How to Make Vanilla Extract

by Jade Shutes

Making a fresh batch of vanilla extract can be a wonderful gift for the holidays.   There is so much to love about the orchid Vanilla. In a previous blog I wrote about how to make a vanilla bean jojoba infusion.  Now we turn to an alcohol extract which can be used in baking as well as added into coffee and other beverages.

According to Natural Standards:

Vanilla, and its main constituent vanillin, are among the most popular aromatic and food flavoring agents and are extensively used by the food, beverage, perfumery (such as candles and body oils) and pharmaceutical industries. Vanilla has been added to yogurt, nutritional supplements, meal replacement shakes and protein bars, drinking water, custard, energy drinks, soymilk, ice cream, lip salve, nonfat dry milk and sterile frozen dairy desserts for immunocompromised patients. Vanilla has also been used as part of a weaning diet, and medicinally to treat various conditions by cultures throughout the world.

Watch Video on Vanilla bean production

Asian medicine: In Palau, vanilla has been used to treat dysmenorrhea, fever and hysteria and to prevent dental caries.

Ayurveda: Vanilla extracts have reportedly been used to help alleviate toothache. Secondary sources suggest dipping a cotton ball in the extract and applying it to the affected tooth.

Central and Southern American medicine: In Venezuela, vanilla pods have been used as an antispasmodic and to treat fevers. In the Yucatan, vanilla extract has reportedly been used for its potential stimulant and aphrodisiac effects. In Argentina, it has been used for its potential antispasmodic, aphrodisiac and emmenagogue properties.

European medicine: Vanilla is commonly used as a flavoring agent and aromatic. It has been suggested that vanilla may help treat dyspepsia and ulcers and may have aphrodisiac and sedative effects.

Modern (Western) herbal medicine: Vanilla is added to various foods and beverages as a flavoring. It is also used in various body care products and aromatherapy for its purported relaxant effects. According to secondary sources, rubbing vanilla extract on the skin may prevent black gnats from biting and getting in the eyes.

Veterinary medicine: In animals, aromatherapy with essential oil of vanilla has been used for its sedative effects.



I have been excited about making our own vanilla extract and have finally done it!  It is so easy and far less expensive then purchasing it at the store.  First: gather 8-10 organic vanilla beans and 8 ounces of vodka.

You can make in one of two ways:

1. Cut the vanilla pods in small pieces (leaving the seeds in) and place in a container. Then cover with vodka. Shake and label.  Be sure to put the date made and the approximate date to decant (4-8 weeks later). I recommend at least 6 weeks.  Then decant and place extract in a amber bottle and label.  There will be some tiny seeds at the bottom of the jar. You can either leave these in or slowly pour the liquid into another bottle leaving the seeds out.


2. Slice the beans lengthwise, remove the seeds, and place them in the container you will use to make the extract.  Then cut the bean into small pieces.  Place the pieces of beans inside the jar with the seeds and cover with vodka.  Allow to sit for 4-8 weeks and then decant by removing the vanilla beans.  You can actually leave the beans in for longer, if desired.


The vanilla beans cut and placed in jar.


The beans and one cup organic vodka


Vanilla infusion label

A day later, already turning a rich amber color.


One day later.