Looking For Vanilla Beans? (Stores, Prices & Other FAQs)

Looking to buy some vanilla beans for a special recipe but don’t know where to find them in the supermarket or grocery store?

Well, like other spices and herbs, whole vanilla beans are typically located in the spice aisle, either bottled or in a plastic bag. If you’re unable to find them in the spice aisle, the other option would be to look for them in the bulk area, also next to other spices and herbs. 

What Is Vanilla Bean?

vanilla beans

A vanilla bean is a pod-shaped fruit that grows on a climbing orchid of the genus Vanilla, a family that includes around 100 species native to tropical Central and northern South America. 

These orchids are pollinated by hummingbirds and tiny bees only found in vanilla’s native habitat.

Orchids grown outside their territory are hand-pollinated by humans; an arduous, manual process that turns vanilla beans into a rather expensive commodity. 

The pods are 6-12 inches long and contain thousands of tiny seeds that stick to the pod walls. The vanilla flavor, which occurs because of vanillin (and other compounds), is bonded to a sugar molecule that is released when the pod is damaged. 

Culinary Varieties of Vanilla Beans

Apparently, the vanilla we use as food comes from three varieties: Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla tahitensis, and Vanilla pompona.

1- Vanilla planifolia – This variety accounts for most of the world’s vanilla supply, including bourbon vanilla from Madagascar, which has a rich flavor and the highest vanillin content in the world. Indonesian and Mexican vanilla also derive from Vanilla planifolia but don’t contain as much vanillin. 

2 – Vanilla tahitensis – This variety from Tahiti is rarer but doesn’t contain as much vanillin, though records refer to a pleasant floral aroma. The backstory of this vanilla is regarded as somewhat of a botanical mystery

3 – Vanilla pompona – The least common variety of vanilla and also the one with the least amount of vanillin, Vanilla pompona derives from West India. 

Interesting Fact: Because vanilla is such an expensive commodity, vanilla workers have to undergo a full search each time they leave the warehouse. Yes, this is a common practice in Madagascar, a country that accounts for 80% of the world’s vanilla production.

Here is an interesting video from The Economist on the vanilla beans production in Madagascar:

What Stores Sell Vanilla Bean?

There are two ways that you can purchase vanilla beans: via online using marketplaces such as Amazon and Walmart; or you can opt for visiting the nearest grocery store or supermarket near you. 

Here is a list of stores where you’re able to find vanilla beans:

  • Amazon

If you’re someone that prefers to shop online, then Amazon is the place to order from as it’s the biggest online marketplace in the world.

You’re able to find Madagascar vanilla beans in sets of 10 for $12.74 which is the best grade of vanilla beans available. Alternatively, you can also find Vanilla tahensis; a slightly more affordable alternative.

  • Walmart

Walmart is the world’s leading retailer and certainly the biggest and most widely available retail store in the United States. Like Amazon, they also have a variety of merchants that sell vanilla beans.

10 A Grade Madagascar vanilla beans cost $9.99, which is slightly cheaper than Amazon. 

  • Whole Foods

Whole Foods is mostly known for its organic merchandise and, at times, its sky-high prices. They have recently been acquired by Amazon, and they’re another place you can visit to fetch vanilla beans. 

They offer a variety of different vanilla bean grades, including the best ones from Madagascar.  

  • Kroger

Kroger is deemed the biggest supermarket chain in the United States and also has different grades and brands of vanilla beans.

You’re able to find McCormick’s Madagascar vanilla beans, or you can opt for Kroger’s own brand, Private Selection. 

  • Albertsons

Besides Kroger, you also have Albertsons which is the second-largest supermarket in America. They have brands such as McCormick and Lafaza Beans, which are high-grade Madagascar vanilla beans. 

  • Safeway

Safeway is owned by Albertsons and is another supermarket chain you can visit. They have McCormick’s and Shop O’s vanilla beans. 

  • Vons

Another supermarket chain owned by Alberts, Vons is also bound to have vanilla beans from the same brands as Safeway and Albertsons. 

Where Do You Find Vanilla Beans In-Store?

supermarket shelves

The place where you’re most likely to find vanilla beans is in the spice aisle, where other spices, herbs, and related products dwell.

If you’re unable to see packaged or bottled vanilla beans, the second-best option is to go to the bulk area, where they typically sell dried goods in bulk.   

If you’re unable to find them in a conventional grocery store or supermarket, then you should definitely be able to find them online in marketplaces like Amazon or Walmart. 

Do Vanilla Beans Expire?

Vanilla beans do not have many uses in the kitchen, so it’s pretty normal to wonder how they should last given that you won’t be using them as often. 

Vanilla beans should be able to last as much as other whole spices and herbs — and that can be as long as three or four years. However, that also depends on how effectively you’re able to store them.

Properly storing vanilla beans means you must be able to prevent them from drying out or getting moldy. 

pantry

If your beans come in a vacuum-sealed package, you can leave them be until usage or for up to 6 months.

Once you get to the 6-month mark, it’s probably time to open the package and wrap the beans in wax paper or plastic wrap and transfer them to an airtight container or resealable bag. If you’re going with a resealable bag, squeeze as much air out of it as possible before sealing.

Store the container (or resealable bag) in a dark and relatively cool place, away from sources of heat. For most people, a kitchen cabinet away from the oven should work just fine. Do not refrigerate or freeze vanilla beans, as that will ruin their quality. 

To further increase their shelf-life, it’s a good idea to air them out every few weeks— you open the container and let air circulate for 5-10 minutes before closing and putting it back in storage. 

How To Use Vanilla Beans

Since the vanilla flavor is derived from both the seeds and the wall of the pod itself, both parts can be used to create different types of flavorings. 

Vanilla bean seeds can also play a role in a number of desserts, namely:

  • Financiers
  • Crème brûlée
  • Crème anglaise
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Ice cream
  • Buttercream frosting

After using the entirety of the seeds, do not throw the pods away as they’re rich in vanillin, which can be extracted by simmering them in liquid. A vegan like myself would use soy milk for that purpose.

Once you’ve removed the seeds and made a liquid infusion with the pod, you can rinse the used pods and dry in a low oven, then add to containers of ingredients or baked goods that could benefit from an infusion of vanilla aroma, so you have vanilla sugar or sea salt on hand while cooking. 

Another option would be to make vanilla extract by mixing it with some powerful alcohol. There is a pretty straightforward recipe on how to do that at The Pioneer Woman

Conclusion

Vanilla beans are not hard to find as they’re available in most big supermarket chains, so if you live in a fairly large city, you shouldn’t have an issue finding some.

I would worry if you’re like me and chose to live in a very small town in Bulgaria, where the likelihood of finding relatively uncommon spices and herbs is low. 

With that being said, as long as you have a large supermarket chain around, you should be able to find some vanilla beans in the spice aisle, where they usually are most of the time. 

If I was unable to find them, my solution would be to go on Amazon and just buy some, though I would have to pray for them to deliver a high-quality product. 

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

Looking For Alum Powder? (Stores, Prices & Other FAQs)
Previous Post Looking For Alum Powder? (Stores, Prices & Other FAQs)
Looking For Avocado Oil? (Stores, Prices & Other FAQs)
Next Post Looking For Avocado Oil? (Stores, Prices & Other FAQs)