Curried Kabocha Squash Soup is so stupid-easy to make with only five ingredients, and it’s the perfect way to celebrate my favorite fall squash. Kabocha—also called “buttercup” in other regions of the United States and simply “pumpkin” in other parts of the world—tastes like a mash up between butternut squash and sweet potato. It’s wonderfully tasty with a thin, edible skin, and it really shines when roasted. It’s recognizable by it’s mottled dark green skin and round shape.
Usually, I just slice it into semicircles and roast it in the oven. (The seeds are delicious roasted, too.) This time, though, I made a simple soup that’s the perfect accompaniment to any fall dinner. I think it’d pair really well with a basic roast chicken and a green salad. If you can’t find kabocha squash in your market, butternut makes a very good substitute.
Cut the bottom and top off the squash, then carefully cut it in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds (you can save them and roast them separately). Cut the squash into a few large chunks. Drizzle with the coconut oil and season with the salt and pepper. Roast the squash for 45-55 minutes or until it’s tender and browned. You may want to flip the pieces halfway through cooking.
Let the squash cool, and scoop the flesh away from the skin.
Put the squash flesh into a high-powered blender along with the chicken broth, coconut milk, and curry powder. Blend for at least 15 seconds or until completely smooth.
Pour into a medium pot to reheat, and adjust the seasoning with salt.
*If you have mild curry powder, it you may need 2 teaspoons or so. When in doubt, add 1 teaspoon, taste, then go from there. Substitute butternut squash instead of kabocha. This soup freezes well.
Y’all know I don’t do many treat recipes, but every once in a while inspiration strikes and I roll with it. Last night I was working on recipe development for the cookbook, looked over at a jar of Love Bean and a great idea popped into my head.
What’s Love Bean? It’s a fudgy spread that’s dairy-free, grain / gluten-free, vegan and totally delicious. I wouldn’t make these everyday—they are still a sweet treat even though they’re Paleo-friendly—but for a single, lush bite to take care of a sweet craving, they’re perfect.
No Love Bean? The product is a blend of coconut oil, cocoa and coconut sugar and while I have no idea what the proportions are, if you’re savvy in the kitchen you can probably figure out how to make a suitable substitute.
In a medium bowl, add the coconut, Love Bean fudge, coffee, sea salt and protein powder (optional). Mix well to combine. If the mixture seems very soft, put it in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up. You want it soft enough to roll but not so soft that it falls apart.
Place the chopped macadamia nuts in a shallow bowl or on a plate.
Get a teaspoon of the mixture and shape it into a ball. Drop the truffle into the macadamia nuts and gently roll it around until all sides are coated. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
Store covered in the refrigerator or freezer.
Change It Up
If you’re limiting caffeine, you can use decaf coffee or omit it all together. They’re still delicious.
Can’t eat nuts? Roll the truffles in cocoa powder or shredded coconut. Or just leave them naked!
Coconut 101 is here, where I’m going to take you through some need-to-know coconut basics for your kitchen!
Coconut Basics: Why’s It So Common In Paleo?
Coconut is a darling ingredient of Paleo / primal and real food cooking and for good reason: it’s loaded with healthy fats and is shelf stable. Its creamy texture is great for dairy-free cooking. I’m going to explain these in more depth, then break it down by coconut variant…sort of like an encyclopedia of coconut goodness.
Coconut Basics: All About the Fat
Let’s tackle the fat component of coconut first. Coconut oil’s a combination of three types of fat: saturated (92%), monounsaturated (6%) and polyunsaturated (2%). WHOA…hold up just a second..isn’t that a LOT of saturated fat?
Yes, coconut oil is mostly saturated fat which kind of makes it the animal fat of the plant world, and seasoned paleo eaters know that saturated fats aren’t bad in the context of a diet that’s not high in carbohydrates (for more on that topic, click here). If you’re a newbie to paleo, you may be surprised at all the sat fats showing up in recipes…ghee, coconut oil, duck fat. Even lard. Remember, paleo’s not a low fat diet, and human beings need fat to function properly. So…coconut oil, rich in sat fat, is good!
