How to rehydrate vanilla pods

Vanilla pod (also called bourbon vanilla)

Since you Vanilla pods The pods are commercially available and are blanched at a high temperature after the harvest to stop the post-ripening process no raw food more. As a rule, it is the fermented capsule fruits of the spiced vanilla (Vanilla planifolia).

Use in the kitchen:

Vanilla pods, like vanilla powder or vanilla extract, are particularly suitable for desserts due to their sweet-spicy taste. This aromatic spice is very popular in cocoa blends and chocolate. Vanilla pulp is added to many desserts such as cakes, puddings, creams, compotes, quark dishes, fruit desserts or ice creams to refine them.

The taste of real vanilla goes perfectly with drinks such as punch or liqueur. Even soft drinks like cola contain real vanilla again, since the consumers did not like the synthetic vanillin. Vanilla is also used in meat and fish dishes and some top chefs perfect their tomato salad with the pulp of a vanilla pod.

Very little real vanilla pulp is required to refine an entire dish with the aromatic vanilla flavor. A small tip of a knife is enough to give the dish a mild, floral, vanilla note.

The Aztecs also enjoyed their power drink with vanilla: Xocolatl was a kind of drinking chocolate. It consisted of water, cocoa powder, spices, honey and vanilla.

Cooking with vanilla pods:

In order to refine a dish with natural vanilla, the pulp must first be removed from the vanilla pod. To do this, cut off the two ends of the vanilla pod and carefully scratch it lengthways. It is important to ensure that the vanilla pod is not cut through completely, so that the pulp can then be removed more easily. Now you can open the pod and carefully scrape out the inner pulp with a sharp knife.

This black paste with oily liquid contains a lot of flavor, chemically known as vanillin. The small black dots that are surrounded by the pulp are the seeds of the vanilla plant.

The “empty” vanilla pod actually contains the most vanilla flavor. Their aromatic substances can be obtained by boiling them in a liquid. After a drying phase, a pod can even be used several times. To do this, you have to rinse them with hot water after use and then let them dry well again.

If you add the vanilla pod to foods (e.g. sugar), they very quickly take on the vanilla aroma and you get, for example, a finely flavored vanilla sugar.

Recipe for making vanilla powder:

The vanilla pods are dried in the oven at below 50 ° C until they are easy to break. Then you put the pods in a spice mill and grind them to vanilla powder. This self-made powder is stored in small screw-top jars and placed in a dark place. The powder is very easy to portion when cooking. In addition, you use the whole pod and not just part of it.

Commercially available vanilla powder is made from the ground vanilla seeds. Often, however, this powder no longer contains any vanilla flavor. It is only used to ensure that the product receives the black points.

Purchasing - where to buy

Vanilla sugar with real bourbon vanilla is offered by almost all supermarket chains such as Coop, Migros, Denner, Volg, Spar, Aldi, Lidl, Rewe, Edeka, Hofer etc. Whole vanilla pods are often only available at selected supermarkets all year round. Before Christmas they are also in the range of discounters. Vanilla sticks can always be found airtight, usually individually packed in a small glass tube or vacuum-sealed in a bag.

What is real vanilla? The spiced vanilla can be recognized by the designations of origin "Bourbon Vanilla" or "Mexican Vanilla". Please note: the lower the price per pod, the lower the quality is often also. Prefer organically produced vanilla as it is not contaminated with pesticides.

In order to get high-quality pods, you should pay attention to an oily surface and an elastic, leather-like consistency of the vanilla pod when shopping. If the vanilla pods are gray, hard and brittle, they are of inferior quality and no longer suitable for sale.

What does 1 kilo of vanilla cost? Vanilla is one of the most expensive spices in the world. Probably only saffron is more expensive. The price of real vanilla is also subject to fluctuations in the world market. Since 2014, the price of vanilla has risen sharply. Before, 1 kg cost around 30 USD, today you pay up to 600 USD for it, more than for silver (cost around 400 USD in 2018). Reason: The demand for the real spiced vanilla has risen sharply, which has also driven up the price.1


In order to guarantee the shelf life of the vanilla aroma for a long time, the pods are dark, airtight and stored in a cool place. The small glass tubes are ideal for this storage as they have a plastic lid or cork. Sealable cans or small plastic bags with closures are also suitable. It is important not to store vanilla sticks in the refrigerator, as additional moisture promotes mold growth.

After a while, crystals, a kind of hoar frost, can form on the vanilla pods. This is a natural process that is even considered a quality feature of real vanilla pods and should not be confused with mold.

To find wild:

Where does vanilla grow? The only kind of orchid that is used as a spice plant grows wild in Venezuela and the Caribbean islands.

