Infusing Oil with Vanilla

Throughout this year, I've been making all kinds of infusions in all kinds of things. This particular infusion is one I keep coming back to. It's easy to make, fun to do, and smells so delicious it's pure pleasure for the nose.

I mean, who doesn't love the scent of vanilla?

As you can see from the picture, you don't need all kinds of things to make a great vanilla-infused oil:
  • Vanilla beans
  • Sweet Almond Oil (or Jojoba or Apricot Kernel)
  • Clean jar with tight-fitting lid (canning jars are perfect)

Shall we get started?

But First, Let's Talk Vanilla

I know it can be tempting to buy bargain-priced vanilla. I realize it costs far less than the pricey stuff. My pocketbook can attest to this fact.

But guess what.

Yeah, I know you already know this. The good stuff is pricier for a reason.

I did a few comparison tests, and here's what I found.

The bottom (bigger) vanilla bean cost far more than the 2 top beans (and a few more) together. The top beans definitely smell like vanilla, and if I had not set out to compare, I might never have been the wiser.

But I did. And here's how I put them to the test.

Sniff Test

This test was quite simple: Sniff, then note down immediate reaction

Bargain Beans: yup, that's definitely vanilla
Pricey Beans: intoxicating vanilla-delicious nose candy 

Slice Test

On the left: pricey beans after slicing
On the right: bargain beans after slicing

The beans were sliced right where you see them on the board. The plump juiciness of the pricier bean is pretty evident, don't you agree?

No? Ok, let me remove the beans so you can get a better look.

See what I mean?

OK, let's infuse and see if the difference is still evident!

Formula For Infusing Oil With Vanilla Beans

  • 1 part vanilla beans
  • 10 parts oil (I used sweet almond)


  • Slice beans
  • Place in clean jar
  • Pour oil into jar
  • Seal jar
  • Place in a sunny semi-warm spot (24° - 28°C / 75° - 82°F)
  • Agitate daily while infusing
  • Infuse for 10-14 days

You: What? That's sounds wrong! Normally infusing oils takes WEEKS! MONTHS! Not a mere 14 days?!

Me: In this particular instance, all normal rules are out the window. You see, vanilla beans are magical. They need only 14 days (and the right temperature) to infuse.


Stay tuned for a fun straining tip and the final comparison.

Do Tell

Have you made vanilla-infused oil? Which oil did you use? Were you particular about which beans you used?


Signe said…
Wow, I didn't know there are different kind of vanilla beans! I guess we have only those cheaper ones here in supermarkets. I've made vanilla-infused oil for baking (and vanilla extract too), I used sunflower oil, if I remeber right. I liked it (or those both) a lot, should make more of them.

Where do you use your vanilla oil? In cosmetic products? Does anyone know if that scent stays through soaping process?
LisaLise said…
Hi Signe, I would love to know if the scent stays through the soaping process! If you make this and try it, please let me know. I use these in lip balms, lotion bars, face and body oils.-- you name it!
Mickey said…
Hi Lise, I love vanilla, and am currently at week 3 making a tonka bean infusion. They have a strong exotic, spicy vanilla scent. I hope it turns out strong enough to use in a serum or light lotion. Lately I've wondered if it matters what oil is used to infuse. Do you know if the chemical makeup of particular oils infuses the goodness of things better than oher oils? Would FCO do as good of a job as safflower or sunflower oil?
Thanks Lise!
María said…
Hi Lise.
Try adding fractionated coconut oil on you next batch. Being slightly more polar than regular oils has the capacity of extracting even more, in addition of its extraordinary shelf life.
This infused oil is one of my must-haves and I always have handy.
Another trick I use when I need to give a whack to the infusion is to water-tight the pot and put it into the washing machine. I have my machine setup no further than 60°C, so the oil won't oxidise but the extra heat helps with extraction.
This is my main ingredient for lip balms as I don't find the actual flavour I like (I find then to chemical), so I go for natural: vanilla, coconut and cocoa ;)
LisaLise said…
Hi Mickey - You can use pretty much any oil you like, but it's a good idea to use oils with a longer shelf life. Jojoba and Fractionated Coconut Oil both work well here.
LisaLise said…
You never cease to surprise and delight with your comments Maria!
Chris said…
@Signa: No idea if the scent will persist though I doubt it, but the vanillin in vanilla will probably discolor your soap.
LisaLise said…
Chris - thanks for the input!
Signe said…
Thanks, Chris! :) I too doubt that vanilla scent would stay trough soaping process, but I'd like to try that - the scent of chocolate can survive, so perhaps vanilla could do the same...spices usually colour soaps, and vanilla does that more than many other spices. But I don't mind that, I like that light brown rustic look.
Anonymous said…
I found this when looking for info to infuse oil with tonka beans. Tonkas are supposed to have a similar but more 'magical' scent than vanilla. Have you tried this? Do you think a 14 day infusion would be the same?

