Tonca beans - Dipteryc odorata - Brazil

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  • Similar aroma to vanilla - Vanilla substitute
  • Mango sorbet, pistachio cream, cakes, ice cream
  • Tomato soup, game dishes
  • Crème Brulée

What are Tonka Beans?

Tonka beans - Dipteryx odorata - from Brazil (other names: Toncabohnen, Tongobohnen, Tonkobohnen, Tonca bean). Tonka beans are the seeds of a butterfly flower plant, the Tonka tree, which is native to the Caribbean and South America.

Tonka beans are obtained by separating them from the Tonka fruits and drying them. Before drying, they are soaked in rum, which reduces the high coumarin content of the beans.

Tonka fruits are oval, yellow, 10 cm long, resembling mangoes, and contain only one seed. The pulp of the fruit is sticky, tasteless, and has an unpleasant odor. However, the seeds are aromatic, almond-shaped, dark brown to black, and measure 3-6 cm in length.

What do Tonka Beans look like?

Tonka beans are black to dark brown seeds. They are almond-shaped and have a length of 3-6 cm.

This is the Tonka bean

What does Tonka Bean taste like?

The flavor of Tonka beans is sweet and reminiscent of vanilla, bitter almond, and woodruff. It is very complex and intense. Tonka beans are often used as a substitute for vanilla, offering a slightly bitter taste compared to vanilla. This unique flavor adds an appealing and surprising note to dishes.

Tonka beans belong to the category of intense spices and should be used sparingly. They have a high coumarin content, which contributes to the intensity of the flavor. It is advisable to consume coumarin in small quantities, around 2 mg per kg of food is considered safe. Tonka beans are a prized spice among top chefs, who have rediscovered their culinary potential.

How to use Tonka Beans?

Tonka beans are hard seeds that are best used in small quantities, similar to grating nutmeg. Usually, a pinch or a maximum of a knife tip is sufficient to add flavor to your dishes.

Pairing with Tonka Beans

Tonka beans complement a wide range of desserts, whether simply sprinkled on whipped cream or added to cocoa, or in more complex creations in upscale gastronomy. Many desserts created by top chefs are refined with Tonka beans, such as mango sorbet, pistachio cream, or fruit compotes. They pair well with sorbets, chocolates, Christstollen, cakes, cookies, pralines, and marzipan.

Additionally, they enhance the unique aroma of tomato soup ortomato sauce. Due to their intense flavor, they also go well with game dishes such as deer, venison, or wild boar.

Why not try a variation of Crème Brulée with Tonka beans? Simply cook a Tonka bean in the milk and cream mixture when preparing the custard. This will give the cream an extraordinary aroma. Afterward, you can remove and dry the Tonka bean. It can be used for up to four more preparations of this kind and still provide sufficient aroma.

Storage: It is best to keep Tonka beans cool, dry, airtight, and protected from sunlight.

Perfumery Industry: The high coumarin content of Tonka beans makes them highly sought after by the perfume industry for creating fragrances.

Interesting fact: Tonka beans, or the compound coumarin, are used as a substitute for real vanilla due to their similar taste. In Germany, the use of the plant for food preparation was temporarily prohibited starting from 1981. Since 1991, this prohibition exists in a restricted form. The use of Tonka beans is only allowed if the maximum permissible levels of coumarin in the prepared dish are not exceeded. Currently, these limits, according to Annex 4 to Section 2 (3) of the Flavorings Regulation, are set at 2 mg per kg of food. These limits apply to coumarin as a food additive, but not when used as a flavoring agent in perfumes or candles.

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