Why not just eat lots of mono- (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) like other plant oils then? Aren’t those healthier? Keep in mind *why* plant oils are liquid at room temperature in the first place. They contain one or more double bonds in their carbon-hydrogen tails, making the tails bend and preventing them from packing closely together. [Saturated fats contain no double bonds in their carbon-hydrogen tails, making them straight and easy to pack together, like Pick Up Sticks.] Back to the bendy tails…they make fats less stable and more prone to oxidation which is not a good thing.
Ever notice why some oils, like flaxseed, are sold in dark brown bottles and are supposed to be refrigerated? It’s because it, like other PUFA-rich oils, is prone to oxidative breakdown and will go rancid quickly at room temperature.
So, coconut oil (along with other dense saturated fat sources) is 1) more stable at room temperature, 2) more resistant to oxidation and 3) more stable at moderate temperature cooking than some other plant oils.
Coconut Basics: Creamy Dreamy Goodness
Because of coconut’s high fat content, it adds a great unctuous character to different dishes. Of course, there are classics like curries but virtually any way you’d use dairy, you can substitute coconut milk instead. In a pinch, you can try stirring in coconut cream or even coconut butter instead of coconut milk to add some extra creaminess.
For coconut milk, the fat content will vary by brand and I’d recommend staying away from those which contain emulsifiers (read more in my article here). If you want “lite” coconut milk, it’s less expensive to buy full-fat (canned) and water it down yourself.
Coconut Basics: Products
Coconut Aminos: This is used commonly in Paleo cooking as a replacement for soy sauce. It’s made from the sap of coconut trees that’s been combined with salt. (where to find coconut aminos)
Coconut Butter (also called Coconut Manna or Coconut Cream Concentrate™): When dried coconut meat is ground down into a very fine pulp (much more finely than coconut flour), the result is coconut butter (click here to learn how to make your own). It can be used in place of nut butters and used in a variety of ways (my favorites of which is to eat it off a spoon or on a piece of high-quality dark chocolate). When you buy coconut butter, it’s probably going to be solidified in the jar and have separated out into two layers: the upper layer (translucent) is oil and the lower layer (opaque) is the meat. Warm it up in a pot of hot water and stir to combine.
Coconut Cream: This is the fraction from coconut milk that separates out when a can of coconut milk without emulsifiers is allowed to sit still for a while. The cream component rises to the top and separates from the water. It’s different from coconut butter because it’s been strained and contains no fiber. Hint: makes a killer whipped cream substitute when whipped until airy! Some brands advertise cans of coconut cream: they just contain less water than coconut milk.
Coconut Flakes: The dried meat from the coconut. These can be used to make coconut milk or coconut butter at home. Looking for a crunchy snack? Gently toast some coconut flakes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet at 350°F (175°C) for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and cinnamon. YUM. (where to find coconut flakes)
Coconut Flour: This is the dried coconut meat that’s been ground up and as such, still has the fiber intact. It’s used in gluten-free baking and as a thickener, but it can be a bit finicky. If you’ve ever tried to substitute coconut flour for white flour or almond flour in a recipe, you’ve probably been met with a dry, chewy mess. Why? The fiber in coconut flour makes it ultra-absorbent like a super-powered sponge. In general, use the following ratio when adapting recipes for coconut flour: 1 cup white flour = 1/4 cup coconut flour. (where to find coconut flour)
Coconut Milk: When coconut meat is blended with water and strained, the result is coconut milk. Its fat content varies by brand with cheaper cans often containing less coconut cream and more water. Choose a brand without emulsifiers (like guar gum, carrageenan, methyl cellulose, and corn starch) that’s sold in BPA-free cans (like these) or tetra-pak cartons (like these). I don’t recommend coconut milk sold in cartons (except for the one I just listed) because they tend to contain preservatives.
Coconut Nectar & Crystals (also called Coconut Sugar): Don’t be fooled. Even though it’s derived from coconuts, it’s no better than any other sweetener out there from a health perspective. Use judiciously, if at all.
Coconut Oil: This is the pure fat from the meat of the coconut and comes in several different varieties based on which processing method was used to extract it. Decoding a bottle can be a lot like deciphering what’s written on an egg carton…lots of terms, some of which are pretty confusing. Here’s a quick list:
Virgin…coconut oil obtained from raw coconut meat that hasn’t been heated. Note: the standards for what denotes virgin from extra virgin don’t actually exist.
