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How long do vanilla beans last?

Vanilla Beans in Sugar

Vanilla beans are a pricey ingredient prized by bakers and cooks because nothing imparts vanilla flavor like seeds scraped straight from a fresh vanilla pod. I usually have a few vanilla beans on hand and, like so many other deal-hunting bakers, I try to replenish my supply when I find a good deal on bulk vanilla beans (the holidays are a great time to stock up). Having a large supply of vanilla beans on hand begs a question: how long do vanilla beans last?

Vanilla beans will keep for at least a year when properly stored, and can last more than two years in ideal conditions. They should be stored in a closed container in a cool, dry place. An airtight container will help to keep the beans moist, but it is not necessary for storage. Most purveyors recommend letting your beans breathe by exposing them to air every few weeks for a few minutes – particularly when the beans are stored in an airtight container. Vanilla beans should never be stored in the refrigerator, as the moist environment in the fridge can actually encourage mold to grow on the beans. If you live in a very humid place, it is best to buy vanilla beans in smaller quantities and use them when they are fresher to ensure that you get the best results.

The beans may dry out over time, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use them. To refresh a dried vanilla bean, submerge it in hot water for a few minutes before using to plump it up, or simply wrap it in a moist paper towel and microwave it for a few seconds. Once the bean has been softened again, it is easy to split it and scrape out the seeds. Vanilla beans that have already been used to infuse a custard or other dish can be dried out again and saved almost indefinitely, adding their remaining flavor and aroma to things like vanilla sugar.

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  • katie
    June 8, 2011

    I want to make a recipe that calls for one vanilla bean. I have some vanilla bean paste, so I would like to us it instead. Any idea of the conversion?

  • Kirsten H
    June 8, 2011

    I had just been wondering about this same question. I bought several vanilla beans on ebay at Christmas time but only needed one or two for a recipe at that time. I’m glad to know they should still be okay to use!

  • kyttaritida
    June 9, 2011

    I adore vanilla beans! Now i know a little bit more of how to make them last longer. Thank you!

  • Cookies
    June 9, 2011

    My girlfriend loves vanilla beans and baking, so now that I know vanilla beans stay good for long, I can give her some as a gift with confidence that she’ll like it. Thanks!

  • Nicole
    October 2, 2013

    Super helpful, thanks! 🙂

  • Susan
    October 10, 2014

    I put a couple of little slivers of vanilla bean in my drinking water bottle — imparting a really lovely flavour. Am wondering if the vanilla will rot in the water, or if I can keep refilling until the flavour gives out?

  • Nicole
    October 13, 2014

    Susan – The vanilla will rot in the water eventually, so I would switch out the vanilla frequently. If your water is kept cool, several days should be more than ok, however if you water is warm/room temperature, it may not last as long.

  • […] Vanilla bean tip: yes, the strange, long, thin, leathery things known as vanilla beans are expensive, but you only need two for this recipe. I buy them at stores like TJ Maxx, from their gourmet food aisle, where I often find small jars containing two beans for roughly $5. You can also order them online from Amazon, and if you have a handy Prime membership, all the better. The more you buy, usually, the more you save, but they do have a shelf life. […]

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