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Savory recipes using vanilla extract

Slofoodgroup Team January 22, 2022

How to incorporate vanilla extract into savory recipes

Vanilla has been wrongly stereotyped as an ingredient with a simple purpose of enhancing desserts and beverages. That same earthy flavor and balancing nature of these beans that positions them perfectly for those sweeter delights plays well in a multitude of other applications, though, spanning far beyond ice creams, custards, or frothy drinks and into a world of savory culinary enchantments.

So what can you do with that wonderfully flavored, full-bodied, pure vanilla extract you have on hand when your savory tooth has overpowered its sweet counterpart? We have some ideas to share, along with a phenomenal recipe for Vanilla Brown Butter Halibut. 

Savory Uses for Vanilla Extract

  • Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to your cooking liquid when preparing jasmine rice. The result is a vanilla-scented starch that suits simply-prepared poultry, pork, and seafood dishes. 
  • Utilize a bit in your cream sauces and serve over pasta with a bit of parmesan. 
  • Mix with mascarpone along with mint or basil and use it as a stuffing for manicotti or chicken. 
  • Stir it into some aioli and serve as a dipping sauce for grilled chicken skewers. 
  • Make a dressing with coconut oil, vanilla extract, lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper, and toss roasted carrots in it. 
  • Uplift a simple brown butter sauce by adding vanilla extract, lemon zest, and thyme as we have done below.

Vanilla Scented Brown Butter Halibut


  • 4 halibut fillets
  • ¼ cup white rice flour
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ cup unsalted sweet cream butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure, single-fold vanilla extract
  • Zest from one orange
  • Olive oil for sautéing 


  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F
  2. Pat your fish filets dry and set them on a plate. 
  3. On another plate, mix together your rice flour, ground pepper, and sea salt. 
  4. Lightly coat the fish in the flour mixture by pressing it into the mixture and turning to coat all sides. 
  5. Heat oil over medium-high in a skillet (well-seasoned cast iron is our preference). 
  6. Gently place your fish into un oven safe pan and sear for approximately 3-4  minutes. 
  7. Place the fish in the oven for another 5-8 minutes or until you have a slightly crispy crust and a firm, yet flaky filet. 
  8. While your fish is cooking, make your brown butter sauce. 
  9. Melt your butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir in your thyme and orange zest. 
  10. Soon after your butter has fully melted, it will begin to foam and shortly thereafter the foam will subside, once again revealing the bottom of the pan. The foam is the milk solids. Once it subsides, they will drift to the bottom of the pan.
  11. At this point, you will want to watch your butter carefully and whisky consistently. When the milk solids have turned a deep golden brown and the butter begins to develop a nutty flavor, pull your sauce from the burner and pour in a different bowl to halt the cooking process.  
  12. Stir in your vanilla extract and pour over your halibut immediately before serving.