Wanting to make some tonka bean soap for X-mas as a private label gift.
LisaLise said…
Hey there O.G. - I haven't tried working with tonka beans but this sounds fascinating! I wish I could be more help here. My best suggestion is to give it a try in 2 or 3 different small batches, then strain batch 1 after 2 weeks, batch 2 after 4 weeks and batch 3 after 6-8 weeks. I'd love to know how it turns out for you.
mz bloom said…
Hi O.G. Yardens and Lise,
I have just completed a trial infusion of 2 shaved Tonka beans in a 1/2 cup of fractionated coconut oil for 7 weeks; did not want to use jojoba in case it did not work out. The scent is divine. I am doing a second filtering of it as it is very cloudy. It became cloudy almost immediately when shavings were put into the FCO. Also, I have mixed feelings about it now. I could not find anyone who had done a Tonka bean infusion but that lead me to read Tonka bean can be harmful...yet it is used in perfume making so that means it is applied to the skin...sometimes these articles never really clarify details. Any input would be greatly appreciated :)
LisaLise said…
Hey there OG - I haven't done enough in depth work with tonka bean to advise you, but have only come across warnings with internal use. It might be worth doing a bit of research on it, as an infusion is not going to have the same characteristics as a concentrate or essential oil. The cloudiness shoyud settle and then you could try a very carefully poured final filtering.
Anonymous said…
Hi Lise- I've done a lot of research. It is illegal to sell food products that have tonka beans in them. Reversible toxicity is achieved around 30 beans (

I have two ounces on order... 1 ounce is less than 20 beans ( 1.8 oz as an example, 30 beans at most.

Tonka beans are purportedly quite aromatic. If 20 beans at most were ground up and used in place of an essential oil after infusing (say, in sunflower oil). Max amount for my recipe is 100 grams infused oil in 24 bars of soap. I don't think toxicity would be an issue? I was planning to research about what comprises essential oils this evening to see if this theory would bear out.... and then I read your email!
LisaLise said…
Hi O-G. - If you are using these in soap then it may not be an issue at all. That said, please don't take my word for it as I am not an expert on the use of tonka beans. If I were to research this, I would start by finding out how the essential oil is made (distillation? Expression?), then go from there. A distillation will NOT have the same components of an herb as a maceration/infusion will. On the other hand, if the essential oil is made by an enfleurage-like process, it could indeed be compared with a maceration as to constituents. So, if you want to be absolutely sure of what you are working with as compared to an essential oil, find out how the essential oil is made. Best of luck with it!
Anonymous said…
Hi all, I usually use castor oil in my soaps and that is an acceptable oil for infusion. I'll try the tonka beans in that and it should be good for a while. Maybe mz bloom can give some insight on how fragrant the infusion ended up :)
the ladybug said…
Will try infusing vanilla bean powder in fco. Thanks for the idea!😀
Unknown said…
Hi everyone. I used jojoba oil to infuse my beans with. My oil turned cloudy however. This is the first I've tried with this combination and did it using gentle heat for about 4 hours. I used 2 beans to 6 ounces jojoba oil. I'm still rather New at macerting oils and hoping I didn't ruin this batch. My advice?
LisaLise said…
Hello Xiomara - cloudiness is not a good sign, and to be quite honest, I would personally start over if this were my batch. There are some folks who say adding coarse salt to a cloudy oil infusion will help clear it up, so you could give it a try and see if it helps. Best of luck!
Unknown said…
I love this !! I have infused vanilla beans in jojoba oil and both coconut oils - the non fractionated I infused during the summer time so it stayed ' liquid' enough . I then filtered it while keeping the stove on near by to keep it from solidifying while straining it.