Extra Virgin…this term really means nothing between coconut oils (though it does for olive oil). A term used to market and appeal to consumers as “higher quality”.
Refined…usually treated with deodorizers, bleaches and other chemicals. It usually smells / tastes less like coconut. Very low quality refined oils are sometimes even hydrogenated (eek…trans-fats!!) to increase shelf life even further.
Unrefined…not treated with deodorizers, bleaches and other chemicals. Most virgin and extra virgin coconut oils fall into this category. They tend to have a stronger coconut flavor.
Expeller-pressed…coconut oil obtained from the manual pressing of the coconut meat, not by using chemicals.
Centrifuged…the liquified meat is spun down in a centrifuge to fractionate the oils away from the water. Therefore, the oil was exposed to less heat during processing.
Organic…the coconuts were grown without the use of pesticides, insecticides, etc. This term doesn’t tell you how the oil was harvested, however.
Coconut milk won’t solidify no matter what you’ve tried?! It’s a common problem with a simple explanation.
With the growing popularity of Paleo and dairy-free recipes becoming more plentiful, you’ll probably run into dishes that call for the cream from a can of coconut milk as an ingredient (even my Paleo Tzatziki Sauce and Paleo Cucumber Mint Raita list it). Usually, you’re supposed to put the can in the fridge for upwards of 24 hours, then be able to open the can and spoon the solidified cream off the top.
If you’ve ever followed those instructions only to open the can and find your coconut milk’s still soupy, it’s pretty frustrating (especially if you’re making something where a very thick texture is a requirement like coconut whipped cream). So what gives?
Back to Basics…What is Coconut Milk?
When fresh coconut meat is grated down with water, the liquid yielded is call coconut milk. It’s a combination of the water and the different healthy fats in the coconut meat such as fast-burning MCT oil (medium chain triglyercides) and saturated fat.
When it’s prepared via blending, the fat component (often called coconut cream) gets suspended in the watery component, and it appears to combine. But when left to sit undisturbed, the coconut milk will separate into two layers much like a bottle of oil & vinegar salad dressing. [Bonus science nerdiness: the fat is hydrophobic (water-fearing) and is rejected from the water layer.] Normally, the top, semi-hard cream layer is what you’d scoop out and use for recipes.
Why Your Coconut Milk Won’t Solidify
One word: emulsifiers.
Emulsifiers are chemical additives which cause the fatty and watery layers to stop separating from one another, and if they’re in your coconut milk, you’ll probably never get that thick creamy layer at the top of the can no matter what you do. [Another common way to get fatty and watery components to emulsify is by introducing air like you’d do when making homemade mayo.]
Common Coconut Milk Emulsifiers & Additives
1) Guar gum. This is a carbohydrate compound (polysaccharide) that comes from guar beans. It’s very commonly used to thicken coconut milk and cause it to stay emulsified. Often found in canned coconut milk.
2) Carrageenan. Derived from seaweed, this is another polysaccharide carbohydrate used to thicken coconut milk, though more commonly the type sold in paper cartons (not recommended because it’s often full of other junk). Carrageenan’s been implicated as having some pretty gnarly effects on the gut, among other things. Read more about it here.
3) Methyl cellulose or corn starch. More carbohdyrates / polysaccharides used to thicken and emulsify coconut milk.
4) Sodium or potassium metabisulfate. Though not used as an emulsifier, this chemical additive’s put in coconut milk as a preservative / bleaching agent to keep the color white.
The Solution to Get Your Coconut Milk to Solidify?
Buy a brand that doesn’t contain emulsifiers and preservatives. Better yet, look for a brand that only has two ingredients: coconut and water. My favorites are here and here. Both fit the bill and are sold in BPA-free cans, too. You can also make your own coconut milk at home (click here for a great recipe).
Have you ever had trouble with this? Does the answer surprise you?
