Nothing quite compares to the flavor of homemade vanilla — and this is the easiest way to make it! No need for extra bottles or containers — all you need is vanilla beans and a bottle of rum.
Last Christmas, I decided to make homemade vanilla as a gift for our family members. I think there’s such a difference in homemade vanilla versus store bought (and especially imitation – yuck), and it’s worth the extra time to takes to make vanilla. I started my batch mid-October, and it was good to go by about the second week of December.
I looked around at various tutorials for making vanilla, as well as consulted a friend, and the majority of them suggest using a mason jar. However, I decided that I didn’t need the mason jar, and I would just immerse my vanilla beans directly into the vodka bottle. No need to use another jar or worry about measuring out the correct amounts of liquid. Sure, I wasn’t sure if it would work out, but I was confident enough that it would work out…and it did!
It is SO easy to make homemade vanilla, especially using my method. The hardest part is the waiting. You want to give your vanilla beans at least six weeks to create a strong enough vanilla extract. So, the longer you keep the beans immersed in the alcohol, the stronger (and better) the flavor will be. I personally put a vanilla bean or two into each vial of vanilla that I made, just because I thought that might make the vanilla flavor strong, no matter how long it’s sitting on someone’s shelf for. And even though the upfront cost might be a little much, you can make a ton, it lasts forever, and it’s less than what you would be paying for this high quality of vanilla in the store!
This is the first (and likely last) time you’ll see any type of post involving alcohol on Clarks Condensed! We don’t drink, nor do we cook with alcohol. However, vanilla extract can’t be made without it, so there you have it. I’m sure the people in the liquor store thought I was super weird when I walked in and announced, “I don’t know anything about alcohol. I need vodka to make vanilla. Help!” Luckily, the lady said that was a common reason people came into the store (which makes sense, considering where I live), and helped me right away. She said most people use Vodka, because it’s cheaper, but for a stronger, better flavor, rum is preferred. However, I’m cheap, so I went with the Vodka.
Anyways, here’s what you’ll need to make homemade vanilla the way I did:
- 375 mL Vodka (or rum)
- About 6-8 Vanilla Beans – there are tons of different vanilla beans out there and some are way more expensive than others. This is a pretty good price on Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans.
- Bottles to put vanilla In- I bought 4 ounce Amber Glass Bottles with lids to put my vanilla in. They were the perfect size. It’s recommended to use dark or tinted bottles, as opposed to clear glass.
- Labels – I used these cute oval scalloped Avery Craft Brown labels. They were super simple to print and I thought they looked really nice on the bottles.
- About 6-8 weeks before you need the vanilla, cut off the ends of six vanilla beans.
- Place vanilla beans directly into about 3.75 mL of Vodka. Place lids on tightly and gently shake.
- Move containers to a cool, dark place. Every week or so, shake the bottles gently.
- After 6-8 weeks, wash the containers for the vanilla well.
5. carefully pour the vanilla extract into 4 once bottles and place 1/2 of a vanilla bean in each container. Screw lid on tightly.
5. For best results, keep in a dark cupboard. Vanilla lasts forever, so make as much as you want!
6. Place a cute label on it so people know what it is! I used
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Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.
Sandy Roegner says
I purchased some vanilla bean paste and I’m wondering if I could use that?
I did something similar eight or nine years ago when I lucked into a large batch of vanilla beans very cheaply. I filled a bottle with as many beans as I could shove into it and topped it off with vodka. Whenever it got down about 25% I’d add more vodka. When we moved a few months ago I gave the still full and lucious bottle to a friend as we would be in limbo for a bit.
We’ve settled and I’m looking to start another batch. Thanks to your blog I’ll try rum this time. It’s hard to imagine anything being better than the thick, rich, batch of my last bottle, but I’m pleased to try!
I’d love to hear what you think!
when using .275 ml. did you use 6-8 beans or all of the 20 that you bought? will the beans get stale if you don’t make the vanilla with all of them at one time?
I used 6-8 per container of liquor. I kept them in an airtight container (the ones I didn’t use), and they are still good over a year later!
I use to have a Man bring me the pure vanilla in a bottle like as big as a Vodka bottle I have had it now 5 yrs and I can say it does not loose it’s taste or flavor! Well he has passed away now and I’m just abt, out of it so it is like he sent me this recipe,? cuz he knew he could no longer get it for me ,,R.I.P. my Friend and Thanks, to u and my Friend for this recipe, I will be trying it, I refuse to use the inmatation stuff,
I forgot to say he brought the Vanilla to me from Mexico!
Thank you for your story. I’m glad you were able to find this recipe and I hope it will remind you of your friend who used to bring it to you! Mexican Vanilla is my favorite.
Laquita Neu says
Sure would like to know how to get the recipe for Vanilla, make a copy of the instructions.
The recipe is on this blog post — are you having trouble understanding it?
Amy Uber says
Question, there is no cooking involved sooo is this pretty mutch a vodka or rum/ vanilla bean sauce? Or does the alcohol evaporate or something?
Good question! Per the FDA, for something to be considered pure vanilla extract, it’s alcohol content must be at least 35 percent, but most have even more. So no, the alcohol doesn’t evaporate. Any pure vanilla extract you use has alcohol in it. 🙂
I came across this post and read that you didn’t think it was possible to make vanilla extract without alcohol, so I thought I’d let you know about a post from another site that I had come across that uses food grade vegetable glycerin in place of alcohol. I’ve never tried it myself, so I can’t vouch for it, but since alcohol sounds like something you’d rather not use if there was another option, I figured I’d at least let you know. The post is on http://www.gorgeouslygreen.com and it will redirect you to sophieuliano.com. Just go to “recipes” and “food” to get to the flavored extract recipe. Hope this helps. 🙂
Hi Jen! Thank you so much for the tip! I don’t drink or use alcohol, so I would definitely prefer not to buy it to make vanilla if there’s an alternative. I will definitely be checking that one out! 🙂
Dora Alexander says
I do not appreciate not being able to simply copy the recipe only…I stopper my printer after 20 plus pages of adds and comments!!!! OUTRAGEOUS!
I’m sorry that you had difficulties printing. I have put it into printable for for the convenience of others.
Lisa C says
I’m confused….3.75 ml is only 3/4 teaspoon. How much alcohol for the batch?
sorry, that should be .375 liters. 3.75 ml would be way too little 🙂
Ugh sorry, it’s late. 375 ml is what I should have put in here, but 3.75 liters works too 🙂
Carrie @Frugal Foodie Mama says
Oooooo….I love this, Katie! 🙂 I picked up a bunch of really cool little glass bottles at a yard sale last year and have been wanting to use them to make homemade vanilla for Christmas gifts for family. Saving this recipe just for that purpose. 😉 Thank you! Pinned.
So fun! I’m so glad you found this helpful 🙂 Once you have homemade vanilla, it’s hard going back. I think your family will love it this Christmas!