Baking Vanilla Vs Vanilla Extract: Uses & Differences

Whenever you bake or make treats using vanilla, it is good to know which type suits you best. You are probably questioning what the differences are and what uses there are for vanilla. If so, you have come to the right place. We have researched all about the difference between baking vanilla, vanilla extract, and imitation vanilla and have all of the answers for you.

Pure vanilla extract comes from a plant. Imitation vanilla is flavored and manufactured in a lab. They are often used interchangeably, but this really depends on personal preference. 

There is more to learn about vanilla extract, such as whether or not you can substitute baker's extract with vanilla extract, why people use vanilla extract when baking, and more. Keep reading this post to learn all you need to know about imitation vanilla and pure vanilla extract.

Flat lay composition with vanilla extract on black table - Baking Vanilla Vs Vanilla Extract Uses & Differences

What Is The Purpose Of Vanilla Extract In Baking?

Perhaps you are wondering if you should use vanilla extract at all. The main purpose of vanilla extract in baking is to enhance other flavors in the ingredients of your baked goods as well as add sweetness and a lovely aroma.

If you leave vanilla extract out of a recipe that calls for it, you will probably notice a difference, especially if it is the main flavor such as vanilla cupcakes or buttercream frosting.

When you use the correct amount of vanilla extract, it adds a dimension to the flavor of your cake, muffins, cookies, pancakes, or whatever you are using it for. Be sure to measure it carefully because too much vanilla extract can be overpowering.

Click here to see these measuring spoons on Amazon.

A helpful tip to keep in the back of your mind if you accidentally add a little too much vanilla is that you can try adding a small amount of sugar to neutralize any bitterness from the alcohol from the vanilla extract.

Another option is to dilute the recipe. What we mean by this is to add a little of each of the ingredients in the original recipe so that the vanilla is not so strong.

Is Baker's Extract The Same As Vanilla Extract?

Flat lay composition with vanilla extract on black table

The main difference between baker's extract and imitation vanilla extract is that one is pure and the other is not. Baker's vanilla is imitation vanilla. It is flavored with vanillin and is not made from an actual vanilla bean plant.

Vanilla beans are also known as pods. They are seed pods with very small seeds inside. Baker's extract is not made with the real thing. Always check the label before purchasing vanilla extract.

Can You Use Baker's Extract Instead Of Vanilla?

Yes, you can use baker's extract instead of vanilla. It tastes different than pure vanilla, so be aware of that if you choose to use baker's extract instead. When doing this, you just need to stick to a 1:1 ratio. If your recipe calls for one teaspoon of vanilla, you can substitute one teaspoon of baker's extract.

A good substitute for vanilla is maple syrup. If you decide to do this, you should use pure maple syrup rather than the imitation stuff. Using maple syrup in place of vanilla will still provide the dish with a similar sweetness.

One more substitute for vanilla extract if you run out is almond extract. Use significantly less almond extract than you would vanilla extract, as it is quite potent.

Does It Matter What Kind Of Vanilla Extract To Use?

Grocery store shelf with various bottles of pure Vanilla Extract. McCormick's and Signature Select brands.

Let's just say it matters to some people more than others. Imitation vanilla works okay for cakes, cookies, and muffins. As for treats made using a low heat setting such as vanilla icing or vanilla pudding, pure vanilla is the better choice.

Imitation vanilla is vanilla flavoring rather than being made with real vanilla beans. It depends on your taste palate whether or not you will notice a difference.

What Type Of Vanilla Is Best For Baking?

Baking vanilla is natural vanilla. Arguably the best types of vanilla for baking is called Madagascar vanilla or bourbon vanilla. Another delicious option for baking with vanilla is Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla extract.

Click here to see this baking vanilla on Amazon.

Uses For Vanilla Other Than Baking

There are several ways to use vanilla that, when you read them, you'll probably wonder why you didn't think of it first. Vanilla bean ice cream is a favorite for many people. Now that is a flavor you might be able to identify and note the difference between vanilla bean and imitation vanilla.

