How To: Vanilla Extract
This was our Christmas gift to our family this year, 4 ounce bottles of homemade vanilla extract.  My mom is actually the one to thank for the idea.  She handed me a printed recipe for vanilla she had printed off when I was home about a year ago.  The one she found called for adding sugar and coloring to the batch, to make it look nicer and taste sweet.  I tossed it to the side, telling myself I’d stick with my all natural pure vanilla extract (that costs about $7 a bottle).

When I got home, I tossed that piece of paper into the junk drawer in the kitchen and thought I’d never look back.  But it caught my interest in October when I went in there looking for a pen (after looking all over  the house for a pen..finally resorted to the junk drawer).  I read through the ingredients again and realized I could make vanilla at home for WAY cheaper than $7 a bottle and leave out the sugar (who eats vanilla extract on its own, anyway?  It doesn’t need to taste good on its own.) and dyes.  But really I was most excited to save the money, as I fly through vanilla extract with all my baking experiments going on.  Every time we go shopping I put a new bottle in the cart, and Dave groans, “We need more vanilla already?”   Hehe.. :)

Here is the recipe I used, after consulting about 8 other recipes I could find online.  This turned out really well for me.  You can buy your vanilla beans wherever you’d like (look for Madagascar beans), but from a store shelf they will be quite expensive.  I decided to turn these into Christmas gifts, which meant extracting in large volume, so I bought my beans in bulk on  From that pack, I got about 54 beans, perfect for making about 6 quarts of vanilla extract in total.  The beans were great, full of fresh vanilla flavor!  Couldn’t be more satisfied!

If you end up with leftover vanilla beans, store them in an air tight container of xylitol.  The xylitol will help to absorb any moisture that sneaks in and the vanilla will give the xylitol a sweet hint of vanilla flavor.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
4 ounces

3 Madagascar vanilla beans
4 ounces plain vodka (I recommend using at least a mid-shelf grade or higher)

1.)  With a paring knife, slit open each vanilla bean from end to end.  With kitchen scissors, cut each bean in half.  Add all 6 vanilla bean halves to a four ounce bottle.

2.)  Pour vodka over the vanilla beans, cover and seal tightly.  Shake lightly then place in a cool dark place for 2 months.  Every 2 weeks, give the bottle a light shake then return to the dark place.  Your vanilla may be ready to use before it reaches 2 months of extracting.  You’ll know when it’s ready by the dark amber color it will reach, just like you are used to seeing from store bought vanilla.

To make cute individual gifts, we ordered glass bottles from  They have a fun variety of bottle shapes and sizes that you can choose from.  We printed the labels ourselves on our home color laserjet using these Avery waterproof labels.  If you want to use the same gift packaging, I picked up the super tiny gift bags from Michaels craft store and cut tissue paper to fit.

It keeps giving!  This is why I loved using these as our Christmas gifts this year.  For each gift bottle, we included a little tag that said “it’s the gift that keeps on giving!” and explained how to replenish the bottle.  When your bottle runs low, top it off with new vodka.  Let it sit until it reaches the dark amber color again.  Then it’s ready to use!  Vanilla beans will give off plenty of vanilla flavor for many many batches of vanilla extract.  From what I’ve learned, you can go quite a few years before having to replace your beans.  And many people just add in a new bean when the time comes, leaving the originals in there, too.  Vodka is sterile and actually preserves the original beans, so nothing to worry about!

Oh yes, and the cost breakdown?  It’s pretty awesome!  Here’s the breakdown for a standard 4 ounce bottle.

$1.44 vanilla beans
$1.20 vodka
$0.53 bottle

$3.17 per bottle

It’s even less if you avoid buying the 4 ounce bottle online, at only $0.66 per ounce (simply reuse a jar at home).  Commercial vanilla costs almost $2.00 per ounce, which makes this homemade How To a MUST do!

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Written by Elise Schwartz
Elise Schwartz

Elise has been living a sugar-free natural lifestyle since 2008, after discovering her PCOS, infertility, and inability to lose weight were caused by toxicity in her food and daily life. She became a certified nutrition and body detox coach, and provides consultations to clients across the world. By living the principles she teaches, Elise proudly welcomed her son, Austin, into the world in 2011. She and her husband, Dr. Dave, own and operate a natural health clinic, Triad Health Center, in Greensboro, NC.


  1. I hear there is a bottle of this waiting for me when I get home! :) I cannot tell you how thrilled I am — I had been pricing out doing this and hadn’t gotten much further than seeing how expensive vanilla beans are in the store. And… I hadn’t seen that I can keep replenishing my supply from the same beans! Hooray! :)

  2. YEAH! Hope you like it! I think it has a much better taste than store bought, too! Have a safe trip home! Glad you could spend some good quality time with your family. :)

  3. O.K. I’m adding this to my teacher gifts for next year. So easy!!


  4. This so SO GREAT! It is so discouraging that even organic extract has sugar, glycerin, and other shady things in it. SWEET!

  5. Wonderful! I’m right out of vanilla. This looks fun, and what a nice gift idea!

  6. I will definitely be doing this!!! I bake quite a bit and I love the idea of making my own vanilla at a cost efficient price point.

  7. How wonderful. Thank you for sharing. What a wonderful gift idea!

  8. Enjoy it everyone! I agree, a great gift and such an easy way to save a few bucks every month!

  9. Love it! I look forward to making some!

  10. Great, Stacey! It makes such a rich vanilla. You will be so pleased!

  11. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    I recieved a bottle of Homemade Vanilla years ago as a gift & it was AMAZING. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at it. Thanks for the ecxellent recipe and reminder that I need to get on it if I plan to give them as gifts this year!
    LOVE your bottles & labels!

  12. Do you think 12 is enough for a 750 ml bottle? I could put more but it seems like a lot of beans!

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