Homemade Vanilla Extract

December 06th, 2012  | Category: Preserving

Homemade Vanilla Extract

My homemade vanilla extract turns three!

I’ve started with just three vanilla beans and have been feeding it with leftover beans ever since. It has turned into a monster.

The smell is so intense, I’m sure I can make a fortune by selling tickets for people to take a whiff.

I know just the recipe to celebrate this glorious accomplishment. Sadly, I have to bake and not tell as the recipe is from my upcoming cookbook, but please hold on a few more days and I’ll be back with an amazing apple cake recipe. And a couple more recipes after that, using my favorite winter fruit.

Making your own vanilla extract can’t be easier.

How to cut a vanilla bean

Split the vanilla beans lengthwise in half, place in a bottle, pour vodka over and wait for a few months.

But I didn’t stop there.

Vanilla Beans

I’m going through lots of vanilla beans for recipe testing, so I had to come up with ways to make use of leftover beans.

If I’m using just the seeds for a recipe, the leftover beans go directly into my homemade vanilla extract. I feed it with 1/4 cup of vodka for every ten leftover vanilla beans I add into the bottle.

If I’m steeping the vanilla bean in milk, cream, etc., I wash it thoroughly, leave at room temperature to dry out and stick it in a jar of sugar. I call it “Poor Man’s Vanilla Sugar”.

Poor Man's Vanilla Sugar

It will not be as strong as a vanilla sugar made with seeds, but will be aromatic enough to use in drinks, coffee or tea.


Yield: 1 cup


  • 3 vanilla beans
  • 1 cup vodka


  1. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla beans lengthwise in half and place in a glass bottle.
  2. Pour vodka into the bottle to completely cover the beans, put on the cap tightly and store in a cool, dark spot for at least a month (preferably two) before using, shaking the bottle once a week to help the extraction process.
  3. To strengthen the vanilla flavor, feed it with leftover beans only if they haven’t been steeped in milk, cream, etc. You may add 1/4 cup of vodka for every ten leftover vanilla bean you add into the bottle.
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  1. 1 - Margaret Hogan on December 7th, 2012

    One of my favourite fragrances in the world!

  2. 2 - Nevra @ ChurnYourOwn on December 7th, 2012

    I love it! I make my own too, but I never thought about adding leftover pods to the jar. Brilliant! Plus, I like the idea of expanding to a larger and more picturesque bottle. Your photos are amazing. I want to frame it and hang it on my wall.
    Also, I use brandy instead of vodka. I assume vodka gives a more pure taste. Just curious if you’ve ever tried brandy and if so, why you prefer vodka.

  3. 3 - Cenk on December 7th, 2012

    Nevra – I prefer vodka as it is more neutral. I haven’t tried brandy, but did an experiment with cognac to see if it will make a difference. I’ve used those in a cake (after 2 weeks), but couldn’t really taste the cognac.

  4. 4 - Eileen on December 7th, 2012

    I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for many years and use over-proof rum with my vanilla pods. It’s absolutely divine! I’ve also made vanilla vodka by steeping vanilla pods in a bottle of vodka, but am not so keen on that. Oh yes, and I always pop my used, washed and dried vanilla pods into the container of caster sugar to make vanilla sugar. 🙂

  5. 5 - Uta on December 7th, 2012

    Gorgeous photos! You should consider selling prints.

  6. 6 - Steve on December 8th, 2012

    I’ve had great success starting with white rum and with light brandy instead of vodka. If using vodka, I would start off with potato vodka, rather than grain spirit. I think that potato vodka is just a TOUCH sweeter.

    I start in September, and make them as gifts for the holidays using 200 ml bottles- I just open the bottles and toss in the vanilla beans, prepared as you described.

    A friend who is a professional chef suggested a bit of glycerine, but I don’t see the need or the point.

  7. 7 - Sarah on December 28th, 2012

    Going to start a bottle of this today! 😀 So excited!

  8. 8 - darmowa bramka on January 7th, 2013

    Wow, I know how intense the vanilla scent is so I think I can smell it only by looking at your picture!

  9. 9 - esha on January 9th, 2013

    Been meaning to try this but always assumed that i would need a whole bunch of vanilla beans. Three beans i have. So am off to make me own.

    Oh by the way Cenk when does your book get released? I am waiting patiently. Have tried every single cake recipe from your blog and they all turned out really well so now i need more….

    Great photos as always.

    A Happy New year by the way…

  10. 10 - Sara on January 12th, 2013

    Where do you find vanilla beans in Istanbul?

  11. 11 - Cenk on January 13th, 2013

    Sara – You can find them in supermarkets, but it’s impossible to find a high-quality vanilla bean. I buy them during my travels.

  12. 12 - Cenk on January 13th, 2013

    esha – Thanks! Sometime in the next few months, but it will be released in Turkish only.

  13. 13 - Mama B @ My Edible Journey on January 21st, 2013

    I am another who uses brandy to make my extract. I love the depth of flavour it gives. I’ve tried adding beans to sugar, but after a while I end up with a solid lump of sugar, due to the moisture in the vanilla beans. Disappointing.

  14. 14 - DK on January 26th, 2013

    I have been meaning to make my own for ages but never knew that one could keep adding the leftover pods. That’s awesome.

  15. 15 - Barbara on February 9th, 2013

    What a fantastic idea- I use a lot of vanilla extract in the kitchen and love the idea of making it myself. Thanks for sharing!

  16. 16 - esha on February 18th, 2013

    Hi cenk,

    will your book be available overseas? like Thailand or the US. If not, will it be possible to download it to my IPAD?

    I will find a turkish person to translate for me. No worries 🙂

    Oh i made the vanilla and waiting patiently to use it.

  17. 17 - Cenk on February 19th, 2013

    esha- Thanks a lot for your interest. The book will be published in Turkey only, but we’re also planning to sell it on Amazon. Will definitely provide further information once it’s out.

  18. 18 - Shane on March 27th, 2013

    What a wonderful blog! I started my own batch of vanilla extract back in December after reading your post, and have replenished with scraped vanilla beans as I use them. My extract however is getting a cloudy and less and less transparent. Have you come across this before? Is this normal? Is it ok to still use it?
    Thanks in advance!

  19. 19 - Cenk on March 29th, 2013

    Shane – Homemade vanilla extract is never crystal clear, but it is important to know what exactly causes cloudiness. You’re only using leftover beans that were NOT soaked in milk, etc. right?

  20. 20 - Shane on April 4th, 2013

    Yes, that is correct. The beans were either cut in half and thrown into the vodka with the seeds or they were scraped. I haven’t used any beans that have been steeped in liquid.
    Any insight would be appreciated!

  21. 21 - Cenk on April 5th, 2013

    Shane – Then I think you’re OK. Too many vanilla pods can make it a bit cloudy, but since we’re using it in batters, etc., that shouldn’t make a difference in the final appearance of the baked good.

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