Vanilla Bean Paste vs. Vanilla Extract

The most popular debate on food forums is the difference between “Vanilla Extract” and “Vanilla Bean Paste”. More often than not, those who argue for one say that the vanilla bean paste is more flavorful and tastes better when used in cooking. Those who argue for vanilla extract say that it adds more depth to a dish without taking away from its flavor. Which side is right?

Well, in this blog post I will try to set the record straight by talking about what each of them are really and how they differ from one another. I’ll also discuss some of the key factors like alternatives to either product and which ones would be best suited for different types of food items like baked goods or desserts.

The main reason “Vanilla Extract” is more popular than “Vanilla Bean Paste” is because it’s cheaper. While vanilla bean paste costs a lot more, it’s actually not all that much different from vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is made by steeping chopped up pieces of vanilla bean into a high proof alcohol like vodka or grain alcohol (Everclear). The idea here is that the water and fat soluble flavor components in the vanilla bean would dissolve into the alcohol and stay there. This method works well be explained by the following picture:

You can see clearly how there are many flavor molecules leaching out of the vanilla beans and into some grain alcohol. This is exactly why vanilla extract works so well as a flavoring agent in dishes.

But “Vanilla Bean Paste” is also made from ground up vanilla beans. The difference here is that it doesn’t contain alcohol at all. Instead, it uses some different techniques (most of which are not used for vanilla extract) to preserve the flavor and aroma of the beans. Here are some popular recipes for how to make your own vanilla bean paste:

One thing to notice here is that if you use very strong alcohols like Everclear, you might be able to extract more flavor from your beans but at the same time you’ll be removing the alcohol content of your recipe too. This is why many people prefer to use vodka when making vanilla extract. The same thing applies to vanilla bean paste which is made in a completely different way from vanilla extract.

“Vanilla Extract” and “Vanilla Bean Paste” have different effects on food, so let’s look at some examples of how they can help us to improve the flavor of our dishes.

What Makes Vanilla Extract Taste Different From Baking Soda

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The first way in which vanilla extract can make our food taste better, is by making the end product be creamier and richer. This happens because the flavoring compounds in vanilla beans work by bonding with water molecules present in food. The resulting flavor and aroma of food using vanilla extract is more pronounced than when using vanilla bean paste.

As I mentioned before, vanilla extract is made by steeping chopped up pieces of vanilla beans in a high proof alcohol like vodka. The alcohol penetrates into the various parts of each bean molecule, dissolving out the water molecules and locking the flavors in the spirit until cooking time. This would explain how a cup of hot coffee would taste completely different from a cup of cold coffee that has been steeped with some vanilla beans.

Ding, ding, ding!

Have you noticed there is difference between Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Vanilla Ice Cream? It has to do with the difference between vanilla bean paste and vanilla extract. Even though vanilla bean paste and vanilla extract are interchangeable for one another in almost all recipes – with a conversion of 1:1 – don’t be fooled! Vanilla bean paste and vanilla extract are not the same. In fact, their distinguishing characteristics make them extremely unique in design.

Round 1:

Vanilla bean paste is known for its visual flair and is a blend of vanilla bean powder and vanilla bean extract. It has the consistency of glue and was introduced in the 1990s. The paste actually consists of seeds that are scraped from vanilla bean pods which explains the black specs in vanilla bean ice cream, vanilla bean Frappuccino’s, and plenty of other desserts. Vanilla bean paste offers a classic, rich, authentic vanilla taste and therefore should be used in recipes where it is the star ingredient and does not have to mix well with others. It is particularly great for frostings, milkshakes, custards, and ice cream – where it can take center stage and sweep you off your feet.

Round 2:

Vanilla extract is a dark liquid and is the most popular vanilla option because it is the easiest to find and a usual household pantry item. It’s created by macerating vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol. Vanilla extract provides an intense flavor and, contrary to vanilla bean paste, has the ability to distribute well in batters and mixes. Vanilla extract is best used in simpler baking recipes, such as chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cakes, where it does its job from backstage and the black specs are not necessarily crucial. 

