Vanilla doesn’t only belong in a cupcake or crème brûlée – it's delicious in savoury dishes too. Just ask prince of pâtissiers, Eric Lanlard

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Image: Eric Lanlard cooking with vanilla

Photo: ©Nielsen Massey

Eric getting busy with the vanilla ...

He's known for the best cupcake in town and is usually up to his eyes in buttercream. But master pâtissier Eric Lanlard is taking a break from all. Why? He's got a passion for vanilla ... in savoury food. And he wants everyone else to join the party. 


Has he lost the pod? Of course not. Not convinced? We grilled him for you: 


"Using vanilla in savoury recipes is nothing new

It's used in lots of branded products (without you knowing) to get a balance between flavours.


The secret to cooking with vanilla is...

Don't overdo it! Like all extracts vanilla is pretty strong so a little goes a long way.


Use it to soften the acidity of tomatoes ... 

And spicy things like chilli​. A touch of vanilla added to tomato-based dishes such as bouillabaisse (or a chunky fish stew), chilli con carne and even homemade baked beans will bring all the flavours together.

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Time to stir the vanilla in then...


Vanilla's very sensitive to heat

So always add it to the end of a dish. Vanilla bean paste crystallises too if it gets too hot.


Always use real vanilla

I like Nielsen MasseyPeople are au fait with proper vanilla now (instead of the chemical essence) but it wasn't always like that. Years ago we made crème brûlées for Fortnum & Mason – the buyer sent them back saying they had ash in them, but it was only flecks from the vanilla seeds!


I'd describe vanilla's flavour as ...

Sweet and smoky. So it's delicious with duck or beef. Brush vanilla bean paste onto crispy duck skin (after you've cooked it) or marinate fillet steak with vanilla and crushed cacao before frying over a high heat.

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Cacao and vanilla beef fillet canapés

Photo: ©Nielsen Massey


I love it with smoked salmon ...

Brush a little vanilla bean paste onto smoked salmon and bake in a savoury tart. Or marinate salmon fillets with vanilla and freshly grated ginger, before wrapping in foil and baking.


The most amazing thing I've ever had vanilla in was ...

A carrot and blue cheese risotto with savoury white chocolate and vanilla bean sauce! Another lovely dish was freshly steamed lobster with a creamy vanilla foam."

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Savoury carrot, white chocolate and vanilla risotto: Cuvée restaurant, South Africa


My favourite vanilla treats are:  

  • Salad dressing made with olive oil, champagne vinegar and touch of vanilla
  • Red wine jus to serve with beef, duck or venison – just add a little vanilla to taste at the end
  • Tomato salsa with a dash of tequila and touch of vanilla bean paste 
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Give tomato salsa the Lanlard treatment with tequila and vanilla bean paste


Different types of vanilla have different flavours

Bourbon vanilla is from the Madagascan Bourbon Islands, (so nothing to do with whisky!) – it's creamy and sweet in flavour, while Mexican vanilla is similar but with more spice.


Store vanilla pods in the freezer!

Just like coffee, it's the best place to keep them fresh and they defrost really quickly."


And in case you still don't believe us:

Fancy vanilla in your chilli? Or should it stay in a sponge? Tell us what you think in the comments box