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13 Other Uses For Vanilla Extract: Creative Ways to Use Vanilla at Home

Vanilla is one of the most popular and versatile flavors and scents. We all know how to use vanilla extract in baking recipes, but there are lots of other uses for vanilla extract around the house. Much more than just a flavor enhancer in baked goods, vanilla is great for many household uses such as: neutralizing odors, enhancing savory dishes, and as a natural insect repellent.

There’s really no wrong way to use vanilla. Just remember that you only need a few drops for most uses (you can always add more later if needed). So dust off that bottle of vanilla and let’s get creative!

What’s the difference between real vanilla extract and artificial vanilla?

First things first, yes, there is a difference between real vanilla extract and synthetic vanilla, most notably the price. A bottle of artificial vanilla extract costs a mere fraction compared to the real deal. Why?

There are a number of reasons. One has to do with the process involved in making pure vanilla extract. Vanilla beans come from a climbing orchid plant. Most of the vanilla we use today comes from an orchid plant from Mexico (Vanilla fragrans planifolia). The vanilla beans (also referred to as pods), are the fruit of this plant. Vanilla plants begin producing fruit after 3 years and are hand-pollinated (1).

Vanilla beans are picked, then processed. First they are sweated and fermented to coax out the flavor. Next they are dried and cured. The whole process can take months. Over time, the beans develop vanillin, a natural substance which gives the beans a rich vanilla flavor and the aromatic smell of vanilla.

Artificial vanilla uses a type of man-made synthetic vanillin that’s commonly based on lignin, a natural agent found in wood.

Real vanilla beans develop over 200 different aromatic compounds which is why the real stuff in a bottle is so pricey. Synthetic vanilla extract doesn’t have anywhere near the depth of aroma and flavor of real vanilla beans.

But that doesn’t mean that you should rule out artificial vanilla completely. It still is useful around the house.

Tip: For household uses such as neutralizing odors, artificial vanilla works just fine. Save your real vanilla extract for uses in cooking and adding to foods to get the benefits of real vanilla.

Other uses for vanilla extract around the home

1. Removes unwanted smells

Moisten a cotton ball with a few drops of vanilla extract and place in any small bowl in an area that needs freshening up such as:

Fridge

Musty drawers

Cupboard

Pantry

Car

2. A natural air freshener for the whole house

A tip from Reader’s Digest says to put a couple drops of vanilla extract onto a lightbulb. Once the light is turned on, the heat from the light helps to disperse the smell of vanilla throughout the house. Apparently it’s an old real estate agent trick.

3. Make your own DIY vanilla-scented room spray

Forget about chemical-filled air room sprays. With only water, artificial vanilla extract, and a mist bottle, you can enjoy the scent of vanilla in any room with a few spritzes. It’s important to get a proper mist bottle rather than a spray bottle which tendds to disperse too much liquid.

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From The Make Your Own Zone, here’s a simple recipe for DIY recipe for vanilla room spray.

You’ll need:

3 tablespoons of vanilla extract

1 cup of water

A mist bottle

Funnel

Use a funnel to directly pour water and vanilla extract into a mist bottle. Swirl gently to mix. Enjoy your new vanilla-scented room freshener!

Easy ways to use vanilla to enhance or complement flavors

Vanilla extract is a flavor enhancer—it doesn’t alter the structure of your baked or cooked foods. So feel free to add a few drops here and there. Here are some other uses for vanilla extract to improve your culinary creations.

4. Add to hot beverages

One of the easiest ways to use vanilla is to add it to hot beverages. Check out these ideas:

Add a few drops of vanilla to warm milk and honey—the ultimate comfort drink.

Spruce up your morning coffee with a hint of vanilla. You’ll be less inclined to heap on the sugar when coffee has a rich vanilla flavor.

Substitute vanilla extract for vanilla syrup in your London Fog. All you need is Earl Grey tea, steamed milk, and a few drops of vanilla.

5. Add vanilla to savory dishes 

Most of us only associate the use of vanilla with sweet dishes, but it’s time we all changed that. Vanilla extract is great for adding depth and complexity to savory dishes as well. If you have pure vanilla extract, here’s the time to take advantage of its rich flavor profile.

Add a splash of vanilla to savory and rich soups like butternut squash.

Cut back the acidity of tomato sauces by adding vanilla extract during the last few minutes of cooking.

6. Flavor your own yogurt

Plain yogurt is cheaper to buy than flavored varieties and has a fraction of the added sugar. You can jazz up plain yogurt by adding in your favorite toppings with just a touch of honey or sweetener of choice. Try vanilla extract with coconut flakes and a dollop of honey.

7. Smoothies

There are so many flavor combinations that would go well with vanilla. Try adding vanilla to a variety of smoothies with pumpkin, coconut, banana, and strawberry to name just a few.

8. Enhance pancakes, waffles, and French toast

Breakfast, bruch, or “brinner” is better with pancakes, waffles, or French toast. Up your game with a splash of vanilla flavoring.

9. Mixology

Spritz up your cocktails with a splash of vanilla! Check out these recipes that call for vanilla:

Creamy Coconut Hot Buttered Rum (via In The Raw) – A comforting drink for chilly days.

Jus de Bissap (via Make a Cocktail) – A tart, summer-y drink with a twist.

