How To Make Vanilla Extract

 It’s our first giveaway of the year!  To see how you  can win a bottle of Molly’s homemade vanilla extract see the bottom of the post!

Every year we make our gifts for friends and family.  In theory it’s a fantastic idea.  Come December our brains go on overdrive with what we want to accomplish.  I spent two weeks before the holidays practically chained to my sewing machine only getting up to stir a pot of soup or pull cookies out of the oven.  About half of our ideas make it out as an actual gift but what does make it feels pretty special and an accomplishment.  I know it’s a bit after the fact but I couldn’t post this before Christmas!  All my family would know what they were getting- work with me here!

Last year I really wanted to make vanilla extract for everyone.  I didn’t pull it off  in time so I figured I was way ahead of the game for this year.  This is a great gift for anytime of year.  My favorite part is that you can make a big batch of  vanilla, put it in the closet and pull one out whenever you need that quick gift.

How to make vanilla extract:


Vanilla beans- I purchased them from Vanilla Products USA

Vodka (enough to fill each 4 oz bottle)

4 oz bottles and caps- I purchased them from Specialty Bottle Supply

A funnel


1.  Get your bottles out and clean them.

Bottles for vanilla extract

2.  Cut each bean in half and split it down the middle.

How to prep the vanilla bean

3.  Plop it into your bottle.

 Vanilla bean into bottle

4.  Get your vodka out.  Depending on your mood grab a shot glass and take a sip 😉

Vodka, bottle and shot glass

5.  Pour vodka into the bottles- all the way to the top

 Pour the vodka into the bottle

6. Cap them and glue on your label (see instructions below).

Cap the bottle

7.   Store in a dark place for 60 days

 Store in the dark for 60 days

Vanilla Beans:

There are tons of choices out there.  Just do a little searching and you can do some price comparisons.  I got my beans at Vanilla Products USA.

Getting bottles:

We save all of our bottles.  I was hoping after a year I would have a few real good ones for this project.  The problem was that the smaller bottles were impossible to get clean.  There always seemed to be one piece of gunk stuck in the crevice on the bottom.  The large bottles were just too big.  Mike reminded me that I’m one of the very few that uses a pint of vanilla extract over the course of a few months.

I gave in, went online and found some real cute inexpensive bottles at Specialty Bottle Supply.  I only needed about 13.  I found that when I ordered 20 the price of shipping per bottle went down by about $.10 per bottle so I ordered more than I needed.

Making labels:

Mike and I went online and found an assortment of free ready made label templates.  The first one I made looked like this:

First try at vanilla label

It’s very cute but too much was going on for such a small label.  You can download this free label here.

After a bit more searching I got what I needed.  Mike found one with lots of choices on one page.  Go here to see what I downloaded and here’s what I came up with.

The final vanilla label

Mike took the .pdf file and in Adobe Photoshop converted it into a .jpg.  From there I uploaded it into Picnik and added my own text.  After saving it Mike went back into Adobe Photoshop and set 16 to a page. I printed them out.

I wanted a handmade look to them.  I pulled out my fancy scissors and started cutting.  I used spray adhesive to stick them on.


Vanilla Beans (includes shipping): $17 (I ordered a 1lb bag for $32 and used half of it)

20 bottles and tops (includes shipping): $26

Vodka: $24 (I found a store brand on special that day!)

Labels: a few pennies for the paper and the ink I used from my printer….Let’s call it $.50

Total cost for 20 bottles: $67.50 

Cost per bottle: $3.38

These make really useful but unique gifts.  I love having something like this around for those times you want to bring a host gift to a party or for that birthday gift you forgot to get.

Now we did mention something about a giveaway.  To enter write a comment on this post letting us know what you are looking forward to in 2012 or tell us your version of  how to make vanilla extract (yep, it’s that simple).   We will pick a winner randomly from the comments using  You have until midnight on Saturday, January 7th to enter.  The winner will be announced during next Tuesdays Hearth-n-Soul blog hop!


This post is part of the  Hearth-n-Soul blog and Whipper Berry blog hops. Click on the badges to see all the other participants for this week’s blog hop!  I also want to throw out a big congratulations out to Penniless Parenting (one of the sponsors of the Hearth-n-Soul).  She’s the proud Mama of a brand new baby girl!

Hearth-n-Soul Blog Hop Whipperberry

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  1. Grumpyrumblings
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    DH did this last year!  His vanilla is still going strong.  (He used root beer bottles though– dark bottles help the vanilla last longer.  We bought fancy rubber stoppers for the tops.)

    • Posted January 3, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      The rubber stoppers are a great idea. 

  2. Posted January 3, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    nice tip

  3. Kristy Gardner
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I don’t have a recipe for DIY vanilla extract (yet)… but as for 2012: I’m looking forward to living smaller. I’ve been steadily decreasing my reliance on a consumer economy over the past year and a half (ie canning, growing food, bartering/exchanging items, etc…) and I really wanna commit to that. Ya know? As much as I can living in an urban center anyhow. Suggestions would be nice!

