Homemade vanilla extract is so easy to make at home and is a budget-friendly gift idea during the holidays. Use it in cakes, cookies, brownies, and more!

jar and vanilla beans on a blue backgroundWhen it comes to DIYs, the kitchen is really my jam over house projects and crafts. Sure, I like a good Pinterest-worthy kitchen decorations project, but as my fiancé can attest to, sometimes my crafts aren’t the greatest when they involve creating things from scratch. Except when it comes to kitchen DIYs, now there is something I can totally get behind! I have a fascination with trying to make most kitchen staples from scratch, or at least give it a good shot. Sometimes, making staples from scratch istoo time consuming to do all the time (like bread or pasta), but other times making an even better version of something you are using all the time already is so easy (like this homemade vanilla extract!).

How to make vanilla extract

You don’t really need a recipe for this, just fill a small jar or bottle with vodka, whiskey, rum, or bourbon, drop in a few vanilla beans that have been scraped (along with the stuff you scraped out of the inside), shake, and enjoy! The longer you let the extract sit, the better it is going to taste, so I would say to let the initial mixture sit for a few days before using. Also, I don’t ever take out any of the old pods in my mixture. It sounds gross, but leaving those lovely vanilla beans in there just draws every bit of flavor out of them. If they start to get slimy though, it’s time to ditch them and start fresh.

jar and vanilla beans on blue background

Tips for making homemade vanilla extract

I think the biggest key to making the best homemade vanilla extract is finding your taste preference for the alcohol that is used. I made the mistake one of the first times I made extract to use the cheapest bourbon I could find. Please don’t be like me and do that. My recommendation would be to use the second cheapest version of the alcohol you end up using in your extract. According to The Kitchn, you don’t need to get the top of the line booze, but remember that you will be pouring this into your cookies and cakes, so you better like how it tastes.

I have to admit, I didn’t start making my own vanilla extract until semi-recently—like, within the past couple of years. I always thought that you had to make a batch, let it sit for a million months, and THEN you could use it in your favorite cookies. But once I read Joy The Baker‘s first cookbook and her way to make vanilla extract at home, my mind was changed!

In the first part of her cookbook, she explains a lot of the basics of baking, different types of flours, etc. Joy also touches on how she makes her own vanilla extract at home. Simply put, cut a few vanilla beans in half, scrape out the seeds (aka the nectar of the Gods), drop the vanilla beans and seeds into a small jar, fill with alcohol, BOOM. Done and done. Once I found out vanilla extract could be made as you needed it, I was so on board this train. Once you make the homemade stuff, I promise you won’t ever go back to the regular.

Now, if you are making vanilla extract as a gift, I would recommend letting the mixture sit for a few months, shaking every few weeks or so until it is gifted. But, if you want to fill batch by batch at home, trust me, it totally works. If you are getting a Christmas gift from me and like to bake, you can rest assured this will be under the tree for you.

vanilla beans being placed into a jar on blue background

How to use vanilla extract

Vanilla extract is arguably the most versatile ingredient you have in your pantry. You can add this homemade vanilla extract to normal things like cookies, cakes, milkshakes, and blondies. But did you know that vanilla is also the perfect addition to your morning cup or coffee or tea? You’ll only need a little bit of the stuff, but it adds a unique, sweet note to any strong beverage.

Homemade vanilla extract is also divine in your morning bowl of oatmeal and can be mixed into plain yogurt to flavor it. You could even flavor your milk with a few drops of vanilla extract before pouring it onto your morning bowl of cereal! Add a bit of vanilla to your hot chocolate for a more intense flavor, and your morning pancakes will taste a million times better if you mix in some of this stuff.

pouring vodka into a jar with vanilla beans

Moral of the story? Homemade vanilla extract goes well with just about anything. Although it’s milder in flavor than most other extracts, you still only need to use a little bit of this stuff to get the flavor you’re after. If you’re adding vanilla extract to a warm dish, I recommend stirring it in near the end of the cooking time to prevent the flavor from evaporating (this extract is made with alcohol, after all!).

shaking jar of vanilla

Previously on Heart of a Baker:

Brown Sugar and Pecan Vegan Sticky Buns

Maple Pecan and Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

Flourless Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies

Vegan Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

pouring vodka into a jar with vanilla beans

Homemade Vanilla Extract

  • Author: Abby Bayatpour
  • Prep Time: 1 week
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 168 hours
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: American


Homemade vanilla extract is so easy to make at home and is a budget-friendly gift idea during the holidays. Use it in cakes, cookies, brownies, and more!


  • Vanilla beans
  • Alcohol of choice (vodka, bourbon, and whiskey work well)
  • Sealable jar or glass


  1. Cut the vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
  2. Add the vanilla beans and seeds into a jar.
  3. Top the vanilla beans with the alcohol of your choice.
  4. Let the vanilla extract sit for at least a month before using.


Vodka makes for the most neutral-flavored vanilla extract. You can use this homemade vanilla extract within a week or so, but the flavor is best after it’s had time to sit for a long time (a month or more).

Keywords: homemade vanilla extract, how to make vanilla extract