How to make vanilla powder

Sometimes we go too far, then we slip over the edge, falling or flying: such are the adventures of the home cook. Daily and weekly, I am obsessed with how to make things at home, sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail and rather spectacularly too but I never let that stop me, guilty as I feel for my the waste bin which in some cases is my stomach! This occasion however is a tale of success, from start to finish (well, save for the disastrous accompanying meringue pies, which just didn’t work) for in the end, I made my own vanilla powder!

IMG_6498I skipped and hopped in excitement when I made this discovery and smiled with a deep, deep sense of satisfaction and achievement. If it were you, would you do differently when confronted with the pure, dark, aromatic bouquet of vanilla flavours? And all a complete chance happening.

Why do I love homemade so?

  1. I’ve learnt to make a thing or three – citrus dust, mascarpone
  2. I’m sure I’ve  saved money, even if I have little to show for it
  3. I know what I’ve created – no preservatives, no additives, no artificial colours or flavours.

In the past, I’ve bought vanilla powder, the most recent being 10g of powder, which I purchased for an expensive five Euros (€5) in Copenhagen, while visiting a friend. Even as I teased out the last specks, emptying them into some sweet orange curd, I knew I was out.


Loathe to ask my friend to send me some more from Denmark; I climbed on a kitchen stool to reach my glass jar of dried-out vanilla pods, purchased over a year ago in a buy-what-you-can-for-you-just-might-run-out-at-an-awkward-time moment. To be honest I have used a lot of vanilla beans since then: the seeds in baked goods and drinks, and the left-over pods have lent their essence to sugar, salt, vinegars, oils and to make homemade extract, but still I had more pods than needed.

IMG_6526In a bid to plump up the beans, I microwaved them on the highest level my microwave has for about 30 seconds – about 20 seconds too long for the end result was a crisp, swollen pod markedly different from the dry and shriveled pod which had gone in. In a flash, crumbled bits of pod lay in my hands, and then the smile broke out. Without further prompting, I pulled out my food processor (your spice/coffee grinder would do nicely) and whizzed away, nice and easy. Now I know some people are averse to microwaves but that’s no reason to lose out, drying them on low heat in the oven should do the trick (not personally tried…yet) and of course, if you have a dehydrator, go right ahead and use it.

31/01/2011 – Update

I made a batch of vanilla powder yesterday and ended up with the rich, dark rich I first saw in the jar I got from Copenhagen. This time I used fresh bourbon beans which I got a few weeks ago at Sligro. I tried to make the powder as soon as I got them but they were too moist. Microwaving one did nothing to dry it out, and so I left them out at room temperature in a jar to lose moisture and that they did. After three weeks, the pods were dry but still had gloss and shine. I blitzed them up and they ground well. The result was fresh, dark vanilla beans with nots of bourbon and visions of orchids. It appears that the secret to the colour preservation is not putting it in the microwave so I’ll be giving that one up!

IMG_6528 IMG_6494IMG_6540 IMG_6543

Why vanilla powder then? Well, many reasons.

1)     Pure, unadulterated and concentrated flavours  – warm, spicy, smooth and complex at the same time.

2)     You can use it anytime, anyhow without fear of its essence being lost; vanilla extract, on the contrary loses some potency when heated because the alcohol evaporates and diminishes the flavours.

3)     It works well in temperamental dishes like macarons, where added moisture could be the difference between great success and spectacular failure!

4)     For people who don’t consume alcohol in any manner or form (as a result of religious preferences etc), vanilla powder is perfect

When I compared my version to the last of mine Copenhagen batch, I noticed a colour difference – mine was lighter in hue and a bit smoother.


A rule of thumb for recipes with vanilla extract on the ingredient list – half the suggested amount and use powder instead – you won’t regret it.

And if per chance, you wonder what great things you could accomplish with it, think no more:

IMG_6538 IMG_6545

Here are some non-traditional ideas:

  • Stir some into butter, with a spoonful of maple syrup for a delicious and scented breakfast spread aka compound butter
  • Add some to your next batch of curd, from lemon to orange…and even coconut milk and lime
  • Sprinkle some in olive oil, along with a pinch of red chili pepper and serve as a simple dip with bread
  • Of course, you can make on-the-fly vanilla sugar and salt, without waiting weeks to infuse with flavour via dried up pods

And you could also go down the route traditional and use in your cakes and bakes. And coffees and teas and chocolates. And ices and sorbets.

For maximum freshness, I store mine in an airtight jar in the fridge.

IMG_6543Meringue tarts next time, filled with orange curd and chocolate (disaster might I add). Lots of love X X X


Vanilla beansWant to know more about Vanilla?

Check out my how-to which covers

– its origins

– good deals

– recipes

[wpurp-searchable-recipe]How to make vanilla powder – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]


  1. HI

    Another reason to use whole ground vanilla beans is for health reasons. Vanilla beans are a whole food which is very pleasing to the body. The body is able to assimilate it well.

