We recently added organic vanilla bean paste to the ever growing list of products we carry at the shop. Being a somewhat unique item, I thought it would be fun to explore what exactly this dark sticky paste is and how home cooks and chefs can use it to enhance the dishes they make.

What is Vanilla Paste?

Many people, myself included, get a strange picture in their head when introduced to the concept.  For me, it was a solid paste that might be sold in squeeze bottles, like you see ginger or garlic sold in. Others may reflect back to their kindergarten days and the craft paste they used and probably sampled when creating fanciful art projects. The actuality is something that resembles a thick maple syrup or molasses.

The process to make vanilla paste involves grinding whole vanilla beans and allowing them to dry cure.  They are then added to vanilla extract. Sugar and a natural thickener are added to finish the process.  You are left with a very strong, almost piquant syrup that is specked with vanilla seeds and pods.

How to Use Vanilla Paste

Vanilla paste is a great substitute for vanilla extract or vanilla beans in recipes. Chefs often turn to vanilla paste as an alternative to using beans as a convenience, but it also imparts its own unique and rich flavor.

A general rule of thumb would be to use paste and extract on 1:1 basis or 1 tablespoon of paste is equivalent to 1 vanilla bean.

Hmmmm what could we cook with it?  Well the options are fairly endless but I think a great way to highlight this powerful paste would be to use it in creme anglaise.  The nice thing with the paste is that you will have the black specks, which wouldn’t be the case if you used extract or steeped a bean in cream.  So here we go….

Recipe: Creme Anglaise with Vanilla Bean Paste

1 cup heavy cream
3 tsp vanilla paste (preferably organic)
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
 
Instructions
  1. Combine the egg yolks and the sugar and whisk until smooth.
  2. Heat the cream until just bubbling on the edges.
  3. Temper the cream and the egg mixture. This is done by taking a small amount (1/2 or less) of the warm cream and whisking it together with the egg mixture.
  4. Add a portion of the now combined mixture into the cream and then back again, whisking constantly until both are combined.
  5. Continue to cook the combined sauce until it coats the back of spoon or you feel it is sufficiently combined. It’s ok, trust yourself, really, you can do this.
  6. Once complete you will now pour the sauce through a mesh strainer. This will remove any unsightly solids that may have formed.
  7. Now add your vanilla paste and chill until you are ready to top your favorite dessert or just some fresh raspberries.

So there you have it, an introduction to the wonderful and deeply delicious vanilla paste.

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