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Thread: Vanilla extract Vs Pure Vanilla

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Burnaby, Bc (Canada)

    Vanilla extract Vs Pure Vanilla

    Yesterday I bought some pure vanilla for the first time (I think, so many ingredients such little time) and this morning I made some cookies and I found the taste to be almost overpowering.

    Do you usually cut down the amount of vanilla used when a recipe calls for say 1 tsp vanilla extract or do you use it drop for drop as the recipe calls interchangeably with the extract?


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Germantown, Ohio
    I was not aware there was a difference. I thought there was only vanilla extract/pure vanilla (same thing, just sometimes labeled differently) and artificial vanilla flavoring.

    Maybe someone could post some more info?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Cooks Illustrated did a taste test between real and artificial vanilla flavoring, and actually found little difference between the two, and actually preferring the artificial in some recipes. Their conclusion was that real vanilla was just a waste of money. I was very surprised since it seems all chefs are always touting real vanilla in everything. Though Iíve always bought real vanilla, Iíve actually switched to imitation, and havenít really noticed a difference. You can read this article on their website, but only if you are a member (which Iím not).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Columbus, Ohio
    Pure vanilla extract is, of course, much more expensive than artificial vanilla--especially with the recent vanilla harvest problems. So, artificial vanilla (vanillin) is a more economical choice.

    I would, however, like to point out that vanillin is, like other "natural and artificial flavorings," chemically created. One source for vanillin is lignin, which is a by-product of the wood-pulp and paper-pulp manufacturing process. Vanillin is also produced from petrochemicals. (For some interesting discussion of natural and artificial flavorings, I direct you to the book Fast Food Nation.)

    That said, of course each baker should choose whatever they prefer! Terri-Lynn, if you have always used artificial vanilla in baking, and you switched to the real deal, you may indeed notice a difference, especially if you purchased a high-quality, and strong, real vanilla (like Cook's Cookie Vanilla, Nielsen-Massey, or Penzey's Double-Strength). You might try using three-quarters or only half as much real vanilla as the recipe calls for, and see if that works better for you. Rose Levy Berenbaum, in her book Rose's Christmas Cookies, makes this point.

    Thaibasil--my guess is that, in a recipe where vanilla is not the primary flavor, or there are other strong flavors, you could very well use artificial vanilla without noticeably affecting the taste of the final product. (I wouldn't, however, use artificial vanilla in something like a vanilla pound cake or vanilla ice cream, where you want a strong vanilla flavor--but the choice is up to you.)

    Hope this is helpful, and happy baking!


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    I for one can't get enough vanilla and use Penzey's double strength. It just might be what you get used to.

  6. #6
    I'd always been kind of middle-of-the-road in terms of vanilla. I never used imitation vanilla, but I'd buy Adams Extract (which is half imitation) or McCormick. A few years ago I started using Penzeys and/or Mexican vanilla and I definitely notice the difference. Penzey's is very rich and aromatic. In some recipes, it's almost overwhelming. It really just boils down to what recipe you're using it in.

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