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Homemade Vanilla Extract

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Homemade vanilla extract only needs 3 things: vanilla beans, alcohol and patience. Try this recipe, with instructions for single and double-fold, to give out as gifts or use in everyday baking. 

homemade vanilla extract in a bottle

Today’s recipe is one I think everyone should give a shot at some point. Homemade vanilla extract makes an excellent (and useful) holiday gift and while it seems like it would be labor intensive, it’s actually pretty hands off! The worst part is the amount of lead time you’ll need.

If you plan to give these away for Christmas, you must start this process by the end of October. Even more time is preferable, but most of us aren’t thinking about the holidays in July. And that’s okay! Vanilla is still pretty forgiving. You can make this just two weeks out, if needed, and denote the optimal time of use on the tag (ie, “use after 2/5/2020” if making on/around 12/11/2019). 

Vanilla, like wine, gets better with age. It needs a minimum of 6-8 weeks to actually be vanilla extract, but the best vanilla I ever used was aged over 12 months. If you’re cutting it close for time, consider making a double batch: one to give away this season and one to age and give away next year. And it’s not just for the holidays. It’s great to keep on hand throughout the year, not only to use in your own baking, but as small tokens of appreciation, get well gifts, or other ways to make a loved one feel special.

two photos showing homemade vanilla extract on day 1 and 6 months  

PS – You can also try making vanilla in the Instant Pot, which is ready to use in 1 day. I personally am a little hesitant about using that much alcohol under pressure, so take this for what you will, but it seems viable in a true pinch.

What type of vanilla bean should I buy?

Vanilla beans come in two grades: A & B. This is based on moisture and appearance, and you’ll sometimes hear grade A beans referred to as “gourmet” or “prime.” Grade B vanilla beans are often labeled as “extraction” grade. Grade A beans hold more moisture, which makes them better for recipes that call for an actual vanilla bean vs extract. Grade B holds much less moisture, which makes them ideal for extraction as they produce a much more concentrated vanilla flavor. Use Grade B for this recipe.

Madagascar vs. Tahitian Vanilla Beans

Most of the world’s vanilla is sourced from these two places, with Madagascar accounting for about 75%. Tahitian vanilla beans are much rarer, and have a delicate flavor profile that’s floral and fruity with notes of cherry and red wine. You are probably most familiar with vanilla extracts made with Madagascar beans, which have flavors like cream and butter. I prefer Madagascar vanilla.

Should I use rum or vodka?

The simple answer is it really doesn’t matter. You can use anything over 70 proof. My favorite store bought extracts use rum, and when I drink I usually prefer it. I tried both plain ol’ Bacardi white rum and Smirnoff No. 21 vodka (there’s absolutely no reason to break out the Grey Goose for this). I didn’t find a huge difference in flavor profiles – the beans, not alcohol, affect this the most – and while I thoroughly enjoyed both extracts I still declare rum the winner. 

Taste is subjective, so just use whichever you prefer!

And I’m testing this recipe over the next year with bourbon and spiced rum. Check back for updates!

homemade vanilla extract in gift bottles

How long does homemade vanilla extract last?

So long as you always keep the alcohol level above the vanilla beans, this will last for quite a long time. As mentioned above, I love extract that has been aged 12+ months. Our girl Ina [Garten] suggests that if you add more alcohol and beans over time, you can use it forever.

Single-Fold vs Double-Fold Vanilla Extract

I wont bore you with numbers and comparisons. Simply put, single fold vanilla is like commercial quality. It’s nice, and it gets the job done, but it lacks a certain depth and complexity, especially in recipes that need a strong vanilla flavor. It’s partially why the goodies from a professional bakery taste so much better, as many professionals like to use double-fold vanilla. Making it just requires a higher ratio of vanilla beans to alcohol, and I have the measurements and steps for it below.

Homemade Vanilla Extract in gift bottles

If giving these away as gifts, you can make a big batch in a big jar and divvy it up into little 2oz bottles when it’s time to gift. Save those lovely beans for another batch of extract or to add to something like vanilla ice cream. I like to pop a few in the gift bottle for that extra touch of “homemade.”

The 5 oz bottles pictured can be found here, and the free printable gift tags are from Saffron Avenue.

Until Next Time. X

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Homemade Vanilla Extract in gift bottles

Homemade Vanilla Extract

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Homemade vanilla extract only needs 3 things: vanilla beans, alcohol and patience. Try this recipe, with instructions for single and double-fold, to give out as gifts or use in everyday baking.

  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x



Single Fold:

Double Fold


  1. Split each vanilla bean in half lengthwise, exposing the flesh.
  2. Slice each in half, or trim to fit your bottle or jar.
  3. Add alcohol, making sure each bean is fully submerged. Trim to fit as needed.
  4. Seal the bottle or jar and give a good shake once or twice a week.
  5. Store in a cool, dark place for a minimum of 6-8 weeks. 6-12+ months is preferred.



* Vodka, rum, brandy or bourbon may be used. I prefer rum.

If using the gift bottles pictured, this recipe will fill 3 bottles – place 5 prepared beans in each and fill with alcohol of choice to the top.

  • Author: Sarah | AwayFromTheBox
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Condiments, Sauces and Seasonings
  • Method: No Bake
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

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