10 Surprising Uses for Vanilla Extract You Haven’t Thought to Try
The uses for vanilla extract go way beyond baking. Learn how to add vanilla to tomato sauce, salad dressing and even seafood.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.
Boost Brown Butter Sauce
It’s a given that vanilla and brown butter go hand in hand when you’re baking. The same goes for your savory dishes. The roasty, toasty qualities of the two ingredients can add a new twist to your old favorites. Combine them in this recipe for Cranberry Ricotta Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sauce.
Caramelize Roasted Vegetables
Your roasted vegetables are already caramelizing in the oven, and what goes great with caramel flavor? Vanilla, of course. Vanilla extract can boost the flavor of roasted vegetables in two ways. First, it intensifies their sweetness, and then, the alcohol adds another layer of caramelization as it evaporates. Find more secrets for best-ever roasted vegetables.
Amplify Tropical Flavors
You may not always think about it when you’re baking, but vanilla is a tropical ingredient. So naturally, it will complement the flavors of other tropical ingredients, like coconut. Stir some vanilla extract into Coconut Curry Cauliflower Soup while it simmers. It just might whisk you away to the islands!
Don’t have any vanilla on hand? Neilsen-Massey is our go-to vanilla extract.
Substitute for Wine in Risotto
If you want to make risotto but don’t have any wine, substitute the same amount of stock plus 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. The alcohol will evaporate and impart aroma and flavor, just like wine does. Swap in some vanilla extract to deepen the sweet and earthy elements of this Shiitake and Butternut Squash Risotto.
Cut the Acidity in Tomato Sauce
Vanilla will mellow the acidity and step up the sweetness in all sorts of foods. Italian grandmothers know this, and have been adding it to tomato sauce for ages. Here’s another trick that will step up your homemade sauce.
Magnify the Taste of Maple
Can maple be any better? Only if you add some vanilla! Almost any recipe with maple will benefit from this secret ingredient, especially roasted vegetables that already have a bit of natural sugar. We like to add vanilla extract to this Maple Glazed Acorn Squash recipe.
Add Refinement to Salad Dressings
A subtle hint of vanilla will soften the tanginess of vinegar-based salad dressings. This trick works remarkably well in salads with fresh or dried fruit. Blend some vanilla extract into the dressing of this Mango Grilled Chicken Salad and you’ll feel like you’re eating at a 5-star restaurant. Don’t miss our other salad ideas.
Make Fancy Cocktails
Vanilla tastes so good, don’t you just wish you could drink it? Well, you can! Kind of. Mix in a bit of vanilla extract to balance the tartness of your favorite cocktails, and make them just a little fancier. Give it a shot in this Pomegranate Cosmo.
Enhance Wine Braises
One of the best things about braising meats in wine is the warm aroma that fills the house all day. Use a little vanilla extract to enhance those aromas and add richness to a dish like this Beef Daube Provencal. It gives the recipe that special something no one can put their finger on. Let it be a mystery!
Use it in Seafood Recipes
Vanilla in a seafood recipe? Believe it or not, yes. Vanilla heightens the natural sweetness of the seafood, and pairs well with almost any fish or shellfish. Check out our best seafood dinners to get some tasty ideas for using vanilla extract.