Day 2- Homemade Vanilla Extract

This post is Day 2 of the 12 days of a Foodie’s Christmas series!  For 12 days I’ll be presenting you with recipes for easy gifts for everyone on your list!  For the overview and the rest of the recipes you can visit here.

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Close your eyes.  Go on, I’ll wait.  Now imagine the scent of vanilla and inhale deeply.  ahhhhh.  Nice right?

Now that I’ve gotten you in the mood to bake (am I the only one that smells vanilla and instantly NEEDS to bake?!) let’s talk vanilla extract.  You guys, you don’t even understand how EASY it is to make!  All these years you’ve been buying a tiny bottle for like $8!  Well that my friends ends today!  Have I mentioned (by the title of this series) that these cute little bottles of vanilla extract also make fantastic gifts?  Ok good.

Vanilla beans and spoon with extract on white background.

So I make my vanilla extract in a mason jar, then just transfer to bottles like this or these super cute ones when I’m ready to give away!  If I’m keeping it myself, I just keep it in the mason jar, you can just dip your measuring spoon right in.  Super easy.

Vanilla extract with beans ans small apples

First, let’s talk alcohol.

From my research, the most widely used alcohol is vodka.  And even better, cheap vodka is recommended.  According to multiple sources, the quality of the vodka is not important because the flavor of the vanilla so overpowers the flavor of the vodka.

Other recommendations are bourbon and rum.  From what I have gathered in my research, vodka provides the simplest, cleanest most classic true vanilla flavor.  While bourbon and rum add, well more flavor properties.  I guess it’s the same if you were to compare drinking a vodka drink vs a bourbon drink.  I have personally only made my vanilla extract from vodka, so that’s what I would probably recommend.  But I really want to try bourbon, so I’ll be working on that soon and will update you!

Next, the Vanilla pods.

Have you seen these?  I buy them from, guess where, Trader Joe’s!  But I can’t always find them there, more reliably is online (there’s lots of options online, this is the best option I found, you get 30 pods, which is enough for 4 1/4 cups of vanilla extract!  Which is… a lot!  Plus it has prime shipping, which is awesome!) or Whole Foods.  But in true Whole Foods fashion, they’re ummm, more expensive.  Surprised?  Thought not.

Image from cookinglight.com

Finally, the process.

Got 30 seconds?  Great, because that’s all it’s going to take!

  1. Fill your mason jar with 1 cup of vodka
  2. Split vanilla beans in half length wise
  3. In a glass jar combine 1 cup of vodka and 6 or 7 pods (so 12-14 split pods)
  4. Store in a cool dark place for 3-4 weeks (say the back of your pantry).  Everything I’ve read is there’s no reason to remove the pod, that the vanilla just keeps getting better and better.  And the cool thing about this is you can continue to add more liquor as you use it, allowing it to continue to mature.  Every once in a while adding a fresh pod to keep the flavor intense.
  5. Transfer to small bottles for gifting

Vanilla beans and spoon with extract on white background.

Note: I personally like the little flecks of vanilla in the extract, it reminds me of really good vanilla ice cream.  If for some reason you’re not a fan, just filter through a fine mesh sieve and a coffee filter.  

In my research I found this insanely clever way to make your extract as well, check out how Marc does it at norecipes.com.  It’s pretty cool!

Complete your gift with these custom labels from Etsy!

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