August 19, 2010

Vanilla Extract Tutorial...

Today, I'm sharing my promised tutorial for homemade vanilla extract. When you find out how easy it is to make your own, you're going to wish you'd done this a long time ago! There really is nothing quite like homemade vanilla. You'll need to gather your ingredients and supplies first.

You'll need to purchase quality vanilla beans, which you can find online through eBay. I buy Madascar/Bourbon vanilla beans. (Here's a link for one of the US suppliers.) This one has a "Buy it Now" option, so you don't have to bid to make a purchase. You also want to be sure that the seller has a 100% feedback rating to ensure that they're reputable. I store my unused beans in a ziploc bag inside an airtight container to keep them fresh.

You'll also need a bottle of vodka. I use Fleishmanns, but any inexpensive vodka will do. (Edited 8/20/10 9:30 pm: Two of my blog friends suggested that you can also use brandy, and one of them also suggested cognac! I'll be trying those, too! Thanks, Maggie B. and Patricia!!) And you'll need empty bottles. I like to use the empty bottles from Starbucks Frappuccinos. I wash them thoroughly when they're empty and the labels remove easily. Then, I put them into the dishwasher to be sure they're sanitized.
Take about 8 vanilla beans for one batch of extract. You'll be using them as is. No need to rinse them. I always slit 2 or 3 beans to open them up and expose the seeds inside. They'll mix in with the extract as it ages.
See what the seeds look like? When you eat French vanilla ice cream, these are the little dark spots you see in the ice cream. I'll warn you that your hands and the kitchen are starting to smell really good already!
Place all of the vanilla beans into the empty bottle. Make sure that there is at least an inch head room from the top of the beans to the neck of the bottle. You're going to need to cover them completely with the liquid. (FYI, the good vanilla beans are usually between 6" and 7" long.)
Now, pour the straight vodka into the bottle and be sure to completely cover the vanilla beans. Resist the temptation to dab a little behind your ears, and I don't recommend taking a sip either. If you do, you might forget to make dinner tonight!
At this point, I take the knife I used to slice open the beans and stir it into the liquid. I want to make sure that all the seeds on the knife end up in the mix!
Put the lid on the bottle and then place a label on the bottle. I'll also add today's date on the label so I know when it's "ready". You'll want to shake up the bottle a couple of times a day for at least two weeks before you use the extract. It will darken, day by day, until it becomes the pure vanilla extract that will add that special touch to your recipes.

I finish packaging my bottles by adding a circle of fabric, tied with kitchen twine, raffia or a ribbon. You can add a little recipe, or instructions on the "care and feeding" for your extract. As you use it, if you just top it off with the equivalent amount of vodka, it will last for years! My bottle in the background was made at least two years ago. I always top mine off and it's just as delicious as when I first made it. In fact, it really gets better and better with age.

From time to time, we make our own ice cream around here. When we do, I take one of the vanilla beans out of the extract, slice it open and scrape the seeds into the ice cream mix. Then you can put the rest of the bean right back into the extract! It's a gift that keeps on giving.
So there you have it. Didn't I tell you it was simple? I made my labels in a program called Print Shop 2 on my mac, but if you don't have such a program, I can steer you to Karen's website, The Graphics Fairy, where she has some really great label frames that you can use to make your own. Click here for a link to her labels. Pick one you like and personalize it to suit your own style.
Now, just for reading all the way through my tutorial, I'm going to have a little giveaway. One lucky reader will receive the bottle of extract I made for this lesson! All you have to do is leave a message on this post. I'm going to leave the drawing open for two weeks, because the vanilla won't be ready to try before then.

So, leave a comment and you'll automatically be entered. That's all you have to do. Giveaway will end on September 3rd, and I'll announce the winner on September 4th. Thanks for stopping by again, and Good Luck!
UPDATE: 09/04/10 - DRAWING IS CLOSED. The winner is Natalie of Hungry Hippie blog. Thank you to everyone who left a comment and entered the drawing.


