Pure Vanilla Extract will elevate everything you bake, and you can make your own in just 5 minutes. It’s great for gifting with my free labels, and can even be re-filled when you run out.

There are certain basic essentials I always make from home to save money, and they’re just way better, like Taco Seasoning, Healthy Granola, Playdough, and Protein Bars.

Homemade Vanilla Extract in a clear bottle with a homemade label, ready to use or gift.

Homemade Vanilla Extract is the inexpensive baking upgrade you need.

I’ve been making our Vanilla Extract recipe for many years and it’s my favorite way to save money while still getting high quality, pure vanilla extract for baking. The best part is, once your vanilla runs out, you can refill the bottle with vodka, using the same used vanilla beans (they last for two batches). It’s makes a great gift, using our free labels, bottles, and label paper, for neighbors at Christmas or a housewarming gift to a friend.

What you’ll need:

  • Vanilla Beans: Use high quality Grade B Vanilla Madagascar Beans (or Tahitian or Mexican beans, if you prefer). You need 4-5 vanilla beans for every 8 ounces (1 cup) of vodka. Find vanilla beans in the baking aisle or online (I’ve bought them from Costco, too).
  • Alcohol: 80 proof Vodka–any cheap brand will work. Brandy, rum, or bourbon also work, for different flavor variation.
  • Glass jars to put the vanilla in. A basic Mason jar works for personal everyday use, or these 4oz or 8oz glass jars are perfect for gifting to friends and neighbors.
  • Funnel
All of the ingredients needed to make Madagascar vanilla extract at home: vanilla beans, vodka, glass bottles, and homemade labels.

About the Vanilla Beans:

Which Beans to use for Vanilla Extract?

There are Grade A and Grade B vanilla beans. Grade A beans have above 25% moisture (water) so they’re easy to split open for desserts like ice cream or crème brûlée. Grade B vanilla beans have less than 25% moisture, so they’re perfect for vanilla extract where they brew for a long time, can produce a stronger flavor ,and are usually less expensive. Grade A vanilla beans will work if that’s what you have on hand.

  • Madagascar Vanilla Beans: The most common flavor used in vanilla extract.
  • Tahitian Vanilla Beans: Has hints of cherry and anise.
  • Mexican Vanilla Beans: Has hints of clove and nutmeg.

How to make Vanilla Extract:

Score Vanilla Beans: Gently cut slits lengthwise in the vanilla beans with a sharp knife then place beans in a jar. (You may need to cut them in half to fit in the jar). You need 4-5 Vanilla bean per 8 ounces (1 cup) alcohol.

Two images showing how to make vanilla extract by slicing vanilla beans in half then placing in a glass bottle.

Add Vodka: Using a funnel, carefully fill the bottle with Vodka. Make sure the vanilla pods are fully submerged in alcohol. Secure lid tightly and shake gently. Rest/brew for 6 months in a cool dark place. Use it in your favorite cakes, cookies and other desserts.

Two images showing vodka being poured in bottles with vanilla beans, then after the pure vanilla extract is shaken and brewed.

Free Printable Labels for Vanilla Extract:

Vanilla extract is the perfect gift, so I’ve provided these FREE Printable Labels that are 2” squares, to stick on your bottles for gifts. I use my regular printer to print them off on this label paper.

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Homemade Vanilla Extract in a clear bottle with a homemade label, ready to use or gift.
Prep 5 minutes
Total 5 minutes
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  • 10 Vanilla Madagascar beans, Grade B , (or Tahitian or Mexican beans, if preferred)
  • 2 cups Vodka , 80 proof
  • Vanilla Extract Printable Labels , optional


  • Gather ingredients and jar(s). You will need 4-5 beans for every 8 ounces (1 cup) of alcohol.
  • Gently cut slits, lengthwise down the vanilla beans, using a sharp knife. Place the vanilla beans in jar (cut them in half if needed, to submerge them in alcohol).
  • Fill jars with vodka. Secure lid tightly on the bottle and shake gently.
  • Allow to steep/brew for at least 2 months, or ideally 6-12 months for best flavor. Shake bottles occasionally. Write date on jars or use our labels.
  • When running low, add more vodka to the bottle and brew again, reusing the same beans for up to one more batch.


  • Vanilla Beans: Use high quality Grade B Vanilla Madagascar Beans (or Tahitian or Mexican beans, if you prefer). Find vanilla beans in the baking aisle or online (I’ve bought them from Costco, too).
  • Alcohol: 80 proof Vodka–any inexpensive brand will work. Try brandy, rum, or bourbon for different flavor variation.
  • Containers: A basic Mason jar works for personal everyday use, or these 4oz or 8oz glass jars are perfect for gifting to friends and neighbors.


