How to Make Pure Vanilla Extract for Half the Cost

Save Money and Create Superior Baked Goods at the Same Time

Gourmet Vanilla Beans
••• Steven G. de Polo/Moment/Getty Images

Do you have a taste for pure vanilla extract but hate paying the high price? Make your own at a fraction of the cost and get that same natural flavor in your baked goods.

How to Make Pure Vanilla Extract

Pure vanilla extract really is better than the imitation vanillas and some seasoned bakers can even tell the difference in the finished goods. If you really want to impress, it's a good idea to upgrade to the real deal.

This recipe makes about 8 ounces of pure vanilla extract. Any regular baker knows that this can last a very long time—even years—because, quite often, only a teaspoon or two are used at a time. That means that a single batch of extract could make up to 48 cakes!

Preparing the vanilla extract is very easy and should take just about 5 minutes. The drawback is that you need to allow about 2 months for the extract to fully develop (and it will only get better with time). While it is easy, it is not quick. Be sure to plan accordingly.

What You Need:

  • 1 cup vodka
  • 3 vanilla beans
  • A glass jar with a tight-fitting lid
  • A knife

How to Do It:

  1. Use a knife to split the vanilla beans open lengthwise, stopping one inch from the end of each bean.
  2. Place the cut beans in a glass container and cover them with vodka.
  3. Make sure the beans are completely submerged and push down any that are not.
  4. Secure the lid and store in a cool, dark place.
  5. Allow the extract to develop for at least two months before using. Shake the bottle at least once a week.

More Tips for Making Vanilla Extract

  • To replenish your supply of extract, just add more vodka to the bottle. The original beans will retain their flavor for years.
  • Homemade vanilla extract makes a great gift. Package some up in small bottles and decorate them with your own label.
  • Online vendors often have the best price for vanilla beans and you can find them for $1 per bean or less. If you go to your local grocery store, you might pay $3 or more for a single bean.
  • Do you want to make vanilla without the alcohol? Not a problem! All you need is vegetable glycerin and a few tips.

    Why Is Pure Vanilla Extract So Expensive?

    The simple answer is that vanilla beans themselves are expensive. The price of real vanilla extract is reflected in the cost of the beans used to make it. 

    The average cost for pure vanilla extract is around $16 for an 8-ounce bottle and the really good stuff can run even higher. Compare that to the $6-8 for the same amount of imitation vanilla and you can see why frugal bakers often turn to the cheaper stuff.

    How Much Does Homemade Vanilla Extract Cost?

    Savvy shoppers will find deals on the vodka and vanilla beans needed to make their own vanilla extract. The cost savings is significant, especially considering the beans can be reused. 

    If we use this recipe to make 1 cup (or 8 ounces) of extract, our costs would be around:

    • Vodka: $3.36 per cup (when buying a $5 pint specifically for this project)
    • Vanilla Beans: $1 per bean (an average price online)
    • Total Cost: $6.36 per 8 ounces pure vanilla extract

    By making your own, you not only get a superior product but can also save money over the cheap imitation stuff!