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How to store vanilla beans: (10 tips to store pods correctly)

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Learn ten tips to properly store vanilla beans to get the most flavor and aroma from fresh pods.

If you prefer natural scents and flavors, fresh vanilla beans are the perfect choice for adding a rich, complex flavor and aroma to your culinary creations.

Fresh pods contain a natural compound called vanillin, which gives its delicate vanilla flavor and scent that artificial vanilla extracts or other flavorings cannot replicate.

keep the beans after using the seeds

However, when you go purchase high-quality vanilla beans, you quickly realize they could be more budget-friendly. The freshest Premium-grade vanilla beans will be pungent, moist, and oily and will come tightly sealed, often with a hefty price tag.

Despite the cost, vanilla beans are well worth it. Therefore, storing them properly is crucial to ensure you get the most.

I share the best practices for storing your vanilla beans in this article.

What are vanilla beans?

Vanilla beans are the long, thin pods of the vanilla orchid plant that are harvested when fully ripe. Inside the pods are thousands of tiny seeds that contain vanilla’s natural flavor and aroma. These seeds can be scraped from the pods and used in various culinary applications, including baking, cooking, and making desserts and beverages.

The best way to store them is in an airtight container.

Why is it crucial to store them properly?

Vanilla beans are a delicate ingredient that can quickly lose flavor and aroma. Proper storage helps to preserve the natural oils and flavors, preventing them from drying out and becoming brittle.

First tip – The best way to store them is in an airtight container.

To ensure they stay as fresh as possible, keep your pods in airtight containers. Glass jars, glass vials, and Tupperware containers prevent air exposure, which causes flavor and aroma loss. 

They stay fresh in dark glass jar so if you have a jar that blocks sunlight is ideal.

Tupperware containers are easy to clean, but the plastic can absorb the vanilla’s flavor and aroma.

Glass vials, on the other hand, are useful if you only have a few beans to store.

In addition to an airtight container, you can use wax paper or plastic wrap to help keep your vanilla beans fresh. It provides an extra layer of protection against air and moisture.

storing vanilla beans in glass vials
storing vanilla beans in glass vials

Second tip – Keep vanilla beans in a cool, dry place.

Exposure to heat and humidity can cause the beans to lose flavor and aroma more quickly. Keep vanilla in a cool and dark place like a pantry or cupboard. Avoid sources of heat and moisture, such as ovens, stovetops, and dishwashers and away from direct sunlight.

Third tip – Temperature

Vanilla beans are most comfortable when the temperature ranges from 60 degrees F (15.5 C) to 85 degrees F (29 C). Exposure of your pure vanilla beans to extreme heat or cold will dry out the pods sucking all the goodness and flavor out of the seeds.

Fourth tip – Do not refrigerate.

Do not refrigerate your vanilla beans as it causes dry them out and rot. In addition, it will immediately prevent the pods from curing any further.

wrapping vanilla beans in a wax paper

Fifth tip – Airing

To maintain the freshness of vanilla beans, let them breathe. By airing them regularly, you help to prevent moisture buildup and mold development, allowing the beans to retain their natural oils and flavors. Remove the beans from their storage container every few weeks, place them on a plate or tray, and allow them to get as much air for approximately 10-15 minutes.

Sixth tip – Separate them from other strong-smelling foods.

Vanilla beans are very absorbent and can easily take on other odors.

Use a container with a tight-fitting lid to keep the beans out of odors and moisture.

In addition, store them separately from spices and herbs with a strong aroma, such as garlic, onions, or ginger. If you keep your vanilla beans in the same cabinet or pantry as these other ingredients, the beans may absorb their odors and flavors, altering the taste of your baked goods or other recipes.

fresh vanilla beans

Seventh tip – watch for frosty vanillin crystals.

if you want to ensure that your vanilla beans are of the highest quality and are packed with intense, natural flavor, keep an eye out for the development of small vanillin crystals. They can sometimes be confused with mold, but they are a sign of high-quality beans and are entirely safe to eat. 