Acid Sweeter (via Bar None Drinks) – A refreshing non-alcoholic drink with lime juice.

10. Baked or roasted fruit

Sweeten roasted pears, apples, or peaches without a ton of sugar. Lightly drizzle a bit of vanilla extract to enhance the natural fruit flavors.

11. A natural perfume

So many store-bought perfumes contain vanilla notes. Save your money and just dab a few drops of vanilla extract (pure, preferably), onto a cotton ball and dab onto pulse points. Just be careful not to stain your clothes! While vanilla extract by itself won’t last as long as other “real” perfumes, it definitely works in a pinch to freshen up.

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12. Keep insects away

While most people enjoy the scent of vanilla, most bugs do not. Keep bugs at bay by making a natural insect repellent with 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Dab the solution onto exposed skin to repel mosquitoes and blackflies from biting.

13. Treat minor burns

You’ve likely heard of many natural home remedies for treating minor burns from aloe vera to egg whites. Count pure vanilla extract as another natural home burn remedy too. For minor burns, apply a few drops of pure vanilla extract onto a cotton ball and dab gently on the wound. The alcohol in vanilla extract provides a cooling sensation as it evaporates providing temporary relief.

What can you use vanilla extract for?

Vanilla extract can be used in the following ways:

Vanilla extract plays an important role in baking and cooking. The flavor of vanilla adds richness to chocolate and other baked goods, while it enhances the natural flavors of spices and herbs. While many cooks prefer to use vanilla extract, some people prefer a pure vanilla bean for their recipes. (This is fine, but note that you’ll need to let the beans steep for several days or weeks before using them.)

The cost of vanilla extract varies by brand and type—drop-shipped brands tend to be more expensive since they’re less time-intensive than hand-ground beans.

Vanilla extract serves as a delicious and inexpensive replacement for vanilla beans. In recipes, you can use approximately the same amount of vanilla extract as you would use if you had soaked a vanilla bean overnight with the liquid called for in the recipe.

Vanilla extract is versatile. You can add small amounts to anything from flavored oatmeal to baked apples to homemade sauce or gravy. The cost of vanilla extract varies by brand and type—drop-shipped brands tend to be more expensive since they’re less time-intensive than hand-ground beans.

What goes well with vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract is great in all kinds of recipes, from vanilla ice cream to cake, cookies, and pie. So, what can you add it to? Here are some suggestions:

Vanilla extract can be used to flavor:

Vanilla extract can be used by itself or can be combined with other extracts (like orange) in perfumery recipes. It is sold as a liquid and comes in different flavors such as Bourbon Vanilla and Jamaican Rum. Vanilla beans are used as flavoring agents in confectionery, bakery goods and beverages. The infusion of vanilla beans into sugar results in the same consistency as sugar itself. It reduces the cooking time for some cakes because it helps keep cakes moist and tender.

It is also used in the preparation of chocolate because it prevents the melting temperature from dropping. Vanilla extract is made mainly from vanilla beans, but may contain a variety of other ingredients, such as brandy or vodka. It’s alcohol-based and has a shelf life of three to four years.

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The main flavors in vanilla are vanillin and its glycoside, vanillic acid. Most synthetic vanillas will not contain the same flavor compounds found in natural vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is often added to recipes that call for fresh vanilla beans, even if fresh vanilla beans are already included.

What does vanilla do in a recipe?

Vanilla extract has a sweet and creamy aroma. This is why it is mainly added to desserts, ice cream, puddings and chocolate as well as a variety of beverages such as coffee and tea. It can also be used for flavoring meat dishes including stews, soups and sauces.

How do you use vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. It can be added to sweets such as desserts or ice cream, but it can also be added to savory dishes like sauces or stews. For example, one teaspoon of vanilla could be used to flavor four cups of tepid milk that is being used in a cake recipe. The extract can be used to flavor both sweet and savory dishes. For example, a meat dish that is being prepared could be seasoned with vanilla extract. Vanilla extract can also be added to things like drinks, such as hot chocolate or even coffee.

How much vanilla extract should you use in a recipe?

It is important to properly measure the amount of vanilla extract that should be used per recipe. If the amount of vanilla is too little, it will not have much of an impact on the overall flavor profile of your dish. However, if you add too much, the taste can become overpowering and mask the other flavors in your food or drink.

Can you add vanilla extract to anything?

Vanilla extract can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. It can be added to desserts such as baked goods, ice cream and puddings; as well as to savory dishes such as stews, sauces or soups. For example, one teaspoon of vanilla could be used to flavor four cups of tepid milk that is being used in a cake recipe. The extract can also be used to flavor both sweet and savory dishes. For example, a meat dish that is being prepared could be seasoned with vanilla extract. Vanilla extract can also be added to things like drinks, such as hot chocolate or even coffee.

As you can see, vanilla extract is an important part of cooking and baking. It adds a nice flavor to your recipes and is used mainly in desserts, sauces, baked goods and drinks. Vanilla extract is an easy way to add taste to your favorite recipes without having to use any other ingredients or taking up much time on your part. Vanilla beans are used as flavoring agents in confectionery, bakery goods and beverages. Vanilla extract can be added to both sweet and savory dishes due to the fact that it has sweet undertones. It can also be added to things like drinks, such as hot chocolate or even coffee; however the latter would require a small amount of syrup to counteract the bitterness of the coffee.

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