Another use for vanilla other than when you are baking is putting it in the cocktail you order or maybe you make your own and want to try it out. Vanilla extract is a very loved addition to hot coffee as well.

Can I Substitute Real Vanilla For Vanilla Extract?

Yes, you can substitute real vanilla for vanilla extract. In fact, many people prefer real vanilla. If you decide to do this, be sure to use the same amount of real vanilla that the recipe calls for.

It doesn't always work to switch from pure vanilla to imitation though. With that said, real vanilla can be a substitute for vanilla extract any time because it is better tasting although it is more expensive.

Vanilla bean paste is an alternative to vanilla extract. It is thicker but adds the same iconic flavor to the dish.

Why Is Pure Vanilla Extract So Expensive?

There are a couple of reasons pure vanilla extract is more expensive than imitation vanilla extract. One reason it is expensive is that the vanilla beans come from a plant rather than being made with the chemical compound made in a lab to imitate the real thing.

Vanilla bean plants can be somewhat difficult to grow. They require warm temperatures, high humidity, and indirect sunlight that is also bright. The plant can only be harvested after growing for almost 10 months. This is only one step of the process of getting to pure vanilla extract.

Additionally, a large majority of vanilla beans grow in Madagascar. This one country provides 80-85% of natural vanilla to the world. Because Madagascar has experienced harsh weather in recent years, many crops have been destroyed, therefore increasing the price of pure vanilla.

Click here to see this bourbon Madagascar vanilla extract on Amazon.

Since most of our pure vanilla extract comes from Madagascar, the cost of the product is more or less determined by Madagascar's distributors. Vanilla that comes from Madagascar is often referred to as bourbon vanilla.

Baking Vanilla Vs Vanilla Extract Uses & Differences

More About Why Pure Vanilla Is More Expensive

Tahiti and Mexico are the other two predominant sources from which we get vanilla beans. Vanilla from Madagascar is known to be sweeter while Mexican vanilla is known to have a spiciness to it. Tahitian vanilla is known to be flowery and fruity.

Because vanilla primarily only comes from these three countries, it is more expensive than the imitation vanilla made closer to where we live. Shipping cost is also a consideration when it comes to why pure vanilla extract is more expensive. It has to be shipped properly in order to stay safe to consume.

Keeping vanilla safe and sanitary is an expensive process that adds to the overall cost of pure vanilla.

The most expensive vanilla beans are Tahitian. They have their own flavor profile.

Paying a little extra for pure vanilla is worth it if you enjoy the flavor more. It is also worth it if you don't want to eat something that is synthetic. For people that are used to eating pure vanilla extract, you probably want to avoid imitation vanilla because you will likely notice the difference.

How Do You Choose Vanilla Extract?

Since vanilla extract is a common ingredient in sweets, it is a good idea to know what details to look for in order to make the best choice. If you would prefer natural vanilla, choose pure vanilla extract.

Knowing the difference between pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla can help you decide between them. When you buy imitation vanilla extract, you are choosing to buy something synthetic. It is less expensive and tastes similar since it is made with lab-produced vanillin.

Is McCormick Vanilla Extract Real?

Yes, McCormick vanilla extract is real! McCormick vanilla extract is actually made with Madagascar vanilla. It is not genetically modified. This is one of the top picks when it comes to choosing vanilla extract.

One 2 fluid ounce bottle of McCormick brand pure vanilla extract on a white reflective surface.

To Wrap Things Up

Baker's imitation vanilla and pure vanilla extract are made differently. Their uses are much the same though. Imitation vanilla flavor and pure vanilla extract can be used interchangeably as long as you don't mind the difference in taste.

Don't leave us yet. Would you like to learn about adding pumpkin spice to baked goods or whether or not you can grind cocoa beans in a coffee grinder? If so, check out these posts below:

How Much Pumpkin Spice To Add To Cake, Pie, Or Pancake

Can I Grind Cocoa Beans In A Coffee Grinder?

How To Melt Peanut Butter Without A Microwave

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