Ingredients - Nutritional Value - Calories:

The fermented vanilla pod contains 318 kcal / 100g. It consists largely of carbohydrates (80%), which contain a lot of sugar (glucose, fructose, sucrose) and fiber. Vanilla is low in fat (3.2%) and also low in protein (3.9%). The most important flavoring of vanilla is vanillin, which makes up between 1.5 - 3.7%, there are also phenols, phenol ethers, acids and aliphatic alcohols.

The proportion of minerals and trace elements should also not be underestimated. However, one consumes so little of spices that these figures can actually be neglected: Bourbon vanilla contains 5.7 mg manganese / 100g. Oats (5 mg) and fennel seeds (6.5 mg) also contain a similar amount.2

The iron content is considerable at 38 mg / 100g. This value is surpassed by the real bay leaf (43 mg), ground turmeric (55 mg), the wild mallow (78 mg) or dried thyme (123 mg).2

It is similar with the calcium content: Bourbon vanilla provides 1228 mg Ca per 100 g. In comparison, poppy seeds have 1438 mg or fenugreek leaves (raw) have 3275 mg / 100g.2

Vanilla pods still contain potassium, zinc and a little magnesium. For more nutrients, see the table at the end of the article.2

Health aspects - effects:

Real vanilla has many areas of application. Externally, the vanilla plant is said to help with fungal attack. It has a fungicidal, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effect. It is used especially for skin diseases such as neurodermatitis and eczema.

Studies show that vanilla contains antioxidant substances. These are supposed to protect the DNA and help prevent mutations that cause cancer.3

Extracts from the roots of the vanilla plant show acetylcholinesterase-inhibiting activities that can cure Alzheimer's. There are studies on this from India.4

Real vanilla is also found in drugs for chronic bronchitis and catarrh.5

Dangers - intolerances - side effects:

Contact allergies can occur during the harvesting of the vanilla pods, such as rashes, but also headaches and insomnia. Allergic symptoms also sometimes occur after the consumption of vanilla-containing foods, such as hives or facial swelling, although the cause has not yet been clarified.

Folk medicine - naturopathy:

Vanilla is said to have a nerve-strengthening effect, it is also said to have a relieving effect on menstrual cramps or pregnancy sickness.

The Indian women in ancient Mexico used the scent of real vanilla as an aphrodisiac. The sweet aroma should not only strengthen the entire organism, but also specifically attract the male sex and increase the desire for love. Even today, the aroma can be found in many perfumes.5

Occurrence - Origin:

The Inca and Aztecs used vanilla to flavor their dishes. The spiced vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) originally comes from Mexico and Central America. It was the Spaniards who brought the vanilla plant to Europe.

When vanilla is mentioned, one usually means the spiced vanilla or real vanilla (Vanilla planifolia Andrews). Those from Africa (Madagascar, the Comoros, Réunion, the Seychelles, Mauritius) are particularly popular with Europeans. Bourbon vanilla is a protected name for vanilla from Madagascar, the Comoros and La Réunion. The latter island was formerly called Île Bourbon, hence the special name.11 The spiced vanilla has a very intense, harmonious aroma. Americans prefer the spiced vanilla from Mexico: It tastes sweeter, more subtle and is a little softer.

Other commercial varieties are the Tahitian vanilla (Vanilla tahitensis) and the Guadeloupe vanilla (Vanilla pompona). These have a strong flower-like scent, but much less aroma.6 They are more interesting for the cosmetics industry. Vanilla from Indonesia has a woody-smoky aroma, which is popular in the perfume and liquor industry.

Cultivation - harvest:

Vanilla plants are tropical climbing plants that can climb up to 15 m. On plantations, they are pulled up on living trees, sticks or racks. Vanilla plants only bring the full harvest from the 4th year of growth. The work is very intensive and arduous, because most of the steps have to be performed manually. Even the beautiful, yellow flowers are pollinated by humans, because in many areas the necessary insects and hummingbirds are missing. In addition, the flowers are only open for a few hours.5 If a farmer pollinates 600 vanilla flowers, this results in approx. 7 kg of green or 1 kg of black vanilla stalks.

The fruits can be harvested after about 6 months. Outwardly, they are similar to green beans, i.e. pods. From a botanical point of view, however, they are capsule fruits. They are harvested in the yellow-green stage, shortly before maturity, with a length of up to 30 cm. At this point they have neither the typical vanilla taste nor the sweet aroma.

Further processing of the vanilla pods - fermentation:

The characteristic vanilla scent arises only after a complicated fermentation and oxidation process. To stop the ripening process, the fruits are treated with hot air and hot water at approx. 60 ° C. Then you have to ferment and dry them.7,8

In the classic method, the pods are placed in hot water baths for blanching. Then you let them "sweat", ie ferment, in padded boxes or thick blankets. They are laid out to dry in the hot tropical sun, where they shrink to the well-known black-brown, shiny vanilla sticks. These processes take up to four weeks and explain the high price one pays for real vanilla.5 The drying and fermentation process, which is repeated, transforms the precursors of vanillin into vanillin, the main flavoring of vanilla.

