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How Do You Use Gourmet Vanilla Beans

Slofoodgroup Team janvier 18, 2023

If you're a gourmet vanilla bean novice delving into the world of the world’s most popular flavoring agent for the first time, you are in the right place (and we applaud you for doing your research beforehand). Despite the fact that vanilla beans are loved and used to flavor dishes and beverages across the globe, high-quality, ethically-sourced vanilla beans come with a hefty price relative to their weight. That being the case, it makes perfect sense that you would want to ensure you know what you are doing with them. 

In this article, we will cover everything from how to remove the seeds to when you can replace gourmet with grade b vanilla beans, and of course, ideas for dishes to use them in. 

How To Use Gourmet Vanilla Beans:

There is a wide spectrum of uses for gourmet vanilla beans, but the type of vanilla bean should be considered before diving in too deep. There are many varieties of vanilla beans but the two main types available to consumers are Vanilla Planifolia and Vanilla Tahitensis. Planifolia is the more common of the two and should be treated differently than Tahitensis in most cases. Though there are definitely recipes where the two can be used interchangeably, Tahitensis should be used when you want to impart delicate floral notes into a dish or beverage, whereas Planifolia will contribute the more depth and that traditional and expected vanilla flavor. 

How do you get the seeds out of the vanilla beans? 

Removing the seed from vanilla beans is simple. For all types of vanilla bean other than Tahitensis, you simply lay the bean flat on a cutting board and grab a sharp knife. A paring knife is great for this. Slice the bean, lengthwise, from tip to tip. Pressing one end firmly against the cutting board, use the back (dull side) of the knife to scrape the little black specks out. Those specks are the flavor-filled seeds of the vanilla bean (also known as vanilla caviar) and are ready to be added to your recipe.

For V. Tahitensis, it’s even easier! You can skip the step where you slice the bean in half and go straight to using the back of the knife, but rather than scraping the seeds onto the back of the knife, you will be firmly pushing them toward the end of the bean (kind of like you would do to get the last bit of toothpaste out of its tube). The vanilla caviar will squeeze out of the pod much in the way frosting comes out of a piping bag.

Can you use vanilla beans whole? 

Vanilla beans can absolutely be used whole, and some recipes actually call for it. That said, in most cases we still recommend cutting or splitting the bean to expose the seeds and allow more flavor to be released into the dish. Check out this post for some great ideas for whole vanilla beans. 

Do vanilla beans need to be cooked?

The seeds of vanilla beans are safe to eat regardless if they are cooked or not and some recipes will have you add the seeds without cooking. However, adding heat to the whole vanilla beans and/or the scraped seeds does help release their oils and activate their essence. So unless otherwise stated in the recipe, it's best to at the very least, stir the vanilla seeds into a warm liquid prior to adding to your recipe. 

Can grade b vanilla beans ever be used to replace gourmet vanilla beans? 

Gourmet vanilla beans and extract vanilla beans each have their time and place. Grade b vanilla beans are often referred to as extract grade because they are preferred for making extract. This is because they have a much lower moisture content than gourmet beans. That doesn’t mean the are any less flavorful, it simply means that the flavor is more concentrated and will require more time to infuse the same amount of flavor into dishes. So if your dish is being simmered for hours, replacing a gourmet bean with an extract bean is just fine, but for anything that doesn’t require a long infusion, it’s best to stick with gourmet.

We are obsessed with vanilla beans and their various uses, check out our all of our vanilla articles and recipes here.