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The Real Difference Between Vanilla Extract and Essence – Here’s To Know

Every chef and baker (and their mama) knows that vanilla extract is a must-have for any kitchen pantry. But, what exactly are you getting when you buy that lovely liquid? And what’s the difference between vanilla extract and essence? Read on to find out!

Essentially, vanilla extract is created by soaking whole vanilla beans in alcohol. The beans are then tossed out, but the liquid remains. This liquid is heavy in aromatic compounds, making it an excellent flavoring agent for cakes or ice cream.

The more expensive varieties of vanilla extract are made using a co-product approach, which means the beans are used to create both extract and essence. Essentially, the beans are split in half and cut into thin pieces. The thin pieces are then split and scraped to remove all the flavoring compounds, which is then evaporated into water. Then it’s combined with alcohol to make a delicious liquid that bakers can use as they see fit.

Essence is very similar to vanilla extract in that it is made by soaking or macerating vanilla beans in mostly alcohol (70% water + 30% alcohol). The difference between essence and extract is that extract is a minimum of 35% alcohol and essence is a minimum of 55% alcohol. That’s why vanilla extract is often less expensive than vanilla essence.

So how does this translate to the ingredients list on your favorite food item? Well, you won’t see the words ‘vanilla bean’ in the ingredients list, but you will see ‘vanilla extract’ or ‘vanilla essence.’ This usually means that if it’s not homemade, it’s made with either pure vanilla extract or pure vanilla essence. And when it comes to grocery store products, there’s no reason to buy anything other than pure versions.

As far as actual pure vanilla beans go, they are typically sold in small glass bottles. They have a strong aroma and are often used for baking or cooking. They’re also expensive, so if you don’t have access to them, there’s no reason to buy pure extract!

When it comes to homemade baked goods, there’s no reason to buy pure extract either. You can make your own, but it’s very easy and inexpensive to buy extracts online. So when you see the words ‘extract’ or ‘essence’ on food labels, it probably means that they aren’t homemade. Pure extracts and essences can be bought online at any of the specialty spice shops that do wholesale.

In conclusion, pure extracts and essences are both very good-tasting, concentrated vanilla products that can be used to flavor baked goods or sauces. They are usually made with whole beans of vanilla, which means the flavor lasts longer, but the bottle may be more expensive. You don’t need to buy pure extracts or essences if they aren’t listed on a product’s ingredients list.

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However, if you’re willing to spend more money for a higher quality product, you can find pure extracts and essences online from specialty spice shops that do wholesale. Some brands even offer them in bulk!

Though they are often mistaken for being the same thing, vanilla essence and vanilla extract actually have significant differences that affect the ways in which they can be used, their nutritional value, and the flavor that they create. These two products are made in very distinct ways, and one is markedly healthier than the other.

So what is the difference between vanilla essence and vanilla extract? While vanilla extract is a natural product, vanilla essence is a synthetically produced vanilla-flavored product that, though the cheaper of the two, has an inferior nutritional value and, in most cases, an inferior flavor.

Read on to find out all that you need to know when it comes to distinguishing between vanilla essence and vanilla extract. We’ll touch on production, purpose, and nutritional value, as well as answering common questions that arise when distinguishing vanilla essence from vanilla extract. 

Though they sound quite similar, vanilla essence and vanilla extract are significantly different products. While vanilla essence is a cheaper, synthetically produced product, vanilla extract is only produced from natural ingredients.

The rich and creamy flavour of vanilla is something we all love. Be it the ice creams or the baked goods, vanilla will never fail to give you a nice and fresh flavour in the dish. It’s like that invisible essential without which there is no depth or balance in the flavour of a bakery delights such as cake.

Its also used by several bakers to enhance the taste and flavour of chocolates. There are two ways you can add infuse the flavour of vanilla in a dish, either with vanilla essence or extract. Though, both the ingredients are different, they are often considered the same and many people use one thing in place of the other. However, it’s a huge mistake that a baker can commit for baking delights and can hamper the taste of a dish as well. If you want to know the real difference between the two, read below…

What is a vanilla extract

Vanilla extract is the natural product made out of vanilla pods, which are soaked in a solution of ethyl alcohol and water. The real flavour of vanilla extract comes from vanillin, which is a molecule found in vanilla beans. Most of the vanilla extracts that you get in the market are free of any artificial product.