Important criteria for trading are the vanillin content and the length of the pods. If the pods show defects, i.e. they are split or broken, they are processed industrially into vanilla sugar or liquid extracts.

Social aspects of growing vanilla:

Farmers in the growing areas are often exposed to the whims of governments. In Madagascar, for example, the cultivation of vanilla is the only source of income for many farmers. You are only allowed to offer the black vanilla pods on a single day and this is set by the government. If farmers need money earlier, they sell the green capsule fruits at much lower prices.

In addition, thefts occur again and again. Many farmers guard their crops and, if necessary, defend them with weapons.

The German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) recommends that farmers in Madagascar also grow other products. GIZ ensures fair prices and grants cheap loans.

Vanilla is now also growing in Europe. In the Netherlands, vanilla is grown in a greenhouse using new cultivation methods. If the supply of vanilla increases in the future, the farmers in the southern countries are threatened with falling prices.1

Synthetic Vanillin and Dangers:

There is hardly any risk of confusion with the vanilla pod. However that was synthetically produced vanillin, a substitute for real vanilla, which if it emerges poses a threat to the trade. In terms of taste, the artificial vanillin never comes close to the natural, because the natural vanilla has 50 other aromatic substances and more than 130 chemical compounds.

Biotechnologically produced vanillin is used 300 times more in industry than natural vanilla. Vanillin is very popular in confectionery and baked goods, ice cream or yoghurt because the taste is more intense. The biotechnological production of vanillin is much cheaper and also very simple.

There are several ways to make vanillin. Natural vanillin can be produced from ferulic acid with the help of molds and bacteria. This ferulic acid comes from the eugenol contained in clove oil. However, this substance can be a problem for allergy sufferers.9

Nature-identical vanillin can be synthetically produced in larger quantities and much cheaper. Vanillin is obtained from the lignosulfonates produced during paper production at high temperatures and high pressure. Manufacturing involves many operations such as oxidation, alkali treatment, extraction, distillation and crystallization.

Today, ethyl vanillin, which tastes two to four times more intense, is used because it is even cheaper. But it also occurs naturally, e.g. in the wood of oak barrels it aromatizes the wine matured in it.9

Synthetic vanillin it should be avoided in any case, because it is a strong neurotoxin. The Advisory Committee for Environmentally Relevant Existing Substances (BUA) of the Society of German Chemists localizes the artificially produced vanillin at the highest risk level (+3). Because it is carcinogenic, mutagenic, damaging to DNA and changes chromosomes.

General information:

The "queen of spices" belongs to the orchid family (Orchidaceae). There are around 110 species in the genus Vanilla, 15 of which provide aromatic capsules, the vanilla pods. The most important species of this genus is the spiced vanilla (Vanilla planifolia).

"Vanilla" comes from the French vanilla, from the Spanish vainilla, and means "little pod or pod". The pronunciation is close to French [ʋaˈnɪljə] / [ʋaˈnɪlə], or in Swiss [ˈʋanɪl].

Many manufacturers who flavor their products with vanillin or real vanilla convey the falsehood to consumers that vanilla is yellow. This color is usually the result of the artificial addition of carotenes. Classic dishes with vanilla often appear yellow because they contain chicken eggs, but not because of the vanilla. The assumption that vanilla should be light yellow can only come from the yellow vanilla blossom.10

Literature - Sources:

CLICK FOR: 11 sources

In science, Wikipedia (wiki) is controversial as a source, also because Wikipedia information on the literature cited or on authors is often missing or not reliable. Our nutritional pictograms contain kcal.

  1. Vanilla: Why the spice is more expensive than silver.
  2. USDA United States Department of Agriculture.
  3. Shyamala BN, Naidu MM, Sulochanamma G et al. Studies on the antioxidant activities of natural vanilla extract and its constituent compounds through in vitro models. J Agric Food Chem. 2007; 55 (19).
  4. Kundu A, Mitra A. Flavoring extracts of Hemidesmus indicus roots and Vanilla planifolia pods exhibit in vitro acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activities. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2013; 68 (3).
  5. Stegmann A. Herbs and spices from A-Z. Hamburg: Gruner and Jahr. 1978.
  6. Besse P, Da Silva D, Bary S et al. RAPD genetic diversity in cultivated vanilla: Vanilla planifolia, and relationships with V. tahitensis other V. pompona. Plant Science 2004; 167 (2).
  7. Rehm S, Espig G. The cultivated plants of the tropics and subtropics: cultivation, economic importance, utilization. Stuttgart: Eugen Ulmer Verlag. 1976.
  8. Brücher H. Tropical crops: origin, evolution and domestication. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. 1977.
  9. Vanillin Health Center - Synthetic Vanilla.
  10. Wikipedia vanilla (spice).
  11. Wikipedia spiced vanilla.