Vanilla Extract Is What Your Roasted Vegetables Have Been Missing

In order to maintain a well-balanced diet, meals should include lean proteins, whole-grain carbohydrates, and vegetables (per alimentarium). It's not exactly new science that vegetables are a vital part of a healthy diet, we've been told this since we were children consuming them only if they're hand-fed via airplane spoons. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, vegetables may help lower blood pressure, might reduce the risk of heart disease, support cancer prevention, aid in weight loss efforts, and much more.

There are countless methods for preparing vegetables of all kinds. You can make them hot, cold, steamed, blanched, grilled, raw, in a salad, or even on a burger. According to Bioversity International, there are 1,097 cultivated vegetable species across the globe — the possibilities for consumption are endless.

We typically think of them as a savory, earthy ingredient, but sweetening vegetables up can give them a unique flair that's perfect for a holiday side dish or convincing a picky child to eat more greens. One easy way to give your roasted vegetables a sweet kick is to add vanilla extract.

Vanilla extract gives caramelized vegetables an extra layer of sweetness

A common household ingredient, vanilla extract is typically used as an ingredient for baking desserts. However, according to Taste of Home, vanilla extract helps increase the caramelization process when roasting vegetables in the oven. When the naturally-occurring sugars in vegetables are introduced to high heat, the sugar begins to brown and caramelize bringing out an unsuspecting sweetness (per AZ Central). Although caramelization naturally occurs when roasting vegetables, Taste of Home says that adding vanilla extract can deepen their organic sweetness and leave them with an even crispier finish. Candied vegetables, anyone?

According to Healthline, vanilla extract boasts a variety of potential health benefits. The extract is rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants and may benefit brain health while lowering added sugar intake. If you don't have it on hand, some great substitutes for vanilla extract include honey, maple syrup, and almond extract.

Next time you're bored of earthy greens, sweeten up some roasted vegetables with vanilla extract to satisfy your daily vegetable intake and sweet tooth in equal parts.