Practically Free Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Practically Free Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Make your own homemade vanilla extract with this recipe and save money.

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Do you love to make things yourself to save money? Do you like to know where your ingredients come from and use items that are minimally processed? That’s what an urban homestead is all about. If you do a lot of your own cooking and baking you probably go through vanilla extract like water. Those tiny bottles are so expensive!

In an effort to become more sustainable I did some research on how to make it myself. I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for over 5 years now and it has literally saved me hundreds of dollars over those years. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true! Let me share my homemade vanilla extract recipe with you.

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe Backstory

There’s a backstory here. I made my first bottle 5 years ago using 80 proof vodka and 5 Madagascar vanilla beans. I went through that in 2 years. The kids were younger and I was doing a ton of scratch baking. Then I made the second bottle and it’s still going strong and on its third year. It’s a deep, rich brown and the flavor is very smooth. I made a rookie mistake with the second bottle however. I had no idea that you could continue to refill the vodka over the same beans.

Benefits of homemade vanilla extract

First and foremost is the enormous cost savings from making this yourself at home rather than store bought. Secondly, you know exactly what is in it. It was made in your kitchen, you can use organic ingredients if you like to make it even healthier. Thirdly, this bottle is sustainable by topping it off with vodka after you start to use it. Finally, the more items you can make and provide for yourself, the less you depend on commercial products.


First, you will need a base alcohol such as vodka, rum, or bourbon. I have only used vodka, but I’ve read that you can get an interesting and richer flavor using bourbon or rum. I’m interested in practical and didn’t want to turn off the kids with something that tastes (different) “weird”. Smirnoff vodka, inexpensive, middle-of-the-road vodka at least 80 proof is what I have used. Next, the beans.

Madagascar vanilla beans are what I have used for my homemade vanilla extract recipe. There are other types of beans out there that will give variations of flavor. Again, practical, let’s just keep it simple. You will need 5 of these for one bottle. Choose Grade B beans, these are drier and more suited for making your own homemade vanilla extract. I’ve read conflicting reports on this, but I’ve only used Grade B and my extract is on point. We call that anecdotal evidence!


This is the crazy easy part. Open your vodka bottle, insert 5 vanilla bean pods, close bottle, shake, place in a dark cupboard. That is really all that you need to do. I have read about splitting the bean in half lengthwise, scraping the vanilla into the bottle, etc. The Grade B vanilla beans are dry and usually naturally split, but you can do this is you like. Keep it in a dark cupboard to protect it from light.

Shake the bottle once in a while, watch it as the color grows deeper. After about 6-8 weeks it is ready for use. You can transfer it into smaller- sized bottles for ease of use or for Christmas gifts.

Cost savings

  • Smirnoff vodka 80 proof $10.99
  • 5 Madagascar vanilla beans $22.99/10 ($12/5)
  • Total cost for one 750mL bottle of homemade vanilla extract $23

Online through Amazon, you can buy McCormick’s Pure Vanilla Extract for $3.35 per fluid ounce. There are 25.36 fluid ounces in a 750 mL bottle of vodka. At that price per ounce, you would end up paying $84.96 for that bottle of vanilla extract.

Alternatively, by making your own homemade vanilla extract you pay $0.90 cents per fluid ounce! The math comes out to 73% off! Who doesn’t like a 73% discount? Not this girl. Less than a dollar an ounce. That is something.

homemade vanilla extract
homemade vanilla extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Practically free homemade vanilla extract uses only 2 ingredients and takes under 5 minutes to make.
Prep Time 2 mins
Total Time 2 mins


  • 750 mL Vodka
  • 5 beans Madagascar Grade B Vanilla Beans


  • Split pods open and drop into vodka bottle
  • Replace the cap and shake!


Ready to use in 6-8 weeks.  Shake once a week.
Keyword Homemade vanilla extract

My Amazon picks

Can’t wait 6-8 weeks?

I have found a fantastic resource for making your homemade vanilla extract in your Insta Pot. Head over to see Abbey at The Butter Half to get detailed instructions for instant gratification.

Wrap it up!

To store your high-quality homemade vanilla extract, keep it in a dark place or use a dark bottle such as a wine bottle. You can also share the love and give it away as a gift. Use dark colored, small sized bottles and affix a cute, personalized tag. Don’t distribute into gift bottles until after it has extracted (8 weeks).

Thank you for reading. I hope you will grab a coffee and take a look around my website for tips on creating a practical urban homestead. Please leave a comment below or subscribe. Check out my other cooking articles here.

Homemade vanilla extract

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