Nuts & Bolts: Homemade Vanilla Extract

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by Amber on February 24, 2012

For our second Nuts & Bolts post, I want to talk to you about Vanilla Extract.

I will never understand why vanilla extract is sold in such tiny bottles. It is by far the most used of the extract family, and I personally go through a ton of it because I always up the vanilla quotient.

What really frosts my cookies though? How much it costs. Real, honest to goodness, homemade vanilla extract is incredibly cheap to make.

Here’s the breakdown:

750 to 1.75 litre Vodka or Bourbon
$9.99 to $13.99
10 Vanilla Beans of your choice
(I have used Madagascar and Mexican with great success)
750 ml = 51 tablespoons
1.75 litres = 118 tablespoons

Average cost of a 16 fl oz bottle of store-bought vanilla extract: $10.00 (32 tablespoons) – cost per tablespoon $.51 cents

Average cost per tablespoon of homemade completely pure vanilla extract: 19-25 cents!

All you need is the 2 ingredients and time. You can start using your homemade vanilla extract as soon as 6 weeks, but the longer it sits, the better it is.

A lot of food bloggers out there suggest preparing a bottle of vanilla extract in time to give away for the holidays as homemade gifts. Now, I’m all for that, but I also see value in simply making a huge bottle of extract for yourself.

Two years ago I made my first bottle of extract. I only just killed it. Value for money, I say!

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Leigh February 24, 2012 at 11:25 AM

Love that you used southern comfort. I’ve been making mine with vodka and bourbon, but never thought of trying it with that. Thanks for the tip!


Amber February 24, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Thanks, Leigh! It actually bumped up the vanilla flavor, and adds a richness to every baked good I’ve used it in. I really like it. I’ll try plain bourbon next :)


Stephanie February 24, 2012 at 1:40 PM

This seems so simple! And the value is phenomenal! My mom was thinking of making extract for Christmas gifts, like you said. I’ll definitely be forwarding it along!


Casey@Good. Food. Stories. February 24, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Wow – two years of use at the rate you use it… that’s a pretty good track record! And speaking of shots of bourbon, I think I might have to mosey over to the liquor cabinet now. It is Friday afternoon, after all.


Tracy February 24, 2012 at 5:01 PM

I make all my own vanilla extract from scratch, too! Love that you used Southern Comfort…will have to give that a try next.


Melissa @ Baking For The Boys February 25, 2012 at 8:55 AM

I make mine with Shiner! LOL….just kidding. I make mine with Cognac.


vianney February 25, 2012 at 6:47 PM

I love making homemade extract. I made a huge batch 2 yrs and need to restock!


Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar February 26, 2012 at 8:20 PM

This is totally something everyone should know!


Jenny W. February 27, 2012 at 12:23 PM

Amber I made sooo much vanilla extract not that long ago and I’m getting ready to mail some bottles out to friends and family. I think its great that you can continue to add liquor to the bottle and keep making more extract as long as the beans stay in the bottle. Never ending supply of extract…woo-hoo! I used 4 different types of vodka, rum and bourbon.


Jamie February 28, 2012 at 7:38 PM

I’m never without a huge bottle of homemade vanilla extract – I definitely need to try it with Southern Comfort next time. Great Nuts & Bolts post, my friend.


chelsea alexander February 28, 2012 at 11:25 PM

All the recipes I’ve seen have suggested using 3 beans for every 8 oz of alcohol, which I do, AND I let mine sit for a minimum of 3 months. Basically, it doesn’t smell at ALL like alcohol when it’s ready to use and it’s DIVINE!

I’ve tried it with both rum and vodka and I definitely prefer the vodka. I’ll have to try a small batch of southern comfort and see how that turns out!


chelsea alexander February 28, 2012 at 11:27 PM

oh, so I just did the math. I use about 23 beans for every 1.75L bottle. That’s a ton of beans, I know, but it makes such a difference!


Jim August 5, 2012 at 4:08 PM

I’ve been making vanilla since visiting Tahiti 10 years ago. Its the only FDA regulated spice and as I recall the ratio is surely higher than your recipe calls to get a good body. based on my notes (been 2 yrs since making a batch since I make a lot and sell it to friends in nice bottles with labels) . Its about one 7 inch bean per 1 oz (30ml) of a grain alcohol which is at least 35% alcohol. Of course this varies depending on the content of the bean and if you use bourbon or Tahitian. I prefer Tahitian which is milder but with a very nice flavor. I’ve tried different vodkas seeing if Rice grain, or other grains are better. no difference to me. Anyway. basically I do the 1-1.5 7inch beans per oz and let sit for 2-6 months and occasionally shake. I pretty much shake it every week and tip upside down in the jars. straining is a pain, have to do it like 3 times. Specialty bottle sells the bottles that are perfect for vanilla.


Laura October 25, 2012 at 12:29 PM

How do you prepare your small bottles to finish the vanilla. Mine has been steeping for about 6 months and I need to get it ready for Christmas! YUM!


Amber October 25, 2012 at 12:35 PM

When I gave mine as Christmas gifts, I just found bottles that I liked online. I think I originally bought them from Amazon, but there are lots of different places. If I were doing this again this Christmas, I would be investing in these Swingtop bottles: http://www.specialtybottle.com/swingtopbottlesmi.aspx

And then, simply make sure that each bottle has a little bit of the vanilla pods in each, to keep the vanilla flavor renewing. Your recipients can keep adding vodka to renew the vanilla.


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