With its sweet, warm notes of vanillin, vanilla lives as one of the most popular flavors and scents worldwide. It’s used in candles and perfumes galore, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a baked good or sweet breakfast dish that isn’t made better with a healthy dose of vanilla extract.

Because vanilla is used so often, you might not think there’s a lot of room for innovation with this fragrant and flavorful bean, which comes from an orchid. However, chefs and mixologists constantly find new and exciting ways to craft recipes that take vanilla’s distinctive flavor profile to new heights.

Vnlla Extract Co., in particular, has made a point of teaming up with award-winning food and beverage innovators to reimagine the role of vanilla in the industry. What have they come up with? Here are just a few of the incredible creations catching attention and pleasing palates everywhere.

Playful Pastries

It’s no stretch to add vanilla to pastries. Just try to think of a cookie or cake recipe that doesn’t include this essential ingredient. Making it special is a little more complicated, but innovative pastry chefs like Erin Kanagy-Loux, Maya Okada Erickson, and Vince Nguyen are doing just that.

Kanagy-Loux, known for her wedding cakes, has been dubbed “The MacGuyver of Pastry.” Recipes like her Coriander Spice Babka, Lemon Swirl Cookies, and Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Hazelnut Vanilla Streusel demonstrate not only her range and creativity but also the exciting ways vanilla can pair with unusual flavors like turmeric and coriander.

Related: What Vanilla Means to Symrise Flavor NA

Erickson is equally adventurous. Her Miso Chocolate Chip Cookies with Vanilla Spiced Ice Cream and Coconut Mochi Cake with Passionfruit Orange Curd & Toasted Coconut infuse Asian-inspired treats with a hefty dose of vanilla.

On the other hand, Nguyen keeps it classic with his zesty Citrus Tart but changes the flavor profile with vanilla and opts for a vegan recipe. He also concocted a gluten-free Spiced Banana Almond Cake that caters to the growing number of diners suffering from Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Irresistible Ice Cream

Sure, vanilla is an old standby when it comes to ice cream flavors, but that just means it’s all the more difficult to innovate with this classic and beloved ingredient. Ice cream wizard Sam Mason does it right, with various recipes that take vanilla to another dimension. A few of his popular creations include:

  • Burnt Cinnamon & Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
  • Vnlla Southern Savory Tomato & Peach Ice Cream
  • Vnlla Maple Bacon Brittle Ice Cream
  • Vnlla Blueberry Ice Cream & Cornbread Crumble
  • Vnlla White Miso Cherry Ice Cream
  • And more

Mason’s even got some options for the dairy-free crowd, such as Vnlla Beachy Coconut, Shiso, & Orange Sorbet. He also dabbles a bit in confections and pastries, including Vanilla Candied Maitake Mushrooms with Chocolate Cake and Very Vanilla Butter Cake with Vanilla Spiced Cherries. Pushing the boundaries of both flavor and texture with his unique ice cream recipes, Mason makes creamy delights even more palate-pleasing with surprising vanilla pairings.

International Influence

Iron Chef and James Beard award winner Jose Garces is no stranger to food challenges, and while he’s known for innovation in Spanish and Latin-American cuisine, that doesn’t stop him from branching out into all kinds of recipes. The things he does with vanilla are truly inspiring.

Pairing vanilla with seafood might seem crazy, but Garces’s bold style and balanced touch make it work somehow. Consider recipes like BBQ Shrimp & Vanilla Grits or Vanilla Butter Poached Lobster Chawanmushi. Desserts like Crema Catalana with Vanilla Macerated Berries are a little more mainstream but still outstanding.

Delightful Drinks

The pairing of vanilla with liquor is nothing new. Absolut, Smirnoff, and pretty much every vodka label on the planet offer a vanilla version of the stuff. The trick to making it novel is all in the balance and blend of ingredients, as mixologist Gui Jaroschy proves with offerings like his Cloud 9, featuring vodka, spiced vanilla oleo Saccharum, lemon, citron-honey tea, egg white, and tonic.

Vanilla may be old hat in baking circles, but when companies like Vnlla Extract Co. team up with top chefs and mixologists to take classic flavors in new directions, the result is a bevy of truly innovative recipes that take this ingredient in entirely new directions.

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