Homemade Vanilla Extract: Giveaway!

Way back in mid-October, I’d already decided on the treat-trifecta I would be doling out to friends and family during the holidays: vanilla extract, handmade orecciette, and candied citrus peels. It is currently t-minus 3 days to christmas, and I have completed one of those items. Well, one and a half . . . ish. I made one gift bag of orecciette for a yankee swap; it took up three hours of my time and a majority of my counter space. Doing that again, for a dozen more gifts? Nuh uh. Not happening. And as for the citrus peels, watching a pot of boiling sugar water for several hours and cleaning stickiness off of everything in my kitchen is pretty much at the top of my list of Things I Don’t Want To Do right now. But in my world, where ambition is constantly pitted against laziness-fueled procrastination, one out of three ain’t bad.

Because I love the idea of homemade vanilla extract so much (which—to give credit where credit is due—I originally discovered here), I really wanted to post this in late November / early December, so that you too might have a chance to make your own and delight all of the bakers on your gift list. It’s hard to find a more perfect gift for a habitual baker. Not only is it practical, adorable, and easy to make (once you’ve collected all the components), it is also virtually endless. Every time I run out of vanilla extract, I wind up in the baking aisle, begrudgingly scanning the bottles and trying to convince myself that it really is ok to spend $7+ on a tiny amount of liquid, because I will only be using it a teaspoon at a time. But this will be a problem no more! Once you begin to run low, you just add a little more vodka.

Anyway, since I’m way too late to inspire any of you to make this yourselves (for this holiday season, at least), I would like to give a few away! It’s the least I can do. Please forgive me for being lazy. I’ve got three up for grabs. Just comment on this post by midnight on Sunday. I will choose the three people at random, and announce the winners early next week. Hurray for free things!

Now, for those of you who would like to make your own extract, here’s how it’s done. First, you need a bunch of vanilla beans. I purchased a half pound of bourbon vanilla beans from Beanilla. Next, you’ll need a bunch of 4 oz. bottles and caps (I bought a couple dozen from the Specialty Bottle company). And last, you’ll need some vodka. The cheap stuff is fine, just make sure it’s unflavored. Also, the higher proof, the better. (A higher proof vodka means better extraction. If you can purchase Everclear in your state, I highly recommend using that. If not, go with something 100 proof or more.) As for labels, I just bought some label paper from staples and made my own. If you don’t feel like bothering with that, there are plenty of places online where you can get custom labels.

Now that you have all the pieces, start by cutting up the beans. First, cut them in half. Then split each one down the side, making the yummy goodness (“caviar”) inside more accessible.

And then, stick the beans in the bottle and pour in the vodka.

Seal it, and you’re done. This will begin to look and smell like extract after only 24 hours, but you should let it steep for about 6 weeks for it to reach its full vanilla-ness. As I mentioned before, just keep adding a little vodka when you start to run low. If it seems weak after a while, just throw in another vanilla bean. Three cheers for never buying the store-bought stuff again!


  1. Heather says

    I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I would browse the food gawker site. I came across your post on vanilla extract – I’ve been wanting to do this for myself for a long time! I procrastinate until my $7 bottle is gone each time – glad I’m not the only one. :)

    I love the little bottles you pictured – it has inspired me to procrastinate no longer! I’m going to make my own vanilla extract!…Right after the holidays…

  2. Meryl says

    Your vanilla extract looks fantastic, plus I love Beanilla – they have the best vanilla beans and great customer service!

    • says

      Good question! I hadn’t looked into using other types of alcohol because I already had vodka on hand. But I just did a bit of research online and I found a number of recipes that suggest using rum or brandy as well.

  3. says

    Amazing to think you can make such elegant gifts out of just vanilla bean and vodka. Gorgeous bottles, and so thoughtful for a baker!



  4. Niki says

    Homemade vanilla extract has always been something I’ve wanted to do but never did. This would be great motivation to get it started! When you say it’s getting low, you add vodka… are we saying like half empty or 1/4 full? Do you have to let it sit for 6 more weeks when you add more vodka or maybe only 3 weeks if you add it at halfway?

    • says

      I’d say add some more vodka when it’s half empty. And what’s in there is already so potent, it shouldn’t need to steep for long at all (maybe a week or two).

  5. Matt says

    Great idea! I’ll be making this for gifts next year for all my baker friends.

    (Nothing generates comments like the promise of something free, eh?)

  6. Cassie says

    Great idea! I would love to try it to taste the difference from store-bought vanilla. Thanks for adding the websites of where you purchased everything.

  7. says

    Thank so much for sharing this amazing idea! I never thought of doing this myself. Will definitely be making my own and sharing the process in my blog. Amazing pictures by the way.

  8. Wendy F. says

    What a wonderful Christmas gift this would make. Thanks for the information and the chance to win some. :) Have a Merry Christmas.

  9. Staci Martinez says

    This is a fabulous gift box item for an avid baker! Thanks for the instructional post! I know what my neighbors are getting next year! I have never purchased a whole vanilla bean – but have seen them at World Market – how do you tell the quality of a good bean?

    • says

      You definitely want to look for big, fat-ish beans! The more “caviar” there is inside, the better. I was purchasing whole beans from our local natural foods market, but they were disappointingly flat and, in my opinion, not worth 79¢ a piece. Also, if you’re curious about the different varieties of vanilla beans (of which there are many), you can find a great breakdown here.

  10. says

    i just saw your post on foodgawker- I am in love with this idea! it is too cute! I would love to give it a try… Keeping my fingers crossed!

    p.s. I am your newest follower

    • says

      Haha! Ooh, I have been dying to make fruit leather too. It will be such a nice, keep-my-house-warm winter activity.

      My blog is taking the surprise out of some of my gifts!

