We homesteaders love to be self-sufficient, don’t we? And when we can save money at the same time, that’s the perfect combination! Making homemade vanilla extract is one of the best ways to save money and learn a new skill that can be used with other things like herbs and even fruit!
I have been making my own vanilla extract for a good 10 years. It tastes wonderful and believe it or not, it really is economical.
It feels like a large investment at first, but when we break it down, you’ll see that it’s cheaper than store bought. This makes it perfect for the homesteader or frugal baker, and the person who enjoys making handmade gifts.
And if you do enjoy making handmade gifts, you will want to consider making labels for your homemade vanilla! I have a free set of them for you at the end of this post!
Homemade Vanilla is Economical
The most expensive part of making homemade vanilla extract is purchasing the vanilla beans. But before you buy your vanilla beans, though, you need to choose which ones you’d like to use in for your extract. Let’s talk about that for a minute.
Grade A and B Vanilla Beans
The grade of vanilla beans you choose won’t matter so much if you are simply extracting, but here’s the difference: grade A beans are going to be usable also in dishes where you need to extract the vanilla flavor immediately. The reason for this is because the flavor will be more easily extracted from plumper, moister beans.
Grade B vanilla beans contain much less moisture, but for an extract that doesn’t matter much because you will not be needing the flavor to infuse as quickly as if you were using fresh vanilla beans for a dish. Since extracting takes 4-6 weeks, grade B are just fine for this job.
Which are the Best?
If you’ve ever shopped for vanilla beans, you may have found yourself confused as to which beans are best to use. There are a few options out there, and here is a quick overview to help you decide which area of the world you’d like your vanilla beans to hail from:
- Madagascar – sweet, creamy, mellow and velvety after tones
- Mexican – hint of clove or nutmeg
- Tahitian – floral, fruity with a cherry-like flavor
- Indonesian – delicate, smoky, woody, sweet
The choice on which are best to use is completely up to your own tastes!
What Liquid Should I Use to Extract the Vanilla?
Again, this is up to your own discretion, so long as you choose one of the following:
- vegetable glycerin
I prefer to use vodka, though I have also used bourbon. Both are good, but if you don’t prefer the flavor of bourbon, use vodka. I don’t have any experience using rum or brandy, but a quick google search indicates that both of those are also acceptable.
If you don’t want to use alcohol at all, try vegetable glycerin by substituting 3/4 cup glycerin for every 1 cup of alcohol recommended.
My FREE labels are tailored for whatever you choose to use to extract your vanilla. Make sure you grab yours at the end of this article!
Homemade Vanilla Cost Breakdown
I’m going to do a quick cost breakdown of what I spent per finished bottle of vanilla extract. You can use the same method to break down how much you are spending per bottle, if that is something that matters to you.
Beans: 2.99/vanilla bean x 6 = 17.94
Vodka: .17/oz x 12 = 2.04
Amber Bottles = 1.17/each x 3 = 3.51
Kraft Labels = .03 x 3 = .09
GRAND TOTAL FOR ALL 3 BOTTLES = $23.58
TOTAL PER BOTTLE = $7.86/4 oz. or $1.96/oz
This is a pretty good price as pure vanilla extract goes (unless you pay a pretty penny for a huge bottle), but if you think about it, you are likely to get it at close to half this price if you top it off with more alcohol because your vanilla beans can be re-used! Also, remember that the cost of the bottle and label are both figured into the cost which may, or may not matter to you.
And considering how much we can spend on a holiday gift for a friend or relative, less than $8 is a pretty great deal! And who doesn’t love a handmade gift?
Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe
- 4-6 vanilla beans (these are the Indonesian beans I used)
- 12 oz vodka, bourbon, rum, or brandy OR 9 oz vegetable glycerin
- pint mason jar (or another jar or bottle of your choice: I used these 4 oz. amber bottles)
- Cut all vanilla beans lengthwise to expose beans
- Place beans in jar
- Pour alcohol or glycerin over beans (make sure beans are completely covered)
- Allow to soak for 4-6 weeks before using. The longer, the better.
- After using, top off with alcohol for a second round!
Get Some FREE Labels for Your Vanilla Extract Bottles!
Subscribe to my weekly newsletter and get instant access to my resource library where you can find labels that you can use whether you use any of the four types of alcohol, or even vegetable glycerin! Includes information on which labels these are customized for!
Liz Lindsey says
What would be the taste difference between alcohol or veg glycerin?
Kristi Stone says
Hi Liz! Hm, well I would think that the flavor would be JUST vanilla, no alcohol flavor at all. However, I have never tried it with vegetable glycerin, I just know that many people prefer not to use alcohol.
Ok thanks!! I was thinking of doing both.
Kristi Stone says
I would if you are curious! I’d love to hear your thoughts once you taste them both!
So, basically, you are saying we can get two batches out of one bunch of beans Kristi? I would guess the second batch is not as ‘vanila-y’ as the first? I don’t bake a lot, but know this would make a great gift for folks who do. Thanks!
Kristi Stone says
YES! Isn’t that awesome? The beans will be somewhat spent the second time around, but if you are topping off the jar, the difference in flavor/strength shouldn’t be too stark!