  1. wow.....I had no idea..I have made rose oil and orange oil, but didn't know I could make this out of the same ingredient...meaning Vodka...hehehe!

    thanks Miss Donna.. I need me some now so please enter my name too....

    have a good weekend....

  2. I would LOVE to win your vanilla! Please enter my name!!! I LOVE keeping vanilla beans in my cupboard to use in recipes... THIS IS WONDERFUL that I can make my own extract too! Hugs, Donna

  3. Wow - I can't say I've ever tried that But I do love Vanilla extract (And Almond extract as well)

    Thank you for the tutorial

    Thank you as well for the link to the labels
    Take Care :)

  4. Thank you so much for the recipe. I am going to try it this weekend. I always have vanilla pods in the house. The Madagascar/Bourbon vanilla beans come in a glass bottle here but I don't think it is big enough.

  5. Before meeting you, I never even knew you could make your own vanilla! Thanks for sharing - I would love to win your fabulous vanilla, so please enter me!

    Thanks Donna!

  6. I don't think I could resist taking a zip :-).

  7. I would love to win your vanilla. I am making my own to compare with. I just tossed two empty bottles of CC's coffee last. Will be trash digging after this comment.

    Thanks a bunch for the tutorial.


  8. Donna** what a great tutorial had no idea it was so easy to make please enter me in your giveaway I will have to get all the things to try it myself love vanilla ice cream w/vanilla beans YUM YUM !

  9. Dee, this is why we are friends, we think the same thoughts!!! I did my post on the peaches, but I was going to do my tutorial on making vanilla!!!! I have made my own for years and I even put in last post that I was going to post how to real soon, and here you have it already!!! Too funny how our minds work!
    I am going to try making your vanilla, it is different then mine but I love to try new recipes, great looking bottles, someone will love to win this!!!

  10. Hi Donna, I have to say that whenever I stop in at your blog I just enjoy myself so much! You're always the sweetest, kindest, one of the most talented and most informative new friend and blog sister that I know. Thank you so much for this tutorial! Not only did I enjoy learning about this for myself, but I'm going to make this for my family and friends for gifts. Donna, your idea is a wonderful, I want to thank you very much!
    If you would be so kind to enter my name in your drawing I would be very appreciative.
    Here's a homemade facial for you:

    Hawaiian Delight
    Makes 2 treatments

    1 green tea bag
    1 cup boiling water
    1/2 ripe papaya
    1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced
    2 tablespoons honey


    Steep green tea in boiling water. Set aside to cool. Peel papaya wedge and remove seeds. In blender or food processor, blend papaya and pineapple until pureed. Pour into glass bowl and combine honey and green tea. Mix well. Apply to face with brush or finger tips. Recline and rest for 10 - 15 minutes. Remove completely with tepid water and soft facial cloth. Store in covered container in refrigerator for up to one week.
    Beauty Benefits: Exfoliates, hydrates and rejuvenates.

    I hope that you have a wonderful weekend!

  11. WOW! That looks so easy. I can't wait to try it. I would love to be entered in your giveaway.

  12. I had no idea that is how it is done! I will try it too! I love the way it looks and what an awesome idea for gifts. You are such a clever gal:)

  13. Oh, this sounds devine! Please enter me in your delicious giveaway! I do lots of baking for the holidays and this would be so handy to have! I use lots of vanilla!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe, too!

  14. This makes a lovely, useful, not to mention aromatic gift. That would make wonderful Christmas gifts for friends that bake a lot.
    Thank you for sharing.

  15. Thank you so much for this tutorial. What a great gift this will make for all kinds of things. As always Donna, great job. Now have you been working on those applique techniques? Sorry your mean instructor, jumped in my body.

  16. I'd love to win too..have heard about how to make it but your tutorial is the best..we just got an ice cream maker too so just have to make this..we all love vanilla..

