For anyone who has sampled Mexican vanilla, you know that it’s not just a subpar imitation of the more traditional stuff–it’s something entirely different. Here are the facts about this tasty flavor.
First of all, Mexican vanilla is grown in Mexico and is typically made from the seed pods of a climbing type of orchid instead of its sweet counterpart, which is cultivated in Madagascar.
The process for harvesting vanilla beans is nearly identical to how it would be done for traditional Madagascar-grown specimens with one exception: after cutting off the green top part of the pod, they’re set out to dry on concrete slabs instead of being hung up by ropes.
This method is one of the reasons why this particular variety of vanilla costs less than the more expensive kind. Another reason for its cheaper price tag is that even though it is grown and harvested in Mexico, Mexican vanilla has to undergo a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-inspected process in order to be considered “vanilla extract.” Because of this, many Mexican vanilla brands have a much longer shelf life than those made from Madagascar vanilla beans.
Aside from being easier to use, Mexican Vanilla Versus Vanilla Beans has advantages over traditional varieties in other ways:
Flavor – The flavor of Mexican vanilla is unique because it contains compounds found in fruit.
Price – One might wonder how vanilla could cost the same price or less when it’s made from a different place, but Mexican vanilla beans are actually less expensive because they contain more seeds than the traditional kind.
Storage – Vanilla beans are one of those things that can go rancid pretty quickly, but this never has to happen with Mexican vanilla extracts. The reason for this is that Mexican vanilla extract is made with alcohol and water, which inhibits the growth of bacteria or fungus.
Color – Mexican vanilla extract also happens to be darker in color than regular-old Madagascar extracts. This is due to the fact that it still contains small particles of the bean that aren’t filtered out during the production process.
So the next time you’re at the grocery store and have to choose between Mexican vanilla or Madagascar vanilla, consider that Mexican vanilla is better when it comes to flavor, price and storage.
Although Mexico is known to be the birthplace of vanilla, there is some confusion as to what Mexican vanilla is and how it is different from other versions of the spice. In this brief guide we’ll look at the factors that have contributed to the synthetic production of what is recognized as Mexican vanilla today and exactly what the product is.
Cultivation vs Location
The spice quality is not determined by where the beans are grown but by the method of cultivation, harvesting, and curing used in its production. The climate from different regions may affect the taste slightly, however, it is very subtle and most people will not be able to distinguish the difference.
When it comes to wine, many people will be able to differentiate between wine made from two different varieties of grapes. However few people can accurately tell the difference between grapes of the same variety grown in different regions if they are equal in quality.
Similarly, many people can notice a difference between Tahitian vanilla and the Planifolia variety. However, the same variety (Planifolia) is grown in both Madagascar and Mexico so there is little difference in the natural bean extracts of the same quality from these regions.
So, if there is no difference in the variety nor the flavor of the actual beans grown in Mexico and other parts of the world, why do so many people prize Mexican vanilla extract? Let’s find out.
Mexico’s Spice Production Decline
Mexico was once a major producer of vanilla beans boasting excellent quality cultivation. Due to deforestation, war, and economic changes, Mexico’s production took a dive, but it did keep its reputation for a high quality product.
Synthetic vanilla production in the 1880s offered a cheaper alternative to the natural beans which were laborious and expensive to grow.
As a way to continue cashing in on its reputation for some of the finest vanilla production, Mexico and other Central American countries started selling synthetic versions that were a lot more profitable.
To enhance the synthetic product to more closely reflect the rich, complex, and fragrant characteristics of the real pods, a component called coumarin was added. Mexican vanilla is therefore now mostly known to be a synthetic product with the addition of coumarin which gives it an extra fragrant and rich appeal.
Coumarin is derived from the tonka bean which grows on a Cumaru or Tonka tree. Tonka beans are used in France and other European countries in desserts and perfumes with a flavor described as a complex mix of vanilla, amaretto, almond, and cinnamon.
However, if you live in the United States you will have to pay up for the real beans or settle for coumarin-free products since coumarin is a banned substance due to potential health risks when high quantities are consumed.
Mexican food labeling laws are not as regulated as in the USA which means that many Mexican extracts labeled as pure may in fact be artificial and may contain coumarin.
