Vanilla, Vanilla, Vanilla!

Written by Changing Habits

July 10, 2013

Vanilla is one of those items which, although you don’t really think about being an essential everyday item, lends itself to a large variety of uses.

I didn’t exactly seek out the Vanilla pod for its nutritional qualities in the beginning, I just wanted it for myself so I could make my own Vanilla essence and extracts because I was absolutely fed up of going to the shop and buying these products for my cooking only to find them either to be imitation or with dubious additives or ingredients that I would never use.
vanilla-bean-productEven if I did find an excellent Vanilla product it was expensive (of course) because it was made and prepared the traditional way and not mass manufactured.  In the end I figured that the best thing to do toensure I had the best Vanilla available was to buy the Vanilla Pods whole and natural (organic if I could) and learn how to make my own traditional Vanilla products.

As we all know I am dedicated to having “the one ingredient pantry”, meaning I have lots of one ingredient that I can then create into anything. I do not need to buy anything prepared or packaged as I have all the necessary basics needed to make healthy food. What is amazing is that a one ingredient pantry does not need a lot of room, once you have all the basics, like nuts, seeds, whole grains, cold pressed oils, seaweed salt, rapadura sugar, coconut oil, spices and herbs then you can make just about anything.

Vanilla is one of the most used “one ingredients” I have; there is always a teaspoon of some sort of Vanilla in the recipes I make – especially in the Changing Habits Changing Lives cook book!

Sometimes realizing that you can make these foods and condiments is half the battle – I personally had no idea I could make Vanilla essence, extract and pastes so easily.  But with the right foundations and process it is so simple, and I have the added benefit of knowing that my Vanilla products are the best quality!

So… with any Vanilla creation we must start with the Vanilla pod. The Vanilla pod is very versatile and the one pod can be used multiple times for different things. For instance; you can use the Vanilla pod to make a drink then take the pod out, dry it and place it in your containers that house your Rapadura Sugar or Seaweed Salt leaving you with Vanilla Sugar and Vanilla Salt – the taste is sensational – the flavour will permeate these two foods in 3 to 4 weeks and a good quality pod will remain potent for as long as 3-4 years.

If a recipe asks for the whole Vanilla pod to be placed in the dish, e.g custard, pannacotta or a drink, then at the end of the cooking process, remove the Vanilla pod, wash it, dry it and use it at a later date.  You can even do this same process if the recipe asks you to cut the Vanilla bean lengthwise then scrape out the seeds to be used in a dish but not the actual bean.  Instead of throwing it away just place it in jar (I use our coconut oil jars as they are just the perfect size) and wait to use it again when you need the whole Vanilla bean for a recipe.

The multiple usages of the Vanilla Pod means that the actual price of each individual bean makes for an extremely inexpensive flavouring agent packed with a host of health benefits that may include:

  • Support for enzyme synthesis, nervous system function, regulation of metabolism, control of heart rate and blood pressure, help with co- factors for superoxide dismutase and help with red blood cell production as co-factor for cyochrome-oxidases enzymes.
  • Good anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory due to the presence of eugenol and vanillin hydroxybenzaldehyde.
  • Each pod is made up of complex sugars, essential oils (piperonal), vitamins such as B complex including niacin, pantothenic acid, thiamin, riboflavin and B6 and minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron and zinc
  • Even the Ancient Mayans believed a drink made from the Vanilla pod had aphrodisiac qualities. The extracted essential oil was used to treat impotence, erectile dysfunction, loss of libido and other sexual disorders.

Ultimately, Vanilla is a must have for any pantry.  With the ability to add sensuous flavours and aromas to the most basic of dishes and numerous health benefits, it makes life not only sweeter but healthier too.

The Changing Habits Vanilla Pods will be available soon!

What you can use Vanilla for

Vanilla Essence


  • Vanilla beans
  • Alcohol, eg. vodka, rum, brandy or spirit of your choice provided it’s at least 40% alcohol and the aroma doesn’t overpower vanilla

The ratio is 6 Vanilla beans per 500ml of spirits.

I prefer to use white rum, vodka or gin. Rum complements the Vanilla flavour nicely.  It’s best in cakes or muffins. Vodka on the other hand doesn’t have as strong aroma as rum and won’t compete with the Vanilla flavour.   Vodka and Gin based Vanilla extract is good for cream and cheese based deserts.  So in reality you could make one of each.

When you are selecting your alcohol be sure that it is a pure alcohol. Rum and Brandy that has been aged in oak or barrels rather than an artificial colour added.  Your white spirits should not have any additives.

Another thing to be wary of when selecting the right spirit is the original ingredients. Some can be grain based so if you have gluten intolerance in the family you may need to avoid those spirits. Following is a table of original ingredients of alcohol.

Alcohol Original Ingredient
Rum Sugar cane (brown rum is aged in oak barrels)
Whiskey grains, barley, rye, wheat or corn
Brandy grapes and distilled from wine could have sulfur in it
Gin juniper berries
vodka potatoes or grains (you will need to check this one)
Tequila blue agave

Remember… just 6 Vanilla Pods for every 500 ml of spirit.

White spirits are traditionally the cleaner spirits.  White rum means that it has not been aged in an oak barrel to turn the colour to brown; either rum can be used.


  1. Prepare a clean glass jar or bottle, depending on how much you make will depend on the size of the bottle.
  2. Split Vanilla beans lengthwise and then in half
  3. Place all the Vanilla into the bottle and pour the alcohol over the beans
  4. Place the lid on the glass jar and leave in a dark place like your pantry for at least 2-3 months
  5. Shake occasionally

As the weeks pass, the clear spirits such as vodka will develop a brown colour.  If you have used brown rum, the colour will deepen further and become cloudy and less transparent.  The longer it stands the stronger and more aromatic your homemade Vanilla extract will become.  I would suggest that you place a sticker on your bottle of essence with the date you made it.

The first time I made Vanilla extract I could hardly wait for the three months to pass!  I started using it at 6 weeks and it was pungent at that stage however I’ve noticed as time passes it just becomes absolutely the best essence.

When the three months is up, I usually take out about 100 ml and put it in another small clean jar and then I top up my original jar with more of the primary alcohol.    You can do this for around 3 years.  Remember there will be other people who may like a small bottle of your homemade Vanilla essence, so make enough for gifts for friends and then teach them to make their own.

After you make your own Vanilla essence you will never go back to the shop bought imitation junk with additives like corn syrup, thickeners, artificial colours, caramel colour, stabalisers and fake Vanilla in the form of vanillin made from the petroleum and wood pulp industry.

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  1. Julie

    Are the vanilla pods available to buy ? thank you

    • Jordan Pie

      Hi Julie, unfortunately they have been discontinued


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