    The processed, extracted liquid vanilla is no longer a whole food because of it’s heating and chemical change that take place during the processing.

  2. I still didn’t understand how you made it. Did you GRIND the whole vanilla bean pod?? then dry it? I missed it? thanks

    • Hi Midge, I dried it by heating it in the microwave.
      When the pod plumped up and turned dry, I took it out then ground/blitzed it.
      The discovery was an accident and began as a way to soften the pods but I left it to long and. …..
      Hope this helps

  3. I just sprinkled the tiniest bit over this and of allspice over my oatmeal this morning and it was just delicious! No need for sugar. 🙂

  4. 1 Anything from the U.S. labelled organic must be viewed with trepidation.
    2 Do not buy gourmet beans. They are too expensive and just for show. Their is only a slight difference in the amount of vanillin from gourmet to grade b.
    3 If looking for a decorative end to your baked product, then powder is the way to go.

  5. Do you use half of the required amount of vanilla powder per recipe requiring extract? Say 1 tsp extract to 1/2 tsp vanilla powder?

  6. […] plain flour, sifted Pinch of salt 75g frozen unsalted butter 2 tablespoons cold water 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder Apple curd (recipe below) Crème patisserie (recipe below) 1-2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced […]

  7. I just can’t take this away with out saying thank you for a wonderful idea and the opportunity to peruse your beautifuly created blog. Thank you!

  8. Fantastic idea! It looks wonderful, and I happen to have lots of vanilla pods that I am too lazy to use in the usual way. I saw a bag of vanilla powder recently at a local store and the price was outrageous, so this is definitely the way to go!

  9. Of all of your posts I had stacked up in my reader this evening, this is the one that intrigued me the post. I am very taken with the list of suggested uses too, I need to get my hands on some of this stuff!

  10. I love it! I have never used vanilla powder. How many vanilla beans did you use? How long does it last. You said to use half the amount of extract when called for? I make my own extract and keep adding old pods to a bottle with vodka, always on hand. I’ll have to start drying them!

    • I used 2 vanilla beans (complete with seeds) though you will still get flavours if you use ’empty’ pods. I have been keeping mine in the fridge and using it daily – the store-bought version had a BBE 2011 date so I guess it can stay long! Generally, rule of thumb is use half the amount of extract called for but you know, adjust to your tastes.

  11. I have never heard of vanilla powder until I saw your post. What a great idea!!! Vanilla is my favorite flavor. Have you ever made vanilla sugar? Of course, it’s easy. Just place a vanilla pod in a jar of sugar and let it sit. Yum.

    As always, your posts are full of passion.

    Hope all is well.

  12. You are a doll! I absolutely share your passion regarding making everything myself and from scratch and I totally enjoyed the image of you jumping up and down with glee. I get giddy when I accomplish such feats, as well. I am thrilled with this post and cannot WAIT to make it… and the references to your other delectable items in this post also have me propped ready for take off.
    Summer is coming soon… report cards are looming… so, THIS IS first on my list when I get WOrK off of my plate.
    Big Hug

    • Two of a kind, or twenty of a kind if the other comments are anything to go by. Thank you. Please clear work off your plate ASA and replace it with vanilla powder!

  13. You know Oz, I didn’t even know there was something called vanilla powder till now! 🙂
    So all I need is to zap vanilla pods at 100% for 30s, and powder the stuff? Wow!

    Thanks, I am going to do this. And if it doesn’t work, I’m coming to get your stash. LOL

    • 🙂 While saying that microwaves differ, all I did was zip mine on high for 30 seconds. You may want to try it in increments of 10 seconds… slowly get there, or use the oven. I’m going to try that soon. Thank you

  14. I have routinely made vanilla sugar and left it at that; now I am discovering thanks to you a much more interesting staple with vanilla; great idea and I will try it asap!

  15. Oz – you are genius. Such a fantastic idea. Vanilla beans are so expensive that I always feel guilty throwing them away after. After this, I’ll never do that.

  16. Wow that is really cool. You are so ahead of the times. Thanks for sharing this wonderful tidbit of homemade goodness.

  17. Visiting your post is like a experience that you cannot neccessarily get in culinary school. I say this because…the passion you transmit for your selected subject tends to come grab you right into the screen and into another world.
    I’ll certainly have to come back to get more of your precisions.
    Excellent piece…and the photos are just stupendous!
    Flavourful wishes, Claudia

    • :-), thanks Conor….I do love to show off to wonderful readers and bloggers and friends…..which is why I have a blog :-). LOL

  18. I just stumbled on your blog today…and I’m glad that I did! I’ve always wanted to make my own vanilla powder, and now I have step by step instructions and pictures to motivate me further. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Ohhh, how splendid, Ozoz! 🙂 Your powders are so inspired. I’ve never used vanilla powder in my life, but I absolutely must try it now. 🙂 I’m so glad you’re brave and creative. You give me courage to try and mess up too. 🙂

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