Our love for vanilla is timeless.

There is something nostalgic about digging your spoon into a melted scoop of vanilla ice cream on a hot, July day. We can all relate to our love for vanilla, which spans to freshly made pastries, frozen treats, flavored yogurt, and even almond milk. Vanilla extract is a common household staple in America, used by everyone from busy home bakers, avid coffee drinkers, to amateur chefs looking to add flavor to marinades, glazes, salad dressings, or tea time pound cakes.

Olivia Chadwick

Why is vanilla extract so expensive?

Unfortunately, vanilla extract is now threatened, and in a big way. Vanilla extract comes from the vanilla orchid, a bright green, vine-covered plant with elegant, cream colored blooms. It takes 3-5 years for a vanilla orchid to reach maturation. Vanilla orchids produce a dark brown seed pod that is then soaked in a concentrated alcohol to produce what we know and love- vanilla extract.

Over 80% of the world's vanilla is grown on the island of Madagascar, which has been recently hit with terrible weather. Failed crop yields have caused the prices of vanilla beans to soar to nearly $600 per kilogram, which is 10 times more expensive than it was a few years ago. Crop security remains very low, and the synthetic alternative to vanilla extract known as vanillin is becoming increasingly popular, thus diluting our infatuation with pure vanilla extract. Many vanilla farmers are giving up their lifelong careers due to the high risk of failure and turbulent growing seasons.

How to make your own

For the DIY gurus out there, you all will be in heaven. This incredibly simple method to make your favorite vanilla extract only requires TWO ingredients, along with a few amber or clear colored glass containers for storage.

What You Will Need

- 20-25 vanilla bean pods

- 1 gallon of vodka, bourbon, or rum 

- Kitchen scissors 

- Glass (clear or amber) bottles or jars


Make sure your jars or bottles are super clean! You don't want anything growing in your jar for months.

Gather your vanilla bean pods. Taking scissors, slice each pod into small pieces, or slice down the middle. Either way, you want the entire vanilla bean pod submerged in the alcohol.

Next, divide your pods evenly among each jar that you have. For a rich, flavorful extract, use up to 1 oz (around 8 vanilla bean pods) per cup of alcohol.

Pour the rum, bourbon, or vodka over the vanilla bean pods. Shake the jar or bottle and make sure each vanilla bean pod is completely submerged. Feel free to give them a little shake each day for a few weeks, but this is optional. In a few months, the clear color will turn a beautiful amber color! Easy as pie!

Your homemade vanilla extract can be stored from a few months to a year. I recommend storing in a cool, dry place, but having your jars sit in a window is shown to be effective too.

Homemade vanilla extract can make a wonderful Christmas or birthday gift- and it requires very little work on your end! It is memorizing to slowly watch the distillation process turn the concentrated alcohol from clear to amber, and the taste is unlike anything you have ever tasted.

Good luck and happy distilling!