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What to do with whole vanilla beans 

Slofoodgroup Team March 05, 2022

Whole vanilla beans aren’t found in most pantries but are adored by pastry chefs and fine ingredient enthusiasts worldwide, so if you have some on hand and are unsure of what to do with them, count yourself lucky. 

The quick answer to “what should I do with whole vanilla beans”, is simple:

Whatever you want. The options for what you can do with vanilla beans is seemingly endless. Their flavor pairs well with a multitude of other ingredients—both sweet and savory, but it doesn’t stop there. Vanilla is a welcome aroma in everything from perfumes to home fresheners and more. And, of course, we can’t leave out the beloved inclusion of vanilla into craft beverages!

I have a feeling you aren’t here for general advice, however. So we’ve laid out a list of some of our favorite recipes (both sweet and savory) that include the use of whole vanilla beans.

Savory Uses for Whole Vanilla Beans 

Make Vanilla Scented Brown Butter Halibut

Not only does this post have a great recipe for Halibut drowning in a Vanilla Brown Butter Sauce, but it also includes a lot of ideas for utilizing vanilla extract in savory recipes, but you can just as easily replace the vanilla extract with the seeds from whole vanilla beans. 1 teaspoon of extract is about the equivalent of the seeds from one bean (dependent on the weight of the bean). When you use whole vanilla bean seeds in place of an extract, you’ll have a bonus benefit of vanilla specks of vanilla caviar “decorating” your dish. 

Serve Sardines in a Vanilla Tomato Sauce for the First Course

Another vanilla and seafood pairing, you’ll love the simplicity of this dish. Sardines tend to suffer from a bad rap, after being deemed a low-budget food in the 1950s, suitable for little more than a high-protein addition to salty crackers and only found in the lunch boxes of blue-collar workers. Sadly, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, they were favored even less and their appearance in lunchboxes and menus dwindled further. More recently, though, the popularity of sardines is once again on the rise and they are finding their way to upscale menus across the world. So if you want to astonish your guests with an atypical and impressive appetizer, with a rustic feel, simply scrape the seeds from your vanilla pod and get started on this recipe for Poached Sardines in Tomato & Vanilla Sauce and serve it alongside crusty bread. 

Make a Vanilla Barbecue Sauce

Why use a run-of-the-mill, sugary barbecue sauce, when there are healthier alternatives that are exploding with flavor. This Dark Rum and Vanilla Barbecue Sauce is sweetened with pure maple syrup and flavored with vanilla bean seeds, cinnamon, ginger, mustard seeds, and other, more typical, barbecue sauce ingredients. It is perfect for grilled chicken, brisket, and either beef or pork ribs. Bonus, the post also includes instructions for perfectly smoking a rack of baby back ribs.

Sweet Applications for Whole Vanilla Beans 

Make Vanilla Bean Cake

It really doesn’t get any more classic than a simple vanilla bean cake. This video demonstration for how to make vanilla bean cake comes complete with a recipes for the cream cheese frosting, cake, and a vanilla chocolate drip, the latter two containing fragrant vanilla seeds to enhance the flavor as well as the aesthetic appeal. 

Try Roasted Chocolate Affogato with Fresh-Scraped Vanilla Seeds 

If you’ve never tried Affogato, now’s the time to expand your post-meal horizons. This simplistic Italian dessert need contain little more than vanilla ice cream and espresso. We wanted to give it a little extra culinary flare, though, so we roasted white chocolate and incorporated fresh-scraped seeds from a whole vanilla bean in our recipe for Roasted White Chocolate Ice Cream Affagato

Regardless what you decide to do with your whole vanilla beans, you’ll be happy you chose to use this more wholesome alternative to extract and you may never turn back. So when you’re ready to replenish your stash, you can find high-quality and ethically-sourced vanilla beans in our online vanilla store.