3 Ways To Use and Re-Use Vanilla Beans
by Erin Otto


Suppose you splurged on some vanilla beans to jack up the flavor on your famous vanilla ice cream, your
vanilla cheescake, or another of your family favorites. Once you scraped all the good stuff out of the vanilla beans, what would you do with the used pods? You wouldn’t want to throw them away, would you?

When we started sampling and experimenting with all kinds of vanilla beans and vanilla extracts, I was happy to discover that vanilla beans are still very fragrant and flavorful even after they’re scraped. You can easily re-use or re-purpose the pods.

3 ways to use and re-use vanilla beans

Here are three ways I’ve found to use my vanilla pods.

But quite honestly, I’m a newbie to using vanilla beans at all, so I’d love to hear how you use yours. Please post a comment at the end if you know of another great way to spare your empty vanilla beans from the trash can.

Note:  Use a pretty jar and add a ribbon to transform any of these kitchen “necessities” into a handmade gift for someone special.

 

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Perpetual Vanilla Extract

The best part about this homemade vanilla extract is that you can keep adding to it as you have more “used” vanilla beans that need somewhere to go.

Add a vanilla bean, add a little alcohol.

Make this extract with vodka, bourbon, brandy, or rum. It’s up to you. Vodka is the most widely used alcohol for vanilla-making because it doesn’t add any flavor to the finished extract. But my brother makes his vanilla extract with bourbon, and I prefer its heady fragrance and rich flavor over the vodka extracted vanilla. I used vodka because that’s what I had on hand.

Perpetual Vanilla Extract

 

Ingredients:

5-7 vanilla beans (whole and split or scraped)
1 cup vodka, bourbon, or rum

If you’re using whole vanilla beans, be sure to split them first.

Place the vanilla beans into a jar or bottle and add your choice of alcohol. Keep the bottle in a cool, dark place for a minimum of 8 weeks (longer is better) and shake it occasionally.

You can add scraped or split vanilla beans and more alcohol as needed for a perpetual supply of top quality vanilla extract.

 

Vanilla Sugar

Did your dad ever cook? Mine made pancakes every Saturday when I was a kid. And he can fry grilled cheese and manage steaks on the grill like a pro. But other than that, he doesn’t cook. And he certainly doesn’t bake.

Except for Christmas.

Every year at Christmastime, my dad makes a special German bread called “stolen” that’s full of dried fruits and nuts and topped with a delicious vanilla sugar. And all year long, my mom keeps a container of sugar in the cupboard with broken vanilla beans buried inside, just to sprinkle on Dad’s stolen for Christmas.

 

How To Make Vanilla Sugar
Just bury your used (or unused) vanilla beans in a container of sugar. Chop or break them up for a stronger vanilla flavor. You can continue to add sugar to the container for quite a while and the vanilla beans will continue to flavor it. You can also add more vanilla beans as you have them.

The organic cane juice crystals we used for this picture are a little larger than regular granulated sugar, which is nice for sprinkling.

 

Ingredients:

1 vanilla bean (whole or scraped)
2 cups sugar

These proportions are meerely a guide. Use more or less sugar and extra or fewer vanilla beans based on what you have on hand and how assertive you’d like your vanilla sugar.

Vanilla Sugar

How To Use Vanilla Sugar 

  • on cookies (especially Snickerdoodles and sugar cookies)
  • on muffins
  • on the crusts of pies
  • in coffee
  • chai tea
  • a sweetener for whipped cream or ice cream
  • mix with cinnamon and sprinkle on buttered toast
  • sweeten your homemade jams and jellies with vanilla sugar
  • hot cocoa
  • eggnog
  • on strawberries or strawberry shortcake

 

Vanilla Salt

Although it may sound like a bit of a novelty, vanilla salt is actually quite practical. Think chocolate chip cookies. What if you salted them with vanilla salt instead of plain salt?

Or imagine salted caramel made with vanilla salt.

Gets your mouth watering, doesn’t it?

Vanilla salt is as easy to make as vanilla sugar. And you can add more vanilla beans and more salt to keep the goodness rolling.

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sea salt (I used fine Celtic salt so that I could easily measure it into my recipes without grinding it first. But you can use coarse salt too.)
1 vanilla bean (whole or scraped)

Rub the vanilla bean into the salt real well, and then bury the vanilla bean. Store it in a sealed container for 2-3 weeks before you use the salt.

Vanilla Salt

 

 

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