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However, it might contain sugar sometimes which is insignificant. By way of production, vanilla extract has more nutrition and the pure taste of vanilla. Thus, vanilla extract tends to be costlier than vanilla essence.

What is vanilla essence

Mostly used in making cakes and other such desserts, vanilla essence is a chemically produced product/substance with the flavour of vanilla. The nutritional value of vanilla essence is lesser than that of vanilla extract and so is the flavour. Relatively, it’s way cheaper than the vanilla extract. In short, we can say that vanilla essence imitates the flavour and not the nutrition, real vanilla has!

Ingredients of vanilla essence

Now, the question that arises is, how its made? Well, vanilla essence is made of crude oil or petroleum which is processed to bring in the vanilla flavour. Some of the ingredients used in making vanilla essence are Ethanol, water, emulsifiers, propylene glycol, flavourings and colourants.

Thought, both the ingredients are used for baking purposes, it’s always better to see the back panel. This clarifies the kind of ingredients used in making extract or essence and will help you in choosing one over the other. When used for baking purposes, you must understand that vanilla extract has a stronger flavour than vanilla essence and thus should be used in moderations.

Can I substitute vanilla extract for vanilla essence?

Yes. It is possible to substitute vanilla extract for vanilla essence by following the exact same recipe. To ensure that your dish tastes authentic, use real vanilla beans and make sure that you use the real essence of vanilla in the recipe. Vanilla beans can be easily obtained online or in multiple bakeshops

Can I substitute vanilla extract and essence with other extracts?

It is not possible to substitute vanilla extract and essence with other substitutes as they are essential additives in baking delights especially breads, cakes etc. In case, if you want to substitute them with other extracts, it would result in a different taste and may not look or taste like the real thing.

Which is better vanilla extract or vanilla essence?

Vanilla extract is better when used because it is natural, pure, and most of all very healthy. Vanilla essence is cheaper so, you can choose to use this as a substitute. Vanilla extract is also preferred by health experts because vanilla essence may contain a lot of chemicals and it’s not good to our health. On the other hand, vanilla extract has more nutrients including vitamins, minerals etc.

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Are vanilla extracts and essences different?

Vanilla extracts differ from essence in two ways: the first being that they are made using alcohol rather than water; secondly the main flavouring ingredient of vanillin is replaced with artificial flavouring. This is why vanilla extract is more expensive than essence. Vanilla essence itself uses propylene glycol as an emulsifier and other alternative organic solvents like water or ethanol, so these are not necessarily “fake” – they’re just different, and optimised for their intended use.

What is the difference between vanilla essence and vanilla extract?

The difference between the two lie in their production process and ingredients used to make them. Vanilla extracts are made from real vanilla beans whereas imitation vanilla extracts such as pure flavor essences are produced with artificial ingredients. Both have a pleasant smell but, a real vanilla extract has more depth in its flavour than a fake one does.

How much vanilla essence is equal to vanilla extract?

To be precise, equal quantities of vanilla extract are equal to a combination of pure vanilla flavour and pure vanilla concentrate. However, when you add it to any recipe, you must use very little in order to get the original taste of vanilla. It is because of this reason that natural extract is costlier than the artificial one.

What is the difference between real and fake vanilla extracts?

The main difference between real and fake natural extracts lies in their manufacturing process. The seeds of real vanilla are used in making a natural extract. On the other hand, in case of imitation or artificial flavouring essences, vanillin is an ingredient that is used for producing them.

What can be used instead of vanilla extract?

Vanilla extracts can be substituted by using other flavourings like lime or orange extracts. However, it is advisable to substitute them in case of baking cakes, cookies and other similar desserts. Vanilla extracts can be used for making vanilla milkshakes, smoothies and other beverages. It is also used for flavouring chocolates and whipped cream.

What can be used instead of vanilla essence?

Vanilla essence can be substituted by using fresh grated beans, citrus juice or glycerin. However, it is advisable to substitute them in case of baking cakes, cookies and other similar desserts. Vanilla essences can be used for making vanilla milkshakes, smoothies and other beverages. It is also used for flavouring chocolates and whipped cream.

The choice of using a vanilla extract or vanilla essence is entirely your own. However, you must make sure that it is purely made of natural ingredients with no colourants added to it. There are also some other benefits like cost and flavour when you use real vanilla extract without the chemical imitations. So, the difference in both can be noticed in their taste and smell.

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