  17. I didn't know I could make my own vanilla! Perfect to have and perfect to give as a gift...thank you for sharing the how-tos with us! Thank you for offering the giveaway too!

  18. Donna,

    I haven't made this for years. I love your labels. It will be time to come back soon!


  19. Thank you, but please don't enter me in your giveaway...I've been making my own extract forever! A delightful German baker-friend shared the recipe with me...she suggested using brandy. Homemade vanilla extract sure beats the flavor and price of store bought!
    Busy Hands...Happy Heart

  20. Donna,

    Thank you for the pure vanilla extract tutorial! It seems sooo easy! I think I will try my own and give it to my mom as she loves to bake!

    Please enter me:


  21. Thank you so much ! I have been waitin' for this. You are a Sweetie.

  22. My word, this sounds utterly delightful!

  23. Get out! I never knew it was that easy! Cool! Love your pretty bottles. Makes it even more special.
    xx, shell and sugie

  24. Such a tempting recipe for vanilla extract. Although I do not usually try my hand at making anything but artwork, I surely may give it a go. Thank you for sharing. I think your vanilla extract would make a marvelous gift. I know I would appreciate a gift such as this. And how kind of you to make a give-away. God bless you.

  25. After a very long week and day, what a nice surprise to sit & relax by reading your vanilla recipe. Now I know why it is so yummy....thank you for sharing.

  26. I had NO idea you could do this, home-made,,,what a dork I am!!!! I'll try this out after a run to the store to get vanilla pods...beans...whatever. hahahaha
    Hey-did I tell you I really like your short hair.
    It's very NEW YORK. (A BIG compliment, in case you don't know what I mean....)

  27. MMmmmm... I will definitely be trying this (when I get some time). It looks awesome and what a pretty gift! I'd love to be entered in your giveaway!

  28. Thank you Donna, I tried once before and it didn't turn out. Must have gotten "bad" vanilla beans or something. Now that I know someone who has had success with it, I will try again.

  29. I never knew it was possible to make your own vanilla, that's pretty cool! Please put me in the drawing~

  30. This is Sandi again. I found the 2 empty coffee bottles. Cleaned them and followed your instuctions. They are now sitting on my cabinet just chilling to make a neat homemade vanilla extract for myself.

    Thanks again.

  31. How generous of you, Donna! This is amazing - thank you so much for explaining how to make the extract and then for offering a jar of it! I use vanilla extract all the time because I LOVE baking. I would definitely like to try this, myself. :) Hope you have been well! :) Theresa

  32. Donna: Who knew it was so easy! Can't wait to try this myself. Thanks so much.

  33. This is definately a 'Have To Try' Idea!! I never knew you could make your own vanilla extract.
    I would love to win a bottle of vanilla that you have made.

  34. Donna, it's seems to easy to be true. I love vanillia,it's a sensul & sweet fragrance, the flavour supurb. I always have a large jar of castor sugar with a couple of vanilla beans in it, it make anything you bake with the sugar just beautiful. Even homemade egg custard/donuts are soooo much nicer with te vanilla sugar. I'd love to be placed in the give-away

  35. Hi Donna,

    First, I wanted to tell you - your blog is looking FAB-U-LOUS! :-)

    Next, what an awesome tutorial this is! I love anything vanilla (it's my favorite scent!) so I am tossing my hat in the ring for the draw - and making a mental note to come back and consider giving this a try!


  36. Well Sweetie, just call me clueless. I had no idea it could be so simple and I'm sure so much better than the grocery store vanilla that I buy. You make the best tutorial, thanks for sharing it. If I don't win can I come spend the day at your house and eat some of the delicious things you always make. hee-hee.

    xxxooo's...Tracy :)

  37. thanks for the tutorial and a chance to win a bottle of your vanilla..

