Vanilla beans are definitely not an everyday ingredient. They’re rather exotic, and most of us have ready-made vanilla extract at our disposal so don’t often use the ‘real thing’.
Just relying on vanilla extract is a mistake, though. Vanilla beans have many great uses other than baked goods and are actually exceptionally versatile.
If you do have some vanilla beans on hand, you’ll want to store them carefully and make sure they last as long as possible. You’ll rarely use them all in one go, so keeping them in good condition is important. After all, they’re rather pricey and often hard to find.
Vanilla beans can last a relatively long time when appropriately stored. But they will go bad eventually like any other spice. So you might wonder, how can I store and preserve my vanilla beans? Can you freeze vanilla beans?
Keep reading to find out if you should freeze vanilla beans, how you would go about freezing them, and other alternative methods to store and preserve the beans. I’ll also discuss ways you can fully utilize your beans and more information on how long they’ll last.
Do Vanilla Beans Freeze Well?
Vanilla beans, also known as vanilla pods, are incredibly delicate and aroma-filled. Proper storage and care are needed to retain their aroma, essence, and structure. You’ll find that almost every chef and pastry maker will warn you to never refrigerate or freeze your vanilla beans for storage.
And they are absolutely right to say so. Unfortunately, vanilla beans do not freeze well. Usually, freezing does the opposite of extending its shelf-life, and there are other better ways to store vanilla beans. Exposure to air and moisture will also damage the structure of the vanilla beans and increase the chances of mold growth.
However, if absolutely necessary, you can still freeze vanilla beans. There are a few things you should take note of and be prepared for when freezing vanilla beans. It requires special care and specific methods – all of which I’ll be sharing with you in the rest of the article.
Pros of Freezing Vanilla Beans
Before I tell you how to freeze vanilla beans, let’s go through the pros and cons of freezing vanilla beans so you can weigh out your options.
The first pro of freezing vanilla beans is that you can preserve them and extend their shelf-life. While it is not the best option to store vanilla beans, you can extend its shelf life for a while if done correctly.
Secondly, freezing vanilla beans will preserve their flavor and aroma. Although the texture may differ, the essence of vanilla is still present.
Finally, it will save you some money! Vanilla beans are relatively pricey, and you would want to do anything to preserve and savor what you have.
Cons of Freezing Vanilla Beans
Freezing vanilla beans means there are higher chances of it drying them and changing their texture and structure. The cool temperature will remove any moisture in the beans.
Another con is that freezing vanilla beans can make them more susceptible to mold. Once present, mold can quickly breed on the beans and you’ll have to throw them out. A great waste!
It’s also a rather tedious and challenging process of freezing vanilla beans. There are more straightforward methods for storing and preserving vanilla beans that can produce better results.
Finally, the chances of your vanilla beans getting damaged or going bad while freezing is significantly higher. This is because of how delicate they are.
How to Freeze Vanilla Beans
As you can tell, the cons of freezing vanilla beans definitely outweigh the pros. It takes extra time and proper storage to get good results. Don’t fret though, if you think it is the best option to preserve it in your kitchen, you can still freeze vanilla beans. Here’s how you can freeze vanilla beans at home:
Prepare a vacuum sealer bag or 2 resealable bags. Find storage bags that are freezer safe and sturdy to store your vanilla beans.
Place your vanilla beans into the bag and seal. Place your vanilla beans into the bag. If you have a vacuum sealer, that would be the best option to seal your bags. If not, you can use the double-bag method. What do I mean by this? Simply place the beans in the first bag and seal tightly. Then place the first bag into the second bag and seal tightly. Voila! Double-bagged and ready to go into the freezer.
Label and store. Lastly, label the bag with the date and contents. Store it in the freezer, preferably at a constant temperature.
How to Defrost Vanilla Beans
Defrosting vanilla beans can be rather tricky. Not to worry though, here are the instructions and tips you to use to defrost your beans at home.
Remove from the freezer and dry with towels. Only when you are ready and intend to use your vanilla beans remove them from the freezer. Remove the beans from the bag and immediately dry them on some paper towels or cloth towels.
Allow your beans to rest. Allow your beans to rest and slightly dry out on the towel. Ensuring that any moisture or ice from the freezer has melted and evaporated. This will reduce the chances of any mold growth.
