Not Just For Baking: Why Vanilla Extract Is One Of My Most Useful Pantry Staples

Whether you’re baking a cookie or a cake, custard, crème brûlée or cheesecake – there’s not a single recipe which doesn’t call for a splash of vanilla extract.

Drawing its depth of flavour from both the seeds inside a vanilla pod and the pod itself, vanilla extract is a cost-efficient and worthy alternative to using pure vanilla beans. The unsung hero of sweet treats, this is the key element bolstering and enriching all the flavours of a recipe. Unless the ingredient list asks for heaping tablespoons of vanilla, you’re unlikely to distinguish its individual flavour. However, leave it out and you’ll definitely be able to detect its palpable absence in a blander bake.

The quality of course, makes all the difference, Most of what you’ll find on the shelves are poor or even fake imitations, flavoured with synthetically-produced vanillin (the key flavour compound in real vanilla). Needless to say if you’re not using the real thing, you’ll fall rather short of the complexity that pure vanilla extract can add.

It’s no wonder then that I’m often asked which brand I use. Sprig’s Extract of Natural Bourbon Vanilla is the front-runner in my pantry, time-tested and recommended for its high-quality knack for imparting the signature flavours of Madagascan Vanilla Beans. The beauty of having such good quality vanilla on hand, is that it’s versatile enough to elevate more than just what you’re next popping in the oven. Here are a few ideas to inspire you!

Upgrade Your Coffee

Fret not if the lockdown has you missing your morning Joe at your favourite coffee spot. Simply drizzle vanilla extract in your empty coffee maker, before adding your coffee grounds. You can add anywhere between 1/2 tsp to 2 tbsp depending on how prominent you want the vanilla flavour (heaping tablespoons will bring out a more robust flavour).

The vanilla will work its magic while your coffee is brewing, infusing your coffee with a cosy scent and its subtle sweetness. Once you have a sip of the smooth vanilla finish, you’ll never miss the saccharine, syrupy-sweetness of a cafe-bought vanilla latte ever again!

Vanilla Yogurt, Anyone?

You can also cut out the sugar of store-bought vanilla yogurt, by stirring in just half a teaspoon of vanilla extract into a plain cup of yogurt.

Pro tip: for vanilla-flavoured Greek yogurt, start by straining your homemade curd. Simply line a fine-mesh sieve with 2 layers of cheesecloth and place this over a large bowl. Scoop out the cooled yogurt onto this cheesecloth, cover and chill it for anywhere between 8 to 24 hours (depending on your desired level of thickness).

Level Up Your Roasted Fruits & Veggies

Similarly, you don’t need to add sugar (read: empty calories!) when roasting stone fruits like peaches or pears. Just mix the sliced fruits with a 1-2 tsp of vanilla extract before popping them in the oven. The vanilla works wonders in intensifying the natural, floral sweetness of the fruits!

Similarly, adding a dash of vanilla extract to your tray of veggies before putting them in the oven to roast, will enhance the the caramelised flavours by amplifying their sweetness.

Switch Up Your Salad Dressings

Just a subtle touch of vanilla is often sufficient enough to cut out the tanginess of vinegary salad dressings. Try this hack the next time you make a fruit salad.

Making A Splash in Savoury Dishes

Vanilla extract is one of the best kept secrets among many professional chefs. Just as it does for your sweet bakes, vanilla extract shines a light on the rich elements of savoury foods without overwhelming the key ingredients and flavours.

The next time you make a tomato sauce at home – whether for pizza or pasta – drizzle in some vanilla extract. Not only will this mellow the natural acidity of the tomatoes, but it will also round off the sweetness for a more balanced finish!

Coming back to the more classic uses, there are plenty of bakes to which pure vanilla extract can add its signature richness. Try these brown butter blondies, for a vanilla-rich alternative to brownies, the next time you’re craving something sweet! Recipe, here.

Reader offer:

Use the code ‘TFD10’ on Sprig’s website to get 10% off on all their products, including their Bourbon Vanilla Extract |

Disclaimer: This post has been sponsored by Sprigbut all views and opinions are mine and mine alone.

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