Six supertasty infusions using vanilla. All incredibly simple, relatively foolproof, and unforgettable. Vanilla gets such a bad rap. Anything but boring or plain, vanilla is one of the most expensive food products in the world. Part of its bad rap might be the fact that vanilla extract and artificial flavorings are far far more common than the real deal, and pale in comparison.
My last job had me travel to Africa quite a bit, including to a few major producers of vanilla beans. This meant once a year or so I could bring back a half kilo of beans (about 100) for next to nothing. As a result, I’ve experimented heavily. This post details my favorites.
This list is quite a bit long, so I’m going to refrain from including too many uses here, but will post soon with a number of drinks featuring vanilla infused vodka.
Vanilla Infused Vodka / Vanilla Infused Rum
- 3 cups vodka or rum
- 1–3 vanilla beans, +1 bean (optional)
- Slice the beans lengthwise and combine with vodka or rum.
- Shake well and store in a cool, dark place for 3–5 weeks.
- The next step is optional: you can remove the beans and add to a vanilla extract batch (see below), or leave in to allow it to continue to add flavor.
- For the most attractive display: Pour contents through a coffee filter then add a whole, unsliced bean to the bottle of strained infusion.
Vanilla Infused Simple Syrup
This one can be tricky. The high heat of boiling sugar will break down the vanilla flavor. If you leave it out at room temperature, the shelf life will be dramatically shorter. And, if you try to infuse in the refrigerator, it could take months for the infusion to properly develop.
- 2 cups white sugar
- 2 cups water
- 3 vanilla beans
- Bring sugar and water to a rolling boil and continue until clear, about 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add syrup to a clean, sealable bottle.
- All the bottle to cool for about 15 minutes. It should still be hot to the touch, but not burning.
- Slice vanilla beans in half lengthwise and add to syrup. Seal bottle and shake well.
- Leave bottle to sit for about 12 hours at room temperature, shake well, and then refrigerate.
- Allow syrup to infuse at least another 7 days before using, shaking regularly.
Tip: When about a third of the syrup has been used, you can refill the bottle with more simply syrup. Don’t do this more than twice to keep things strong.
You can also infuse granulated sugar with vanilla. This is fantastic to top baked goods, in coffee, on pancakes, and occasionally as a snack 🙂
- Airtight jar about 2/3 full of granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean (if you’re using more than 2 cups of sugar, feel free to add a second bean)
- Slice bean in half lengthwise and add to sugar. Shake well and store in a cool, dark place.
- Whenever you use a whole bean in a recipe, once finished, rinse off “used” beans and pat dry with a paper towel then immediately add to the sugar bowl and shake well.
- Takes about 3 weeks before it’s ready to use. Occasionally top of with more sugar and mix it up well.
Vanilla Infused Oil
A tiny splash of this oil is amazing on seared scallops, tofu, white-fleshed fish.
- 1 cup canola or corn oil
- 1 vanilla bean
- Slice bean in half and scrape out the filling. All it all to the oil and shake well.
- Store in the refrigerator. Wait at least 2 weeks before using, best after about 6.
The main difference between vanilla extract and a regular infusion is the intensity. This will also be much richer and stronger than the store-bought varieties (not to mention much cheaper).
- 1 cup vodka or rum
- 1 vanilla bean + the “used up” beans from the vanilla infused vodka or rum
- Slice bean in half and combine with vodka and other beans.
- Store in a cool, dark place for at least 3 months. If you make another batch of vanilla infused spirit, add the used up beans when finished.
- Every time you’ve used up about a third of the extract, top off with more vodka or rum. You can continue to do this for a few years.
Tip: Once, towards the end of a large pack of beans the last few dried out completely. As a test, I broken them up and used to make extract with great results.