Vanilla, the king of all flavors first appeared in a recipe book in the early 1800s.
The Art Of Cookery written by Hannah Glass introduced a sweet, earthy aroma named “vanelas” to the British and American culinary practices, which later gained recognition as a popular flavor of choice for ice-cream.
While this flavor is relished by people of all ages, only a few of us are aware of how difficult it is to obtain the best vanilla beans that help us bake sweet treats all-year-round!
The orchid takes its own sweet time to bloom and produce fruits, which may take up to 3 to 5 years at times. The beautiful orchid flower with a lemon-yellow appearance opens its delicate petals just ONCE per year!
Sadly, in Madagascar, which is where these plants are most commonly found, there are no wild bees available to pollinate the flowers. Therefore, every single orchid must be pollinated by hand with the help of a caregiver.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to travel halfway across the world just for collecting this fruit!
Instead, we have handpicked some good-quality brands which do all the hard work for you and bring the sweet aroma of baking delicious treats in your kitchen by adding depth to the flavor with this ingredient.
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Things To Consider Before Buying Best Vanilla Beans
The orchid that we collect the beans from is a vine-like plant that grows up the trees. The fruits are also referred to as "pods". One pod contains up to thousands of tiny seeds.
While these pods are full of fragrance and beneficial to human health, they are quite expensive too! So, before you purchase this ingredient, make sure it’s worth your hard-earned money and effort by considering the following factors.
Why do we add this ingredient in our cooking? To flavor our dishes, right?
That’s exactly what you should be looking for while choosing a quality bean from the market. Good pods should have a rich aroma coming from a distance. The flavor should be intense, yet not overwhelming at the same time.
The pods should also have an oily texture to it. Also, choose the ones that look plump and feel a bit squishy. You might notice some seeds contain crystals on it. Don't worry, that's natural and indicates the high quality of that particular pod.
There are 3 different species found that are widely known and used all over the world.
The most familiar type of vanilla pods is called “planifolia”.
This species is grown in a lot of regions including Madagascar, Hawaii and Mexico in huge quantities. If you are going to purchase some of these, make sure the pods are plump and round, as these two qualities should be present in planifolia seeds.
If you want a milder version of the above-mentioned species, then go for a “tahitiensis” pod.
These seeds are a lot sweeter and contain a floral-type aroma inside it. Although it originated from Tahiti, now it's grown in many other regions including Papua New Guinea as well.
This is most probably the oldest species from Madagascar region. It’s also known as ‘Mexican Vanilla’.
One specific characteristic of this species is that it produces pods that can reach up to 25 cm in size at times!
However, Pompona produces fewer flowers compared to the other two varieties. As a result, producers are losing interest in harvesting this particular kind and it’s more difficult to find this one.
Just like the taste of coffee beans vary from place to place, vanilla seeds also act in the same way. Climate and soil quality matter a lot in this case. Besides, each country chooses to follow a unique process for curing and drying these seeds before packaging them.
So, the beans from the below-mentioned regions each have their characteristics.
Mexican pods are a combination of sweet and spicy flavors. Meaning, as much as you can use this ingredient in baking delicious cookies, you can also use in spice dishes including lamb stews or pickled vegetables!
Tahitian beans are usually a chef's first choice when it comes to preparing sweet treats like gelato and pastries. If you are looking forward to adding a floral touch to your desserts, then these vanilla beans are the winner!
While purchasing these seeds, make sure they are plump and juicy enough, as this type contains around 60% of moisture on an average.
These are also called the Bourbon Vanilla beans. Despite the beans have “Bourbon” in it, it has nothing to do with any alcoholic beverage at all! Rather, the name came from the “Bourbon Island”, where these pods originally came from.
If you are looking for a deep, creamy texture to add to your cooking, then these beans will serve that purpose well. Also, it’s commonly used in drinks and beverages.
Indonesian pods are famous for their unique woody flavor that brings to the table. The seeds are incredibly sweet and have an oily texture to it. Because of the smoky flavor, these beans are best suited to pair them up with a rich dessert like a chocolate ice-cream or barbecue sauce.
