While getting vanilla beans from the jungles of Madagascar to your plate is anything but simple, cooking with vanilla beans is easy and makes your recipes both livelier and more flavorful. While vanilla beans can be a little expensive because of their complicated growing process, you generally only need a small amount when cooking.
`The following recipes incorporate either the vanilla bean itself or vanilla bean paste made from fresh vanilla pods for a massive boost of flavor. Vanilla dishes are often labeled as plain but, as you’ll soon see, that’s anything but true!
1. Bacon Almond Brittle with Vanilla Beans
This recipe is a twist on the classic peanut brittle, replacing peanuts with almonds and adding an unexpected hit of bacon! Try this recipe with vanilla bean paste for a truly unique dessert.
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups chopped raw almonds
- 8 slices cooked and crumbled bacon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- Thoroughly grease a baking sheet with cooking oil spray or softened butter.
- In a saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, water and salt over medium heat.
- Stir for 2 to 3 minutes until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to bubble.
- Proceed to stir in the almonds and bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Cook until golden brown (another 3 minutes or so).
- Add the bacon, vanilla bean paste and baking soda and stir in.
- Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheet until it’s ¼ inch thick – the mixture will quickly start to harden, so do this step quickly.
- Let cool completely.
- Break into shards and enjoy!
2. Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee Cheesecake Bars
We didn’t think we could come up with a better dessert idea than combining cheesecake with the torched top of crème brulee but to take it up a notch, try adding fresh vanilla bean paste for an explosion of vanilla flavor.
- 9 whole graham crackers
- 5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
- 16 ounces soften, room temperature cream cheese
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 large eggs (room temperature)
- 1 large egg yolk (room temperature)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- The Brûlée Topping:
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
Instructions for making the Creme brûlée crust
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Use an 8-inch square metal baking dish for this recipe. Line with tin foil, leaving an overhang.
- Crush the graham crackers until they are finely ground. It is helpful to use a food processor for this step if you have one.
- Stir in the butter or if you’re using a food processor, pulse until the graham crackers are moistened.
- Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared 8-inch square pan.
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes until the crust is lightly browned and set.
- Once the crust is done, take it out of the oven and reduce the temperature to 300°F.
The Filling for the the Creme brûlée
- Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth at medium-high heat.
- Mix in the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is smooth.
- One at a time, proceed to add the cream, eggs, egg yolk, vanilla paste, and salt. Beat until the entire mixture is well combined and smooth.
- Pour the mixture over the already baked crust. Put back in the oven at the 300°F.
- Bake the cheesecake for about 35 minutes. When done, the cheesecake should mostly be set, but have a slight jiggle in the center – it’s important not to over-bake.
- Place on a cooling rack to cool cheesecake completely while in the pan.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours until firm. The foil overhang helps transfer the cheesecake out of the pan where it can be placed on a work surface and cut into squares.
Now comes the crème brûlée! Sprinkle the tops of each square with granulated sugar and torch the tops with a kitchen torch until the sugar turns a deep amber color. Refrigerate the squares until ready to serve.
3. Vanilla Bean Pudding
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- A pinch of salt
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
- Shaved chocolate (optional)
- Add and combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt to a medium saucepan.
- Slowly stir in the milk.
- Split open and scrape the inside of one whole vanilla bean into the pan.
- Proceed to cook over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Stir for one minute.
- Place the egg yolks in a separate bowl and gradually stir half the mixture that’s in the saucepan into this bowl.
- Proceed to empty the egg yolk bowl back into the saucepan.
- Bring to a bowl and stir for one minute.
- Poor the resulting pudding into small bowls or ramekins.
- Cover and refrigerate until chilled – this will take several hours.
- When you are ready to serve, top with optional shaved chocolate.
4. Roasted Balsamic Vanilla Strawberries
Looking for a sweet, yet tangy topping for your ice cream, custard, or yogurt? Give these vanilla-infused balsamic strawberries a try!
- 2 lbs. strawberries
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Preheat oven to 400°F and prepare a baking pan with parchment paper.
- Combine and toss Strawberries with sugar, balsamic and vanilla bean paste in a large bowl.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes.
- Eat by themselves or use as a topping on ice cream, as a tart filling or with custard.
5. Vanilla Bean Fudge
Everybody likes fudge – well, at least we do. Try this super simple 3 ingredient fudge for an explosion of real vanilla flavor.
- 3 cups chopped white chocolate
- 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or the insides of 1 vanilla bean pod
- (Optional) White melting candy for drizzling and/or sprinkles
- Line a 9×9 baking dish with foil or parchment paper.
- Combine sweetened condensed milk, vanilla paste, and white chocolate in a saucepan over low heat.
- Stir until the mixture is melted and smooth – it’s important to keep the temperature at low heat to prevent the mixture from burning.
- Pour the mixture into the lined baking dish when smooth.
- Let cool completely for a minimum of 3 to 4 hours. You can speed this process along by sticking the baking dish in the refrigerator for up to 20 minutes.
- Drizzle with your white melted candy of choice and top with sprinkles.
- Once completely cool, cut into small, 1-inch squares and enjoy!
6. Vanilla Bean Lemonade
We don’t know about you but we think this is the most refreshing sounding drink we’ve ever heard of. Try incorporating 2 vanilla beans into this recipe to get a drink that’s not only refreshing but bursting with complex vanilla flavor.
- 2 vanilla beans
- 2 cups sugar
- 8 cups water
- 3 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Slice the vanilla beans down the center and scrape out the seeds. If you’re not already familiar with scraping out vanilla beans, the best way to do so is with the back of a knife.
- Add both the resulting seeds and the pods (husk) to a large saucepan.
- Proceed to add the sugar and 2 of the 8 cups of water the saucepan.
- Bring mixture to a boil, allowing to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the seeds.
- Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to use.
- This simple syrup can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to three weeks and used in a variety of iced drinks. Try adding to iced coffee or sparkling water for another delicious, refreshing beverage.
- When ready to drink, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice to 2 ½ cups of your vanilla bean simple syrup and combine with the remaining 6 cups of water.
- Add more water or more simple syrup to adjust the lemonade to your liking.
- Serve with plenty of ice and enjoy this delicious, refreshing drink!
These are only a few of the wondrous, delicious recipes that you can make with vanilla beans or vanilla bean paste. We hope we have given you some inspiration on how to change your next vanilla creation into something that’s anything but boring.