15 Unique Ways to Use Vanilla Extract

Last Updated on July 30, 2021 by Kimberly Crawford

Vanilla extract can be used around the house in many unique ways. Check out this article to learn about the surprising benefits of vanilla extract.

Vanilla extract is the most popular flavored extract because no other flavor can match its aroma. It is impossible to not want to add a little vanilla to your desserts, but there are several other useful ways to use it around the house.

Vanilla extract is a natural insect repellent, and the amazing fragrance works best to eliminate nasty odors. There are plenty of other ways to use it. In this article, we compiled a list of things you can do with vanilla extract.

But before we get to the list, let’s learn more about this extract.

unique ways to use vanilla extract

What Is Vanilla Extract?


Vanilla was commonly found in tropical orchids in Mexico. Currently, these orchids are cultivated in Africa, Central America, and the South Pacific. However, Madagascar is the largest supplier of vanilla and provides 80 percent of the world’s vanilla.

The beans are extracted from the vanilla and are taken to an extraction facility. There, the beans are soaked and washed in an ethyl alcohol and water solution. The alcohol pulls out the flavor from the beans. Pure vanilla extracts contain hundreds of flavor compounds other than vanillin.

The extract also contains a limited amount of sweeteners, such as sugar and corn syrup. Vanilla extract is easy to make, and there are several ways of making vanilla extract at home.

Vanilla Extract VS. Vanilla Essence

vanilla essence

Many people confuse the two, and it’s a common mistake because they look identical from the outside. However, on the inside, they have their fair share of differences.

Vanilla essence is manufactured using chemically-produced flavors, color emulsifiers, propylene glycol, ethanol, and water. It tastes a bit like vanilla but has no real vanillin flavor. Vanillin is the bean extracted from vanilla that we talked about earlier. 

Vanilla extracts are pure and are more expensive. Vanilla essence, on the other hand, is an imitation vanilla flavor and is a cheap alternative. But this does not make it bad. It only means that both the aroma and the flavor are stronger in vanilla extracts.

Creative Ways to Use Vanilla Extract

Other than creating savory desserts, here are some other ways you can use vanilla extract around the house:

1. Repel Insects

The scent of vanilla extract is mesmerizing for us human beings, but most bugs despise it. You can make your own insect repellant by adding one tablespoon of vanilla to a cup of water.

You can store this solution in a spray bottle or just dab it onto your skin using a cotton ball for it tol work as a bug repellant. This should keep all those pesky black flies and mosquitoes away.

2. Eliminate Paint Smell

The smell of paint is sometimes unbearable ― Especially if you are in a freshly painted house. To keep your house from the paint smell, add a tablespoon of vanilla extract to the paint can before painting. Mix them together properly, and it will not affect the texture of the paint but will greatly reduce the paint smell.

3. Deodorize the Microwave

Leftover food in the microwave or just using it for a long time can cause it to smell. Add a tablespoon of vanilla extract to your microwave bowl and turn it on with full power for a whole minute. The odor will be gone for good, and your microwave will smell amazing.

4. Keep Surfaces Clean

This does not work for all surfaces, but it does wonders on surfaces that have tape or sticker marks. Most vanilla extracts contain about 35 to 40 percent alcohol, which works great in removing stubborn sticker or tape marks. Simply pour a little vanilla extract on a piece of cloth and rub them away.

5. Make Your Fridge Smell Fresh

This is the same as the microwave oven. Your fridge can smell when you constantly store fish, vegetables, and leftovers. You can eliminate the bad odor with a little vanilla extract. Vanilla extracts are mostly natural, and you will not have to worry about chemicals affecting your food.

First, take a sponge and dip it in water. Give the sponge a nice squeeze to wring out the excess water, then add a few drops of vanilla extract. Now, there are two types of vanilla extracts: natural extracts and artificial extracts. 

For cleaning your fridge, choose the artificial extract because it has a more potent scent. Empty your fridge, and start wiping the areas where the strong-smelling foods were kept. If you want the fragrance to last longer, soak a ball of cotton in vanilla extract, put it in a small jar, and store it in a corner inside the fridge.

6. Works Great for Grilling and Barbecuing 

This might be surprising, but the sweet-scented vanilla fragrance can also be used in spicy hot barbecues. It can be used in glazes, sauces, and even marinades.

Vanilla extract can help seal the moisture of the meat. It can be used for chicken, fish, beef, pork, and lamb — basically any kind of meat. It protects the meat’s natural sweetness and gives the flavor an extra oomph.

7. Cut Acidity in Sauces

Tomato sauce can sometimes be a bit too acidic, which can ultimately lead to it being bitter. Pure vanilla extract can be used to reduce this acidity and help the sauce revert to its intended flavor. 

Some sauces even require a bit of vanilla. If they become too acidic, simply double the amount of the extract, and the sauce will become savory again.

8. Use As an Air Freshener

You can create a solution by mixing vanilla extract with water and using a spray bottle to spray it around the house, or you can use a unique trick.

Put a few drops of vanilla extract on the lightbulbs of your house. Once you turn the bulb on, the heat will slowly disperse the extract and help spread it around the house. Many real estate agents use this trick when showing houses to customers. 

