Having a zero-waste mindset has opened my eyes to so many ways to not only reduce waste in my kitchen, but it can also be incredibly cost saving with just a little extra time and effort. Since I bake a lot, vanilla extract was one of the first things I started to make on my own. Afterwards, it felt so wasteful just tossing the spent vanilla beans. I knew there had to be a way to use them. Then I discovered homemade vanilla powder, which is actually a little secret used by many bakers. Was I living under a rock?
Vanilla powder has a concentrated flavor. I’ve often found extract to be a bit subtle, having powder on hand is a great alternative when I know a recipe needs an extra boost.
Making vanilla powder
The key is starting with high quality vanilla beans. I prefer to use Madagascar beans purchased in bulk. From my research I’ve learned that Madagascar beans give the more traditional vanilla flavor, but haven’t experimented myself with other types of beans.
Before making the powder, I usually first make vanilla extract. I then use the spent beans for powder so that there is zero waste. And why toss beans that still have so much flavor to give!
Quick extract recipe: Split 5 vanilla beans down the middle and mix with 1 cup 80 proof vodka in an air-tight container. Store in a cool, dark location for 6-12 months, shaking regularly. Make sure the beans are fully submerged, you can cut in half if needed. I usually quadruple the recipe so I have a large amount of extract (great gifts!).
Dry out the beans. If the vanilla beans are not already split, then slice the beans down the center, not cutting all the way through. If using spent extract beans they will dry out a little quicker than fresh. There are two ways to dry them out.
- Spread them on a paper towel and let the air dry for 2-3 weeks
- Dry them out on low heat in the oven. Place on parchment or a baking mat on a baking tray and bake for 1 hour on 125ºF (50ºC). Make sure they are nice and dry, watch to ensure they don’t burn. Doing it on a low heat will help ensure that. The will crisp up as they cool.
If you don’t plan to make extract and want to get straight to making powder, that’s great! I assume the flavor might be even more robust, but haven’t tested it out myself yet. This is also a great alcohol-free option.
Process in a high speed blender or spice/coffee grinder into a powder. Place in an air-tight container.
Much like vanilla extract, vanilla powder will last a while if you store it properly. Store it in an air-tight container in a cool, dry, dark location and it will last up to 2 years. If it is no longer fragrant then it’s time to toss it and make a new batch.
Replacing extract with powder
It’s so simple! 1/2 tsp of powder = 1 tsp of extract.