Using vanilla extract in any recipe for baked goods adds so much fragrant flavor. But, when you use vanilla seeds scraped right from the vanilla bean pods, you know you're getting even more of that intense vanilla flavor. I prefer using vanilla seeds over vanilla extract, but let's face it, vanilla pods are super expensive and I know I don't always have them on hand.
However, when I do find time to make my way to the store to buy vanilla beans in bulk, I know I don't want to waste any part of my precious vanilla beans! There is so much vanilla flavor in the pod even after the seeds are removed.
Whatever you do, never throw away the empty vanilla pod. Check out these clever ways to make the most out of those leftover vanilla bean pods.
1. Make Homemade Vanilla Extract
One of the best and easiest things to do with leftover vanilla beans is to make vanilla extract. Once you've scraped out the seeds with a paring knife, toss the pods into a bottle of vodka or sealed glass container. Allow the mixture to sit for a few months to really develop that floral flavor.
You can also add more vanilla beans to the vodka over time to really deepen the flavor. I always have a bottle of homemade vanilla extract in my kitchen-there's nothing like making it yourself!
2. Make Vanilla Vodka
The same process mentioned above can also be used to make vanilla vodka. You'll only need to steep the vanilla beans in the vodka for about a week rather than a few months.
3. Make Vanilla Sugar
When my bottle of vanilla extract is full, I toss my leftover vanilla pods into an airtight container with granulated sugar. The vanilla beans will infuse the sugar with that delicious flavor.
Use the vanilla sugar for anything- chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, or you can even use it to sweeten up your coffee.
4. Flavor Maple Syrup
Add vanilla flavor to maple syrup by adding in a few spent beans. You'll get that hint of flavor, which is so perfect for drizzling over pancakes or waffles.
5. Make Vanilla Powder
Another ingredient that I absolutely love is vanilla powder. It has an intense flavor and the specks of vanilla seeds throughout is so pretty. Make your own by drying out vanilla pods and then grinding them in a small spice grinder or food processor.
Vanilla powder makes great gifts or party favors, too.
6. Make Vanilla Simple Syrup
7. Make Vanilla Salt
Sure, it might sound weird but that hint of vanilla flavor in salt is super tasty. Just toss a few vanilla beans in a container with kosher salt or sea salt, but be sure to label the container. You wouldn't want to mix up the vanilla salt for sugar!
Vanilla salt is especially great to use when you're making brittle or chocolates-sprinkle some over the top for that amazing sweet and salty flavor.
8. Make Vanilla Sugar Body Scrub
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If you're in need of some pampering, try out this moisturizing vanilla sugar body scrub. Blend together dried out vanilla pods with a little sugar until combined. Mix that in a bowl with more sugar (do not blend-you don't want all of the sugar to become powdery). Slowly mix in enough oil until it feels like wet sand. You can use any type of oil- olive oil, coconut oil, grape seed oil, etc.