The vanilla alchemist

For Christmas, we received a gift that included a make-your-own vanilla kit. I’m completely fascinated by it.

Want to play along with me and make your own? You’ll need:

  • 5-6 real vanilla beans
  • 3-4 cups of vodka
  • bottle or jar
  • patience

You split the long, skinny vanilla beans lengthwise with a knife so that all that delicious essence can seep out.


I wish you could have smelled them. I swore I caught a whiff of giant vanilla wafer cookie on steroids. So. Yummy.

Pop them into your bottle or jar. Fill the bottle with vodka (we managed to put in a little over 3 cups).

After two days...

After two days…

Let sit in a cool, dark corner for 4-6 months.

According to our little bottle, we should be able to refill the bottle with more vodka for up to seven years. Did you catch that — A SEVEN YEAR supply?! That’s just plain crazy. We use a lot of vanilla for baking around these parts, so I’ll be interested to see how much mileage I can get out of these beans.

I’m so curious to know exactly what we’ll get, but I’m a little worried it’s not going to be anything like the stuff I get at the store. I have a feeling we’re going to have some interesting cookies this May.

Have you ever made your own vanilla? How did it turn out? Anyone want to get some vanilla beans and compare results in a couple of months?

About thethingaboutjoan

Mom of three who knits a little, bakes a lot, crafts a bit and blogs about it all.
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39 Responses to The vanilla alchemist

  1. Thank you for the inspiration!! I keep meaning to try making my own vanilla and the idea always gets buried under other lists, thoughts, etc. This needs to go back to the top of the list πŸ™‚ Excited for you!

    • Oh Kenley, let me know if you do — I’d love to compare notes in a couple of months to see if we have fabulous homemade vanilla or sketchy, boozy ‘nilla-ish stuff. πŸ™‚

      Sent from my iPhone

      • Haha, indeed! Part of me wonders about that — is it going to be just vanilla infused vodka?!? πŸ™‚

      • Exactly! I’m telling you, that first batch of chocolate chip cookies with this stuff is going to be for those over 21.

        Of course, vanilla-vodka probably has its own uses. Depending on what we get, I might just add it to Coke and call it a “Tired Vandriver.” πŸ™‚

        (Edited to clarify: a “Tired Vandriver” is what a gal drinks after a long day of carting the kids around — pretty much my status quo these days!)

  2. Leah says:

    This sounds so easy… but I don’t know if I would be patient enough to wait that long! I agree with what Kenley said… “is it going to be just vanilla infused vodka?” You’ll definitely have to give us an update when it’s “done.” The 7 year aspect is! So many interesting bits in this post!

    • It does sound too easy, doesn’t it? Makes me nervous. The vodka:vanilla ratio looks waaaaay tilted to the vodka side, in my opinion. We’ll see.

      Wonder what this stuff is going to be like to bake with? Hmmmm. Better put a reminder on the ol’ calendar to pull it out from the depths of the pantry.

  3. Northern Narratives says:

    How very interesting. I have never heard of anyone making their own vanilla. It will be interesting to know if it works.

    • I’m trying not to be too skeptical, although it really does seem to be too easy. Just slice beans and stick them in vodka and wait? Really? And it makes a 7-year supply? Crazy-talk, that’s what it is.

      But then there’s that little part of me that’s thinking “Maybe it is that easy and it’s a big secret and why are they charging $4 for a teeny tiny little bottle?” It’s the same part of me that thinks the kids will have magically cleaned up their rooms without being reminded. πŸ™‚

  4. amyp22 says:

    Very interesting project.

    I think I’m happy with my bottle from BJ’s Wholesale Club. Little worried about getting another since we don’t live on the east coast anymore.

    Looking forward to hearing your report.

    • My guess is, with this much vodka involved, I’ll be giving a happy report — even if it’s a total flop!

      We’ve been getting our vanilla from Trader Joe’s, but that’s only after we run out of the stash we buy during the Wilton Tent Sale in June.