Can I use Mexican vanilla instead of vanilla extract?
Mexican vanilla is a different kind of vanilla bean from the pods that are imported fresh from Madagascar every year. The Mexico vanilla product is also called mezcal vanilla, as mezcal is a Mexican brandy.
Mexican vanilla extract contains 1 – 2% of real vanilla beans. Unfortunately, the taste of Mexican vanilla is not very similar to that of Madagascar and Tahitian beans. Therefore, if you want to save some money and buy pure vanilla beans, try to order them online from suppliers such as Vanilla Beans Direct or Vanilla Bean Supplies.
However, the usage of artificial flavoring (e.g. vanillin) is totally forbidden. Mexican vanilla extract should be used as a replacement for vanilla extract, not as a substitute.
Mexican vanilla beans come in many colors: grey, golden, white, black, and green. The color of the beans is dependent on how much the bean has been ‘aged’ by exposure to sun light or alcohol subsequent to harvest.
Does Mexican vanilla taste different?
The vanilla bean itself is the same. Mexican vanilla beans just have a slightly stronger sweet, fruity and bitter taste than the other beans.
Mexican vanilla extract is processed by using natural extracts that are made from vanilla beans and alcohol, in addition to what vanilla contains naturally. The main ingredients for Mexican Hispanic Vanilla Extract are orange peel (a natural flavoring ingredient), sugar, vegetable glycerine and alcohol.
The flavor of the extract varies depending on the type of ingredients used; however all products have a sweet, vanillic flavor. It has been suggested that additional flavors can be added to enhance or modify the unique qualities of Mexican Vanilla Extracts.
Is vanilla vanilla Mexican extract?
Mexican vanilla beans are not the same as vanilla extract, although they can be used (and may be identical) as a substitute for vanilla extract in recipes. The flavor of Mexican vanilla is similar to that of other kinds of vanilla. As the name suggests, it has a fruity flavor similar to Tia Maria and strong licorice taste.
Some people have found that the heat from cooking makes Mexican vanilla beans more or less mellow or sweet tasting. Not everyone agrees with this idea however, so some people like to leave their Mexican Vanilla beans dry and untouched for long periods of time prior to cooking with them.
Where can I buy Mexican vanilla extract?
Mexican Vanilla Extract is available for purchase online from amazon store. This Mexican Vanilla is used for making cocktails, desserts and ice creams. It can be added to warm milk, whipped cream, cheesecake, fruit and other desserts.
It is made from real vanilla beans that are steeped in alcohol and sugar. It has a sweet flavor with a hint of chemical-like taste that again some people just don’t like. For this reason many of us don’t see Mexican Vanilla Extract as preferable or even worth it’s extra expense when compared to regular vanilla extract.
Is pure vanilla extract worth the heavy price tag?
The pure product adds a distinctively warm, rich, and sweet note to baked dishes, desserts, and frostings. Although synthetic extracts add a similar flavor the quality is not the same and is highly noticeable. Buying the real product if you can afford it is definitely worth it and you will notice a big difference in the aromatic quality of your dishes.
Why is Mexican vanilla cheaper than other types?
Artificial extracts dominate the Mexican market despite the fact that it once had a reputation for good quality beans. The synthetic product is much more affordable as it does not require the long, laborious, and expensive cultivation process of the delicate plants.
Is Mexican vanilla the same as vanilla extract?
The pure extract is made from the bean pods of the vanilla spice plant. Mexican vanilla is often manufactured using the extract of beans from a tonka tree. This is a completely different plant belonging to the pea family. Unlike real vanilla, certain substances in tonka beans are known to be toxic in high doses.
How should you store vanilla extract?
The extract is best stored in a cool, dry, and dark place around 60 to 80 °F. The extract should not be kept in the refrigerator or freezer. Low temperatures may result in a cloudy product.
Mexican vanilla is generally manufactured with the extract of tonka beans. These beans come from a completely different plant species belonging to the pea family. The component coumarin found in these beans contributes to an authentic rich flavor in the artificial extract, however, is outlawed in the United States due to health concerns. When possible, always choose to purchase beans and scrape out the seeds or make your own extract. This way you can be assured of the purest, best-tasting product and know exactly what the ingredients are.