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Can You Buy Vanilla Beans at the Grocery Store?

Some people like to mix their own vanilla extract, but others may be looking for a good place to buy vanilla beans at the grocery store. If you’re looking for some retail outlets that have this delicious flavor, read on!

The concept of vanilla is actually pretty fascinating. In particular, the history of how humans started using vanilla beans has to do with the way we interact with our environment and eventually become part of it.

There’s a popular story that has been passed around in many forms, but one of the most condensed versions goes like this:

Mexico is said to have a tropical forest full of vanilla plants. These vanilla plants have no natural predators, which makes them easy to harvest without any complications. In addition, the pods themselves also don’t rot or attract pests due to their high content of vanillin, a chemical compound that helps keep pests away.

While vanilla can be grown elsewhere, Mexico is the only place known to have a collection of vanilla orchids that grows with little to no human interaction. They are also able to be preserved in their natural environment and shipped quickly. This makes them a sought-after commodity all throughout the world.

In the late 18th century, King Ferdinand VI of Spain bestowed upon his Mexican wife, Maria Theresa of Spain, a collection of vanilla orchids as a token of love.

Short Answer: Yes, but it depends on which grocery store you shop at. Not all grocery stores sell vanilla beans.

Some only sell vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste.

Vanilla beans can sometimes be hard to find because they take a long time to grow and the growing process is sensitive.

So, where can you find vanilla beans in the grocery store? Below we will walk you through where to look for vanilla beans and which stores carry them.

Even if some stores do carry vanilla beans, the same store in another location may not. This is due to different store sizes and inventory.

Where are Vanilla Beans in the Grocery Store

Vanilla beans will generally be in the spice aisle near the vanilla extract. If you cannot find them here, they may be in the baking aisle.

Local Stores That Carry Vanilla Beans

Below are a few grocery store that sell vanilla beans in their actual store. Many do not carry them and others only sell them online.

Also, due to constantly changing demand levels, some stores may be out of these at the store you shop at.

Sprouts Farmers Market

At Sprouts Farmers Market, they sell their own brand of vanilla beans in store and you can find them in the spice aisle near the vanilla extract.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods carries a few different brands of vanilla beans. Some of these include:

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Organic Fair Trade Vanilla Bean, 1 Count

Madecasse 3 Bourbon Vanilla Beans

Simply Organic Madagascar Vanilla Beans, 2 beans

Spicely Organic Vanilla Bean, 2 ct

Look for these in the spice aisle near the vanilla extract.

Safeway

Safeway carries a few different vanilla bean brands:

O Organics Organic Vanilla Bean

McCormick Gourmet All Natural Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Look for these in the spice aisle near the vanilla extract.

King Soopers / Fry’s

King Soopers sells a few different vanilla bean brands in store and a few you can only buy online. Below we will list the in store options:

Private Selection™ Madagascar Vanilla Beans

McCormick Gourmet All Natural Madagascar Vanilla Beans

The Spice Hunter Gourmet Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Look for these in the spice aisle near the vanilla extract.

Vons

Vons has the same selection as Safeway:

O Organics Organic Vanilla Bean

McCormick Gourmet All Natural Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Look for these in the spice aisle near the vanilla extract.

Kroger

Kroger has a similar selection to King Soopers and Fry’s:

Spice Islands Bourbon Vanilla Bean

Private Selection™ Madagascar Vanilla Beans

McCormick Gourmet All Natural Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Look for these in the spice aisle near the vanilla extract.

Can’t Find Vanilla Beans Locally

If you cannot find vanilla beans in your local grocery store, there are many different websites that carry them including Walmart, Amazon and Etsy.

Tips for Choosing the Best Vanilla Beans in the Grocery Store

We wish we could tell you that all vanilla beans in the grocery store are the same, but they are not.

The best vanilla beans to buy are the ones that look “full” and glossy. If you see this through the jar, it most likely will be fresh and great to use in the kitchen.

If the vanilla beans looks dull and brittle, do not buy it. These vanilla beans are turning too old and it will be hard to extract the vanilla inside when you need them.

Tips for Storing and Cooking

When storing your vanilla beans at home, make sure to keep them at room temperature and out of sunlight.

Also the sooner you use them, the better. If possible, use them within a few weeks of buying them. This will give you the freshest vanilla taste in your recipe.

Waiting too long can dry out the vanilla bean. You can often see dried out vanilla beans in store that were sitting on the shelves too long.

What is the best way to use fresh vanilla beans?

