A Vat of Vanilla – How to Make Vanilla Extract

Here she is. My baby. A homemade vat of vanilla extract. Making vanilla extract is easy-peasy and much cheaper than buying it all the time.


This particular batch is over 3 years old now.



This, my friends, is love in a jar. There are few things in this world that smell as good as homemade vanilla extract. Women have even been known to wear it as perfume. While this can be made all year ’round, it makes an amazing Christmas gift.

Want some? It’s easy peasy.

First of all, do not, DO NOT (!) buy vanilla beans at the grocery store. The markup is crazy. Buy them in bulk and save as assload of money. I get mine here, and they last me about a year. (Sorry I said assload. I used it for emphasis only, I promise.)


Once you have your beans, take a clean, sterile jar of whatever size you like, and cram a bunch of vanilla beans it it. (This is very scientific. Try to stay with me.) Cut some of the beans open lengthwise to release their beany goodness. Cover the beans with 100 proof vodka. Put the jar in a dark cupboard and wait a few weeks.

Yup. That’s it.

My vat of vanilla is several years old now, and the flavor is amazing and complex. There are two different types of vanilla beans in it, and several different types of alcohol – mostly vodka, but also bourbon, spiced rum, and I think there’s even a snort of brandy in there.

I let the vanilla steep constantly. (Don’t worry, germophobes, once or twice a year I temporarily transfer the contents to another container, clean the jar, and then put the contents back in.) Every time I use a vanilla bean in a recipe, I place the empty bean into the jar. When the liquid gets low, I add more boozy goodness and let it steep for a few weeks more. If I don’t use up my vanilla beans fast enough and they start to get stiff, I just add them to the vat. I usually have to smoosh down the beans that are already in there, that’s how many beans are in the jar.


Instead of trying to take spoonfuls of vanilla out of the big jar, I have a few small amber bottles (eBay!) lying around that I use. Even this little jar has two vanilla beans in it, to maximize flavor.

To fill the jar, I just stick a funnel in the top and use a ladle to transfer the extract.


Whether you make some for yourself or to give to others, give it a whirl! It’s less expensive in the long run than buying pure vanilla extract at the store, and I think the flavor is better.

Have fun!