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  • The Chopping Blog

The Great Vanilla Debate

Lisa C
Posted by Lisa C on Aug 31, 2015

When it comes to cooking with vanilla, there are quite a few choices like pure vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste and vanilla beans. There's also vanilla sugar, infused vanilla syrups; the list goes on and on. So, how do you know which one is the best?

vanillaextractWell, good old-fashioned vanilla extract is used mainly because it's easy to find and relatively affordable. Vanilla extract is made by macerating vanilla beans in a mixture of alcohol and water. When purchasing a bottle, avoid the imitation versions as they they tend to have a weaker, almost alcoholic aftertaste. Try and splurge for the real stuff here.

Vanilla beans, while on the pricier side, are the ultimate in flavoring and scenting baked goods. Vanilla beans consist of an almost waxy dark brown pod filled with little brown flavorful specks. When purchasing them, you want to make sure the beans are plump and smooth, never dry. They should smell highly fragrant and have a slight shine to them. The big perk to using vanilla beans is the way the thousands of little black dots fleck throughout your batter. Another perk of getting the whole vanilla bean is that when you have scraped the pod you can save the outer shell and put it into sugar. After a while the sugar takes on a subtle vanilla flavor and scent.

vanillapasteBut by using vanilla bean paste, you can still achieve the tiny flecks except at a cheaper cost. In many ways, vanilla paste could be thought of as a great in between option.

The Nielsen Massey vanilla bean paste that we use at The Chopping Block is my absolute favorite. It has a three year shelf life and it is delicious. I could just eat spoonfuls of it! I put it in everything from my coffee, anything I am baking, and even savory dishes like my favorite BBQ sauce recipe below, which goes great on ribs.


Who knew vanilla was so versatile?

Chipotle Vanilla BBQ Sauce

2 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoon garlic, chopped

2 tablespoon canned chipotle chilies with sauce, chopped                           

4 tablespoons brown sugar

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoon dark molasses

2 tablespoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Add garlic and sauté until soft. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, 45-60 minutes. Makes 3 cups.

So, ultimately it is up to you to choose which vanilla is right for you, and what you personally like best. You can see how we use it in cooking classes like our upcoming Summer Canning and Preserving where we make Peach Vanilla Jam.

View our calendars


Topics: vanilla bean, vanilla extract, vanilla, baking, Ingredients

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