this but interested in new ideas. Especially if they are concerned with health and conservation. Thank you for providing information about some very relevant issues.

  34. Thanks for posting. I used an entire jar of Potato vodka (allergic to others) and 2 beans in each jar (the glass ones for Soja juice). I kept it in a dark place and it just smelled like alcohol so I thought maybe I wasn’t turning it enough, so I turned it more frequently. I started in April…Still at christmas it wasn’t doing much. So I put it away and turned it every week. A year later it started to smell like vanilla but the taste was awful. Very flat. I couldn’t even open the lid as I assume it was fermenting. I finally got the neighbor to open them for me…it still didn’t taste right. I just pasted year 2 and decided to put some sugar in it to see if that helped. It’s starting to taste like Vanilla. It still has a slight off taste to it. I am giving it more time (apparently it needs it) to vanilla up. I must have needed 6 vanilla beans instead of two…I didn’t have much help when I started. So Should I not have put the sugar in? How long is this going to take?

  35. Hello, Is Appleton Jamaica Rum Special a spiced rum? If not, please give me a name of what is. Thank you very much!!
    Lisa

  36. I’m having a really hard time finding a spiced rum by Appleton estates, nobody seems to know which is a spiced rum. Is there another brand of spiced rum that you use? Thank you!!

    • Lisa, that’s the one I use too. When I first started looking for spiced rum, I had the same issue with some people not realizing that Appleton Estates rums are, I believe, all spiced rum. The bottle I have doesn’t say “spiced rum” on it, so I suppose that caused the confusion. My bottle says, “Appleton Estate, Signature Blend, Distilled and Blended in Jamaica.”.

      Wellnessmama, thank you for this recipe. I’m going to try it as soon as I receive my vanilla beans.

      I haven’t commented on here in a while since I first found you and your blog a couple of years ago, but I’m often on the site. I wanted to give you a big Shout Out and a huge hug because you and your blog helped get me back on the track to wellness, Wellnessmama! I am just now seeing the results of eating healthier and cleaner, as well as cleaning with healthier or homemade products and more. I’m finally feeling better and better as time goes by. It’s taken a while, but I was using and consuming toxins (gmos, etc.) for years mostly unbeknownst to me because I was uneducated about so much. Thank you SO MUCH for turning that all around. Now I make sure to learn everything I can before I ingest or use or put anything on my body. YOU ROCK!!! Blessings always!!!

  37. Appleton Estates has about 4 different versions of rum – which one did you use? Thanks 🙂

  38. I know this is a bit late in chiming in, but if you have a Costco close by…they sell vanilla beans in long glass sealed tubes at Christmas time. They usually had them near the end cap area in the baking aisle. I can’t remember the price, but I DO remember that it is much, much more inexpensive than anywhere I had ever seen. The first year I made extract, I only bought a few tubes, thinking I could get them anytime. (Can’t remember how many beans in a tube, maybe 5 very long ones.) When I went back to get some more, I was told it was a seasonal item. You can bet the following year I splurged and bought extra! Now I keep extra to add to my vanilla extract jar as I use up my vanilla. I’ve bottled it and given it as gifts for 2 years now. I still have my original beans in my jar, I figure they’re still ok because they’re getting preserved in alcohol! I always strain the extract when I use it, so any bean seeds that are floating around get caught in the cheesecloth.