Coconut butter from scratch is one of those kitchen hacks that’ll save you a ton of money and it’s stupid-easy (we like that). It may sound mystical, but when you get down to it, coconut butter is nothing more than pulverized coconut meat that’s been ground down to a very smooth consistency. It’s delicious and absolutely full of the healthy MCTs (medium chain triglyercides) and saturated fatty acids that provide energy and keep us feeling satiated.
Why’d you want to make coconut butter from scratch? It’ll save you a LOT of bucks. Store brands sell for upwards of $12 or more for about 2 cups. That’s pretty pricey for my wallet even though the store bought coconut butter is pretty delicious. The good news is you can make something that’s just as yummy.
What can you do with coconut butter? Anything you’d do with a nut butter: bake with it, put it in mashed veggies for a punch of fat and creamy texture, eat it with apples or a square of dark chocolate or use it as a regular butter substitute. The possibilities for eating coconut butter are virtually endless though my favorite way to eat it’s probably just off a spoon!
The one caveat for making coconut butter from scratch: you need a powerful blender or food processor to grind the coconut down. I’ve done it in both and the blender (like a Vitamix or similar) is faster but they each give a good result.
Ingredients for Making Coconut Butter from Scratch
Load the coconut flakes into the blender or food processor. Add a pinch of salt. Turn the machine on.
If using a blender like a Vitamix, you may want to use the tamper to push the flakes down. After a minute or so, the coconut will begin to liquefy. Stop the machine and scrape the sides down with a spatula. Continue until the coconut has turned to coconut butter and is liquefied and store it in an airtight container like a mason jar.
If using a food processor, this processor will take longer…somewhere in the range of 8-10 minutes. Patience is your friend. Stop the machine and scrape the sides down with a spatula a few times. Continue until the coconut has turned to coconut butter and is softened and store it in an airtight container like a mason jar.
Troubleshooting Making Coconut Butter from Scratch
…the coconut butter won’t seem to liquefy?
Try adding some melted coconut oil to the coconut flakes as it’s processing to loosen it up.
…the coconut butter is always hard when I go to use it?
Coconut oil solidifies around 77°F so in the cold months, it’s often in the solid form. You can store it at room temperature and not in the fridge to help it from being too hard. Also, if you’ve stored your coconut butter in a glass mason jar (recommended), you can warm some water in a pot on the stove and place the glass jar of coconut butter in to soften it.
…I can’t use a big batch?
This coconut butter recipe is easy to halve (or double if you want more).
Crunchy paleo coconut shrimp made even more mouth-watering with lime and chili. Serve with lime wedges for another extra punch of flavor. Some heat from a dipping sauce like Chipotle Mayo would make it even better! Use any size shrimp you like.
Juicy, coconutty (yeah, I made that a word), and smoky with a hint of ginger. YUM.
Recently, I picked up a package of ground wild boar meat from Sprouts and was trying to think of something that would go with the peach mango chutney simmering away on my stovetop. Coconut popped into my head but instead of putting it on the outside, I mixed it into the burger meat.
If you don’t have access to wild boar – which is hard to find in some places – pork or chicken would certainly be great substitutes. I used unsweetened shredded coconut, and the texture was just perfect. Double your batch and make extras for your weekly food prep day.
Prep time: 5 min Cook time: 10 min Makes: 1 lb. of burgers
I’ve been working on increasing my post-workout carb intake lately (yes, it was too low for the volume and intensity of CrossFit I’ve been doing). Those of you on strict Paleo may not ever eat tapioca, but it’s actually a great source of starch. Frankly, a girl can only eat so many sweet potatoes if you know what I mean.
If you want it sweetened a bit, you could add dates softened with boiling water and pureed, maple syrup, honey, etc. but I like mine on the plain side. Remember, for me this isn’t really about dessert.
Prep time: 15 min Cook time: 5 min Makes: 2 cups
Ingredients for Coconut Tapioca Pudding
2-1/2 Tbsp dry tapioca pearls
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 egg, separated into white and yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Directions for Coconut Tapioca Pudding
In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the tapioca and water. Let it sit and soften without heating for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whip the egg white until it forms soft peaks. If you are sweetening the tapioca, you can add it to the egg whites when you whip them. Set aside.