To check it, take your vanilla beans outside into the sunshine without removing them from their glass storage container. If the beans look hard and glitter in the light, they likely contain these beneficial crystals.

These crystals are considered gems of pure flavor and are prized by many chefs and bakers for their intense vanilla taste and aroma. They result from natural chemical reactions that sign that the beans have been stored properly and are premium vanilla quality.

homemade vanilla extract
homemade vanilla extract

Eighth tip – keep the beans after using the seeds

The empty pods are still packed with flavor and aroma, and you can use them for a myriad of ways. For example, infuse them in alcohol to make a homemade vanilla extract or simmer them in milk for 10 minutes and make the delicious vanilla milk tea. In addition, use them to make homemade aromatic vanilla syrup, paste or liqueur.

Ninth tip – Use a vacuum-sealed bag to store vanilla beans.

Using a vacuum-sealed bag to store vanilla beans can be a great way to help extend their shelf life and preserve their flavor and aroma. Vacuum-sealed slow down the process of oxidation and prevent the beans from becoming stale or moldy.

Start by placing the beans in the bag and then removing as much air as possible from the bag using a vacuum sealer.

vanilla muffins
Vanilla muffins

Tenth tip – Label and date your vanilla beans

Fresh vanilla beans will be plump and moist, while older beans may become wrinkled and dry. Labeling them with a date is a great way to keep track of their freshness.

Other ways of preserving vanilla pods

In addition to the methods mentioned earlier, there are a few other ways to preserve vanilla pods:

  1. You can infuse vanilla pods into oil to create the vanilla massage oil. Simply split the pods lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and add both the seeds and pods to the carrier oil. Allow the mixture to sit for a few weeks to infuse the flavor before using.
  2. If you have leftover vanilla pods you can grind them into a powder using a coffee grinder or food processor. You can use the powder in recipes that call for vanilla extract or as a flavoring in coffee, tea, or smoothies.
  3. You can also make homemade vanilla extract by steeping vanilla pods in alcohol, such as vodka or rum, for several weeks. The vanilla extract can enhance the flavor and prolong its shelf life for up to 5 years.
vanilla milk tea
vanilla milk tea

How to rehydrate dried vanilla beans?

If your vanilla pods are too dry or brittle to work with, or a recipe calls for moist or plump vanilla beans, you can rehydrate them. Even beans that look like they have dried out completely will rehydrate when soaked in a warm liquid. It helps to enhance their aroma and flavor, as the moisture helps to release the natural oils in the beans. However, don’t expect miracles from rehydrating, as it affects the strength and intensity of the vanilla flavor. Thus use the rehydrated beans as soon as possible after the process.

Place the dried beans in a bowl or container. Pour the warm liquid (milk or warm water) over the beans, ensuring they are fully submerged. Allow the beans to soak in the water for a few hours or until they become pliable. Remove the beans from the water and gently pat them dry with a towel. Split the beans lengthwise with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds.

Do vanilla beans go bad?

Like any other natural ingredient, vanilla beans can go bad over time. However, when properly stored, they can have several years of long shelf life.

What does mold on vanilla beans look like?

Mold can appear as small, black, or dark brown spots or patches on the bean’s surface. Or the bean becomes a whole powdery substance with a musty or sour odor. If you notice any signs of mold on your vanilla beans, it’s best to discard them and not use them in your recipes. But you can still save your beans, especially if the mold hasn’t reached all the beans.

How Long Do Vanilla Beans Last?

High-quality vanilla beans that are stored correctly in a cool, dry, and airtight container away from direct sunlight and strong odors can last up to 2 to 3 years or even longer. However, lower-quality beans or beans that are stored improperly may only last a few months before they lose their aroma and flavor.

Can I freeze vanilla beans?

Freezing vanilla beans is not recommended as it can cause the pods to dry out and lose their rich and delightful flavor.

What are vanilla beans?
Vladka Merva on March 19th, 2023

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