If you are looking for pods that have the combination of milk chocolate and raisin flavors, then the Ugandan seeds are the perfect type to serve your purpose. By purchasing beans from this particular region, you will also be contributing a lot to the welfare of their community.
Depending on the moisture level, you will find two different qualities of pods on the market.
1. Grade A
It's also known as the "Gourmet Quality". These pods look plump and round in appearance and contain more juice than the other kinds available. Pastry chefs tend to prefer this type for their baked goods as these beans transfer the flavor quite easily.
2. Grade B
This type is also referred to as the “Extract Vanilla Beans”. These pods contain less moisture, as a result, the concentration level is very high. If you want to make an extract, then choose Grade B beans, as they are more suitable for this purpose. This type is also available at a much cheaper price.
Our Top 10 Best Vanilla Beans Reviews
1. Vanilla Bean Kings – 10 Vanilla Beans
In a world where the price of a good-quality vanilla pod is getting sky-rocketed day by day, a company is trying its best to get the top deal for the customers.
We all know how much you love to cook with these seeds and can’t think of an alternative when it comes to making your kid’s favorite treats!
That’s why Vanilla Bean Kings has been experimenting with hundreds of suppliers over the years and finally found a way to present a reasonably priced vanilla pod to your doorstep!
So, how does this company assure you of its quality?
Well, it has a special team that inspects the pods for their appearance, smell and size THREE times before they get sent to the consumers!
Originated from Indonesia, these seeds are of Grade B quality, which makes them perfect for making an extract out of this. The items contain around 20-25% moisture inside them. Meaning, you get to have a greater value for your money by obtaining more seeds instead of unnecessary water weight.
If you are wondering what makes this Tahitian species so unique and mouthwatering to most people, then take a sniff while holding some seeds in your hand.
A strong, flowery smell with just a hint of chocolate will hit your nose and melt your heart at the same time! Each pod comes with a length of 4 to 6 inches that makes them perfect for any occasion.
Once you purchase this product, you will find the items all fresh and in good condition, as they are properly sealed and vacuumed-packed for your convenience. And if you know how to store them properly, this item will remain fresh for up to 2 years in your pantry.
2. Vanilla Products USA - 25 Madagascar Bourbon Planifolia
Can you guess what makes a pod retain its full flavor?
A small hint. It’s not the quality that matters the most in this case!
Although it’s hard to believe, there’s a more important factor to consider while choosing these seeds for your cooking. Before selecting a particular brand, don’t ever forget to check its curation process to ensure that you are getting the right amount of flavor that you deserve!
Whereas the other competitors tend to hurry up the process and complete the whole process within 7 to 10 days, Vanilla Products USA is known to supply only the selected the pods that have been cured over several months!
These careful selection goes through several more supervisions to ensure the highest quality of these ingredients once it reaches your doorstep.
For example, the pods that you receive, all come with a generous 5-6 inches in length. And before these items go through the packaging process, a team of specialist check to make sure all of them are free from molds or any other kinds of fungal growth altogether.
Grown in Madagascar, these seeds are of Bourbon Planifolia species. These gourmet quality pods are hand-pollinated every time the orchids bear its flowers, as the “Melipona” bee, which is its natural pollinator, can’t survive outside of Mexico. That’s why these pods come with a bit of an expensive price tag.
The package contains aa total number of 25 pods in a vacuum-sealed condition. Make sure not to refrigerate them as it might dry out the beans and promote mold growth.
Try wrapping them with a 3X plastic before storing them in an airtight jar until the next time you need to use them.
3. Tahitian Vanilla Beans By Gya Labs
Even the pickiest chefs can’t help swooning over a pod variety that’s famous for its exquisite taste and amazing aroma all over the world!
“Vanilla Tahitensis”, a rare delicacy that’s grown in a private farm by Gya Labs using natural techniques and environment is a one of a kind that wins everyone’s heart! This premium quality gourmet beans come from a land of hope and diversity, Indonesia.