Turn the heat on medium-low. Add the coconut milk and egg yolk to the softened tapioca and whisk well. Continue to whisk/stir until the tapioca thickens, about 3-4 minutes.
Turn the heat off and stir in the vanilla. Fold the hot tapioca into the beaten egg white.
I started making dark chocolate almond butter cups a couple of years ago for special occasions, and they’re so easy to assemble that it should be illegal. With Christmas and New Year’s right around the corner, these could be a decent alternative to traditional candies and treats but make no mistake: it’s still dessert, a treat to be savored.
I was thinking of how to change up the original recipe and decided to make a coconut butter filling. Guys. Seriously, they are good. So good, in fact, that the dark chocolate coconut butter cups might just be my favorites. Sorry, almond butter. I made a small batch (12) but this recipe is easily doubled–or more.
Allow to process for several minutes – scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple times – until the coconut starts to become smooth. You may need to add melted coconut oil (1+ Tablespoon) to adjust the texture and make it stickier.
Remove to a separate container. You will have extra. Trust me, you’ll find some way to eat it…it’s really good.
Ingredients for the Almond Butter Filling
1/4 cup smooth unsalted almond butter (you can make your own but I find it’s really hard on my food processor)
Break chocolate into chunks and put in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high, stirring frequently, until melted. The time completely depends on how dark the chocolate is, percent-wise and how powerful your microwave is. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. You could also use a double boiler to melt the chocolate on the stovetop.
Place a heaping spoonful of melted chocolate into the wrapper, smoothing it out with the back of the spoon to create sides and a bottom. Refrigerate until hardened.
Scoop a small amount of the filling into the cup bottoms and flatten until it’s slightly bigger than the diameter of a quarter. Try to flatten the filling out so the chocolate will sit smoothly on the top. Hint: one batch of the almond butter filling should make ~6 cups.
Place another spoonful of melted chocolate on top and smooth out.
Garnish the almond butter cups with coarse salt (optional) and the coconut butter cups with some shredded coconut.
Store in the refrigerator for best results. May also be kept frozen!
Everyone with a Paleo food blog seems to have a version of coconut macaroons in their arsenal…after all, they are relatively simple to make and aside from a small amount of honey or sweetener, they are pretty innocuous. I’m definitely not a big fan of Paleo-ifying every dessert known to mankind, and gluten-free (but grain-containing) recipes have their own issues. Sometimes though, you’ve got to have a little fun.
As I was contemplating how to spice these macaroons up, I just couldn’t make up my mind between a cocoa-infused cookie and something that had a vanilla base, so I divided the batter in half and made both (I just cut the spice quantities in half). If you want to make only Cardamom-Cinnamon or only Mexican Chocolate, follow the individual recipes. I wanted something different than just a spiced option, so adding cardamom (a completely underutilized spice, in my opinion) added a great dimension of flavor (It’s one of the predominant flavors in chai tea). For the chocolate, I blended cocoa powder with a hint of chili powder to give a slightly smoky depth.
I’ll admit to being less than stoked with the incredibly fine flake of the only unsweetened coconut I could find at the market. It made the texture less chewy than I’d like. and my disher / scoop got all gummed up when I tried to portion it out. Regular shredded coconut is my preference.
Ingredients for Coconut Macaroons Two Ways
For Cardamom-Cinnamon Macaroons
2 egg whites
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
2-1/2 cups shredded coconut
For Mexican Chocolate Macaroons
2 egg whites
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
2-1/2 cups shredded coconut
Directions for Coconut Macaroons Two Ways
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine the egg whites and honey. Beat slightly until the white have lightened a bit.
3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
4. Refrigerate the mixture for about 30 minutes.
5. Use a small scoop or spoon to portion out the macaroons. How small or large is really up to you. I used a 1.5 tbsp disher / scoop which yielded about 16 macaroons.
6. Bake for about 20 minutes or until just golden brown. Cool and enjoy!
So you’ve started eating a Paleo-style diet and now you can’t eat Clif Bars anymore. (Thank goodness…who truly likes them anyway?!)
