Tips for Saving Money :: Make Your Own Vanilla Extract


Holiday baking season will soon be upon us, and I will be ready! My boys are getting old enough that they enjoy helping in the kitchen, and I look forward to making memories as we prepare holiday goodies and treats for our family and friends.

I know what you’re thinking … “holiday baking in September?” True, it is too early to actually start BAKING your treats, but it’s not too early to began preparing your ingredients. Making your own vanilla extract is EASY and DELICIOUS (not to mention, it makes a great holiday gift!), but it takes a month for the ingredients to infuse, so you want to make sure you give yourself enough time.

You can use this homemade vanilla the same way you’d use store bought vanilla.

What You’ll Need

  • Vanilla Beans
  • Alcohol such as vodka, bourbon, brandy, or rum
  • Mason Jar (or something similar) for storing

Ingredient Notes:

I use vodka because it makes the end result very taste neutral (meaning that the product is more vanilla flavored than anything else), but you can also use bourbon or rum. There is no need to buy top shelf alcohol (any will do). I prefer using something mid-grade — not terribly expensive, but not bottom of the barrel either. Vanilla beans can be purchased from any number of internet vendors; ours were purchased from eBay. I’m not a vanilla bean connoisseur, so I was not picky when I made my purchase.

All you need to make your own vanilla extract. Vanilla beans and vodka.
All you need to make your own vanilla extract — vanilla beans, vodka and mason jars.

How to Prepare

Step 1: Once you have your beans, the process is simple. Cut your vanilla beans into smaller pieces so they will fit in your jars. I use quart Mason jars. Using a sharp knife, split each vanilla bean in half.

Cut the vanilla beans so that they will fit in your jars, and split them with a knife.
Cut the vanilla beans in half so they will fit in your jars.

Step 2: Fill your jars with vodka (or alcohol of your choice), leaving a bit of headroom for the vanilla bean pieces.

Fill your jars 3/4 of the way full with vodka.
Fill your jars 3/4 of the way full with vodka.

Step 3: Drop your vanilla bean pieces into your jars and store them for at least a month in a cool, dark place. As a general rule of thumb, use 3 to 5 vanilla beans per 8 ounces of alcohol and multiply accordingly if making more extract. Agitate the jars every so often to disperse your vanilla.

In a month (or several) your vanilla will look like this!
In a month (or several) your vanilla will look like this!

Tips for Gifting

When we make vanilla, we make a huge batch of it and decant it into small brown medicine bottles for holiday gifts. Using cheesecloth, we strained the vanilla into fresh jars and then poured them into individual bottles. With a cute printed label or tag, you have created a unique homemade gift!

Homemade Vodka Vanilla Extract 1
Homemade vanilla extract makes great gifts! Create a cute label and dispense in an attractive bottle and you’re set!

Got any holiday baking savings tips? It’s not too early to think about it! Leave us suggestions in the comments!


Vanilla Extract Gift Photo credit: sarako / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


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