DIY: Homemade Vanilla Extract

by Shawnda on January 27, 2008

in Desserts,DIY

Tahitian Vanilla Beans

Sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than a good DIY project. My last DIY project has been a few months in the making. Perhaps you’ve noticed my recent obsession with Tahitian Vanilla Extract. Perhaps you haven’t – so here I am, all up in your face, waving my big brown bottle.

Tahitian Vanilla Beans

It smells as amazing as it sounds fancy. I’ve spent the last several weeks baking it into just about everything and friends & family on my Christmas list received their own bottle to experiment with in their kitchens. And it couldn’t be simpler to make yourself.

Update from future Shawnda in 2012: I haven’t bought vanilla extract in ~5 years now

You need 3 months. It’s totally worth the wait.

You need booze. vodka or dark rum or even bourbon. Future Shawnda will even use some Crown Royal. Don’t feel the need to splurge. (I don’t, the Crown was a gift :) ) But you can.

You need cute bottles for gifting. I hit up the Container Store near the holidays and bookmarked last year for more options, should I need them.

You need vanilla beans. Where does one get vanilla beans? You could go to that sparkly, over-priced kitchen store at the mall and drop $12 (gulp) for two vanilla pods but that would make for some mighty expensive vanilla extract. I order vanilla beans by the 1/2 lb (which is enough to make 4-5x the recipe below) from Amazon.

After a happy accident, I now actually store all of my vanilla beans in a tall jar with 1-inch of vodka in the bottom – it keeps them perfectly moist and plump.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla extract is easy to make and makes a great Christmas gift.


  • 18 vanilla pods (Tahitian, Madagascar, whatever)
  • 1 750 ml bottle of Vodka or Rum or Bourbon


  1. Using a knife or scissors, split the vanilla pods in half length-wise, leaving about 1/2 inch un-cut (this will hold the two halves together and make retrieval easier, if you ever want to fish the pods out of the bottle - i leave them in permamently).
  2. Pour ~1 cup of the vodka out into a jar to make room for the vanilla beans.
  3. Put the vanilla beans in the bottle and cover with as much vodka as you can get back into the bottle.
  4. Place in the back of your pantry and mark the date on your calendar. 12 weeks later...
  5. You have 750 mls of vanilla extract! As you use vanilla, top the bottle with additional booze. As you use vanilla beans in other recipes, add the used pods to your home brew.
  6. If you are giving the vanilla extract away, pour the vanilla extract into a clean bottle and add a split vanilla bean pod or two.
  7. Note: The Container Store has great vanilla-esque bottles in-store. If I'm not making it for gifts, I just use the vanilla straight from the bottle. As you notice a drop in the levels, top off with a little more booze or start a second bottle.


Yields: 3+ cups vanilla extract

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