What’s the first thing that’s noticeable about these special pods?
The smell, of course!
A flowery, fruity scent with just a hint of figs, raisins and cherries makes a mouthwatering combination that only awaits your approval. Straight out of the package the seeds look juicy, plump and moist all at the same time.
Rated as an A-graded prime variety, each pod comes in 12.7 to 15.2 centimeters in length on an average. This Tahitian species contain around 30 to 35% moisture in each seed.
The package comes with 5 sun-cured pods that have a shelf life of about a year. Hey! You might even get some crystals on top of some seeds if you are lucky! FYI, Crystalized seeds are the vanilla beans that you can get in terms of quality.
The pods are nicely packaged, vacuumed and sealed properly so that it stays fresh for the longest time possible. However, once you purchase this item, you have to store it in a cool, dry place and air it out from time to time to keep it free from molds.
4. Kiva Vanilla Bean Powder
Did you know vanilla extract that’s found in any grocery store contains 35% alcohol in it?
While you are cooking a rice pudding at a high temperature, the alcohol begins to evaporate, leaving you with a less flavorful extract to work with. A great alternative to this liquid extract is a ground bean powder in this case.
Without any further ado, let’s meet Kiva Vanilla Bean Powder, which meets all of our expectations and tops our list with its rich aroma and fine texture!
Kiva imports only the gourmet seeds from Madagascar, which is the largest island of Africa and famous for its pesticide-free bean production.
Each pod is sun-cured and processed naturally to provide you with the finest experience while purchasing this product. The hand-selected seeds are then ground into a powdery texture and later roasted at a low temperature to keep the flavors intact.
This natural, 100% organic dried powder adds just the right amount of depth in flavor to any recipes, be it smoothies or sweet potatoes!
The packet spells out the conversation that’s needed to cook up an awesome meal for your meal! For every 1 teaspoon of extract, you will need to replace it with ½ teaspoon of bean powder in its place.
You haven’t found true happiness if you are a coffee-lover and haven’t tried this ingredient to complement your brew! Just add a pinch of this powder, stir, take a sip and slurp in delight as this bean powder works its magic on your taste bud!
Kiva Gourmet Powder is a fully natural, raw and vegan product, which promotes the usage of sustainable resources and eco-friendly methods. So, anytime you are purchasing this item, you are also supporting a movement towards creating a better environment.
5. Vanilla Bean Paste By Heilala
“I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream!”
It’s official guys! Researchers have found that ice-cream helps us get through heartaches, bad breakups and sadness quite easily and keeps us craving more for this delicious cold stuff!
And you know what’s my favorite part of any ice-cream?
The little specks of vanilla that’s sprinkled all over this cold treat!
If you want to add that grainy texture and concentrated flavor to your homemade ice-cream or other desserts, then our next item on the list is sure to help you a lot!
The Vanilla Bean Paste manufactured by Heilala company is a winner of multiple awards, which features a delicious taste in its products that all chefs seem to love to add to their recipes. The paste has a rich, creamy texture that works as a great substitute for extracts in cooking.
One jar of this delicious treat contains around 12 vanilla pods. These seeds are carefully picked from Tonga, which is located in the region of Polynesia.
Then it’s mixed with 12% alcohol, 5% sugar and 0.5% natural thickener to make a gel-like substance that also contains some scraped-out pods in it. Pastry chefs love to add this paste as it contains a stronger flavor than any store-bought extracts.
The 2.29-ounce jar from Heilala features only the premium quality gourmet ingredients to bring out the best result in your frosting mixture. The little flecks of vanilla are visually satisfying as well as add a unique taste to the dishes. You can also use it in your cookie dough, pancake mix or cake batter as per your preference.
6. Vanilla Bean Paste By LorAnn
We know this stuff is so expensive!
You only need a little amount of this ingredient to make your dishes stand out from the crowd, so why would you need to buy a big jar that might take forever to finish, right?
