Homemade Vanilla – an easy gift idea

As fall approaches, I begin to think about the holidays and gift-giving. At least the homemade gifts that I’ll hand out to teachers and neighbors and friends who invite us over. For years, I’ve made strawberry jam and while I still made jam this year, I was looking for something a little different to give people who have gotten jam year-in, year-out. I wanted to find something that the kids could help with along with something that most people would appreciate getting as a gift. I came across a post about homemade vanilla. Seemed simple enough, so I decided to give it a try. Two ingredients, cute bottles and time. That’s it.

To get this project going, you’ll need a vessel to put your vanilla in. I chose these adorable 8-ounce Boston Bottles from Specialty Bottle.    


Next item is some really nice vanilla beans. You’ll need three beans for every cup of liquid. I did a Google search for vanilla beans and Beanilla.com was the best source that I could find. Very highly rated and reasonably priced. I purchased a half-pound of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans which yielded enough beans for 18, 8-ounce jars of vanilla extract. They were beautiful, filled with seeds and smelled divine.


Next stop, liquor store. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you saw that I posted a picture of a shopping cart, filled with large vodka bottles, being pushed by my 7-year-old. Well, this is why I was buying the vodka. Did I mention I like to involve my kids in these projects? Well, I wasn’t kidding.


Oh, and, by the way, I grossly miscalculated how much vodka I needed. I only needed two and a half 1.75 L bottles. Luckily, I figured that out before I made the purchase, but the picture was already on Facebook.

Now you have everything. Only other supplies you need are scissors, funnel and a 1 cup measure (if the kids are helping). First step is to prepare your vanilla beans. Cut each bean in half and then in half length-wise. This makes for great division of labor. My 5-year-old did the cut in half:


And my 7-year-old cut them in half length-wise:


Once all of the beans are cut, distribute them into the bottles (3 full beans per bottle) and fill with vodka.


Screw on the lids nice and tight and voila! Homemade Vanilla Extract. You’ll want to let the bottles sit for a couple of months to allow the beans to really flavor the liquid and turn it nice and brown. During this two-month period, give the bottles a little shake every week or so, just to encourage maximum extraction. I’m still working on what the label will look like, but I wanted to give everyone enough time to do this themselves, if you wanted to get it done in time for the holidays. I’ll be sure to share the final product when they are done!


One final note, the total cost per bottle came to $7.40 – less than half as much as the fancy stuff you’d buy at specialty shops. If your homemade gift budget is less than that, you could certainly opt for the 4-ounce jar and cut your supplies in half. I would recommend investing in quality ingredients over cutting costs on cheaper vodka or lower-quality vanilla beans. Quality over quantity, always. Good luck!!


Here’s what it looks like after one month:


As you can see, it’s gotten a lot darker. Still needs more time, but it’s good progress! I even used some in a batch of cookies and they tasted great.


Here is the final bottle. This is after two full months of steeping. You’ll see it’s that deep, rich color that you would expect from vanilla extract. Loving the label too. I purchased the floral border from Sweet Shop Design on Etsy. I downloaded the following two free fonts: Madame Klara and Janda Cheerful. There are tons of free fonts out there on the web. I usually find great compilations on Pinterest. I have a board dedicated to favorite fonts: http://www.pinterest.com/goodatev/graphic-design/ – feel free to follow along!

Final product Vanilla 



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  1. You are a genius! I love this idea – only one question. Do you have to remove the beans, or do they add the most flavor?

    • Thanks, D!! Leave the bean as is, once you cut them up. Don’t discard any of it, just stick it in the bottle. Hope you are well!

      • Love it, super easy! Thanks for the post – I have a fudge recipe that calls for high quality vanilla. Very excited. I’m doing splendid, seems like you are as well. :)

  2. thank you thank you! just made these right now – love the idea!

  3. Carrie!!!!! I didn’t know you were a fellow blogger and crafty lady! I’m so happy to have found your blog! AND if that weren’t enough, I have been asking all of my friends recently if they know of a good source for cheap vanilla beans (I’m down to my last bean…heavens!), and here you have a solution for me. Thanks! Looking forward to following your blog from here on out.

    • Hey Joanna! So glad to see you here. Just checked out your blog – looks awesome. Excited to stay connected, on a whole new platform!

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