Calories: 77kcalCarbohydrates: 1gFat: 0.5gSodium: 0.3mgPotassium: 0.3mgIron: 0.003mg

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I originally shared this post May 2020. Updated July 2024.

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

4.99 from 100 votes (91 ratings without comment)

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  1. Love, love, love this recipe! Better than commercial vanilla by far. I did exactly what Laura instructed and waited 6 months. I used it in Laura’s vanilla cake and was blown away by the difference. I willing to look past FDA standards for such amazing flavor! Thank you Laura!

  2. I made your Vanilla Extract early last year and let steep for about 10 months before transferring to small gift bottles to tuck into my Christmas cookie baskets. Everyone loved them. The labels give them a great finished look. I did give it a little boost by using vanilla flavored vodka. I removed a small amount of the vodka and added the beans directly to the vodka container. Will make again. Thank you for the recipe and cute labels.

  3. 5 stars
    I’ve made my own vanilla for a few years and give them away at Christmas. My family appreciate this very much.

  4. 4 stars
    Your process for making Vanilla Extract is not correct by FDA standard. You need 1oz of vanilla beans to 8oz of alcohol for single fold. You MUST weigh your beans; each bean weighs differently, you can not just throw 4-5 vanilla beans in alcohol and call it vanilla extract. Please educate yourself on FDA standard when making extract.

    1. Thanks for your advice about the FDA standards for making vanilla extract. You’re right that for commercial quality, the ratio is 1 ounce of vanilla beans to 8 ounces of alcohol. Our method with 4-5 beans is for personal use at home, so it’s a bit more relaxed and not held to those commercial standards. This way, folks can adjust the flavor to their liking. Since we’re not selling it, we don’t need to stick strictly to the FDA rules

      1. Michelle is correct. You’re making vanilla flavored alcohol with that recipe, not extract. And 2 months is no where near enough time. Scientifically proven that it takes 6 months to fully extract the flavor compounds from the beans and longer for the flavor to continue developing, hence the recommendation to wait for up to a year. And bean sizes vary so much 4 beans of one type can weigh 2 or 3 times more or less than another! I love your recipes but this one makes me sad for anyone who makes it.

  5. 5 stars
    I made this vanilla in July of 2023 and have waited until just now in January of 2024 to use it. Periodically shaking it, keeping it in a dark place. It smells amazing when you open it! Wow! I used it in Lauren’s poppy seed cake recipe and it turned out wonderful. Definitely will continue to use homemade vanilla extract. By the way, I used bourbon in one bottle and rum in the other like Lauren suggested instead of vodka. I used the vanilla with the rum in the poppyseed cake recipe. Looking forward to trying the one with bourbon next! Thanks Lauren!

  6. Just put my vanilla beans and vodka together! Can’t wait until Christmas to try them. Thx for the recipe.

  7. Love this cake! Closest to grandma Betty’s home made cake any one has ever eaten. Thanks so much for sharing! I only use 1/2 the coco. 5 stars!

    1. Ma’am this is a vanilla extract recipe. NOT a cake recipe, and I will be damned if you think your grammas cake recipe is better than my Great Aunt Teresa’s Chocolate cake (Pro tip, don’t use cocoa powder. Melt chocolate in a pan to create a ganache that will fold in beautifully with your mixture)

    1. 5 stars
      I purchased a 10 pack of Madagascar Vanilla Beans online for $14.99. It’s that much for 2 beans in the store, online is the way to go

    2. Madagascar beans can be purchased at Costco. I found that the beans purchased at the grocery store is often “dried out” though sold sealed

  8. 5 stars
    I have use this method and it works wonderfully. my great great aunt who is 94 wanted to make homemade vanilla extract. I researched it and this is exactly how we made it and she loves it.

  9. I just opened mine after a year, I tasted it and it tastes like vodka more than vanilla! What should I do?

    1. Just let it stew until you only smell vanilla. A lot depends on the beans, costco ones are the best. They usually only carry around the holidays. Mine took over two years and it was totally worth the wait.

  10. I love your vanilla extract recipe and am ordering the supplies to make it with a good vodka. But I have a question. I was given a bottle of good 7 year old cognac. Would this work for vanilla extract?
    Thanks so much,

  11. I’ve recently located you on Instagram and I have to say I love your site and all the information you share! Thank you so much for all the freebies. I am ordering the materials to make your homemade vanilla.
    W hen I do I’ll be sure to take some pictures and post it on Instagram and tag you.

    1. I’m so happy you found me! I hope you enjoy the vanilla, and I’m excited to hear how it turns out!