Vanilla: One of the most common and popular flavors in baking. The warm and slightly floral flavor likely stirs up fond childhood memories of birthday cakes and giant dripping ice cream cones. Its versatility makes it a pantry staple almost as much as sugar, flour, and butter.
But as often as we use it, how much do we actually know about it? What’s the difference between an extract and flavoring? Does each variety have a different flavor? We’ll answer some of the most common vanilla questions and explain the differences between our extensive line of vanilla offerings.
LorAnn is proud to offer a wide selection of vanilla extracts and bean pastes from around the world—all with attractive NEW bilingual labels and Organic options for our finest vanillas. All vanillas are gluten-free and do not contain corn syrup. As with most LorAnn products, our vanillas are available in both retail and food service sizes.
First off, what is real vanilla and where does it originate?
Real vanilla is the fruit of an orchid native to Central America. The flower grows as a climbing vine and is now planted and grown commercially in tropical regions around the world. We can thank the Aztecs for discovering the allure of vanilla. They put it to good use flavoring their “Xocolat” cocoa drink. Can you imagine life without chocolate or vanilla? All hail the Aztecs!
How is good-quality vanilla produced?
Ounce for ounce, vanilla is one of the most expensive spices to produce. Each orchid flower must be hand-pollinated within 12 hours of blooming! Once the flower bears fruit, the beans are checked daily for the perfect level of ripeness before harvesting by hand. The vanilla beans must then cure for 5 – 6 months to allow the flavors to develop.
What is the difference between vanilla extract and vanilla flavor?
The main difference between the two boils down to the percentage of alcohol in the solution. Per FDA regulations, an extract must contain at least 35% alcohol. Anything containing less than 35%, including no alcohol at all, is considered vanilla flavor. Both products are made from vanilla beans and must have a minimum of one unit of vanilla extractives per gallon of solution.
What is the difference between natural and artificial vanilla?
The chemical composition of natural and artificial vanilla is actually identical. The only difference is how vanillin, the compound that gives vanilla its flavor, is obtained. In natural vanilla, the vanillin is extracted directly from vanilla beans, usually by soaking the beans in a solution of ethanol, water, or both. Artificial vanilla is chemically synthesized in a lab, but the resulting product is the same chemical compound as the one extracted naturally from vanilla beans.
What are the different varieties of vanilla and do their flavors differ?
There are over 100 varieties of vanilla. Most varieties like Madagascar, Tahitian, and Mexican vanillas are named after the origin of the vanilla beans used to make them. The location, climate, soil, water, and dehydration methods used to cultivate vanilla beans give each variety its unique flavor profile.
What does “fold” mean?
Fold is a measure of the vanilla extractive in the overall solution. As mentioned earlier, extracts and flavors must contain one unit (as described by the FDA) of vanilla per gallon of product. A vanilla labeled as “two-fold” or “double-strength” contains twice the amount of vanilla extractive per gallon. Using a stronger vanilla allows a user to achieve the same flavor with less liquid. For example, using half the amount of a two-fold vanilla in a recipe calling for regular vanilla will achieve the same flavor.
When should I use a vanilla bean paste instead of an extract or flavor?
Vanilla bean paste can be used anywhere you would use vanilla extract. The most common reason for choosing the paste over the liquid is for visual appeal. If you want the lovely appearance of tiny vanilla seed flecks in your ice creams, frostings, cheesecakes, or puddings, use the paste. If you prefer a more seamless look, use an extract.
How do I substitute bean paste for extracts or flavors?
Easy! Use a 1:1 ratio. For example, if your recipe calls for one tablespoon of vanilla extract, use one tablespoon of vanilla bean paste and vice versa.
What is the difference between LorAnn’s natural extracts and bean pastes vs. their Madagascar and Tahitian vanillas?
The main difference between these products is whether the extract is made from a blend of vanilla beans or from beans sourced from only one location.
New this year—all of LorAnn’s single-sourced Madagascar vanillas are now certified organic! Sustainability and plant-forward thinking are on the rise, and these trends are here to stay. Offering an organic option is our response to the growing consumer demand for sustainably-made, socially responsible products. Along with the single-sourced vanillas, LorAnn also sells a line of value-priced vanilla extracts and bean pastes which are made with an all-natural blend of vanilla beans, including beans from Madagascar. We want to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy rich, warm vanilla flavor and aroma in their culinary creations.
Our Vanilla Products:
Pure Organic Madagascar Vanilla Extract – Using only beans grown on the islands of Madagascar, our NEW organic certified extract produces a rich, creamy smooth flavor.
Pure Organic Madagascar Double Strength (2-Fold) Vanilla Extract – This double strength, organic certified vanilla extract contains twice the amount of vanilla extractives than our Pure Organic Madagascar Vanilla Extract.
Organic Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste – Our organic certified bean paste is a versatile alternative to whole vanilla beans! This rich concentrated paste adds rich, warm flavor plus gorgeous flecks of real vanilla seeds. Use it anywhere you would use a vanilla extract or wherever the flavor and appearance of vanilla bean is desired.
Pure Tahitian Double Strength (2-Fold) Vanilla Extract – Tahitian vanilla beans are intensely aromatic and known for their complex floral aroma and fruity, cherry-like flavor profile. The smooth floral notes are fitting for fruit-based confections and is particularly popular with pastry chefs.
Pure Vanilla Extract, Natural – Made from an all-natural blend of vanilla varieties, our pure vanilla extract is an excellent option for customers seeking a quality product at a lower price point. Like our organic, single-sourced vanilla extracts, this product does not contain sugar or corn syrup.
Natural Alcohol-Free Vanilla – Impart the warm, comforting notes of vanilla into your favorite recipes without the addition of alcohol! This is a recommended option for those following a halal diet.
Natural Vanilla Bean Paste – This versatile and convenient substitute to whole vanilla beans is made from all-natural vanilla beans and is a more affordable option than our Organic Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste.
Clear Imitation Vanilla Extract – This double-strength, clear vanilla extract adds rich vanilla flavor and will not discolor your whitest frostings, cakes, or meringues!
Double Strength Velvet Cream Vanilla – A blend of natural and artificial vanillas, this is our most affordable option for rich vanilla flavor. Its ability to permeate frozen applications makes it a favorite among ice cream makers.