A Simple Way to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Sugar

A bottle of vanilla extract.
Vanilla extract is a common flavoring agent for most baked goods and desserts. If you love baking, several recipes have called for a teaspoon or two. This magical ingredient adds flavor to your baked goods and desserts and enhances the aroma. (Image: Maren Winter via Dreamstime)

Vanilla extract is a common flavoring agent for most baked goods and desserts. If you love baking, several recipes call for a teaspoon or two of this magical ingredient. It adds flavor and enhances the aroma.

There are two types of vanilla extract: pure and essence. The former is much more expensive, while the latter is much more affordable and is made from synthetic materials that mimic the taste and aroma of pure vanilla. 

But did you know you can make vanilla extract? And bakers say homemade vanilla extract transforms your dessert from good to great. This article is for you if you want to learn how to make pure vanilla extract or substitute vanilla sugar at home with few ingredients.

Vanilla extract: Why make it at home?

If you bake often, prepare large quantities of desserts, or constantly have visitors who crave your vanilla-flavored drinks, you understand that pure vanilla extract can be expensive. Preparing your vanilla extract at home will save you some cash. 

Also, store-bought vanilla extracts can be a hit or a miss in quality; with homemade vanilla extract, you are assured of quality and quantity. Plus, the smell and taste of homemade vanilla extract cannot be compared to store-bought extracts. 

Pure vanilla extract can be a magical ingredient in your baked products.
Pure vanilla extract can be a magical ingredient in your baked products. (Image: Valentyn75 via Dreamstime)

How to make pure vanilla extract at home

Pure vanilla extract can be a magical ingredient in baked goods. All you need are two ingredients: a glass bottle or mason jar with an airtight lid and lots of patience. 

The key ingredients to make your homemade vanilla extract are vanilla beans and vodka. Some recipes will encourage you to use rum or brandy; whichever type of alcohol is available will do. 

Different varieties of vanilla beans are available in the market, but the most common include Mexican, Tahitian, and Madagascar vanilla beans. You can use either of these beans because they all make excellent vanilla extract. Or you can try the options and choose the one you prefer most. 

You can order these beans online if you can’t find them in your local food store. There are also different grades of vanilla beans. Grade A is more expensive, lengthy, moist, and appealing to the eye, while grade B is less appealing to the eye, short, and less expensive. 

Grade B is usually recommended for extracts. After all, it gives you the same excellent and unique vanilla extract as grade A.


Split your vanilla beans in the middle using kitchen scissors or a small knife and put them into a clean glass bottle or mason jar. Pour your vodka or alcohol of choice over the beans. Ensure the beans are completely covered with alcohol. If any are sticking out, push them down or cut them so that they can fit.

Using an eight-ounce bottle, use six vanilla beans and adjust the number of beans according to the bottle size. Use 9 beans for 12 ounces and 12 for a 16-ounce bottle. 

Tighten the lid and shake the contents well. Keep the bottle in a dark, cool, dry place for six months or more. Shake your bottle every once in a while or even weekly if you can remember. 

As time goes by, your vanilla extract will begin to get darker. The more time you let it sit, the better. Flavor and aroma build up over time. Let your vanilla extract sit for six months before you use it. You can also let it infuse for up to 12 months. 

Once you get comfortable with your skills, you can make several batches to ensure you never run out. You can also share some with friends and family. The good news is that vanilla extract can be stored on the shelf for up to 5 years without refrigeration. 

Vanilla sugar is simple granulated sugar infused with vanilla extract.
Vanilla sugar is simple granulated sugar infused with vanilla extract. (Image: Elena Schweitzer via Dreamstime)

Vanilla sugar: What is it?

Vanilla sugar is simple granulated sugar infused with vanilla extract. Vanilla beans are used in this process. Vanilla sugar can replace granulated sugar in baking and as a sweetener in beverages such as iced coffee and cappuccino.

You can use your vanilla sugar to flavor any drink, dessert, or baked product as you would with vanilla extract and granulated sugar.

You only need granulated sugar, vanilla beans, a bowl, and a mason jar to make your vanilla sugar. Any variety of choice of vanilla beans can do. 


Slit two vanilla beans down through the middle and put them in a bowl. Add one cup of sugar and mix with your hands until they are well combined. Put the mixture into a mason jar with an airtight lid and cover. Store on the shelf for two weeks before you can start using it. Shake the mixture occasionally to stop clumping.

The many uses of vanilla sugar

Baking and topping

Vanilla sugar can be used in baking to flavor cakes, cookies, and muffins. It can also be used as a topping by sprinkling it on cookies before they are baked for a crunchy texture and to add a sweet flavor and aroma. 

Simple syrup

Just like regular sugar, vanilla sugar is dissolved in water to make syrup used to sweeten beverages and cocktails. It can add a magical twist to recipes that require simple syrup, such as mojitos and whiskey sours. You can also use it to replace your maple syrup or honey. 

Making ice cream

One conventional use of vanilla sugar was to make ice cream. You can use it in homemade ice cream to replace synthetic vanilla essence. It also adds a fresh aroma and taste to your homemade ice cream.

General sweetener

You can use vanilla sugar in your daily sweetening to reduce acidity, including coffee lattes, oatmeal, hot chocolate, pies, and baked or fresh fruits.

In summary

Vanilla extract and sugar are easy to make at home and require few ingredients and equipment. You can adjust the strength of the taste and aroma to your liking. Also, they will be readily available since you can have them on your shelf for a long time. 

Understandably, some people may lack the patience to wait for the extract to mature and may prefer to use the store-bought one; either way, they both serve the purpose.

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  • Nathan Machoka

    Nathan is a writer specializing in history, sustainable living, personal growth, nature, and science. To him, information is liberating, and it can help us bridge the gap between cultures and boost empathy. When not writing, he’s reading, catching a favorite show, or weightlifting. An admitted soccer lover, he feeds his addiction by watching Arsenal FC games on weekends.