To begin with, this is NOT the stuff you buy from the dollar store. Real vanilla bean has a special reaction to fire in this mix that I could not have predicted and don't feel the need to change.

If you stand right over the lit stick and breath deeply, you smell....camp fire. Lots of camp fire. I love a good open fire, and so I like the rich woody smoke smell. Now it's a dominant and lingering effect that had me thinking my first try was a fail on bringing out the lovely aroma of a vanilla bean. I thought the burn was not hot enough to properly release the fragrance and I would have to try again. I went outside to smoke and clear my mind as I re-thought my recipe, then when I came back in....

The sweet aroma of the vanilla I enjoyed during grinding had filled my house beautiful, and potently. This is not the sort of incense you'd place close by for deep meditation, or light while hovering over your alter, rather the sort you let fill a room while you prepare for sleep, or before the rest of a group arrives for company. the smoke needs time to mature and evolve before it settles into that distinctive real vanilla smell.


1/8 teaspoon Xanthan gum


2 teaspoons bamboo powder, packed

1/4 teaspoon ground vanilla bean, about 1/2 a whole bean.

The key I found to using xanthan gum in incense is giving it plenty of time to swell with water before adding anything to it. In a small dish or bowl, slowly blend the gum with water till it resembles Vaseline and is free of most lumps. Add 1 teaspoon of bamboo powder and all the vanilla and kneed it together with the gum. Add water as needed till the mix resembles a sticky cookie dough, too wet to fully hold to itself. Then cover the mix tightly with plastic wrap and let sit over night.

The next day, mix in the second teaspoon of bamboo. If it looks and feels a a bit lumpy, don't panic, just blend as best you can and add water as needed, but the dough should hold to itself. Cover and let the mix sit for a few hours while you caffeinate, shower, and whatever else needs doing. Then kneed the dough some more till it becomes smooth and shape or extrude.

Let sticks dry fully, then light and enjoy.


I have not tried this with vanilla oil. I would love to hear from anyone who has EO or fragrance oil.

Extract will not do much for incense. The smell evaporates long before you can burn it. If you want overwhelming vanilla while you work, just wait to clean your mortar and pestle after you grin your bean and leave extracts for baking.

Vanilla paste is often sold with sugar added. Most will not smell nice when burned. Do a burn test before using a store bought paste.

I used whole vanilla that was too dry to scrape the seeds from. It took me 3 heavenly scented hours to grind, and it was still a bit gritty, uneven, and left my dough speckled like chocolate chip cookies in miniature. Even as a brittle bean, it's rather juicy and rather small to use a coffee grinder for just one bean. If you want to use a coffee grinder, get several beans and expect it to stay in the grinder for some time to come. Great for vanilla coffee, but not good if you grind your whole spices for everything in that one.

My bamboo came from toothpicks/skewers that I ran through a coffee grinder and sifted. It may technically be rattan, not bamboo.

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