DIY/ Kitchen 101

Homemade Vanilla Extract

whole vanilla beans

Have you ever wondered what “exactly” was in vanilla extract? For me, I’ve always been mesmerized by the calming, yet sensual, aroma of pure vanilla extract. And as good bakers know, vanilla is an essential for most recipes (especially, and somewhat ironically, those with chocolate!) – but it can be quite expensive.

I started reading Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by Shauna Sever (a former Chicagoan, so I’m already a fan!) and she does a great job of explaining the many roles vanilla plays in our cuisine and our culture. Because I’ve been on a bit of a DIY kick of late, I wanted to see if making vanilla extract was as simple as it seemed. While I quadrupled the batch, the recipe is from Shauna Sever. [Once you see the “baking time” of the recipe, you’ll understand why I made such a large batch. Time management in the kitchen!]

You’ll need only two ingredients to make this homemade vanilla extract (vanilla beans and vodka!), one sealed jar, a paring knife and lots of patience. The vanilla needs to steep for at least 2 months in a cool, dark place before you use it for the first time.


  • 8 vanilla beans, cut in half (I used Madagascar vanilla beans found on Amazon; they were the highest quality beans I could locate at an affordable price)
  • 32 ounces vodka
  • sealed glass jar

Pour the vodka into a clean jar, and set aside. With your paring knife, split the vanilla beans down the middle. Insert split beans into the jar and securely seal it.


vanilla extract mise en place

Shake the bottle to ensure it’s properly sealed and to moisten all of the vanilla beans. Make sure the entire vanilla bean is submerged in the vodka.  

homemade vanilla extract in jar


Store the jar in a cool, dark place for at least 2 months before using. The liquid should be a dark amber color (see final product below, after 3 months).

homemade vanilla extract


Shauna recommends that as you use the extract you can top off the jar with more vodka (or whatever clear alcohol used) for a “nearly never-ending supply.” Mazel!


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