Homemade Vanilla Extract
This recipe can be made in any quantity.  Simply use the ratio of five beans per eight ounces of alcohol. Though it takes a bit of patience as you wait for the alcohol to extract the flavor from the beans, the process is incredibly easy and the delicious results are well worth the wait.


  • 5 vanilla beans (I prefer Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans; see sourcing information, below)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) bourbon, vodka, rum or brandy
  • 1 (12-ounce or bigger) bottle or jar for soaking
  • Glass bottles for packaging (3 1/2- to 4-ounce bottles are a nice size for gift giving)


  1. Slice halfway through the long side of the beans. (You want a slit all the way down one side of the bean without cutting the bean in half.)
  2. Place the beans in a jar or bottle.
  3. Pour in the alcohol, making sure the beans are covered.
  4. If your jar is not tall and narrow enough for the whole beans to be fully submerged in the alcohol, you may cut the beans in half or quarters.
  5. Place the lid tightly on the jar and shake well.
  6. Store the jar in a cool, dark place and shake once or twice a week.
  7. The flavor will be fully developed in about 8 weeks, although you may begin using the extract after a month.
  8. The beans may be removed after the waiting period, but this is not essential. If left in, the flavor of the extract will continue to develop.
  9. If you wish to give the extract as a gift before the waiting period is over, simply make it in the gift jars, noting on the tag that the vanilla will be ready and completely delicious on or after such-and-such date.


  • If the beans are left in the jar, you may top off the bottle with additional alcohol as you use the extract. Eventually all the flavor will be extracted from the original vanilla beans, so you’ll want to periodically replace the old beans with fresh ones.
  • The little flecks of seeds are a nice touch, but the extract may be strained through a coffee filter if a clear extract is preferred.
  • When the vanilla beans are removed, they may be dried out and placed in a sugar canister to lightly flavor the sugar.

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