How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Sugar

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Making Your Own Vanilla

If you do any amount of baking at home you’ll have a little bottle of vanilla extract at the ready, but vanilla extract gets pretty expensive and using fresh vanilla pods every time you bake is even more extravagant. Conversely though, imitation vanilla can be pretty nasty, so you may not want to economize too much at the expense of your baked goods!

Fortunately, homemade vanilla extract and vanilla sugar can be produced (and perpetuated) very cheaply, and it is every bit as good as anything store bought.

You will need to buy a few vanilla pods to make your own vanilla extract.

Vanilla pods are black seed pods that are about 6 inches in length. They are produced most often in Madagascar, Indonesia and other tropical climes. A single vanilla pod will cost you a couple of dollars (they require hand pollination, hand cultivation and a lengthy curing time – all adding to the costs of the bean!) but with this purchase of 10 dollars or so, you can make enough vanilla extract to last an average home baker for years.

Making Vanilla Extract

  • Take 5 vanilla pods and slit each lengthwise in half, to expose the small black seeds contained within
  • Put the beans in a small glass container (a canning jar works well) and cover with about a cup of vodka. Actually, you can use any other 40% alcohol liquors, if desired, but vodka is often recommended due to it’s neutrality of flavor.
  • Let the beans steep into the alcohol for a couple of months, giving the jar a little shakeroo every couple of weeks.
  • After a couple of months, and after the vodka has turned a rich brown color, use the extract as called for in your favorite recipes.
  • Top up the jar occasionally with vodka, as you use it, to perpetuate your inexpensive supply of vanilla extract. (After a couple of years, you may need to add in another pod or two.

Making Vanilla Sugar

This could not be easier

  • Take one or two used vanilla pods (after you’ve already used the seeds contained within for a recipe) and bury them in a pound of sugar.
  • Let the sugar soak up the aromas for a couple of weeks
  • You now have vanilla sugar!

There is something very satisfying in making your own vanilla extract. Do it once and have top quality real vanilla flavor in your cupboard for years to come!

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Comments 4 comments

judydianne profile image

judydianne 6 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

This is great! I'm going to make my own vanilla extract. The price of vanilla is outrageous. Thanks for this recipe!


Motorbabe 6 years ago

Hi John, i live in Singapore and just wondering if the weather which is the same as Thailand permits the bottle sitting in my kitchen cabinet or should i stick it in the fridge? i currently have vanilla pods sticking in my fridge and vodka in my freezer so I'm going to have some fun with making my own vanilla extract!


John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 6 years ago Author

Hi Motorbabe,

Absolutely, you can leave this out on the counter, not a problem, even in the tropics!


WendyYorker profile image

WendyYorker 4 years ago from Southern California

I can't wait to try this!

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