I personally looooove the aroma of coconut oil . So the addition of the delicious aroma of vanilla bean ended up being one of my favorites . I then allowed it to set for a few days and then took the hand mixer to it so it had that nice fluffy whipped texture [tried my best to keep it cool]

Anyway, so I am currently awaiting a little batch of FCO and vanilla bean started on April 8th, for some strange reason I feel like keeping it
Infusing until may 8th . I have been hesitant to let sun get to it , instead keeping it in my room in a cool place, shaking daily.

I absolutely love this project! Thank you for the info about the quality difference
Of the beans! I guess it certainly makes sense ! But I never have tried the superior

I wish jojoba oil was more affordable ;) I just love the idea of the amazing shelf life plus jojobais
Awesome already.

I am so sorry for writing such a long comment. I have a question that relates to the FCO being more polar , which helps the infusion a bit more . That is super intriguing !! I must go searching dear Susan's posts regarding this polar subject !!
If you have the time, could you tell us a bit about how being more polar helps ? I love science .

Thank you for such a great post and blog ! ❤️
LisaLise said…
Hey there Chelsea and thanks for your kind comment! Your vanilla infusion will probably be wonderful - it sounds like you are really keeping a close eye on it and as you are keeping it out of the sun, it will probably be fine with the time you want to leave it.

Short answer about polar oils: they dissolve materials that are insoluble in non polar oils.
There's an article about this right here:
Julie McGee said…
Have you tried infusing with Vanilla Oleoresin?
LisaLise said…
Hi Julie - No I haven't but it sounds interesting. Some of the vanilla oleoresin I see on the market is quite liquid, but I can imagine this being an interesting project to try!
Angie Richard said…
If I overlooked this question being asked and answered already I apologize but where did you purchase the bigger, more expensive but well worth it bean from?
Thank you for all the info 🤗
LisaLise said…
HI Angie - I found these at my local supermarket - but mind you this post was written before the orchid crop was hit so the luxury beans were more readily available
Ellen said…
Hi! I want to make my own vanilla extract for baking. My husband and I are gluten sensitive (can't have any grains at all)--or sugars either. My functional medicine doctor recommended using vanilla beans with organic safflower or sunflower seed oil since most alcohols . Would your recipe work for baking vanilla?