LorAnn company seems to think along these lines and came up with a cute little 4-ounce bottle with a super reasonable price tag! Even better, if you are just starting your baking career and unsure which one to go for, you can buy its mini 2-ounce sized bottle for a test drive.
Okay. So, what’s so special about this paste that sets it apart from the rest of its competitors?
Well, for starters, this is a pure, gluten-free item made from all-natural ingredients like sugar, water, extract, xanthan gum, seeds and acacia gum.
As you can see, this product doesn’t contain any alcohol in it. So, those of you who wish to avoid alcohol due to health concerns or dietary reasons can easily choose this item as a substitute for extract.
While making a homemade whipped cream, try adding a pinch of LorAnn paste in the next time and see how this little switch goes a long way and changes the flavor altogether!
The reason why this small bottle is full of such intense flavor is that the pods that are used in making this paste are collected from Madagascar. On top of that, the farmers make sure that the beans age perfectly before harvesting them for use.
All these procedures add up to making a smooth paste that helps make us delicious cookies and creams and gives every dish a beautiful appearance with all those little flecks.
7. Tahitian Extract Grade B By Vanilla Products USA
A little-known fact is that the U.S.A. alone consumes almost 50% of vanilla pods that are produced all over the world!
Yep. The demand for these seeds is ever-increasing.
However, due to the huge demand of the consumers, many companies end up selling quickly cured pods that gets ready in 7 to 10 days only. As a result, they don’t get enough time to develop the original flavor and defies the purpose of using this ingredient in cooking.
That’s why Vanilla Products USA decided to follow the traditional way of preparing these seeds for you over several months! The Tahitian Grade-B pods are a fine example of the quality of the company’s one of the best vanilla beans production.
Cultivated in Papua New Guinea, these seeds are plump, round and moist in appearance.
The process of curing this ingredient is a little bit different than the others. Once the pods reach their peak, farmers collect them and store them in a cool place for 10 days until they turn brown.
After rinsing them with water, the growers let them get warmed in the sun for the next couple of months. Then they let the pods dry in a shaded area for 40 days before sending them to a team of specialists who check each one to make sure they make certain criteria before getting packaged.
All these hard work end in a good note once you receive a packet full of fresh beans with a sweet, floral flavor all intact!
One packet contains around 25 pods that are around 4 inches in length. These pods are best paired with desserts like ice-cream, pudding and homemade custards.
8. McCormick All Natural Pure Vanilla Extract
A company that has been around 125 years is bound to know a thing or two how to keep its customers happy, what do you say?
Get ready for the next product in our line, which is none other than McCormick, a company that’s been providing us with endless flavors since 1889!
From crushed spices to seafood sauces, this brand has gained popularity for delivering some amazing products for a long time.
The McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract is, needless to say, another amazing creation of this company. The 16-ounce bottle contains around 41% alcohol in it. Thanks to its natural maturation process, it doesn’t need any added sweetener like corn syrup or sugar to enhance its flavor.
Just by having a look at this bottle, you could tell it has a strong depth by the intensity of the color. And that is because the liquid is made from some hand-selected premium vanilla pods.
Once you take a spoonful of this extract, you will be able to taste the rich, sweet and subtle flavor that sets this product from other brands on the market.
The plain old breakfast with French toast doesn’t need to seem so boring anymore! Just add this ingredient on top and enjoy a whole new level of yumminess. You can also use this extract for making blueberry cheesecakes, cookies, cakes or even cupcakes.
Oh! And before I forget, this special bottle of liquid also works wonders on savory dishes. Just try with meat or any kind of seafood dishes and thank me later for this idea!
9. Vanilla Beans By Native Vanilla
Are you looking for the perfect gift for your mom during this holiday season?
Well, if she is into baking, then the Vanilla Beans from Native Vanilla might be an excellent choice for that! Plus, you get to have all the delicious goodies at the end of her cooking!
If you are a fan of making homemade extract, then these Tahitian Grade-B beans are sure to serve your purpose. With a black and dark-brown color combination, each of these pods measure about 11 to 16 centimeters in length.