  5. Cul de Sac says:

    Love the image that popped up in my head while reading vanillavwafer cookies on steroids…LOL!

  6. I read about making my own vanilla last year and I keep thinking it would be perfect to do since I bake a lot, but I still haven’t done it. I really should take the plunge this year and try making it. But you are right, it takes patience :).

    • Seems I’m always running short of vanilla when I decide spur-of-the-moment to make cookies or something else. I feel like I’m always buying it.

      Here’s hoping the results are worth the wait! I’ll definitely post them in a few months. Let me know if you give it a try and what you end up with!

  7. I go through so much vanilla too! It is so expensive and I just buy the imitation stuff. People say there is nothing compared to the real stuff but I just can’t bring myself to spend that kind of money! I will be sitting here eagerly awaiting your results because if it works this would be perfect for me!

    • I’m glad to hear it’s not just me! We must be using vanilla in everything and I just don’t know it.

      I’m not going to lie — I’m worried. I’ve already got such huge plans for these magic (vanilla) beans that I’m scared I’m going to jinx it. I’ll definitely post the good, the bad or (hopefully not) the ugly that comes out of that bottle in May-June.

  8. What an interesting post. I remember making Tia Maria with a vanilla bean and other ingredients I don’t remember and dutifully stirring the concoction daily. Then my older brother came home with his buddies one night and consumed the whole home-made bottle in one setting. I never tried again. But your post has me intrigued. I so love the diversity and eclectic nature of your blog. ~Thea

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Thea! I can’t quite believe that making vanilla is this easy — that seems wrong somehow, doesn’t it? It’s going to be hard to wait 5 months to see what we end up with.

      Homemade Tia Maria? Doesn’t that sound intriguing? Heck, if this little vanilla experiment works out, I’m afraid we’re going to have mason jars full of weird, alcoholic mixtures all over the place.

  9. Hi Joan, Oh! I’m bookmarking this right now, my hub got some 2 weeks ago , we told ourselves we would “google” on how to do it, now we know! πŸ™‚ thanks for this post! the only thing is the waiting time “Let sit in a cool, dark corner for 4-6 months” & what about that 7 years oh! my

    • Ingrid, try this with me!! I’d love to know if we get something similar after a few months. Do we get a lovely bottle of Flavor-Wonderful or a big jar of Disappointment Syrup? πŸ™‚

      I just checked it yesterday (because I am like a kid waiting for his birthday) and it’s slowly but surely getting darker each day. I am really trying not to get my hopes up too high, but all I can think of is “Man! Seven years of vanilla from those beans!”

  10. elskenewman says:

    That is totally brilliant!

  11. Hi Joan, just wanted to let you know, we got the vodka and forgot it at my in-laws last Sunday, we will go back next Sunday to start right away! How is yours looking?

    • Just checked it this morning. It’s now the color of light amber beer on the bottom and like antique glass (strangely opaquely brown) on top. It’s definitely doing something in there — I just hope it’s making vanilla!

      Can’t wait to hear about yours!

  12. ha!ha! I’m sure it’s Vanilla πŸ™‚ I’m glad you are doing this first, because if I would do it first I probably be wondering every day if it’s Vanilla in there! ha!ha!

    • We’ll see. I get a little more optimistic each time I check and it’s a little darker. Fingers crossed!

      • Hi Joan, just want to let you know,I finally tried it and now it’s time to wait, I will be posting about it in a couple of minutes with a link to your post, hope it’s OK with you? thanks again for sharing and hope to get same results as you πŸ™‚

      • Of course, Ingrid! Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner — crazy day!

        I’m so thrilled that you’re on this vanilla-making scheme with me! The hardest part is the waiting! Thanks so much for linking to my post too!

      • No prob Joan! πŸ™‚ I’m glad I finally gave it a try and happy we can now compare! πŸ™‚ thanks for reading the post! πŸ™‚ & you are right: hardest part is the waiting!

  13. Pingback: How to make your own vanilla extract

  14. mtetar says:

    Thanks for sharing this, and I first heard of it on
    Be Blessed, Mtetar

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