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6 Quick Steps To Make Your Own Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract

Caramelize Life makes Homemade pure vanilla extract


Did you know you can make your own pure vanilla extract at home with just a few ingredients? It’s not a mystery any longer and it’s a lovely gift to give to your favorite baker. As with any homemade product, there are several benefits to making your own. For one, you get to choose the quality of ingredients and know exactly what is in your vanilla extract. This means, you will have the highest quality vanilla extract available without anything artificial.

A few years back we decided as a family to give handcrafted gifts for the holidays instead of purchasing them. I was in search of what I could make that would be both fun and practical. That’s when I learned that I could make my own pure vanilla extract. Why had I not thought of this before?  Considering that nearly everything that is mass produced now were once made at home, it’s not that crazy of a thought that I could produce a gift that my family and friends would enjoy.


Vanilla bean pods

So what is pure vanilla extract? It is simply the extract (flavor and aroma) from the vanilla beans that have been immersed in alcohol (usually vodka because of it’s neutral flavor, but sometimes brandy or rum) over a period of time. The FDA requires;

“In vanilla extract the content of ethyl alcohol is not less than 35 percent by volume and the content of vanilla constituent, as defined in 169.3(c), is not less than one unit per gallon.”

So that means the vanilla extract you’ll find in the store, is 70 proof (35% alcohol) and it contains 13.35 oz of bean per gallon of alcohol which would produce a single strength vanilla extract. After more research I found that some bakers prefer a double strength vanilla extract and others do not. I am guessing it is a matter of preference.  I lean toward loving the scent of vanilla and enjoy baking with it so my recipe may have a wee bit more vanilla than others but since I’m making my own and not planning to sell it I can follow whatever guideline works for our baking needs and that is a nice pure vanilla extract that flavors our baked goods without overpowering them.

The vanilla bean grows from a kind of tropical orchid. The fruit starts out as a hard green pod and the greenish white flowers (missing in this photo) and in a natural setting are dependent on bees to pollinate them, but now in modern times they can be artificially pollinated.  These vanilla beans are picked unripe and then submerged in hot water to remove their protective cover and allow for the natural liquids to seep out. They are then allowed to dry in the sunlight and ferment. When they have turned brown and covered with a layer of vanillin crystals the vanilla beans are ready.


Kauai'i - Green vanilla pods on the vine -Steel Grass Chocolate tour

Unripe vanilla bean pods on the vine in Kauai


Homemade Vanilla Extract

  • Servings: A Lifetime
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

What you will need:

A jar for keeping your vanilla extract. I choose fun shapes and different sizes for gift giving. However, any recycled jar will work as long as you can seal it tight and it can be sterilized.

2 whole Grade ‘B’ or “extract grade” vanilla beans sliced lengthwise. Get the best you can find, see resources at the bottom of the post.

3/4 cup of  vodka (37.5-40% alcohol, 75-80 proof) Choose a good quality vodka because you could have this extract for quite some time.


        1. Sterilize your jars, caps and knife by quickly steaming or boiling them for 10 minutes before using. This will make sure there will be no “off” flavors imparted in your extract. (If you are using corks purchase pre-sterilized corks, don’t boil or wet your cork).
        2. Slice the vanilla bean pods lengthwise exposing the beans and then halve them to fit the length of your jar
        3. Place them in a clean jar
        4. Fill the sterilized jar with heated Vodka
        5. Let cool and then seal your jar
        6. Shake your jar once each day for a week and watch the change, the extract will be ready to use in two months but will still continue to infuse for months after. When low on extract top off with more vodka and you will never be out of vanilla extract again!

Rachelle Weymuller cuts the vanilla beans to fit into the bottle for making homemade pure vanilla extract

Cut vanilla beans to fit your jar of choice



Handcrafted Pure Vanilla Extract In Square Glass Jar With Vanilla Beans On Day One, Light In Color.

Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract Day One

Caramelize Life makes Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract- Day 30 Carmel In Color

Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract Day 30


When looking for beans there are two types I’ve run across Grade ‘A’ and ‘B’.

Grade ‘A’ vanilla beans are the beautiful cream of the crop ones. They contain more moisture and oil and are reserved for the gourmet. These are great for baking and easier to scrape the beans out. Perfect for recipes that call for vanilla beans.

Grade ‘B’ vanilla beans or ‘extract beans’ are just what you need for making pure vanilla extract.  These beans contain less moisture and are therefore less beautiful and harder to slice and remove the beans. This however, doesn’t affect their flavor qualities and are then great to use for extraction methods.

Certified organic vanilla beans can be found at:  Amadeus Trading Company , The Vanilla Company , The Boston Vanilla Bean Company

Another option for finding vanilla beans: Beanilla


A few ideas of where to find bottles:

Specialty Bottle Company , SKS Bottles or Beanilla


Now all you have to do it be patient and let your creations do their thing. If you are going to gift these then planning two months ahead is key. However, these are fun to keep a few on hand to bring as a hostess gift or to add with some sweet treats you’ve made.

Head Shot of Rachelle K Weymuller



Rachelle @ Caramelize Life

Making Life a Little Sweeter through Food, Travel and Community


4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I am addicted to making my own vanilla extract. I won’t use any other kind. Great post! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    January 27, 2015

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