How Do Vanilla Beans and Extract Compare?

Vanilla products are widely used in a variety of sweet recipes. Its warm, sweet taste may be found in a variety of treats, from cookies to ice cream.

Vanilla not only smells great, but it also provides a distinct flavor to some of your favorite dishes.

If you’ve ever cooked a cake or made a batch of cookies, you’ve most likely used vanilla extract. But have you ever been working your way through a recipe and discovered it required vanilla bean?

You may not have it on hand since it’s not a very common component.

Yet, you most certainly have a bottle of vanilla extract in your cupboard. If this is the case, you may be wondering whether your vanilla extract may be used in place of vanilla bean.

The quick answer is that vanilla extract may be substituted for vanilla bean. Yet, although both things may give an aromatic vanilla taste, they vary significantly.

Difference Between Vanilla Bean and Extract

The primary distinction between vanilla bean and vanilla extract is how they are utilized. Vanilla beans are long pods from which the seeds are scraped for use in recipes, whilst vanilla extract is a liquid created by soaking vanilla bean pods in alcohol to extract the flavor.

Vanilla bean pods are tall, slender, and reddish-brown in appearance. They contain hundreds of small vanilla beans, which may be utilized whole or steeped to make extract.

Vanilla extract, on the other hand, is a dark reddish-brown liquid derived from vanilla bean pods. Vanilla extract is harsh on its own but delicious when combined with other components.

Vanilla bean and vanilla extract both have a strong vanilla taste, but vanilla bean is significantly more robust than vanilla extract, which is often diluted with alcohol and water.

Whole vanilla bean pods may be kept correctly in a cold, dry, and dark area for up to two years, while vanilla extract can be stored forever.

Nevertheless, since the quality of extracts may degrade over time, you should use vanilla extract within five years for the best taste. If your vanilla extract is more than five years old, you will most certainly detect changes in texture, color, and aroma.

Use Cases: Vanilla bean is a fantastic option when you require a strong vanilla taste but also want the visual appeal of beans in your dish, such as ice cream or icing. Vanilla essence is great for making cookies, cakes, or bread when the beans do not need to be visible and a more subtle taste is desired.

Vanilla Bean vs Extract Comparison Table

  Vanilla Bean Vanilla Extract
Appearance Long brown pods Dark brown liquid
Flavor Intense and aromatic More subdued and aromatic
Shelf Life 2 years Indefinitely
Ratio 1 pod 3 teaspoons

Can You Substitute Vanilla Bean for Vanilla Extract?

If you are out of vanilla beans or would prefer not to purchase them, vanilla extract may simply be substituted for vanilla beans.

One vanilla bean pod equals around 3 tablespoons vanilla extract. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract is about similar to a 2-inch piece of vanilla bean, so you’d need 1-2 inches of a vanilla bean for a standard single batch of cookies or batter.

It’s vital to remember that these proportions only apply to vanilla extract. Fake vanilla extract or vanilla flavoring aren’t perfect substitutes for either, but they’ll do in a pinch.

Also, if you manufacture your own vanilla extract, you will most likely need to make some ratio modifications to account for the concentration of your extract.

What is Vanilla Bean?

Vanilla orchids, which grow naturally in Central America’s tropical areas, produce vanilla beans. In the 15th century, the Aztecs of Mexico started growing the vanilla orchid.

When the Spaniards arrived in the New World, Hernn Corts recognized the value of such a tasty and fragrant flower and carried some back to Europe in the 16th century.

While Mexico was formerly the world’s top producer of vanilla, this changed in the late nineteenth century. The French brought vanilla orchids to Seychelles, Madagascar, and the Comoros Islands in the mid-1800s for hand-pollination, which would allow for large production.

By the turn of the century, the three regions had generated over 80% of the world’s vanilla.

Vanilla orchids grow on vines that grow around trees in the wild. Vanilla producers, on the other hand, employ different types of support for their vines, such as trellises or poles, whether they are growing it on a plantation or in a greenhouse.

It takes around 2-3 years for the plant to mature to the point where it can be harvested. Because of the long development process and low yield, vanilla beans are sometimes costly, and extract is often used as a replacement for beans.

The green pods, or fruit, of the vanilla orchid shrivel and become black after harvesting. A typical vanilla bean pod is blackish-brown with scarlet undertones and a waxy texture.

Thousands of tiny vanilla beans the size of specks are packed within the pods.

How to Use Vanilla Bean

One of the finest aspects of vanilla beans is that they may be used whole, either by scraping the seed or by soaking the whole pod. The technique you choose will be determined on the recipe.

The simplest method for extracting vanilla beans from a pod is to carefully slice the pod apart with a paring knife. Next, using the edge of your knife, scrape the interior flesh of the pod to extract the beans.

Because of the moisture content of the plant, they will clump together at first, but you can allow them to dry or just add them into your recipe to separate.