The best way to use fresh vanilla beans is as a flavoring ingredient as we discussed above. However, there are some other cool ways you can use them:

Add them to dishes such as cake and brownies before baking. Allow the cake or brownie to cool completely before trying it out. This will infuse the vanilla flavor into the cake or brownie. Use them to flavor your hot chocolate, ice cream and other desserts.

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The two reasons for this is that fresher vanilla beans have more flavor than old ones, but also it releases a chemical when heated that will make your dessert taste even better.

Vanilla Extract vs Vanilla Beans: Which is better?

If you are looking for a strong vanilla taste in your dish then vanilla extract is the better option to use. Vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans but it has more concentrated flavor.

Use vanilla extract when you want to make a recipe more intense, such as in brownies or vanilla ice cream.

If you do not have an extract on hand, the easiest thing to do is to substitute half of your vanilla beans with the amount of vanilla extract you usually use.

The flavors are very similar in that both have a wonderful aroma and taste. Here are some examples:

One Vanilla Bean vs Vanilla Extract Vanilla Extract Vanilla Beans 1 pod 1 teaspoon 2 cups 1 cup 5–6 pods 1 tablespoon 4 tablespoons 5 lbs. (1.9 kg.) 1 pint (300 grams) 5 sticks (1.5 kg) 1 gallon total (2 liters) 5 heaping teaspoons, or ½ cup About 2 ounces 1 ¼ cups 3 tablespoons 3 ounces 4 pounds (1.4 kg)

Which is better for cooking?

You can use either vanilla extract or vanilla beans in your recipes. However, if you are looking for a stronger flavor use vanilla extract. Vanilla beans are better used as a flavoring ingredient or when you want to infuse the vanilla flavor into a dish.

If you can’t find fresh vanilla beans at your local grocery store then check out the online options at Amazon, Walmart and Etsy to purchase them.

In the case of using vanilla extract, you can use either a regular or vanilla bourbon extract. You can find these at your local grocery store including Kroger, Safeway, Vons and King Soopers.

Are vanilla beans and pods the same?

Both vanilla beans and pods are the same thing. Vanilla pods are simply the name for the vanilla beans when they are still inside of the pod. The main difference between the two is that vanilla beans are usually more expensive than vanilla pods, but they also have a better flavor. The reason for this is that the beans have more essential oils and less seeds.

If you are looking to make homemade vanilla extract, the best thing to do is start with vanilla beans instead of pods. This way you can easily extract the vanilla from within the bean. You’ll get a better final product in your homemade extract than with vanilla pods.

What can I do if vanilla beans are too expensive?

Vanilla beans are not that expensive and should be around $10 for a pack of 5-6. If you cannot afford them, you can try using a different type of bean or extract.

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For example, vanilla flavored cocoa butter may not have the same flavor as a fresh vanilla bean, but will work if that is the only option available to you.

If you are looking for a similar flavor but do not want to spend the money for vanilla beans, you can use imitation vanilla extract. This is commonly used as an alternative to vanilla beans in baking. You can pick up imitation vanilla extract at your local grocery store including Kroger, Safeway and Vons or online at Amazon or Walmart.

A Few Final Notes on Using Vanilla Beans

One last thing we want to cover is how long they will last after opening the package. As we mentioned above, make sure to store them properly and use them within 2-3 weeks of purchase (often sooner).

Why Vanilla beans are so expensive?

Vanilla beans are expensive because the vanilla pods need to be pollinated by hand. This is a labor-intensive process, which is why it can be expensive. A few years ago, vanilla production was down and prices were up.

However, there has been a recent boom in the vanilla pollination industry and prices came down as of 2015. The average price per pound of vanilla beans in 2017 was $20-23 per pound. Of course, this varies from year to year depending on the production of vanilla pods in that year.

How many beans are in one pod?

This will vary depending on the type of vanilla. A Tahitian bean is usually around 50 beans per pod and a Bourbon bean is around 30-35 beans per pod. As we explained above, they are basically the same thing but the pods come from different places.

The reason for this difference is because Tahitian vanilla are hand pollinated while Bourbon vanilla are not. The amount of beans per pod also depends on how big you want to grow your bean inside of the pod. Some farmers will purposely put many more beans into one pod for a larger yield of vanilla seeds after pollination.

In conclusion, vanilla beans and pods are both good options to use when you want to make homemade vanilla extract or add that wonderful taste of vanilla to your dessert.

If you can’t find any fresh beans at your local grocery store, simply use extract. You can find either a regular or vanilla bourbon extract.

As far as using them though, it really is a matter of personal preference. If you want a stronger flavor in your dish then go with the extract and if you want more subtle flavoring then use the beans. Either way, it’s up to you whether you prefer seeds or pods.

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