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DIY Vanilla Extract: A Genius Way to Save Money

DIY Vanilla Extract: A Genius Way to Save Money

Avid bakers know all to well how vanilla extract is ridiculously expensive. That little 2 ounce bottle, which can easily run upwards of $6, isn’t even the best quality product. So what’s a baker to do? Suck it up? Hardly! With just two ingredients and a little time, you can make your own vanilla extract of a quality you just can’t find in most stores. You’ll save plenty of cash in the long run, too. Read on for tips and procedures on how to make your own vanilla extract.

Choosing the Ingredients.

Vanilla Beans.

Without a doubt, your best bet is ordering whole vanilla bean pods in bulk online. A bean pod may run $6-$10 a pop at the grocery store; online, you can find over 20 vanilla bean pods in that same price range. Madagascar vanilla is the gold standard, and look for Grade B/extract beans, which will give more flavor to the extract than the more expensive grade A beans will. If buying online is not an option for you, you can also check out the prices at your local ethnic grocery store or warehouse club.


Quality might be key for vanilla but the opposite is true for alcohol. Spending money on premium liquor is not only a waste of money, it often results in an inferior, less vanilla-flavored, extract. You want an alcohol that has as little — or no–  flavor as you can legally purchase. Everclear, a flavorless grain alcohol, is your best bet, but it is illegal to purchase in 14 states. You’ll also want to dilute grain alcohol in water; you want the flavorlessness of the grain alcohol, not the high alcohol content. If grain alcohol isn’t an option, look for low-to-medium grade 75-80 proof (37.5-40% alcohol) vodka. Unlike grain alcohols, you won’t need to dilute these alcohols in water. However, because there is a little added flavor in the vodka, you might try running it through a Brita filter 4 times before using it.

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe.

Ingredients & Equipment
8 Whole Vanilla beans (about 1 ounce)
1/3 cup everclear diluted with 2/3 cup water OR 1 cup vodka
Dark glass lidded bottle, sterilized; a clear bottle may expose the extract to light damage.

1.  Cut beans lengthwise with a paring knife, leaving one inch of one end intact. Scrape each bean with a butter knife, setting the gunk on the inside aside for now. Roughly chop the vanilla bean skins. Place the chopped skins and the gunk from the inside of the vanilla beans in the dark glass bottle. Fill the bottle with the diluted everclear or vodka, and place the cap or lid on the bottle. Vigorously shake the bottle, and store in a cool, dark place.

While You’re Waiting:
Week 1: Shake the bottle daily.
Weeks 2-4: Shake the bottle 3-4 times per week.
Week 5+: Shake occasionally. At this point, the extract will be usable but very mild. For best results, wait six months before use. At this point, you might want to run the extract through a coffee filter and re-bottle it in a new, steriziled glass bottle.

Recipe Adapted From: Vanilla Review.

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Katie Waldeck

Katie is a freelance writer focused on pets, food and women’s issues. A Chicago native and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Katie now lives in Oakland, California.


+ add your own
9:50AM PDT on Jun 28, 2014

Something new for me to make. If it is 151 proof it would be like drinking Wild Turkey when it was 151 also. My friend chugged from the bottle and it kicked his ass into the next week. He wanted to know why I didn't have any problems. I told him I mixed it with Pepsi and offered to fix it for him but he never wanted to drink that stuff again. We were so young then.

1:14AM PST on Feb 16, 2014

Thank you for the article and the recipe!

8:08AM PST on Feb 8, 2014


8:15PM PST on Feb 3, 2014

One of the most incredible smells is vanilla--yummy! Thanks

6:23PM PST on Feb 3, 2014

Good information. Thank you!

8:31PM PST on Jan 25, 2014

Awesome I am keeping this page.

2:10PM PST on Jan 23, 2014

I love vanilla and use it a lot in my bakery, smoothies, coffee... I prefer to buy and use powdered vanilla (To my surprise I did not find any when I was in the USA, though, not even at a special store for spices.). It is very easy to use, and sometimes I would not want to use any alcohol. Because the powder is very intense, I also prepare a mix of sugar and vanilla powder and use that to sweeten my morning coffee.

12:50PM PST on Jan 23, 2014


8:42AM PST on Jan 19, 2014

Seasonal vanilla bean at Costco . great prices

11:13PM PST on Jan 18, 2014

I prefer to DIY so I will be trying this. Thanks for sharing.

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