Friends often ask me what is my favorite type of vanilla extract.  Do I believe that imitation extracts are fine or do I prefer pure Madagascar Vanilla from fine kitchen stores?  My answer is neither.  For years I have used the same glass bottle of vanilla beans mixed with vodka.  Over time I have added more beans and continually top off with vodka whenever needed.  I store my bottle in the pantry at room temperature.  I have friends who have topped off the same bottle of vanilla beans for ten years and more!  Your baked goods will taste delicious with your homemade extract.

Make it:

  • Whole vanilla beans (at least three to start off with, you can add more over time later).  I buy my beans at Penzeys Spices online or at their stores.
  • Plain Vodka.  Resist the temptation to buy vanilla vodka to make it more vanilla-y.  Good old plain vodka is the best.
  • A mason jar, a jar with cap, or any fun decorative bottle that you can use over the years.

Split vanilla beans lengthwise to open them up.  Place beans in a clean jar or bottle.  Fill jar with vodka covering vanilla beans.  Store in a cool, dry place (pantry, spice cupboard).  I avoid storing spices and extracts near my oven or stove.


In about two weeks your beautiful vanilla extract will be ready to use.  Use it 1:1 in recipes – if your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, use 1 teaspoon of your homemade extract.

Fill with fresh vanilla beans anytime (keep the old ones in the bottle) and top with fresh vodka when needed.