What is the difference between Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Essence?

Vanilla extract is a concentrated flavoring of vanilla beans, typically mixed with alcohol. While pure vanilla extract can be used in any recipe that calls for vanilla, it is primarily associated with baking and cooking. The concentration of the extract allows it to be used in larger quantities than in its natural state.

Vanilla essence is the purest form of the flavor, obtained by infusing liquors such as vodka or rum. Vanilla essences are usually sold by volume or weight and are often blended with other flavors to create a particular taste profile. Vanilla essence may also be diluted and added to other liquids such as water, milk, cream or oils for use in cooking or baking recipes.

Vanilla extract and vanilla essence are used in pretty much the same way. Where a recipe calls for pure vanilla extract or pure vanilla essence, use the stronger flavor. Where a recipe uses pure vanilla extracts or pure vanilla essences, use the weaker flavored type of each. Either is suitable for most recipes.

While there are many differences between these two terms and their uses, they are both flavoring extracts that provide subtle notes to a lot of recipes and so it seems reasonable to assume they could be used interchangeably when appropriate. However you should be aware that there may be some differences in strength among brands of these products.

The flavor strength of vanilla extract is not standardized, and so you should pay close attention to the kind of measurement used in recipes that use this flavoring. If a recipe calls for “1 teaspoon vanilla extract”, consider using half or one-third as much vanilla essence if you do not have vanilla extract on hand.

If both pure vanilla extract and pure vanilla essence are called for, it seems reasonable to assume that the two products could be used interchangeably in a recipe when appropriate, although this approach may be more expensive but calling for a imitation vanillin product so far has yet to be necessary.

With 120 years of experience in producing vanilla, the Queen team knows a thing or two about what makes a good vanilla. In this article, we shed light on one of the most topical questions in baking- what is the difference between Vanilla Essence and Vanilla Extract? We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you’ll find below!

There’s no flavour in the world quite like vanilla. It’s rich, creamy and warm, and impossible to imagine baking without it. But when it comes to adding vanilla to your recipe, which vanilla do you choose?

You’re certainly not alone if you’re a little confused by the difference between vanilla extract and essence. Is it real, is it stronger, how is it made? These are just a few of the questions we get asked on a regular basis. So, how do you wade through the choices and choose the right vanilla for your baking?

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With nearly 120 years of experience in vanilla, from growing and curing to extracting and bottling, we are here to share our knowledge and hopefully make things a little less confusing next time you’re shopping (or baking!).

So what’s the difference between the two? Given the two products are often talked about as if they’re the same thing, it can get a bit confusing. In general, extract is a natural product, whereas essence is synthetic. As a result, you will usually find that extract is less processed and provides a stronger and more pure vanilla flavour when compared to essence.

Vanilla extract is usually made by soaking vanilla pods in alcohol and water – with flavour taken up by the liquid ingredients

Vanilla essence is a synthetic – so it’s made using artificial flavours and colours

Since it’s manufactured, you will often find vanilla essence contains very little or no real vanillin. As a result, it’s sometimes high in additional additives (e.g. colouring, flavouring, sweeteners, preservatives.

Queen Organic Vanilla Essence and Natural Vanilla Extract are both made with our traditional and time-honoured methods by extracting vanilla from carefully selected organic beans. With nothing artificial added, these products are 100% natural and perfect for an extensive selection of recipes.

Both our extract and essence are created using the highest quality pure vanilla beans. Both products are rich and thick with a strong vanilla flavour and aroma. While our natural extract is ideal for non-bake recipes, our organic vanilla extract-essence is perfect for everyday cakes, slices and batter-based recipes.

Queen Organic Vanilla Essence-Extract Ingredients

Extract of Pure Organic Vanilla Beans

[Water, Organic Alcohol (35% vol.), Organic Vanilla Bean Extractives]

Organic Sugar

Queen Natural Vanilla Extract Ingredients

Invert Sugar Syrup (from cane sugar)

Glucose Syrup (Corn)


Extract of Pure Vanilla Beans


Preservative (202)

Contains alcohol (<1% by vol.)

At Queen, Natural Vanilla Essence is Vanilla Extract

Our original Queen vanilla recipe was established in the early 1900s and was called ‘Vanilla Essence – Extract of Vanilla Beans’. Historically, the term ‘Essence’ meant a highly concentrated form of pure extract. If you look closely at one of our very old labels, the ingredients are alcohol, sugar, flavour (extract of vanilla beans), water added. As the name suggests, vanilla extract is extracted from real vanilla bean pods by macerating vanilla beans in a mixture of alcohol and water.

