Have you ever looked at the label of your vanilla extract? Do you know its ingredients? Did you know that there are two types of vanilla extract you can choose from?
A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice before buying a bottle of vanilla extract. I would buy the cheapest one on the shelf and that was about it.
But then my husband was diagnosed with cancer and we also had our first child. This is when we started thinking more about the ingredients going into our foods and ultimately our bodies, nourishing us or making us sick.
So vanilla extract was one of the ingredients I researched a bit to find out if there are better ones that could replace the one we had been using for years.
And guess what, the answer is yes, there are many options out there.
When you look at all the vanilla extract options on the shelf, you’ll see that there’s an artificial one and a pure one.
Here are a few of the vanilla extract options found at a big grocery store near my house.
The 2 bottles on the left have artificial vanilla extract and the bottle on the right has pure vanilla.
OK, now what’s the difference between them you might wonder? Here it is:
You can see that the ingredients in the artificial vanilla extract on the left are: water, sugar, alcohol, vanilla extract, artificial flavour, caramel color, sodium benzoate.
The ingredients of the artificial vanilla in the middle are: water, alcohol, caramel color, artificial flavour.
The ingredients in the pure vanilla are: water, alcohol, sugar, vanilla bean extractives.
Unfortunately there is only 10% vanilla or no vanilla in the artificial vanilla extract. It’s made of ingredients that once mixed, mimic the smell and the flavour of vanilla.
Now let’s talk prices (tax is not included).
- The bottle on the left has 125 ml and costs 4.99.
- The bottle in the middle has 250 ml and costs 2.99.
- The bottle on the right (pure vanilla) has 125 ml and costs 8.79.
So you can see that the pure vanilla is more expensive than the artificial ones, but I guess we get what we pay for….
If we go up one step (actually a few more steps) in price, we are looking at an organic vanilla extract.
The ingredients of the organic pure vanilla extract are: water, organic alcohol, organic vanilla bean extractives.
Not only there are no artificial ingredients or pesticides, but there is no added sugar either, unlike in the other 3 examples from above.
This 59 ml bottle of pure organic vanilla extract is 6.99. A lot more expensive than the other vanilla alternatives.
You might be thinking that you don’t use much vanilla in your baking at one time and that your family’s weekly vanilla extract consumption is quite small. But if you use artificial vanilla and then you use other artificial ingredients from other foods or beverages you buy, then they all add up and the result is not pretty.
And of course, the best vanilla extract is the one you make in your home. Made from vanilla beans in contact with alcohol for at least 1 month. There are tons of recipes on the Internet you can choose from if you decide to make your own. (I might give myself this project in the not-too-distant future…)
If not, then I think a good first step is to always choose a pure vanilla over an artificial one. And if your budget allows, then go for a pure organic vanilla extract. The fewer harmful chemicals in your ingredients, the fewer chemicals that will end up in your children’s bodies.
My question for you today is, what kind of vanilla extract do you buy and why did you choose that particular one?