With the High Price of Vanilla Beans, Should You Make Homemade Vanilla Right Now?

I’ve been making Homemade Vanilla since 2009. Why?

  • To save money
  • So I can trust my vanilla to be pure and healthy
  • Because Homemade Vanilla is ridiculously delicious

How To Make Vanilla Extract

See, most vanilla extracts on the market have sugar added. I don’t want that, of course. Also, most have been watered down, so they aren’t as strong and flavorful as I’d like. But Homemade Vanilla is completely pure, extremely flavorful, easy to make,¬†and makes awesome gifts! However…

The price of vanilla beans has risen drastically.

In the past three years, the price of vanilla beans has gotten crazy high! Making Homemade Vanilla used to be super cost effective, saving oodles of money compared to buying it. Since there are so many other benefits to making it, it became a no-brainer to me!

But now there’s a major vanilla bean shortage, so the price has risen dramatically. (This stinks for those of us who want to make vanilla, but my research tells me that this is a much worse situation for farmers whose livelihood depends on good crops. We are simply inconvenienced; but these farmers are hurt deeply by this. With this news, suddenly my concern for my homemade vanilla price takes a back seat in the world of “what actually matters.”)

With the high cost of Vanilla Beans, does it still make sense to make Homemade Vanilla Extract

Does it still save money to make Homemade Vanilla?

Having said all of this, I wanted to share that I recently crunched some numbers again to see if it even made sense to make a batch of homemade vanilla right now. I was pleasantly surprised, and want to share my findings with you!

The upfront cost still seems high, but read all the way through to discover how to get the most bang for your buck.

It is most cost effective to make a gallon of Homemade Vanilla at once, instead of making a small batch. A gallon will last a very long time, or you can use it for gifts! (Homemade Vanilla is an awesome gift at Christmas for friends, family members, and teachers!!)

Price Break-Down to make a gallon of Homemade Vanilla

50 Vanilla Beans: $200
3.5 liters of 35% alcohol Vodka: $30
Total Cost: $230
Price per ounce: $1.80

This makes an 8-ounce bottle cost $14.40.

Remember, the quality of vanilla is ultra strong, not watered down, with no added sugar.

Cost of High Quality Purchased Vanilla

Imitation Vanilla is made of nothing real, so I recommend avoiding it even though it’s cheap. The best pre-made “pure” Vanilla Extract I could find at Azure Standard costs $2.20/ounce.

This makes an 8-ounce bottle cost $17.60. This is more expensive than homemade, but more importantly —–>

Note the ingredient list of this purchased vanilla (listed in this order):

  • water
  • 35% alcohol vodka
  • vanilla bean extractives

Not only is purchased vanilla extract more expensive, it is watered down, so not nearly as strong.

So Homemade Vanilla Extract wins the prize for being lower in cost and entirely pure.

Which leads me to my best advice and even better news about the cost:

Use Half the Amount and Cut the Cost in Half!

Because the Homemade Vanilla Extract is so very potent, I recommend that you use half the amount called for in a recipe. Doing this will double how long an 8-ounce bottle will last!

Therefore, the $14.40 it costs to make 8-ounces of Homemade Vanilla will last you twice as long, giving you what store-bought 16-ounce bottle gives. In this way, you can think of your 8-ounces of homemade vanilla being broken into TWO 8-ounce bottles which cost only – drum roll please –

$7.20 each.

And with that, I absolutely recommend that we all still make Homemade Vanilla Extract!


I forgot we get 20% off!!!

Good grief. I can’t believe I wrote this entire post and forgot to figure in the fact that Olive Nation gives Heavenly Homemakers readers 20% off! Time to crunch new numbers! I’ve been working with them for many years now, and they are happy to give us a discount. (They’ve been keeping me up to date on vanilla bean shortages and prices too. I love working with them.)

Get the best quality vanilla beans at the best price here. Use the code home to get 20% off, a code made exclusively for Heavenly Homemakers readers! Get free shipping when your order is over $50.

Discounted cost for Homemade Vanilla Extract

50 Vanilla Beans $160.00
3.75 ounces Vodka $30.00

Total cost: $190.00 (woot!)

Per ounce breakdown: $1.48/ounce
Price for 8-ounces of Homemade Vanilla: $11.84


Make Vanilla For Christmas Gifts

One last note! Most everyone loves receiving Homemade Vanilla Extract as a Christmas gift! Because it takes 4-6 months for vanilla beans to “extract” I recommend you start a batch right away to have it ready to give in December.

I think that about covers it. Any questions? (I’m actually at church camp right now so answers will probably be delayed!) I’m so glad I finally crunched the numbers instead of continuing to cringe over the bean prices!