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This recipe became the signature Queen blend that is now our iconic ‘red label’ bottle ‘Natural Organic Vanilla Essence’. If vanilla essence is a true vanilla extract, why do we still call it vanilla essence? The word ‘essence’ has been kept on the label over the decades as many old and loved Australian recipes call for it. It’s that simple!

With the passing of time, modern recipes started to call for simply vanilla ‘extract’ and so we added the words ‘flavouring extract’ to the label to reassure Aussie bakers that Queen Natural Organic Vanilla Essence is indeed the real deal. So, Queen Natural Vanilla Essence is Vanilla Extract. Taking a journey back into our long vanilla history, even our old print ads featured our pure, natural vanilla essence. Aren’t they wonderfully retro!

Here’s a few of our old bottles too, do you have any of these at home? We’d love to see them!

So there you have it, next time you’re baking with a family recipe that has been passed down through generations, you can smile knowing that the vanilla ‘essence’ your recipe calls for is Queen Vanilla Essence after all! And it’s a perfectly natural vanilla extract (even if it is a little old-fashioned!).


Can you substitute vanilla essence for vanilla extract?

Yes, you can. A standard recipe will usually require ½ to 1 tsp of vanilla essence per cake or dessert. When using the vanilla essence in a recipe, use the same amount as an extract but soak for 10 minutes before using.

Can I use vanilla essence to make whipped cream?

Yes, you can use vanilla essence as a replacement for vanilla extract if you need to. Use ½ teaspoon powder and dissolve it in 1½ teaspoons of boiling water. Add this liquid with your powdered sugar before whipping the cream. For better results, dissolve the powder in 3 tablespoons of milk or cream before adding to the whipped cream ingredients. It should be just as thick and creamy as vanilla extract would be.

Is vanilla essence gluten free?

Assure all of our products are suitable for gluten free diets as we do not use any dairy ingredients, however some products may have been produced in facilities which have cross reactions with the gluten intolerant population. If you have any concerns, please contact us prior to purchase or check the label yourself and see what is contained.

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Is vanilla extract and vanilla the same?

Vanilla extract is used for baking or cooking with liquids; it is made from whole vanilla beans soaked in alcohol. Vanilla essence is usually added to dry ingredients for baking and recipes that don’t include liquids. It also contains less alcohol as it has sweeteners added to make it suitable for baked goods and other foods.

Are your products organic?

Yes all of our products are Organically Certified by the Australian Organic Agency. The certification body audits the production (vanilla crops are handpicked) and processing facilities, making sure the highest quality standards are maintained throughout manufacturing, processing, packaging and storage of our ingredients.

Can you substitute vanilla extract?

The substitution of vanilla extract for vanilla essence is generally a 1:1 ratio. However, because there are other ingredients in vanilla extract, we recommend using half the amount of vanilla extract and soaking it in the recipe for 10 minutes before using. This will help prevent the loss of flavour in a recipe.

Can I use natural vanilla essence to make whipped cream?

Yes, you can use natural vanilla essence as a replacement for vanilla extract if you need to. Use ½ teaspoon powder and dissolve it in 1½ teaspoons of boiling water. Add this liquid with your powdered sugar before whipping the cream. For better results, dissolve the powder in 3 tablespoons of milk or cream before adding to the whipped cream ingredients.

When should I use vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract is used for cooking with liquids, such as in cakes and desserts. When using vanilla extract in a recipe, use the same amount as an extract but soak for 10 minutes before using.

How long will my bottle of vanilla extract last?

You should get the best results when you use your vanilla immediately after opening it; however, if you have to store it, do so in a cool and dry place. The flavour of a vanilla extract can be altered depending on how it’s stored.

I hope that you now have a better understanding of the differences between vanilla extract and vanilla essence. I encourage you to try using the Queen Natural Vanilla Essence wherever a recipe calls for vanilla extract. We think you’ll like it! We would love to hear from you. You can connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest or follow our blog stories to get more information about cooking with real vanilla. Remember, #LoveQueenNatural for amazing recipes and inspiration! On behalf of all of us here at Queen Natural, thank you for buying our product and supporting our dedicated hard-working farmers who handpick these beautiful beans from their vines in Madagascar.

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