Many endurance athletes—particularly in the cycling camp—rely on some form of energy bar at some point or another in their training / racing / recreational endeavors. Unfortunately, most bars are highly processed and contain grains, excess sugar, preservatives, etc. I challenge you to go into your local market and find a bar that is Paleo-friendly and most likely, you’ll only find Lara bars. Built around a base of ground dates and nuts with other ingredients to customize the flavors, these are definitely packed with sugar from the dates and dried fruit they contain but don’t have any other funky stuff. My beef with them is that they are pretty pricey…Trader Joe’s sells (a limited variety of) them for about $1 and they go upwards from there. (Aside: If you’ve been purchasing them over the years, is it me or have they seemed to have gotten smaller?! What the heck?)
Luckily, these are really to make on your own, come out tasting just as good and are less expensive when you do it yourself. The caveat is that this job can’t be done without a food processor because you need to be able to chop the dates and nuts down well. After a quick press into a dish, the mixture can be cut into bars as big or small as you like, and wrapped in plastic wrap for individual storage.
If you do a quick Google search, there are scores of variations for homemade Lara bars. The two varieties I made are from Everyday Paleo and of the types I’ve tried to make myself, hers are the most authentic as far as my taste buds are concerned. Once you get the hang of it, try substituting in your own favorites dried fruits, spices or nuts to customize. My best unique creation was a Coconut Key Lime Pie flavored bar that I made with real lime zest and juice…yum!
[Bonus considerations for more experienced Paleo eaters: Just a word of caution…as with any dried fruits, the sugar content can be quite high so I personally save them for a intra-/post-workout snack. Just because you’re eating Paleo doesn’t mean you get a free ticket to crack out on sugar every single day even thought it’s from fruit! Also, fruit (with its high fructose content) is not as preferable as a post-workout carb replacement as say, starchy tubers such as yam / sweet potato. You may try varying the nuts used in this recipe to include varieties that tend more to the monounsaturated fats—such as macadamia or hazelnuts—and away from nuts with more polyunsaturated fats—such as almonds and walnuts. Also keep in mind that nuts tend to be heavy on the pro-inflammatory Omega-6 end of the spectrum.]
Recipe for Homemade Fruit & Nut Bars (Mixed Berry)
Line an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with plastic wrap or wax paper. Set aside.
Add the nuts to the food processor and pulse down until they become small, crumbly bits. Don’t let it go too long or it will become nut butter—er, not that there’s anything wrong with that but it won’t help this recipe. Some pieces may be a bit bigger and some might be tiny. That’s okay. Pour the nuts in a large bowl.
Now, pit the dates and put them in the food processor with the dried fruit, shredded coconut oil and sea salt. Pulse until it comes together in a ball.
Now, with clean hands: add the dried fruit to the nuts and combine both together. You’ll have to knead pretty well but keep at it.
Once all the nuts are blended in, you’ll take the lump of deliciousness and put it in the baking dish. Press the mixture into the dish until it’s packed down and smooth.
Freeze for 20 minutes until firm.
Turn out the mixture onto a cutting board and chop into pieces as big or small as you’d like. I usually make 12 bars from one dish.
I individually wrap them. They can be frozen for a couple months if packed to withstand freezer burn. If not, store in the fridge for short term use.
One of my favorite things to do while driving is listen to Robb Wolf’s Paleo Solution Podcast. While trying to catch myself up on back episodes, somewhere in the realm of episode 45-ish, I heard co-host Andy Deas describe a dessert that really caught my attention because it sounded, well, amazing. And easy. And Paleo. So, while I can’t take credit for this creation, here is my take on Andy Deas’s pudding. Bon appetite!
Pour coconut milk into a small saucepan. Add chopped apples, coconut oil, and cinnamon.
Halve the vanilla bean and scrape the tiny black seeds of yumminess out. Add to the saucepan.
Simmer for about 30 minutes until the apples are soft.
Puree in the blender until smooth.
Refrigerate until chilled and the pudding is set.
*When I was in Bali, I bought a grip of vanilla beans at the Ubud public market. I treasure them because I bought about 500 grams of vanilla bean pods for roughly $10 American. This is ridiculously inexpensive. If you don’t have any vanilla beans, you can substitute with 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract (but it won’t be as tasty, in my opinion)