Knowledge Base

Tonka Beans

What are they?

The tonka bean’s scientific name is dipteryx odorata. It originated from the flowering tree in the pea family, Fabaceae, in Central and northern America. The bean grows in a shell and once extracted from there is brown and wrinkly with a smooth brown interior and the shape and size to a large almond. The bean contains the chemical coumarin which in large doses can cause paralysis of the heart, because of this it is illegal in the United States. Its flavour is slightly nutty and one shaving of a bean can flavour up to 50 portions.

Best flavour pairings:

Alcohols (whiskey and cognac)
Cream and custards


How to use it?

Tonka beans are treated as a dry spice and as long as they’re kept in a dry airtight container, they’ll keep for up to a year. The tonka bean can be grated into desserts or infused into cream to create the aroma and taste of a mix between almond and vanilla. There are a lot of other uses for the bean other than food even in the likes of tobacco, beverages, soap and cosmetics.



Coumarin is a chemical found in the tonka bean. It can be seen as the white veins on the inside of the bean. The toxin can be extracted from the bean organically or created synthetically. However, both can cause health problems such as nausea, vomiting, liver damage and in extreme cases also death. In sheep 5g of coumarin can kill. Because of this, tonka beans are illegal in the US. However, this is being campaigned against as it is only harmful in large doses, more than we would realistically consume.


Learn more with our extensive knowledge base

Brush up your knowledge on allergens, kosher food and even UK food Laws with our knowledge base

Knowledge – Puff Pastry Theory

Knowledge Base Puff Pastry Puff Pastry Fat or Margarine:This is a product made especially for puff pastry from oils and fats having a high melting point. It enables puff pastry to be made under warm conditions, that is, in summer, and will enable the pastry to...

Knowledge – What is a Saccharometer?

Knowledge Base Saccharometer Baume scale  A Saccharometer is an instrument used to indicate the density of sugar solutions (syrups). The relative differences between densities of liquids are read off a graduated scale on the tube. This apparatus gauges the...

Knowledge – Types of Raising Agents

Knowledge Base Raising Agents Types of raising agents Methods of aeration or raising agents Biological (Yeast) Chemical (Baking powder) Mechanical {Whisking/beating) Lamination (Folding/rolling) YEASTGiven the right conditions of warmth, liquid and food, yeast will...

Have a Question?

Talk to the Chef