  38. If you could see the look on my face now Donna you would die laughing.
    YOU even know how to make your own homemade vanilla. Girl friend never in my life have I met a woman like you! Please do a post just for Maggie on the one thing you do not know how to do...hahaha
    Love you Donna and now I will close my mouth before I trap a fly.
    Love ya

  39. Thank you for sharing the tutorial--I had no idea this was so simple, and I'm buying vanilla extract all the time, it seems! Your tutorial is very easy to follow, and the photos are just wonderful--can't wait to try this!

  40. I am late...for a very important Vanilla giveaway! Thank you for so generously sharing your recipe and tutorial for making vanilla. It sounds and looks delicious. Happy creating...

  41. Sounds yummy Donna! Count me in. My mom used to make "under the kitchen sink Kahlua". It was called that because you were suppose to store it there while it aged. LOL

  42. Hi Donna, I never know what i am going to learn when i come to visit you. I did read your tutorial and enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing. My mom would make the home made ice cream oh so yummy, better then the store boughten. Have a great day. Your Missouri Friend.

  43. Hi Donna!
    I've heard that you can make your own vanilla, but didn't know how...until now! Perfect! I will definitely be trying this! Thanks so much!


  44. This is so awesome! I did not know this could be done! I have experimented with olive oil and vinegar but never even thought of this idea. It sounds fantastic! I hope I win! Donna, you never cease to amaze!

  45. Nice tutorial! I bet it is wonderful! Thank you for the opportunity to win. You are too kind. Twyla

  46. Hi Donna, this looks so easy! I never knew you could make this yourself. I'm thinking this could make some nice gifts! Put it in a pretty bottle with label like you suggest and
    anyone would love this. Thanks for sharing.

    Have a great week end.
    A Floridian blogger!
    Smiles and Blessings,

  47. Thank you, Donna, for this great tutorial!!


  48. I had no idea...what a great gift would make. Thanks for the tutorial!

  49. Thanks for the tutorial on the vanilla extract, I plan on making this with my sister. Thanks also for the chance to win.

  50. This tutorial looks fantastic and I think I'll give it a try sounds like something my sister and I can do together for a fun day.

  51. With my penchant for collecting glassware, I certainly have enough bottles to make this concoction and give yummy vanilla away as Christmas gifts!! It certainly sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing, Donna.
    ~ Sue

  52. Yummmmmm! I need to try this. It looks like a for sure recipe. Thank you so much for the tutorial, Donna.


  53. Thanks for the wonderful tutorial. I am an avid baker for myself (and friends!) and go through store bought vanilla extract at least 2-3 bottles a year. Thanks for chance to win some of your homemade vanilla...looks delicious!!

  54. Thanks for the Tutorial ~ it does look easy. I never thought of making my own Vanilla Extract.

    Please enter me in the Giveaway ~ if it's not too late. Oops ~ guess I'm entering at the "11th Hour" ~ literally. :)

    Bunny Hugs ~


  55. O.M.G.!!! this i something i'm going to do immediately for Xmas presents.
    i do have a question -
    do i need to refridgerate the vanilla? not the beans, but the vanilla after it's made.
    AND, you mentioned shaking the bottle a couple of times a day two weeks before you use it.
    Does that mean that after two weeks it's ready to use?

    So many questions, huh.
    I am so excited to make this.
    where in the world did you find out how to make your own vanilla?? and did you try the congnac and the other liquour that were mentioned by readers? Do you like either of those better?
    I LOVE the smell of vanilla! I'm so excited!! xxoo, jan

  56. Donna, THANK YOU for sharing!!! What an amazing Christmas Gift would this make in a really pretty bottle? Oh my the ideas are spinning & swirling in my head. I would love to win your tutorial bottle. Have a great week & thanks again! HUGS! Charlene

  57. Thank you for this! I hang my head in shame that I actually cheaped out and bought a bottle of artificial vanilla - they shouldn't even be allowed to put the word 'vanilla' on the label - I tossed it! I'm off to find some beans.


Thank you so much for leaving a comment today. I'm using new settings on my comments so that I'll be able to respond to your messages to me. Be sure to come back to see my replies!

Blessings, Donna