Tahitian pods are famous for their unique taste that sets it apart from the rest of its kind. Along with the traditional vanilla aroma, you will get a strong flavor of a flower. And the taste is somewhat a cross between raisin and cherry.
The flowery scent of the seeds comes in handy while you are making butter cookies, cakes, special sauces or even beverages. Don’t get surprised if your friends seem to love the fruit punches a little bit more when you add in a pinch of this delicious extract!
The versatile flavor in these pods allow it to be used in other sectors as well. Most probably you are already using perfume, body care or cosmetic that has this extract in them.
If you intend to make an extract out if these pods, first take kitchen scissors and split the beans in half from the middle. This way, the seeds will get out much quicker and then you can use them however you prefer.
Also, don't forget to wrap the leftovers in plastic and store them in a cool, dry place to make them last for a long time.
10. Madagascar Vanilla Beans By Vanilla King Beans
The artificial vanilla flavor can never capture the distinct flavor that comes with pure, natural extract from the original seeds.
Take a look at the Madagascar Vanilla Beans for example!
Cultivated on the Bourbon Island of Madagascar, this Planifolia species is of the highest quality of beans that you can find. With its sweet aroma and smooth texture, it takes only a moment to fall in love with the classic flavor it presents.
One of the qualities of a good vanilla pod is that it should have a sleek, oily appearance. And the Madagascar seeds live up to our expectation by having a strong, remarkable scent and an oily texture all over its surface. The length of each bean is around 15 to 17 centimeters on average.
Once you split open a pod, you will find premium-quality gourmet seeds inside it that have a dark rich brown shade on top of them. These seeds are particularly helpful in adding a classic vanilla flavor while baking a traditional crème Brulee or strawberry shortcake.
You can also use the beans for making a sweet glaze to make a caramelized coating on that grilled fish that you are cooking for dinner!
Or, better yet, you can prepare vanilla sugar cube beforehand and put it in your coffee the next time you are craving for a hot beverage!
Let me also include a lifehack here on this topic. You can keep some of these inside your car on the days your car stinks! Trust me, this stuff work even better than a car deodorizer!
Benefits Of Using Vanilla Beans
1. Reduces Cholesterol Level
People who have too much cholesterol in their bodies have a higher possibility of getting heart attacks or strokes. The LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) is known as the bad cholesterol and mainly responsible for building up fats in the arteries.
The good news is, vanilla pods contain “vanillin", a chemical compound that helps regulate the blood pressure level quite effectively. It also decreases the LDL and helps increase HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein), which is the good cholesterol of our body.
As a result, it prevents heart diseases, reduces the chances of strokes and improves cardiovascular functions all at the same time.
2. Promotes Hair Growth
These pods are rich in vitamins, minerals and essential oils. All of these compounds work together to reduce hair loss and make your shine effortlessly.
Let me give you some examples of how this thing works.
Vanilla seeds contain Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin B6 and Niacin. All these B-complex vitamins help break down carbs, proteins effectively. As a result, our hair follicles get enough protein and nutrition and promote healthy locks.
Don't forget about Vanilla Essential Oil, which is a perfect way to add a touch of extra glam to your hair! To get its benefits, just use it like any regular hot oil treatment and leave it overnight to enjoy a silky texture to your hair on the next day.
3. Reverses Skin Damage
Did you know spending a long time in the sun causes a free-radical reaction, which damages our skin and makes us look much older than we are?
Yep. All those fine lines and wrinkles are the by-products of the UV radiation in sunlight.
However, there’s a way of reversing the aging spots and make your skin glow again!
Vanilla seeds are rich in antioxidants and minerals that cleanses your skin and fights off the effect of free radicals. To revive your skin, make a body-scrub by crushing the beans into a paste and apply it before bath.
4. Helps Lose Weight
Although nothing can replace the role of a strict diet and regular exercise in terms of losing extra fat, the vanilla extract also goes a long way by helping your metabolism to work faster and digest food easily.