  11. says

    Fabulous! I’m constantly using vanilla and this is just a perfect thing for me to make myself…and a perfect gift to giveaway at the holidays. Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. says

    as a habitual baker, you’d think i’d have vanilla on hand all.the.time. i don’t. i am always low on the stuff. PLUS, i saw that exact how-to-make-your-own-vanilla last year thinking i would do it this year. nope. laziness bug crawled up my bum & it’s holding on tight.

  13. Wendy says

    Considering I just begrudgingly paid $7 for said COMMERCIAL bottle yesterday…lol I’m happy to know it IS possible to make my own!! And homemade is always better there’s just no denying that! Thanks for the wonderful gift idea (already on next year’s TO DO list!!) Where did you get the format to print those adorable labels? They look great!!

    Happy Holidays to you!


    • says

      I was going through counting comments and I realized I never responded to you—my apologies! I actually found a lace graphic through google images, played around with the color a bit in Photoshop, and then made the labels in InDesign. (I figured it I might as well use my computer know-how to make my own, instead of paying someone else to do so.)

  14. says

    Yay! This is the second site with homemade vanilla extract I’ve come across this week! And you are so right, it’s expensive in the store! Just had to by some more today. I use a LOT of vanilla, especially since I’m starting a home bakery LOL

  15. ~Lana B~ says

    YUM!!! I think I will make this for my foodie friends for valentines perhaps! Then they can truly bake some love into their valentine goodies! :) Thanks so much for sharing!

    ~Lana B~

  16. yiann says

    i’ll probly use this recipe instead buying this stuff like i’ve been planning to! (unless i get picked hoho). thanks!

  17. says

    Now this is the way to do vanilla extract! Sounds so simple & I cannot ever seem to have enough when I need it. Think I will make a few bottles like this! Happy Holidays.

  18. Jodie says

    Oh My Goodness, what a great idea! I am new to the baking crazy and am always buying Vanilla extract. And I love the idea of giving homemade gifts. Thanks for the post LOVE IT!!!

  19. Craig says

    Oooooooooooooooo, this will make a GREAT stocking stuffer gift for Saint Nicholas Day next year.

    Thanks so much for the tips! Merry Christmas!

  20. says

    i don’t even bake and i want to make some… the pictures are beautiful! what size/brand are the labels you used? i’m looking for some diy food labels :)

    • says

      Thanks, Julie! I used Avery 2 x 4 white shipping labels. In the future, I would just buy the full sheet shipping labels so that I could cut them to whatever size I needed, and fit as many as I wanted on one sheet. (I’ve been doing that with the 2 x 4 labels and the seams aren’t too noticeable, but it would be nice if I didn’t have to deal with it at all.) I’ve also been covering them with a layer of packing tape to keep the ink from running if it happens to get wet.

  21. Brittany says

    I wouldn’t have thought to use vodka for the extract…the photos look gorgeous. Another easy holiday gift is infused spirits; last year I made a cranberry liqueur with chopped cranberries, a bottle of gin and some sugar. All you need is 2 weeks to let it sit then you take the cranberries out and you’re done.

  22. Rachel says

    I must have seen the same post on foodgawker that you did, because I made homemade vanilla for Christmas, too! I got the 4 oz clear boston rounds from specialty bottle co, and the bulk madagacar vanilla beans from Beanilla. The only thing I didn’t do is buy the labels, because at $14 a sheet, it was just too much money. I bought some Christmas tags from JoAnn Fabric and Crafts and handwrote mine. Either way, everyone loved it! I think I’ll make it again next year, and when I do, I’m going to make some with bourbon to see what the taste difference is. I love cooking with the homemade vs. store bought because of all the little black specks of vanilla floating around in my goodies =)

    Oh, and FYI, Costco sells a 16oz. bottle of pure vanilla extract for around $6.99. That’s where I get mine from all the time =) It’s their Kirkland brand, but it’s not bad for the price! Homemade is always better, tho!!

    Happy New Year!

  23. says

    Hey Carey! I received my vanilla today!! THANKYOU so very much!! It’s soo pretty in that bottle and I can see all the lovely vanilla specks floating around. I can hardly wait to try it!!

    That’s funny about the raspberry extract because I was going to offer to send you the $ to pick me some up and mail along with it..lol Maybe it’s just a seasonal thing? I’ll look around online.

    Thanks so much for the vanilla! I promise it will be very lovingly used! :)



    • says

      Hurray! I’m glad it made it, safe and sound. I had to lie to the nice post office lady and tell her I was shipping maple syrup. (She then told me me she had to write Liquid—Maple Syrup on the box, and she was sorry if it ruined the surprise . . . heh heh.)

      I will still keep an eye out for raspberry extract for you! They’ve got to have it somewhere!

  24. says

    I love homemade vanilla extract! It tastes better than anything you can get in the stores. And still pay the bills and buy groceries! What’s even better is when the vanilla is ready you can put the used beans into a jar of sugar and have homemade vanilla flavored sugar for putting in frosting and cakes!

    • says

      It’s true — it’s so good! I love using the leftover pods for sugar. I’ve also seen them used to make vanilla salt, which would be amazing with chocolatey treats.

  25. Donna says

    I am also late to the party, but love this idea! Do u remove the vanilla beans after the 6 weeks or just leave them ? Also, cud u use bigger bottles?

    • says

      Hi Donna! I just leave the vanilla beans right in there, since they’ll continue to add flavor. If it starts to taste a little dull, you can remove a few and add some new pieces. And you could definitely use a bigger bottle too.

  26. Mary Holt says

    I love following your post!! Where do you get all the energy to do all the things you do??? I’m jealous!!!The vanilla give-away is awesome!!!!! Thanks for all you do!!!


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