Vanilla, that most versatile of beans, is having a moment. “It’s almost limitless in its scent and flavor notes,” says J.R. Rigley, president of The Watkins Co., a family-owned spice-and-extracts company in Winona, Minn., of this versatile bean sourced mostly from Madagascar.
Since it’s available in an extract, paste, powder, or the bean itself, there are limitless ways to use it in cooking or baking, though the way you use vanilla definitely depends on the recipe. “A paste offers a thicker consistency than a liquid,” Rigley says. “If you’re making a savory chicken dish, for example, a paste will embrace the meat better.”