The Best Way to Cut a Vanilla Bean, Open it, and Scrape the Vanilla Bean—with Video & Text

There Are Many Ways to Slice, Split & Scrape Vanilla Beans for Making Vanilla Extract

There are a few ways we've seen explained about how to cut, slice, and scrape extract grade vanilla beans for making vanilla extract. Here are the general variations.

  • Split the vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the seeds but not cutting the bean in half
  • Cut the vanilla pod down the center and leave the seeds in the pod
  • Leave the bean whole and placing it your vanilla extract so you can use the bean again
  • Slice the vanilla in half
  • Cut the bean in small, 1" lengths

Which is the Best Way to Slice & Scrape a Vanilla Bean?

The best way to prepare vanilla beans ultimately depends on the goal. For our purposes, the goal is to make vanilla extract and fully exhaust the vanilla bean as quickly as possible so we can enjoy our finished vanilla extract in 3-4 months rather than six. When the vanilla extract is ready, we will strain it—removing the seeds and other vanilla bits. We'll save the exhausted vanilla seeds and add it to ice cream, cheesecake, and custards for visual effects. We can take our vanilla bits and add it to a vanilla extract mother jar or use it to make vanilla sugar.

So, now that we are going to fully exhaust the vanilla bean of its oil and other solids, we'll achieve that by maximizing the surface of the vanilla bean before adding it to our alcohol or glycerin extract medium. This starts with identifying the flat side of the vanilla bean or pod.

Vanilla Pods Are Oval—Not Round

The key to maximizing the surface area is knowing that vanilla beans are not round—the vanilla bean has a flat side and a thin side.

How to slice and cut a vanilla bean for maximum surface area
Vanilla Beans are Oval

Cutting a Vanilla Bean In the Thin Narrow Side Maximizes Surface Area

Cut your vanilla beans through the flat side. In the same way you might fillet a fish. If you cut completely through the vanilla bean creating two pieces, each of the vanilla bean slices will lay flat. This makes it easy to scrape the vanilla bean, and the flat bean will have more overall exposed surface area.  

  • To start your cut, remove the tips from the top and bottom
  • Put your knife through the thin side of your vanilla bean in the same way you would fillet a small fish
  • Cutting completely through the vanilla bean, move the knife down the entire length of the bean
  • You'll probably need to reverse the pod to finish your cut
  • Now, you've got these two flat pieces of vanilla bean fillets.
How to correctly slice a vanilla bean
How to correctly slice, or fillet, a vanilla bean
Example of a sliced vanilla bean showing vanilla seeds
Left: An example of a sliced vanilla bean showing vanilla seeds

Cutting a Vanilla Bean In the Wide Side Should Be Avoided

By cutting through the center of the flat side of the bean, the bean will stay closed after it's cut minimizing the surface area, and it will be challenging to scrape the vanilla seeds. Avoid cutting the vanilla bean this way.

Avoid slicing a vanilla bean this way. The vanilla seeds are not as exposed as fully as they could be.
Avoid slicing a vanilla bean this way—the vanilla seeds are difficult to reach
Try not to slice or cut a vanilla bean into the flat side. Cut the vanilla bean through the flat side like a fillet.
On the right is an example of a slice vanilla bean sliced into the flat side

Continue Scraping & Slicing the First Vanilla Pod We Started

Using our two flat vanilla bean pieces, scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod using a knife, spoon, or even a wooden popsicle stick. It's a good idea too to roughen up the pores of the pod—this will create a bit more surface area.

Then cut the vanilla pod so they'll fit in a jar and are easily covered with your alcohol or glycerin.

How to scrape a vanilla bean and remove the vanilla seeds
How to scrape a vanilla bean and remove the vanilla seeds

Look At All That Surface Area!

This process has exposed a lot of surface area in the vanilla pod. Gather all the pieces—the tips, the vanilla bean scrapings, and the cut pods.

That's the best way to slice, cut open, and scrape your vanilla bean. This method maximizes the surface area to get a richer extract faster.

In previous videos, we used a different method that didn't expose as much of the bean. We recommend using this method when making all of your vanilla extracts and infusions.

Example of a scraped and sliced vanilla beans with maximum surface area
Example of a scraped and sliced vanilla bean with maximum surface area

Preparing a Vanilla Bean to Make Vanilla Extract—Answers

  • When cutting vanilla beans to maximize surface area, you can cut the vanilla beans in half.
  • Cut the vanilla bean by placing your paring knife into the narrow side of the vanilla pod, pushing the knife completely through the vanilla pod. Pull the know down the entire length of the vanilla bean.
  • Cut the vanilla bean to maximize its surface area when making vanilla extract.
  • Remove the seeds from the vanilla pod using a knife, spoon, or wooden popsicle stick. It's helpful to roughen up the pod to create more surface area. This is where a popsicle stick might be useful.
  • Making your vanilla extract will save about 50% or more over the cost of buying it. You get to control the ingredients, so you will know that you have a pure vanilla extract. You can be creative and use whatever type of alcohol you choose—rum, coconut rum, spiced rum, bourbon, or vodka.
  • If you exhaust the vanilla bean when making your homemade vanilla extract, some oils and solids will still be left in the bean. Start a vanilla extract mother jar, put the used beans in the jar, and barely cover the beans with your alcohol or glycerin. Wait at least 6 months before taking it from the jar.
  • Whether the finished vanilla extract is strained or not is a personal choice. Remember, though, some people are not used to seeing floaty-bits, and the vanilla will be more versatile if the seeds are completely filtered out. At a minimum, strain out all of the larger bits and pieces.