How to make vanilla extract

I originally planned to post here once per week, but I am so excited, I am going to ignore that plan and post anyway. There are two reasons why. No. 1: Anna from the blog Teigliebe (German) asked today which was our favorite spice for baking. Which made me think. The answer is really simple: I have come to realize that vanilla extract does give a recipe a very nice flavor. I have often been forced to leave out vanilla extract because it is soooo hard to come by in Germany. But the baked goods taste so much better if you add it. And no. 2 is because, you know, I finally found out how to make my own vanilla extract. It is so simple and easy, I am a bit angry I didn’t know beforehand.


I stumbled across the idea on the blog Handle the heat. If you want to understand the science behind food and how certain ingredients have an impact on the final result, this is your blog to go to. Tessa from Handle the heat likes to invite guests for guest posts. And the one that got my attention was on how to make your own vanilla extract by Kristin from Bake like a champ.


If you have ever tried to make an American recipe calling for vanilla extract in Germany, you know why I got so excited. Vanilla extract is unheard of in Germany. We do produce vanilla sugar, which means that vanilla beans are put into sugar and then sold (that’s how I make my own vanilla sugar by the way, just place a few vanilla beans in some sugar), but the extract, forget it. Really hard to get, I have looked, believe me. Vanilla sugar is a joke in my opinion. Try a little bit and tell me if you taste any vanilla. I feel vanilla extract is much better if you are looking for real vanilla flavor. I either had people get me vanilla extract from other European countries (as far as I can tell Germany is almost the only one not selling it in Europe) or asked people visiting from North America to get me some. But that most certainly is over now.

Because, finally, after years and years of baking in Germany and pulling my hair when yet again an American recipe called for vanilla extract (I would usually take vanilla sugar), I finally know how to make vanilla extract. You need two things: vodka and vanilla beans. That’s it. Really, it is that simple. And yes, check your bought vanilla extract, you will be surprised to see that it has 35% of alcohol. Mine did. I had some French and some bought for a lot of money on German Amazon. All had 35% alcohol. You will also be shocked to see how much artifical aroma, sugar and other things are added. I didn’t like that at all. Homemade is much better and so simple, it really is annoying. I will never use bought one again.

This is how it works:

How to make vanilla extract

  • Servings: 1 bottle of 500ml
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print


  • 500 ml of vodka without flavor (Wodka) (such as Absolut, Smirnoff, etc.)
  • 8 whole vanilla beans (Vanilleschoten)


  1. Cut each vanilla bean lengthwise and place in an empty and washed bottle, which has a lid (Deckel, guten Verschluss)
  2. Pour vodka carefully into the bottle with the vanilla beans and close
  3. Shake and let sit for at least two weeks until bottle starts to have a very strong amber (Rubinstein) color (see pictures). No need to put in the fridge, storing in cupboard is fine
  4. It’s now ready for use!


This is how you keep homemade vanilla extract for years:

  • You simply use your bottle each time you need vanilla extract. It does not go bad or anything, you can use it for years.
  • If you run low, you can add fresh vodka. Every time you add vodka, add a vanilla bean. The ratio is more or less one vanilla bean per 100 milliliters.
  • No need to take out the vanilla beans, just keep the old ones inside.
  • My husband suggested to use rum instead of vodka. I think he might has a point there. I might do my next bottle with that combination.

Greetings from rainy Hamburg,


6 thoughts on “How to make vanilla extract

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