Thanks! Ellen
LisaLise said…
Hi Ellen, What an interesting question! I can't imagine it not working if you replace a bit of the butter in a recipe with the infused oil. You might have to adjust the other ingredients slightly as it could make a difference in the texture of the cookies or cake, but other than that, I'd give it a try and see how it goes. Best of luck!
Sanya said…
Hi there, impatient newbie here. If electric infuser is used (Magical Butter etc.) do ingredient ratios change or stay the same as in your articles. Thank you!
LisaLise said…
Hi Sanya - You don't need to change the ratios if you are using a heat infusor :)
Sanya said…
I unfused coffee into sweet almond oil but even after straining in two times the consistency and color is still closer to hot chocolate then infused oil. I used the finer of two strainers that came with my infuser. I just ordered unbleached coffee filters in hope to strain it again and to the right consistency. Were my coffee beans ground too fine? Or it's the matter of straining it the right way?
LisaLise said…
HI Sanya - it sounds like it could be a combination of the 2 things. Was the coffee powdered? This it would be very difficult to strain.
Béné said…
Hi Lisa,
I have been trying to infuse vanilla beans but the smell I get is of an old musky vanill-y scent. Doesn't smell yummy like when I sue powdered vanilla. So I'm thinking it's because I'm using the whole pod like you do in your post? The beans are old? They were kind of dry. I've done several batch with different vanilla beans and they all have that weird smell.
Do you get the same results, I'm curious.
Thank you!
LisaLise said…
Hi Béné - That sounds frustrating! I haven’t had this happen with any of my infusions. My only guess is the vanilla itself. I have always used Bourbon vanilla and have not spared any cost when buying the vanilla beans. They have been quite moist and not dry at all. The second thought is the oil you are infusing into. Is it neutral smelling so the vanilla is allowed to ‘shine’?
Anonymous said…
Hi! Am am just going to strain my vanilla infusion and it looks like there are a few little white cloudy pieces on my vanilla bean. Am I safe to assume that is mold? I was very sanitary when I did everything, although I did open a few times to smell along the way
LisaLise said…
Hey there Anon - I think you might be right-- little cloudy bits on the bean does not sound at all correct. I wouldn't use it but you could do a little test to see if there has been some unwanted water content and that is to pour a fair amount of salt into the jar and see if the oil 'clears' over time. If it does, then there was an amount of unwanted water in the mixture. This test would be purely for observational purpose. I still probably wouldn't use the oil. :)
Unknown said…
I started my vanilla infusions with fractionated coconut oil and jojoba oil a month ago. I must say jojoba is doing a better job. So far the smell of vanilla is faint - so I'll give it one more month on a sunny window. Unfortunately, we have only one kind of vanilla beans - and they are not the super kind.
LisaLise said…
Hi Unknown - wow that is a little sad to hear. My guess is the vanilla isn't the top of the pops-- did you remember to cut/chop the beans before infusing? This helps release the scent.
Unknown said…
Yes, I did cut them into pieces. But Some people say it takes up to a year to infuse....
LisaLise said…
Thanks for getting back. I have heard some say they let their vanilla infuse for months, but mine have a very rich scent after a short time. I can only attribute the difference to the vanilla itself.
Unknown said…
What a great idea! I am going to try this today as I am really struggling to find a vanilla scent that I like for my lip balms.
Can I ask what the recommended usage percentage of this concoction would be into a lip balm batch?
I am going to infuse in caster oil and generally use about 10% caster oil in my lip balm base...
LisaLise said…
HI Unknown - that is going to be a question of your personal preference. If your infusion is richly scented you may not need very much - your castor oil idea at 10% sounds like a good place to start. :)
Hi Lise, in my trip to Colombia, I have the privilege to see and smell the coffee flowers. OMG, what a delicious and exotic aroma. My question is, may I do an infusion oil with flowers? I would like to try the coffee flowers, do you have any idea how much do I have to use?
Thank you
LisaLise said…
HI Spasiva - That sounds amazing! I would definitely be trying it if I had the chance. For an oil infusion, you will want to use dried material. Alternatively, you could try infusing the fresh flowers in glycerine - it's a great solvent and able to capture the scent of many fresh flowers that other solvents can't do. Best of luck with it!
Kate Kahle said…
Like most on this thread I love the vanilla aroma!! I’ve been fortunate enough to have been gifted 500g of super fresh and moist vanilla pods. I’ll definitely make an infused oil but was wondering if it’s possible to infuse a clay as well with vanilla? Something along the lines of how sugar is infused with vanilla. Seems possible but not sure.
LisaLise said…
Hi Kate -- How lovely to have been gifted such a wonderful amount of vanilla pods. I would do a very small test with the clay to see how it goes before committing to a larger batch. How this works will have a lot to do with the clay you use and how you infuse. Expect to do a little experimentation. That said, if you find the right method and clay, you might have something fabulous on your hands.
Kate Kahle said…
Hi Lisa, thanks for this. I’ll give it a go & let you know how I get on. Watch this space 😁. Kate
Anonymous said…
Hi Lisa, do I need add a preservative in my oil or vitamin e to stop the oil going rancid.I’m infusing bourbon vanilla pods in jojoba oil ?
Thank you
LisaLise said…
HI Unknown -- you don't need a preservative if the product is water free (which it is with vanilla pods in oil), but adding an antioxidant such as vitamin e will help retard rancidity. Also a good idea to store your infusion cool and dark :)