When you get your beans, they will be immediately ready to use in your recipe. You may, for example, include them into a sweet, fragrant dessert batter, icing, or cream.

Since the beans are so little, you won’t need to grind them down unless you require a fine powder.

You may manufacture vanilla sugar if you’ve previously used vanilla beans in recipes and want to try something different. It’s a simple recipe that works well as a sugar replacement in baked products and coffee.

In a food processor, mix the vanilla beans and sugar to form vanilla sugar. Then, either use it right away or set it aside to absorb extra flavor.

What is Vanilla Extract?

The liquid obtained by macerating or soaking vanilla pods in alcohol is known as vanilla extract. It’s the most common way to include vanilla into recipes.

Vanilla extract is less expensive than vanilla bean and has a longer shelf life than entire vanilla pods. Most commercial extracts are a mixture of alcohol and water, however handmade extracts might differ.

The US Food and Drug Administration has severe criteria that extract makers must follow in order for their product to be designated as true vanilla extract. In the United States, for example, every vanilla extract must contain 35% alcohol and 100 grams of vanilla bean per liter.

Double or triple strength vanilla extract is also available, however it is not generally accessible and is mostly utilized in the foodservice business.

Since the price of vanilla beans has fluctuated over the years, firms have begun to make fake vanilla goods as a low-cost substitute for genuine extract.

Imitation vanilla extract or vanilla flavoring may be found in low-cost items with a pronounced vanilla taste, such as store-bought cookies or desserts.

The vanilla flavor and scent of imitation extract are provided by lab-created vanillin, the chemical molecule found in vanilla beans that gives them their flavor. Synthetic vanillin in imitation extract may originate from a variety of sources, although it is most often derived from refined petrochemicals.

How to Use Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is a simple ingredient to work with. It is sold in little bottles, generally a few ounces, and a little goes a long way.

To produce the correct vanilla taste, a basic at-home cake batter or cookie dough will only need one or two tablespoons of extract.

If you’ve manufactured or want to make your own DIY vanilla extract from vanilla beans, you may need to change the amount of extract you use in your recipes. This is due to the fact that various beans have varied tastes and grades.

In addition, instead of the traditional ethanol and water, you’ll most likely use vodka as your drink. You may use full-strength vodka or dilute it with some water, which will change the taste. Moreover, like vanilla beans, vodka comes in a variety of grades.

Hence, if you want to manufacture your own vanilla extract, anticipate a period of trial and error until you discover the ideal ratio.


Is vanilla bean or vanilla extract better?

Vanilla beans, in addition to vanillin, contain over 200 chemicals that contribute to its taste and scent. As a consequence, pure vanilla extract has a more pronounced and nuanced taste character ( 1 , 8).

Why use vanilla bean instead of extract?

If you want a creamier vanilla with aesthetically attractive bean specks and the typical vanilla taste, vanilla bean paste is a great option for extract.

How many vanilla beans to make 8 oz extract?

For the finest taste, use 4-5 vanilla pods per 8 ounces (1 cup) of vodka. Since the quality of the vanilla beans is more significant than the quality of the alcohol, you don’t need to purchase a high-priced bottle. Vodka (80 proof), gin, and tonic water (or brandy, rum, or bourbon, if preferred, for different flavor).

What is the equivalent of 1 vanilla bean to vanilla extract?

In terms of substitutes, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract equals one 2-inch piece of vanilla bean, therefore 1 vanilla bean equals 3 teaspoons extract. When it comes to vanilla paste, there are typically instructions on each jar specifying precise equivalencies, so check them first since concentrations might vary.

What happens if you have vanilla beans but no extract?

1. Vanilla paste or freshly ground vanilla bean pods. If you have vanilla beans on hand, this might be the greatest vanilla extract alternative since it has the exact same taste as vanilla extract and will not compromise the desired flavor of your dish.

Why are vanilla beans more expensive than vanilla extract?

The vanilla plant is exceedingly difficult to cultivate, and the process of producing vanilla extract takes a year from start to finish.

What are the negatives of vanilla extract?

When taken orally: Vanilla is LIKELY SAFE when consumed in proportions found in meals. Some individuals, however, are allergic to vanilla. It may also induce headaches and sleep issues (insomnia), particularly in those who make vanilla extract.

Can I reuse vanilla beans after making extract?

Beans that have previously been used in an extract batch may be reused in the following batch. When I extracted the vanilla extract from my 18-month batch, almost all of the beans were returned to the jar for the following batch. To boost the flavor, I just added a couple additional beans.

Is it worth making your own vanilla extract?

Certainly, manufacturing your own vanilla extract is worthwhile since it is less expensive and more tasty than store-bought extract. Normally, you’d spend $5 per ounce at the supermarket, but this worked out to $1.65 per ounce! An online spice business will sell you high-quality vanilla beans for far less than your local grocery store.

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