  1. Dee says

    While in the baking aisle at Walmart the other day I noticed organic vanilla, 2 oz for $5.40 and was shocked, thinking it surely is mismarked. I haven’t paid attention to price of vanilla in a very long time as I still have a lot of my own that my daughters and I made about 4 years ago. Back when the Madagascar beans came in batches of 54 for $27! And free shipping as we bought a few batches. I’ve also not been using it sparingly – until today after reading your post! My goodness the cost of the beans is staggering to say the least. I’ve even been giving it away from time to time to “get rid of it!” (I mean share!) NO MORE! Any word of when prices may come down? I know you said there is a shortage but do you have any more info about it?


    Laura Reply:

    According to this article, the most recent bean crop is doing well, so hopefully within a year the price will drop? http://www.cbsnews.com/news/vanilla-bean-shortage-madagascar-drives-up-us-prices/


  2. Jill says

    I actually make it twice. I save the beans from batch one and put them in a same-sized container, filling it with only enough vodka to cover. When I make batch two, I add those beans to the jar of used beans from batch 1, and top them off again with just enough vodka to cover. I let it brew, shaking regularly to disburse the flavor.

    It’s not as strong as the original batch, of course, but I use it for things that I don’t need as much of a vanilla punch for – like french toast or cake frostings. Sort of like re-using a teabag for a second cup. It’s not as strong, but you can still extract a bit of flavor out of it.

    Then I take the twice-used beans and simmer them in a bit of hot water to naturally perfume the house. I feel like I get three bangs for my buck that way.


  3. Dale says

    Keep in mind that most of the world’s vanilla beans (about 80%) are produced on the Island of Madagascar. There are several factors affecting the price of vanilla beans and vanilla products right now.

    First, when the price of vanilla beans crashed back in 2005, many Malagasy vanilla farmers stopped planting. The price, about $20 per kilogram of cured beans, was too low to be profitable. As recently as 2011, the price of a kilogram of cured vanilla beans was $25. At that price, the 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans required to produce one gallon pure vanilla extract would cost about $9.50 — good for consumers; not so good for farmers.

    Second, in recent years, big food companies like Nestl√©, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s and General Mills have shifted from synthetic vanillin to natural vanilla as an ingredient in many of their products. This represents a large increase in demand. Add to this, a poor vanilla crop in 2016. This rising demand with a falling supply (farmers leaving the market) has led to a price spike during the last couple of years. Today, a kilogram of cured beans is selling for as much as $500. At that price, the 13.35 ounces of beans used to produce one gallon of pure vanilla extract cost about $190.

    While high prices are good for farmers, they are great for “speculators” and “middlemen” who can further drive up prices by hoarding beans. Also, when prices are this high, the vanilla market starts to work like the illicit drug trade. Farmers have to guard their fields to prevent theft of the beans. And, thieves might resort to violence in order to steal the highly valuable beans.

    In order to prevent theft of their beans, some farmers have started harvesting early — before the vanilla beans have fully matured. This results in beans of poor quality. Some processors have also started “quick curing” beans to get them to market faster. This process also results in poor quality cured beans.

    So now, a limited supply of vanilla beans and high demand are driving up prices. Add poor farming and processing practices, and it gets worse. It’s a vicious cycle. And, it’s not clear when it will end. Back in 2005, the market crashed and prices dropped when vanilla consumers shifted to using vanillin (synthetic vanilla) rather than pure vanilla products. That might happen this time, too.

    One correction to your post: Pure vanilla extracts are not watered down. The US FDA defines “pure vanilla extract” as a solution of the extract of 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans in one gallon of 35% ethyl alcohol. The “35% alcohol” would contain 65% percent water (to make up the total 100%). So, the ingredients in pure vanilla extract (in “order”) would be water, ethyl alcohol, vanilla bean extractives.


  4. Nia Hanna says

    I have been looking for a way to use the beans from previous batches of homemade vanilla. Apparently vanilla essence is made by blending the full bean with sweetener and water. I found a YT video that used maple syrup as the sweetener (1/4 cup). Of course the homemade essence has to be stored in the fridge, but I appreciate using the whole bean, ingesting the whole bean as opposed to throwing it out. Also, it appears to get stronger as time goes on. I’m excited to make my first batch of homemade goodies with the homemade essence. I’m now wondering if the whole bean can be blended with vodka, for a vanila that can be used right away, and just as the essence, it will get stronger over time.


  5. Christina says

    now that those same vanilla beans are 312.69…. (as of September 2017), maybe not as practical or frugal to make at this time! eek!


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