Homemade Ground Vanilla Recipe

In my house, we don't use artificial colorings and flavorings if we can help it. That makes standard vanilla extract out of the picture around here, as the local vanilla extract is really artificially flavored vanillin with artificial caramel coloring, among others.

But we do like our vanilla in this house. So I tried making vanilla extract- stuck a whole bunch of vanilla beans in some vodka for a few months (and by now, they've been sitting there for over a year), and all I ended up with was some strong vanilla flavored vodka. In order to actually get enough vanilla flavor into our food with that, I need to use so much that the food ends up being mildly alcoholic, which is especially a problem if you're not cooking the food with the vanilla in it. (Maybe this method of making vanilla extract will work for you the way it works for so many others- for some reason though, it does not work for me.)

I've made vanilla sugar in the past and it works phenomenally well; it has been my standard "go-to" vanilla when I want vanilla flavoring, but we've all but cut out sugar in our diet, so I don't want to keep on relying on vanilla sugar to impart vanilla flavor into my food. 
(I recently ordered coconut sugar with my vitacost reward points- I only needed to pay for shipping- and I want to try making vanilla coconut sugar with that.)

Last time I was in the health food store, I saw a little container of ground vanilla being sold for an insanely expensive amount of money for a teeny tiny little container. That same health food store also sells vanilla beans for a fraction of the cost of the ground vanilla; I told the proprieter of the store that I plan on making my own ground vanilla, that it was incredibly easy, and wasn't worth paying so much money to get something that I could easily make myself for a fraction of the cost. (He and I joke around- he knows about my site and reads it sometimes.) 

Of course, I was kind of talking through my hat- I'd never done it before, never read up on how to do it , just figured it could be done, and that it would be incredibly easy.

Would it be?


I hadn't realized that vanilla beans aren't entirely dry- they have some moisture in them. Which makes them not grind to a fine powder. 
So no vanilla powder here, but its very easy to make ground vanilla strands, which works just as well as if it were powder. I think, though, that if I'd dehydrated the vanilla beans first, it would have worked even better. So, here's how to make your own ground vanilla.

Deceptively simple. A fraction of the cost of store bought stuff. 
Chemical free. Sugar free. Vanilla.

Vanilla beans
1. Take your vanilla beans. 

2. With scissors, cut it into one inch chunks.

3. Put the chunks in your coffee grinder.

4. Turn on your coffee grinder. Grind until its all ground up, a minute or two.

5. Take the vanilla out of the machine. (A rubber spatula works best.)

6. Use the vanilla in recipes. You need so little to give a strong vanilla flavor, its laughable. A teeny tiny pinch is probably just as strong as a tablespoon of vanilla extract.

I just used this vanilla to make some incredibly delicious vanilla, apricot, coconut pudding pops. So delicious! (And in case you were wondering, I was planning on sharing that recipe with you as well.)

P.S. I know instructions could have been shortened to "grind vanilla beans in coffee grinder." But that post would have been way too short, it would have been laughable. So I stretched it out instead. But this is so easy that even incredibly busy people can find room in their schedule to make this.

Are you a fan of vanilla in your house? What do you use to impart vanilla flavor to your food? Artificial vanilla? Store bought vanilla extract?  Homemade vanilla extract? Vanilla sugar? Or vanilla powder?
Does this look like something you'd try?
Any idea why my vanilla extract only ended up tasting like vanilla vodka?

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Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. This is a great idea! I've never seen ground vanilla before. I've been experimenting with making my own spices (garlic powder, onion powder, chili flakes, and vodka vanilla so far), so this will be a great addition to try out!

  2. Vanilla vodka? That's too bad. :( Did you just drop in whole vanilla beans, or did you split the beans in half lengthwise & cut them in 2 or 3 shorter pieces? Was there at least 1 bean per ounce of liquid? Did you shake the bottle thoroughly & frequently for the first month? If you did all those steps right, then either the vanilla beans were of poor quality/too old, or the vodka was poor quality; I'm told that the cheaper stuff can be more harshly flavored, which might make it difficult for the vanilla taste to shine through.

    1. I've been making mine the same way for decades. Good vodka, cut up beans. Lots of shaking and there ya have it.
      With my new stove and settings I can dehydrate at lower temps now and I'm trying the powder tomorrow. I think over night will be enough. Plan on freezing the powder for storage. I like freezing everything now, Espc with minimal oils. Keeps baking goods from getting rancid since I no longer bake as much.

  3. Can you do this with vanilla beans that you already used to make vanilla (in the vodka), or do you think they are already "spent"?

    1. Id dehydrate them first. Beans left in vodka are pretty much still fully useable, you forget how potent they are. Which is why IMO once you start making your own you never go back. You just can't go cheap. Tons of beans ( id use 6-8 beans ( longer the better) with 2 cups of vodka) and good vodka. When I was baking a lot I had two rotations going. i easily let one sit with shaking every month or so for a year, never draining the beans unless i needed a piece for scraping out the beans.

  4. we wanted to make our own vanilla and ordered beans, but we got the ground up vanilla instead.
    wondered if we might still make it and just have to strain it?

    1. You can make it, but never strain it. Just let it sit at the bottom, shake it up to get the beans to the top if your making anything that you want the beans showing in. ( EX: French custard ice cream)

  5. I'm so shocked your vodka didn't turn into vanilla!! I make it all the time and have never had an issue. Were they new beans that you split? I'm so sorry that didn't work for you but glad you found an alternative.

    KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

  6. Will this work in a food processor?

    1. No, unfortunately. The blades will just spin and spin but they won't hit the vanilla beans...

  7. I've purchase vanilla pods extract grade. They are dryer and would be better to make vanilla powder. The normal pods are too moist. I have a grinder and will try that instead of buying the powder.

  8. I made exact and it did the same. Taste like vanilla vodka. Added more beans. Split them still after 6mons it tastes more like vodka. What brand of vodka should I use? Or can I add some vanilla powder to it? Or should I just count this at a lost and start over.

  9. So many good comments. I make Vanilla Extract all the time with 80 proof vodka and vanilla pods. Never had any issue. You really needto make sure the volume and vanilla amount is correct Like Bethany said 1 bean per ounce. My question is would you not dry the beans prior to grinding? Nice post and thanks for sharing your adventure.

  10. Vanilla beans will have to be dried / dehydrated before they will make a powder in a spice grinder. I've read that some people like to "toast" them in the oven or put them in the microwave... DO NOT DO THIS, it will destroy all of the complex and subtle flavors. If you can't wait to set them out and let them dry at room temperature, then use a food dehydrator set to the lowest temperature setting (usually 90°F) until the beans are completely dry.

  11. Vanilla extract using vodka gets better the longer it sits and never goes bad. There isn't a fast way to make GOOD vanilla extract. I made a ton of bottles about 6 years ago but let them sit for 2 years before I started using them. The 1st 6 months I would shake them once or twice a week then about once a month for the next 6 months and just let them sit for the next year. I use the cheapest 80 proof vodka I can find and grade B vanilla beans. I split the beans making sure not to cut all the way through and use 10 beans per 8oz bottle. I leave the beans in the bottle as I use it so what is left in there continues to get better. My mom is just finishing her 4th bottle from 6 years ago and you would not believe how good it is!

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