    PS. If I win you can contact me via my blog: ….if I don’t win, you can still come say hi if you like 😉

    • Posted January 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      Just checked you out- so glad to find another girl that loves her wine.  My original idea was to make the vanilla extract in empty wine bottles using the corks (I gotta do something with all those bottles!).  That’s when Mike started questioning ‘how’ much vanilla my friends ‘really’ used.
      BTW-I’m getting my first tattoo this Thursday!

      • Grumpyrumblings
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

        Answer:  quite a bit once you realize vanilla works really well in morning coffee.

  4. Posted January 3, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I am looking forward to losing a bit of my disillusion.. bringing back a feeling that making things is worth the time cleaning up afterwards!

    as a person that’s never made vanilla extract.. not sure I have a version.. but as an art director in a past life? I would put the beans directly on my scanner, scan’em and make a label that way, printing on sticky back paper.  (does that count?)

    Howabout moonshine instead of vodka?

    • Posted January 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      Oh, Helen, you are my sister from another mother!

  5. Tracey
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    I am looking forward to more cool and cheap ideas for d.y.i. gifts from you!  I intend to try this one.

  6. Posted January 3, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    I think I’ve seen recipes that call for bourbon instead of vodka. Is there a reason you chose vodka? I’m always a bit cautious with vodka since I’ve had some not so wonderful experiences with it in the past. Maybe I’ll try making a single bottle with bourbon and sharing my experience in a few months.

    I’m looking forward to 2012 being a bit more upbeat. It sure feels like we hit bottom in 2011. I don’t want to think that things could get worse.

    • Posted January 4, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      I’ve never seen a recipe for bourbon but my bestie, Juliette, has made it with bourbon.  There’s got to be a taste difference…I think I’ll make a small bottle too!  Don’t forget to let me know how it turns out!

  7. Posted January 4, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    I would have loved a gift like this for Christmas (or anytime as far as that goes).  Your vanilla looks so cute all bottled up with your custom labels.  Considering the price of a bottle of vanilla it seems pretty practical too.  In 2012 I’m looking forward to more baby chicks, a new batch of maple syrup, more homemade wine, building my blog, and self-publishing a cookbook which is almost ready for print!

    • Posted January 5, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      I can’t wait for your cookbook.  Keep us updated!

  8. Nansuelee
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Great Post!  I have wanted to try making vanilla but have not gotten around to it.  In 2012 I am looking forward to hopfully not having excessive medical expenses.  It is time to get back to good health!

  9. Doglover1918
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Been thinking about making vanilla for years – we use tons of it! Gonna get in gear now that the process has been laid out so clearly – thanks! I’m looking forward to the completion of the rehab of this awful building that sits in a beautiful setting, here: . Keep up the great work!

  10. heidi
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I can attest to the sewing projects, having been one of the happy recipients of Molly’s needle-and-thread prowess!  But how is it that I didn’t receive any vanilla extract in my Christmas stocking??!! Oh the ungrateful sister/sister-in-law that I am. No seriously though–great project and cool labels!

    In 2012 I look forward more dark chocolate treats, my sweetie laughing at my bad jokes (I finally got him good the other day!!), and, if I’m really lucky, a little space for some creative time.  Oh and becoming a mommy… : )

    • Posted January 5, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      Ahem!  I’m not naming names, but someone in our house put the ka-bosh! on sending out certain things…shipping too many things for fear of expense…but again, I won’t say ‘who’ it was.
      Dark chocolate and babies sounds wonderful, BTW!

  11. Posted January 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    That is so cool you two. The whole damn thing.

    Since you asked, the thing I’m looking forward to the most in 2012 is not having a damn car payment.

  12. Posted January 5, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    I love this. I wanted to do it for Christmas presents last year, but I forgot to start it earlier. Like back in August, but I am doing it this year. 

  13. Brent
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Homemade vanilla extract is excellent! I have been in charge of making vanilla for our restaurant for nearly 20 years. The most important aspect is using the proper ratio of vanilla beans to vodka.  YOU MUST USE AT LEAST 5 BEANS PER 8 OUNCES VODKA.  Any less and you are only making flavored vodka.

     It is also important to use premium quality vanilla beans. While the price is awesome, I can tell by the photos that the quality is sub par.  Premium beans should be plump and oily to touch.

    • Posted January 7, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      This is great advice!  Our beans are oily but I would not call them ‘plump’.  I’m adding beans to my recipe!

  14. Posted January 6, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    This is a great idea, and what cute bottles! Thank you for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul hop. 

  15. Goat_girl
    Posted January 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    The labels make it!  HOpe I win this giveaway!  I always like when people make homemade vinegar gifts too…but, this is unique. 

  16. Chestnut Mocha
    Posted July 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Wow, your labels are so cool, great idea!!!  We just made some, too 🙂

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