Vanilla isn’t as boring as people make it out to be. Use vanilla beans to add that distinctive sweet aroma and flavor to your drinks and desserts.
There is one bad thing about vanilla beans – and it’s not that they’re boring. It’s that they’re usually pretty expensive. Therefore, if you’ve bought a bunch of packs of vanilla beans, you’re probably wondering:
Can vanilla beans go bad? I don’t want to waste them!
Here’s the short answer: Vanilla beans last for quite a while – around two years. However, to keep them at their optimum, you need to air your vanilla beans every few weeks to prevent them from drying out.
How To Tell If Your Vanilla Beans Have Gone Bad
Ready for the bad news?
Vanilla beans definitely do go mad. This usually happens because they’ve gone moldy in humid conditions.
If you spot any mold on your vanilla beans, they should go in the bin.
However, you may also notice frosty crystals on the surface of your vanilla beans. These crystals are completely safe to eat – they are vanillin that has emerged from the inside of the bean while drying. Don’t confuse these with mold.
Although moisture creates mold, that’s the real enemy here, and you also need to ensure your vanilla beans haven’t dried out. Dry vanilla beans aren’t dangerous or bad for you, but they will have lost their aroma and flavor, so discard them for quality reasons.
If your beans have just dried up a little, but they still have a good whiff of delicious vanilla aroma, consider rehydrating them. Simply soak your vanilla beans in milk or water for 2-3 hours, and that should restore some of their texture, aroma, and flavor!
If you want to use your vanilla beans before they go bad, use them in vanilla extract. More on that in a bit!
How To Store Vanilla Beans
You should wrap your vanilla beans in plastic wrap or wax paper, then place that in an airtight container. This will act as an airtight seal, a barrier against your vanilla beans and the bacteria of the outside world!
That said, airing beans is also beneficial, so unwrap your beans every few weeks and leave them on the counter for 15 minutes. That should be sufficient time to allow the air to circulate.
Therefore, even with unopened vanilla beans that you’re not planning to use for a while, you should open them after about five months to let them air.
Keep the container in a cool, dark, dry place, and keep it away from any heat sources.
Unfortunately, the refrigerator is not the right option. It will make your vanilla beans go moldy faster!
The Shelf-Life of Vanilla Beans
How long your vanilla beans last depend on a whole variety of factors, including production, storage before you bought them, and storage after you bought them. Therefore, it’s hard to say exactly how long your vanilla beans last.
Your best bet is just to check the best-by date on the label. That’s likely to be around two years after the date you purchased your beans. Your vanilla beans will likely be okay for a good six months after that, provided you’ve kept them in reasonable conditions.
Scroll up if you missed how to store your vanilla beans.
After six months beyond the best-by date, your vanilla beans won’t smell or taste as good, and you’re at an increased risk of seeing dryness or mold.
As always, if you’re unsure about the quality of your beans, check them against the signs we detailed above on how to tell if your vanilla beans have gone off.
There’s one bit of good news: Opening your vanilla beans won’t make them degrade faster (in fact, it often helps for airing purposes). Therefore, storage times are the same for opened or unopened vanilla beans!
Saving Old Vanilla Beans: How To Make Vanilla Extract
Got a load of vanilla beans with best-by dates in the next few months?
Consider making vanilla extract to use up your beans and preserve their life.
- Slit your vanilla beans down the middle, so the seeds are exposed. You don’t need to break the bean apart completely.
- Put six vanilla beans in a bottle or jar. If your vanilla beans don’t fit, cut them into smaller pieces.
- Pour 1 cup of vodka over your beans. Add a bit extra if you need to – your vanilla beans will go slimy unless they’re fully submerged.
- Seal the jar and give it a good shake.
Store the jar at room temperature and give it a shake every week or so. If you’re in a hurry, use the vanilla as early as eight weeks. Otherwise, give it a year for the flavors to develop fully.
You can expect your homemade vanilla extract to last for at least two extra years!
- Vanilla Beans should be stored in a cool and dark place, away from the heat in order to maintain the best quality.
- You should air your vanilla beans every few weeks.
- The shelf life of vanilla beans is approximately two years, depending on the proper storage conditions.
- Vanilla beans often develop frosty crystals, which are perfectly safe to eat, and you should not mistake them for mold.
- They can lose effectiveness gradually, and if you find yourself not able to smell their distinctive aroma, you should get rid of them.
So, now you have all the knowledge you need to store your vanilla beans safely, go make some killer recipes!