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How to Make Vanilla Extract from Scratch

Zero Waste Kitchen

Last Updated on January 15, 2024

Learning how to make vanilla extract is SUPER easy — there’s hardly anything to learn at all! My easy 2-ingredient DIY vanilla extract makes a gourmet pantry staple that’s way better than anything you can buy at the store.

Top view of a metal spoon in a homemade vanilla extract with overlay text reading "DIY 2-ingredient vanilla extract" in a post detailing how to make vanilla extract.

making vanilla extract

DIY vanilla extract is the perfect gourmet pantry staple to DIY. It’s also a perfect present for the holiday season. I love gifting it on its own or adding it to gift baskets like a hot cocoa gift basket — which typically includes a few cute thrifted mugs, homemade hot cocoa mix, baby marshmallows, homemade vanilla extract, and sometimes a complimentary spirit for an extra kick.

Going from vanilla bean to vanilla extract is economical and delicious. Compared to store bought vanilla, making vanilla extract is much cheaper. On average it costs $5 per ounce at the grocery store, but you can make it for $1.65 per ounce. That’s 60% cheaper than what you’d buy at the store! Plus, you can make a lot more than what they sell you — which is bound to last for a while. 

Beans tend to be very expensive at the grocery store, so check your local spice store instead or an online retailer like Slo Food Group. You can also check with your local bulk food store.

Making vanilla extract at home also helps you slow down and connect with your food more. When we make time to make our own products, we eliminate the need for a middleman and know exactly where our items are coming from. 

The amount of packaging waste and money you can save by making your own products is eye opening. I have a whole list of products you should be making at home instead of buying that’s worth checking out. 

If you prefer video content, be sure to check out my Instagram reel where I show you how I make this exact vanilla extract recipe.

Without further ado, here’s how to make vanilla extract using only two ingredients!  

diy vanilla extract

Many people are surprised to learn how easy it is to make this kitchen staple. It only requires 2 ingredients: vanilla beans and alcohol (whiskey, vodka, or bourbon will do).

It doesn’t have to be super high quality and expensive alcohol to work either! 

You will also need an empty glass jar to make the extract in and a container to store the finished product in.  

Making vanilla extract with Absolut vodka

what is the best alcohol to make vanilla extract? 

The best alcohol to make vanilla extract is alcohol that is at least 70 proof, or 35% alcohol. This makes vodka an ideal choice for vanilla extract. 

Vodka is also odorless and tasteless, which allows the vanilla to really shine. However, you can also use bourbon and whiskey in place of vodka if you have nothing else. I personally really like to use bourbon.

It’s also important to note that you don’t have to use super high quality liquor — save the good stuff for drinking!

how long does it take to go from vanilla bean to vanilla extract?

You’ll need patience for this recipe! This is not something you can make in a night, or even in a couple of weeks.

Once you combine the vanilla beans and your alcohol, it will take several months for the alcohol to extract the flavor from the beans. That’s why I like to make mine in the summer to gift around the holidays!

2 Bottles of DIY vanilla extract

why you’ll love making your own vanilla

  • Makes great homemade gifts from the kitchen!
  • Much more cost effective than homemade vanilla
  • More flavorful and makes larger batches than you can buy at the store
  • True vanilla extract — not imitation!
Bottle of vanilla extract with vanilla beans to show how to go from vanilla bean to vanilla extract.

vanilla extract ingredients

  • 5-6 vanilla beans
  • 70-proof alcohol (I recommend vodka, but also love a good bourbon!)

how to make vanilla extract

Ready to make some vanilla extract? Here’s everything you need to know to make this simple DIY. And patience! 

step 1: submerge vanilla beans

Place your vanilla beans in an upcycled empty glass jar.  

Fully submerge them in the alcohol of your choice and seal it shut tight. 

step 2: patience!

Place your sealed bottle in a cabinet for the next several months (4-5 months is ideal for the best flavor — the longer it sits, the stronger it will be). 

step 3: strain and store

Strain the beans from the extract. Compost or reuse the vanilla beans for another batch, then place your extract in your container of choice. Enjoy! 


how long does homemade vanilla extract last? 

If you make homemade vanilla extract correctly, it should maintain its quality for 5-10 years, depending on storage conditions.  

Due to its long shelf life, homemade vanilla extract makes a wonderful gift for friends and family. I always start a batch of it in the summer so it’s ready for Christmas gifts come December! 

how many times can you reuse vanilla beans for extract? 

You can use vanilla beans for extract more than once, which makes them a gift that keeps on giving. Just know that the flavor will get weaker over time. Many recommend using them no more than four times.

Once you’ve created your first batch of vanilla extract, feel free to reuse them in the next few batches. For added flavor, you can add additional fresh beans to the new batch. 

what are the best vanilla beans for extract?

Many consider the best vanilla beans for extract to be the Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans. They are the most popular choice for turning bulk vanilla beans to vanilla extract.

However, you can also use Tahitian vanilla beans or Mexican vanilla beans. I usually purchase whatever I can find at the best price at my bulk foods or local spice store.

So, will you be trying this homemade vanilla recipe out? Let me know in the comments! 

Vanilla Extract from Scratch

Vanilla Extract from Scratch

Making vanilla extract is easy with just 2 ingredients and some patience!

Additional Time 4 months
Total Time 4 months


  • 4-5 vanilla beans
  • Alcohol (vodka, bourbon, or whiskey)


  1. Place vanilla beans in an upcycled jar
  2. Submerge vanilla beans in your alcohol of choice and seal the jar shut
  3. Place in the cabinet for 4-5 months (the longer it sits, the more flavorful it will be!)
  4. Strain the beans out and compost or use again - pour into your container of choice and enjoy!
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