What Does Vanilla Extract Do? All The Things You Need To Know

Do you always see vanilla extracts on recipes, especially on cakes and cookies? Then you must be curious about what it does on baked goods.

Just like you, I am also baffled by the popularity of vanilla extract in the kitchen, which is why this question frequently crosses my mind. What does vanilla extract do?

After looking at the price of a pure vanilla extract in a supermarket, I was surprised by how expensive it is. In my head, I assume that this high price must entail excellent taste and aroma.

So I tried to learn more about vanilla extract in-depth and have discovered such amazing facts which I’m about to share with you.


What Is Vanilla Extract?


As defined in 21 CFR 169.175, vanilla extract is derived from vanilla beans. Pure vanilla extract has an ethyl alcohol content which goes above 35% by volume. In this alcohol solution, you may find one or more of these following ingredients: propylene glycol, glycerin, sugar, dextrose, and corn syrup.

Vanilla is very expensive because growing the vanilla beans takes a lot of labor and time. You need to wait about 18 months to three years before the vine produces orchids and another nine months before you can harvest the seed pods or beans.

Vanilla extract is the most common type of vanilla. It’s made by soaking chopped vanilla beans in a mixture of water and ethyl alcohol for about two days. The mixture is then filtered and stored. The Madagascar vanilla is the most popularly used variety, followed by Tahiti and Mexico.

What Does Vanilla Extract Do

1. Adds Flavor


Vanilla extract gives a sweet, soft flavor to baked recipes, like cakes, cookies, and pies. Pure vanilla extract has a richer taste than its synthetic counterpart because it contains about 500 organic components.

Although synthetic vanilla is cheaper than the pure extract, it constitutes only one organic component, vanillin, which could mean an inferior taste.

Remember to use a fraction of pure vanilla extract to recipes because its concentrated flavor can overpower the other ingredients. If a recipe calls for vanillin or the imitation vanilla extract, decrease the measurement by one-third.

A note from Paula: Vanilla extract works really well with my favorite recipes: Topsy Turvy Cake and Eggless Pancakes. It also can works for my favorite vanilla mayonnaise cake. My friend Jennifer have an article about five best vanilla mayonnaise cake - you can read it by click here.

2. Adds Aroma


Aside from the flavor, vanilla extract gives a strong, appealing aroma to baked goods. Personally, I find the food more appetizing if I smell vanilla on it.

Surprisingly, you can use vanilla not only on food but also in aromatherapy. It helps calm the nerves to both humans and animals when under stress. This is why manufacturers use this extract in scented candles, soaps, and bath oils.

The appealing aroma of vanilla extract can even deodorize your fridge and microwave oven. After wiping your fridge with this extract, you can prolong its scent by leaving it soaked in a cotton ball.

You can remove the strong odor of fish in the microwave by heating a bowl of this extract on High for a minute.

Selecting The Best Vanilla Extract


To choose for the best vanilla extract, opt for the pure kind with a 35% alcohol content, just like this one. There should be a little sugar included because vanilla is already slightly sweet.

If you met the term “fold” in the label, it indicates the concentration of the vanilla extract. The standard concentrate is single fold and the higher fold, the stronger the concentration gets. If you’re making candies, a multi-fold extract concentrate may be ideal, but the extract isn’t truly stable above four-fold.

Making Your Own Vanilla Extract


If you would like to ensure the authenticity of the ingredients, you can make a homemade vanilla extract. All you will need is a glass bottle or jar, vanilla beans, and vodka or other liqueur of your choice. The ratio should be one vanilla bean for every two ounces of liqueur.

The first thing that you would want to do is to slice each bean and place it in the bottle. After that, pour the vodka and make sure that the vanilla beans are fully submerged. You can see how this is done in this video.

You can leave the beans soaking for about eight weeks at room temperature. You should store the bottle away from direct sunlight. For each week, give the bottle a shake.

Try Vanilla Extract Now!

So what does vanilla extract do? It adds flavor and aroma. If you would like a richer flavor, choose a pure vanilla extract, like this one, rather than its synthetic counterpart, vanillin. Always choose a brand with 35% alcohol and less sugar content.

If you’ve tried vanilla extract on your recipes and any home use, let us know in the comments section below. Don’t forget to share this wonderful article with your friends or on social media if you like it.

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