Learn About Vanilla

Author: Chef Sydney

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What is Vanilla?

Vanilla is a flavoring that comes from the bean pod of an orchid grown in Mexico, Madagascar, and other tropical climates.  Vanilla bean seeds are extracted from the pod to be dried. Vanilla comes in the forms of vanilla beans, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean paste.

What Does Vanilla Taste Like?

Vanilla has a sweet, warm flavor to it, similar to caramel.  It is not overpowering, but it is distinct and rich.

How Do You Eat Vanilla?

Vanilla beans, seeds, paste, or extract are not usually consumed plain.  Because vanilla is a flavoring, vanilla is eaten in other things.  Vanilla ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, and french toast use vanilla as a flavoring.  Most desserts use vanilla to enhance the flavor. Frosting, syrups, coffee creamers, and vanilla sugar taste better with vanilla flavors.

Learn About Vanilla
Bottles with aromatic extract and dry vanilla beans on board

How to Extract Vanilla Bean Seeds

  1. Place the vanilla bean flat-side down on a cutting board.
  2. With the tip of a sharp knife, carefully insert the knife a few inches below the curled end of the bean. Do not go all the way through the bottom of the bean.
  3. Holding onto the sides of the bean with your pointer finger and your thumb, carefully glide the knife to the end of the vanilla bean.
  4. Gently pull the bean apart.
  5. Place the tip of your knife sideways against the top of the cut.
  6. Carefully slide your knife down the bean, scraping up the vanilla bean seeds.
  7. Drop vanilla bean seeds into a bowl.

Where Can You Buy Vanilla?

Look for vanilla extract in the spice or baking aisle of grocery stores.  Whole vanilla beans are usually also found in the spice or baking aisles of grocery stores.  Vanilla bean paste is harder to find, but it is usually located in the spice or baking aisle of large grocery stores.

How Do You Store Vanilla?

Store whole vanilla beans in a cool, dry place in a sealed glass jar for 1-2 years.  Vanilla extract should be stored in a cool, dry place in a dark, sealed container.

Fun Facts About Vanilla

The Aztecs used to flavor their foods and drinks with vanilla.  Vanilla is highly used in scented items like perfumes, candles, and lotions because of its pleasant aroma.

Did You Know?

Vanilla has been used to improve skin and hair health.  It’s even been used as a medical treatment for some ailments in some countries.

Kids Are Great Cooks How-To Cooking Videos Using Vanilla

French Toast Kids Cooking Video Lesson uses vanilla in the batter.

How To Make French Toast Recipe Video

French Toast Video Cooking Lesson For Kids

how to make oatmeal cookies kids cooking lesson

Oatmeal Raisin Kids Friendly Cooking Video

How to make authentic Mexican Bunuelos uses vanilla in its recipe.

how to make mexican bunuelos video

How To Make Mexican Bunuelos

Recipes Using Vanilla

Easy Sugar Cookies

Make a classic sugar cookie recipe for a tasty treat. Cream together butter and sugar, then add an egg and vanilla. Next, incorporate flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with a spatula. Spoon cookie dough onto a baking sheet and bake until cookies are fully cooked.

Maple Butter

Create a delicious butter to spread on biscuits, toast, or waffles. Add softened butter, maple syrup, vanilla bean seeds, and cinnamon to a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are fully incorporated.

Fruit Dip

Eating fruit doesn’t have to be boring with this dip! Place softened cream cheese, vanilla, and honey in a bowl. Whip cream cheese and combine ingredients with a hand mixer. Use a zester to grate fresh lemon zest over the dip before serving.

Shortbread Cookies

Make buttery shortbread cookies for everyone to enjoy. Combine flour, butter, sugar, vanilla in a bowl. Flatten dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for about 30 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to flatten dough. Cut cookies into shapes and place on a baking sheet. Bake until the edges begin to turn golden-brown.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Use vanilla to increase the flavor of homemade hot chocolate. Heat milk, sugar, vanilla, and cocoa powder in a saucepan. Pour hot chocolate into mugs and serve with whipped cream and a cinnamon stick.

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