Tahitian vanilla is one of two main varieties of the vanilla orchid. Tahitian and Bourbon vanilla beans are equally sought after in the vanilla market, though Tahitian beans can be slightly more difficult to find because Tahitian vines are not grown as presently worldwide. The Tahitian vanilla bean boasts a unique and exotic flavor profile that is intriguing and acts as a secret ingredient when matched with the best ingredients.
The difference between the two species is immediately apparent when their aromas are compared side by side. The best way to do this is to obtain two glass vials, one with a Tahitian bean and one with a Bourbon bean. The flavor that comes from the Tahitian bean is floral, fruity, and slightly spicy. Though Tahitian and Bourbon vanillas can be substituted for each other in any recipe, certain flavor combinations make the Tahitian bean sing.
My favorite way to use Tahitian vanilla is in chocolate chip cookies. The cookies have added complexity and interest, and because the vanilla is baked in the cookies, the flavor is mild enough to not over power the dish. In fact, at Cook's this has always been the favorite way to use Tahitian vanilla extract. We even named our strongest Tahitian vanilla extract our "Cookie Vanilla."
Another wonderful flavor combination is to use Tahitian vanilla with tropical fruit desserts. Bananas, mangos and coconuts are beautifully complimented by the fruity and sweet aroma of Tahitian vanilla. One of the best discoveries I have made with Tahitian vanilla is to put a generous amount in bananas foster. The spiciness from the cinnamon and pinch of nutmeg and the fruitiness from the seared banana are echoed and enhanced by the vanilla, and the dessert becomes utterly irresistible. Find my recipe below:
3 very ripe bananas, sliced
4 Tbsp. softened unsalted butter, separated
3/4 Cup brown sugar
1/4 Cup rum
1 Tsp. cinnamon
1/4 Tsp. nutmeg
2 Tsp Cookie Vanilla Extract
Pinch of salt, to taste
Vanilla ice cream for serving
Melt the butter in the pan and add the brown sugar. Stir until the mixture smells slightly caramelized and the sugar and butter are fully incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add the rum, spices, and Cookie Vanilla Extract. Stir and allow rum to evaporate until the sauce becomes a syrupy consistency. Add a pinch of salt to taste. Allow to cool just slightly and then serves with vanilla ice cream and sliced bananas.
The opportunities to use Tahitian vanilla are endless. Become a flavor mixologist by allowing your senses of smell and taste guide you to creating something delicious that is all your own. The best way to start is to take in a full breath of the Tahitian vanilla scent, and just like you would a fine wine, begin to dissect the flavors you notice. Use these flavors as inspirations for desserts, drinks, and even savory dishes. Working with vanilla is fun, creative, and exciting and everyone loves good vanilla, so you can't go wrong! Happy cooking!