Toss Those Used Vanilla Pods Into Your Sugar Bowl

Got used vanilla pods? Don't throw them away. Make vanilla-infused sugar and salt.

Published Nov. 3, 2021.

Vanilla flavors our favorite cookies, cakes, and ice creams. Although the most common form of vanilla is extract, we like using vanilla beans because they have the most nuanced flavor of any vanilla product. Plus, we love seeing those black specks throughout our desserts. We would use them more frequently if we could, but they’re expensive.

Once you scrape the seeds from the inside of the pod for a recipe, don’t throw the empty pod away. We spoke with chefs and cookbook authors Erin McDowell and Shauna Sever as well as co-founder of the chocolate company Beyond Good, Tim McCollum about how they use their empty pods. Here’s one idea we loved: Make vanilla sugar or salt. 

How to Make Vanilla Sugar or Salt

To make the strongest versions, grind an empty pod with sugar or salt in a blender. For vanilla sugar, you can also bury your empty pods in an airtight container of granulated sugar. The more pods you add, the stronger the vanilla aroma and flavor will be. After a few weeks, they’ll be ready to use. 

We recommend using vanilla sugar in place of your regular sugar. Stir it into coffee, use it to bake cakes, cookies, or brownies, or dust the top of crème brûlée with it. Use vanilla salt wherever you’re looking for a salty-sweet burst of flavor. Sprinkle it on top of chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and toffee. It even works with savory foods, like granola or sweet potatoes. Vanilla sugar and salt make for great gifts, too. Keep this creative and thoughtful gift in mind as the holiday season approaches.

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