The vanilla beans are also known to reduce cholesterol levels and suppress your appetite, thus, help you make you feel full after a healthy meal.
5. Acts As A Pain Reliever
Have you been suffering from a terrible headache lately?
Well, it’s time to treat yourself with some bean puddings that contain vanilla in it! This ingredient has some magical properties that help relieve any kind of pain naturally.
Vanilla pods are also known to relieve patients with arthritis or joint pain and helps reduce any type of inflammation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Vanilla
1. How Long Can I Store Pods In My Pantry?
Answer: It depends on what types of pods you have purchased. If the beans are of premium quality, then they might last up to several years. However, it’s wise not to buy in bulk quantities if you don’t need it within the next few months.
2. Can Vanilla Seeds Develop Molds Over Time?
Answer: Yes. If you don’t store them properly in an airtight jar, then molds can easily grow on them. Also, if the seeds that you have bought haven’t matured properly, then they are more likely to develop molds over time.
3. What Kind Of Pods Are Suitable For Making Vanilla Extract?
Answer: It’s a good idea to go with Grade-B pods for making extract. As these beans contain more concentrated moisture inside them and are packed with more flavor, you will be able to make a rich, high-quality extract from them.
4. What Should I do If I See Molds On My Gourmet Beans?
Answer: As soon as you see the evidence of any mold growth, separate the affected pods from the rest of the seeds in the jar.
Then, use a clean kitchen towel to wipe off any visible mold or cut the affected parts, dry them out in the sun and try to salvage as much as you can.
5. Can I Grow Vanilla Orchid From Its Seeds?
Answer: Technically, you can. But it’s a better idea to purchase a cutting rather than trying to grow it from the seeds. Also, it’s a tropical plant and therefore, can’t survive in any temperature below 50-Degree Celsius.
6. What Should I Choose Between Vanilla Paste And Extract?
Answer: Both items are equally good. Depending on what type of textures you prefer, you can choose either one.
For instance, the paste contains some black specks that come with a bit grainy texture, while the extract is an alcohol-infused liquid that doesn’t contain any seeds at all.
7. How Should I store Vanilla Pods?
Answer: Once opened, store the leftover pods in an airtight glass container. Then keep the container in a cool, dark place for storage purposes. Don't refrigerate the pods in any situation as it might promote mold growth.
8. How Do You Cut And Scrape These beans?
Answer: First, prepare a cutting surface where you lay the pod with its flat side down. Then, take a sharp kitchen knife, place the tip in the middle of the pod and cut the top layer off. Now collect the tiny seeds and use them as you like.
9. How Long Does The Extract Remain Fresh?
Answer: Vanilla extract is a lot different than the pods and remains fresh forever! Once bought, you can keep it indefinitely and its taste even gets better with time. To enjoy its full flavor and aroma, it’s advisable to use it within 5 years.
10. Is Vanilla Fattening?
Answer: Well, first, you have to understand that it is just a flavoring ingredient. It contains only a few calories and isn’t responsible for weight gain. In fact, the flavor is known to suppress your appetite, thus, help you lose weight in the long run.
However, if you decide to use this ingredient in cooking foods that have high calories or sugar in it, then, obviously, you will gain weight in that way.
We have been talking a lot about how the best vanilla beans can take your cooking to a whole new level, right?
It’s truly amazing how only a pinch of this ingredient can be a game-changer in most cases. Just try baking a cake or cookies without vanilla extract, and you are bound to notice the difference!
But there are more to these magical beans that we don’t know about.
For instance, it’s a great alternative to sugar or any other sweetening additives. In fact, some people use this ingredient instead of sugar to stop tooth decay at an early stage. Vanilla pods are also known to help people with intestinal gas and fever.
So, keeping the health benefits in mind, we encourage you to try this item today if you haven’t already! Hopefully, this article will help find the right selection for you and keep you motivated in cooking more delicious dishes for your family.
Oh! And don’t forget to keep baking, stay healthy and bring a smile to everyone around you until we meet again!