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Round 3:

Overall, their differences in ability have proven them to be equally important in the kitchen. They resemble two peas in a pod and are both “household pantry favorites.” Be sure to pick yours up today through Native Vanilla!

Due to the huge variety of products that are available nowadays, it’s hard to differentiate which one is the most beneficial for different uses. However, I have listed some information on Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Bean Paste and Vanilla Extract vs Vanilla Bean Paste for those who are looking for a particular type of product for their food uses. As mentioned at the very beginning of this article, I will discuss how vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste have different uses and effects in food.

Can I use Mexican vanilla blend instead of vanilla extract?

Yes, you can use Mexican vanilla extract instead of vanilla extract. However, because the two products contain different ingredients and are made from different parts of the plant, each will have a unique flavor profile when mixed together in a recipe.

What is Mexican vanilla?

Mexican vanilla contains no actual vanilla beans, but instead many different flavor extracts derived from various species of orchid. Often it’s used as a combination product with other natural flavors (such as cinnamon) to give the flavor more complexity. Because this is not real vanilla bean there is no actual “vanilla” note in Mexican vanilla; it simply creates an “orchid-like” smell and taste to foods.

What is Vanillin?

Vanillin is a type of natural compound that is found in various plants and fruits, such as orchid flowers and fruit. It has a sweet smell and taste. It’s the primary ingredient in imitation vanilla extract (made without actual vanilla beans), which can be found in many varieties on the market.

What is the difference between vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste?

Vanilla Extract vs. Vanilla Bean Paste

As stated previously, both products are made from whole vanilla beans that have been extracted with alcohol, although the method in which they are processed may vary. The main difference between the two products is that the natural flavor of vanilla beans cannot be replicated in either liquid form, but instead can only be experienced by using actual vanilla beans. From this discussion it should be clear that these two types of extracts do not compare very well to each other or any other type of extract where vanillin is involved as a flavoring agent.

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Is vanilla concentrate the same as vanilla extract?

No. Vanilla extract is a liquid that contains about 35 percent alcohol, whereas vanilla concentrate is a thick or solid sugar-based substance that contains the essence of vanilla. Because the two substances consist of different ingredients, they each have distinct flavor profiles and are used for various reasons in different recipes (such as baked goods, confectionaries and beverages).

Is vanilla paste the same as vanilla extract?

No. Vanilla paste is made from whole beans that have been broken down into pieces. The process of breaking down the beans makes them even easier to use than pure vanilla extract because you do not need to cut open a bean pod in order to gain access to the flavorful bits inside.

Can vanilla extract substitute vanilla?

Vanilla extract can be substituted for vanilla, although the flavor will be slightly different. It is safe to substitute it in a recipe that calls for vanilla extract. If a recipe calls for vanilla bean paste, however, you must use only real vanilla beans if you want to achieve the same flavors and effects as using real vanilla extract; there is no substitution possible.

Is homemade vanilla extract better than storebought?

Although homemade extracts do not have the same flavor intensity as extracts made with real beans (they tend to be more subtle), they are still superior to commercially made extracts because they use less refined sugars and chemicals in their production process, making them healthier alternatives.

What can I use to substitute vanilla extract?

You can substitute vanilla extract with vanilla bean paste, although the flavor will be slightly different. It is safe to substitute it in a recipe that calls for vanilla extract. If a recipe calls for vanilla bean paste, however, you must use only real vanilla beans if you want to achieve the same flavors and effects as using real vanilla extract; there is no substitution possible.

In this article, I compared these three types of extracts that are often used in various types of food and beverages. Like me, you may have assumed that the same ingredients can be used interchangeably in recipes, but this simply is not the case. If you are going to use an extract in a recipe, you will get the best result by using the type of extract that was called for in the recipe. It’s important to note here that I am not encouraging you to throw away all other types of products if you do not have the specific extract called for in a recipe.