9. Use It In Seafood

Vanilla and seafood might sound like an odd combination, but weirdly enough, it works! Just like with meat, vanilla also helps maintain the natural sweetness of fish. It even works great with shellfish.

10. Create Delicious Cocktails

use vanilla extract in drink

Cocktails are refreshing, and you can enhance the flavor with a bit of vanilla extract. Pure extracts can add a smooth flavor to your drink. It goes well with drinks that have elements of cinnamon, clove, chocolate, or cherry. Try adding a little vanilla extract to your whiskey or bourbon, and you will notice the upgrade in taste and smell.  

11. Refine Your Salad Dressings

Too much vinegar dressing on your salad can make it tangy. To soften the tanginess, add a hint of vinegar extract. The sweet flavor of the extract works great with fruit and vegetable salads, and makes them even more palatable.

12. Use It In Risottos

Risotto is a mouthwatering dish made of broth derived from fish, vegetables, or meat. When properly cooked, the broth reaches a creamy texture, and it looks like a different version of mac and cheese. One of the most important ingredients for risottos is wine, which maintains the dish’s creamy texture.

But don’t stress it if you are out of alcohol because vanilla extracts can be the perfect substitute. Add one tablespoon of the extract in the stock, and the alcohol in the extract will evaporate and spread the aroma. Vanilla extract blends in well with earthy-flavored risottos as well.

13. Caramelize Your Roasted Veggies and Fruits

Caramelizing your roasted fruits and vegetables is important to keep the flavors intact, and vanilla extract does an excellent job in doing so. Add a hint of vanilla extract to your veggies and fruits before putting them on the grill. The vanilla will intensify the sweetness, and the alcohol will evaporate because of the heat and add another layer of caramelization.

14. Use It on Small Burns

Vanilla has been used as a natural remedy to treat small wounds and burns for a long time. However, do not pour the extract directly onto the burn. Apply a few drops of vanilla extract on a cloth or cotton ball, and gently dab it on the burnt spot. The alcohol should help relieve pain as it slowly evaporates. Vanilla has anti-inflammatory properties and helps soothe the wounded area.

However, this only works as a temporary remedy. You should go get it patched up by a doctor as soon as you can.

15. Has Amazing Health Benefits

Surprisingly, vanilla extract has quite a few health benefits. These benefits derive from vanillin beans. Here are a few proven health benefits of vanilla extract.

Helps Fight Acne

Vanillin has antioxidant and antibacterial properties that can prevent acne breakouts and soothes itchiness, redness, and irritation. You will get the best results by mixing a hint of vanilla extract with your anti-acne products. Before using it, consult with a doctor first. 

While vanilla extract is harmless, some people have a reaction to it when applied to the skin. Try to use it in a very small amount and wait for 24 hours to see if your skin feels irritated. If it does, gently rinse your skin, and you should feel better in no time.

Reverses Skin Aging

Eventually, we are all going to have wrinkly skin, but signs of aging can come at a much earlier age due to stress, anxiety, and other reasons. There are tons of anti-aging products in the market, but you can achieve almost the same results by using vanilla extract every day.

The antioxidant properties in vanilla neutralize free radicals and reverse skin damage. This helps prevent age spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. Also, the lovely fragrance is an added bonus.

Makes the Skin Glow

An unbalanced diet, pollution, and dust can fade your glowing skin. However, vanilla extract can help with that too. It has pantothenic acid, thiamin, niacin, and vitamin B-16 that can help protect the natural glow of your skin.

Makes Silky Hair

Vanilla extract can make your hair smooth and silky. Its antioxidant properties can prevent follicle damage, and the vitamins can make your hair healthy. The extract can be mixed with other ingredients as well, but it is best to ask a dermatologist before making your own hair mask.

Helps with Weight Loss

Proper diet and exercise are the most important factors of weight loss, but there are supplements to help with the process, and vanilla extract is one of those natural supplements. Vanilla has the potential of reducing cholesterol, and using it in your diet can be a great way to lower your cholesterol and lose some weight. However, further studies need to be done to address how much extract is healthy for the human body.

Gets Rid of Nausea

The scent of vanilla can help you get rid of and prevent nausea. Add a few drops of vanilla extract to a glass of water, and slowly sip it down. The fragrance will make you feel better in no time. It works perfectly as a substitute for nausea medicines.

How to Choose the Best Extract

Look for the best extract according to your needs. If you are going to use it for baking, choose pure extracts only. While most extracts taste the same, there are a few notable differences. Extracts from Madagascar are the most popular ones and taste the sweetest, the Mexican ones are a little spicy, and the Indonesian vanilla extracts have a smoky flavor. 

You can also choose between single-fold and double-fold extracts. Single-fold extracts are common for household use. You can make all your desserts, cookies, and cakes with a single-fold extract. Professional bakers tend to use double-fold ones in their bakery, but of course, double-fold ones come at a higher price.

And speaking of price, vanilla extracts are generally expensive. Pure extracts cost even more. If you are going to use it often, buying it in bulk can save you a lot of money. You can visit online shops to get the best deals, but be sure to check the manufacturing and expiration dates before purchasing.

Final Thoughts

Vanilla extract has a lot of benefits other than just making your desserts smell and taste amazing. Make sure you keep your bottle of extract in a nice, cool, dry place so it can last longer.