Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

If you bake a lot like Annie does, you’ll use a lot of vanilla extract in your recipes. That can be costly, as commercial vanilla extract is expensive. The recipe for how to make your own vanilla extract at home is seriously easy to do, and cheaper in the long run than buying commercial vanilla extract.

But first, let’s back up a bit. Do you recognize this tree?

vanilla vine

Hawaiian Brian’s Vanilla Vine

Way back in 2008, we went to visit my home in Honolulu, Hawaii to attend my Mom’s retirement party.  During that trip we went to see our good friend Brian, who has a terrifically green thumbIn his large pink pomelo tree, he had started growing a vanilla orchid vine. The vanilla orchid is where vanilla beans come from.

Fast forward to 2011, and we again visited home, this time to attend my sister’s wedding.  And we again visited Brian, who was eager to show off his vanilla bean harvest which he had curing in his backyard. He had quite the spread of beans!

Hawaiian Brian’s Vanilla Beans

Hawaiian Brian's Vanilla Beans

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take any of his beans back with us to Malaysia. But we did have a vacuum sealed package of vanilla beans that we had gotten awhile back, just waiting for this application.

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Prep time: 20 min / Total time: 8 weeks


6 vanilla beans
2 cups vodka


1. Split the vanilla beans down the middle with a sharp knife to expose the seeds.

Vanilla Beans for Making Extract

2. Place beans in a clean glass jar and cover with the vodka.

Making Vanilla Extract

3. Store the jar in a cool, dark place. Every few days, give the bottle a shake. After 8 weeks, the vanilla extract is ready to use.

Finished Vanilla Extract

So easy, right?

Now, once you’ve made your own vanilla extract, there is no end to the number of recipes to use it in!  And the best thing is, once your jar of vanilla extract starts to get too low, you can just top it off with more vodka!

Aloha, Nate

What would you use vanilla extract in? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

12 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Vanilla, divine! Wonderful post, thanks so much for sharing!

  2. kat says:

    that is so cool your friend is growing his own!

  3. Nate,
    You know what? I’ve got my beans and vodka, even bottles but I just can’t find the mojo to do this. It’s not even anything complicated! Thanks for the reminder!

    And that’s a fat bean from Brian’s! Don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this in Singapore.

    • Nate says:

      It only takes 20 minutes of prep time, and a few seconds every few days to shake. Impossibly easy, even for a n00b like me ;-)

      I assume the beans are fat because they’re just harvested. They should shrink over time as they cure.

  4. babe_kl says:

    gee your friend’s vanilla bean is so plump!

  5. terri says:

    i didn’t know tt vanilla extract are alcoholic. so it’s not halal? if you come to kk, visit the mt kinabalu area. there’s a place where they grow vanilla beans.
    p.s. i have dreams of jellies! i can’t imagine making them for a whole month.

    • Nate says:


      Vanilla extract is by definition made with alcohol. But vanilla *essence* – which is manufactured from the chemical vanillin, not natural at all – is non-alcoholic.

      I think we saw a place advertising vanilla beans on the road to Ranau. Should’ve stopped! Maybe next time :-)

    • kc says:

      Terri, any idea where to find in vanilla beans in KK town areas? Have been looking for it.

  6. Mokihana says:

    This may be a silly question, but is the vanilla extract I buy at the store made with vodka also?

  7. The Yum List says:

    Mmm… vanilla… one of my favourite ingredients and scents.

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My Photo Annie is mistress of the kitchen while Nate is the master of the grill and smoker. We cook the homestyle Asian and Hawaiian foods of our younger days while also exploring the wider worlds of Western foods.

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