How to Craft Homemade Vanilla Extract and Why You Should Make it at Home

homemade vanilla extract

How to Craft Homemade Vanilla Extract and Why You Should Make It at Home

Homemade vanilla extract is one of the easiest foods to make. Even if you are not a foodie or handy in the kitchen,  you house at least one box of vanilla extract in your pantry for that rare occasion when you bake a batch of grandma’s famous chocolate chip cookies.  The question remains, do you really want to tarnish your dear grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe with FDA approved secretions from the castor glands of a beaver, which I might add, is in very close proximity to the anal gland. Once the  castoreum is excreted a flavorist (a.k.a. chemist) waves her magical stirring rod to convert the natural liquid into a synthetic compound, hence “imitation vanilla extract.”  In all fairness to the beaver, the use of castoreum is not new.  However, food scientists have figured out how to manipulate something natural, like castoreum, and use it to create a frankenfood in order to reduce costs. 

Image result for beaver image

Photo Credit: Nationl Geographic

McCormick’s perennial imitation vanilla extract contains Water, alcohol (26%), natural flavorings (Including Extractives Of Cocoa and Extractives Of Tea ), okay let’s look a little closer:

“Natural flavors are used to enhance existing flavors present in foods and beverages. They are made from extracts of natural compounds. For instance, vanilla flavor is either made from vanilla beans or castoreum which is a secretion from the anal glands of beavers. However, these natural compounds still undergo chemical processing to enhance their flavors. Artificial flavors are also used to enhance food and drink flavors. They are made from chemical compounds only.”

Ingredients continued: Vanillin, and Other Artificial Flavorings, Corn Syrup, and Caramel Color

And What Exactly is Vanillin?

On the other side of the spectrum unfolds the “pure” vanilla extract option which comes to our kitchens from the exotic Vanilla orchid plant which is grown in alluring locales like Madagascar, Réunion, Tahiti, Mexico, and Guatemala.craft homemade vanilla extract

Vanilla Extract Derived From a Chemical Lab Versus Nature, you choose

It’s been less than a decade since the imitation vanilla extract box with its notorious cherry red emblem served as a staple in my cooking arsenal.  I shake my head at my former self for thoughtlessly buying bottle upon bottle of a product that openly admitted it’s not real!  The paradox deepened as I just numbly grabbed the box of imitation vanilla to make my “from scratch” chocolate chip cookies.

Decades later when I finally awoke from my processed food slumber, I faced the expense of stocking my shelves with the real stuff.  My real food Great Awakening not only gave birth to a new attitude towards food, but it ignited a desire to be in the kitchen crafting foods like homemade vanilla extract.

Where You will Save in Making Your Own Vanilla Extract

Let’s face it, not everything homemade is cost-effective.  I am certain some economist has coined a term or phrase for that simple fact.  I did a little bit of culinary sleuthing to find that 1-ounce of McCormick’s Pure Vanilla Extract costs $4.48 at  Whereas, a 2-ounce plastic bottle (avoid foods in plastic) of Watkins Imitation Clear Vanilla is $2.00, again at

Currently, Amazon sells 10 Tahitian Vanilla Beans for 18.99 with free shipping. offers a 0.21 ounce (not a typo) Madagascar Vanilla beans for 11.06, and this is the reduced price.

crafting homemade vanilla extract

You will need to buy inexpensive vodka (prices vary), so factor that into your cost as well.  This hassle-free, homemade vanilla extract endeavor will cost approximately 8.00 for 12 ounces of melt in your mouth, real vanilla extract.  Or, you can buy 12 ounces of McCormick for 53.76.  Make it from scratch!

Vanilla Extract
Recipe Image
Save RecipeSave Recipe



  1. Slit open the beans (pod) and scrape out the seeds, place them in the glass jar.
  2. Pour the vodka over the seeds and seal the jar with the lid.
  3. The pods will macerate (soften by soaking in a liquid) over several months
  4. Shake the jar 1-2 times per week.
  5. After 3 months, strain contents of the jar through cheese cloth into another glass container.

So, don’t be on the tail end (not the beaver’s) of discovering the art of homemade.  Make the minor investment and buy Vanilla Beans (pods), some vodka, and a glass jar or two.  In the end, not only will you save a butt load (I just had to, wink, wink), you will connect with real food.

Other posts to help you with your real food journey:

Why You Need to Do the 2017 Whole30 Challenge

Real Food Journey – Grace Fueled




I am an affiliate for products that I recommend. If you purchase those items through my links I will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link.














































































































































































































































Sharing is caring

Leave a Reply