Place in a glass jar and store. Once slightly dry, place the beans into a glass jar and store them at room temperature. Preferably keep the beans in a cool and dark place; somewhere in your kitchen cupboard or pantry would be a great spot.
Tip: Avoid refreezing your vanilla beans. Refreezing your beans will further degrade their texture, and they may become too soft and mushy for any use.
How to Use Vanilla Beans
Homemade Vanilla Extract
With vanilla beans, you can make your very own vanilla extract or essence. All you need is 2 ingredients: some good quality vanilla beans and some alcohol (usually vodka). Slit your beans into half, place them into a jar, pour in some vodka, and allow them to brew for 2 months. The longer, the better!
Substitute for Vanilla Extract
Alternatively, you can use your soft vanilla beans as a substitute for vanilla extract. Slit the beans in half and use the knife to scrape out all of the vanilla seeds.
Substitute 1 vanilla pod for 1 tsp of vanilla extract.
Flavored syrups and spirits
You can say goodbye to store-bought vanilla syrup and spirits and create your own at home. Vanilla beans would do well and bring flavor to any spirit or syrup you marinate it in. All you have to do is put a vanilla bean into a bottle of warm syrup or spirit and let it brew. But, the longer you brew vanilla beans, the stronger the flavor it will get, so be careful!
You can then use your syrups and spirits for many uses, such as baked goods, drizzles on desserts, cocktails, and more.
Now, if you’re left with empty vanilla bean pods or dried vanilla beans, don’t throw them away! You can use them to make potpourri in your house. Usually, vanilla extract is used to make potpourri with dried spices, but you can use vanilla pods in place for that too.
Lastly, another way to make use of vanilla beans with great aroma is by making some home products. Vanilla beans would be a great addition to homemade candles and soaps.
How Long Do Vanilla Beans Last?
Vanilla beans are incredibly delicate. Their shelf-life will vary greatly depending on how you store it and the kind of environment it’s in. Vanilla beans can last indefinitely if they are kept in the right conditions and are given a little love.
When unopened, vanilla beans can last up to 3 years or even longer in the appropriate conditions. Usually the packages that they come in are meant to keep them fresh and safe for as long as possible, so only open if you need them.
When opened, vanilla beans can last up to 6 months to a year. From experience, when kept in ideal situations, they can last for years. Try to store your beans in a cool and dark space and tightly seal the jar after every use.
If your vanilla beans have dried out, they can still be saved. To rehydrate and restore the plumpness of beans, you can submerge them in warm water or milk for a few hours before using them in your baked goods. You may slightly lose the flavor of the bean. However, if you slit the beans in half, you can still obtain the remaining essence and vanilla seeds.
Lastly, vanilla beans may form tiny crystals over time. They look like frost or spider webs and are often confused with mold. But, they are completely fine, edible, and often indicate that it is a healthy bean.
Best Ways to Store Vanilla Beans
By now, you’ll learn that freezing may not be the best method to store vanilla beans. So before you leave this article, I thought I would share some alternative ways to store your vanilla beans.
Only Open When You Need Them
It might seem like the most logical answer. But people often open their vanilla beans when they do not intend on using them.
One good tip is to only open your packet of vanilla beans when you want to use them. Manufacturers usually recommend keeping them in their original vacuumed package until use. This will save them from exposure to air and bacteria that may damage it.
In a Glass Jar
The most common way to store vanilla beans would be in a glass jar or glass vial. You can find specific air-tight dark jars designed to store vanilla beans between 5 to 10 beans in one jar. Just wrap the beans in some wax paper and insert them into the glass jar.
Ensure that the jar is tightly closed and there is no air or moisture in the air. Store them away from direct sunlight and heat.
Tip: To slightly extend their shelf-life, allow the beans to air for 10 to 15 minutes every few months and put them back into the jar. This will prevent them from drying out and allow air circulation into the jar.
How to Tell If Vanilla Beans Have Gone Bad
Bad vanilla beans may also have some fuzzy and spotty mold growth, commonly found in humid conditions. Some chefs claim that you can salvage your bean by scraping the mold off and giving the beans a good rinse. But if you do so, be sure not to mix these beans with healthy beans. If you’re in doubt about using moldy beans, be safe and discard them.
Healthy vanilla beans have a fragrant scent. The easiest way to tell if they have gone bad is if it has lost its fragrance. While they may still be okay to use, vanilla beans that have gone bad may no longer hold any oils that retain their smell. It’s best to discard them and get some new beans.