all about vanilla

Vanilla, one of our favorite baking flavors, is anything but plain. Vanilla’s exotic yet comforting combination of floral and spice is sought after by cooks worldwide. Pure vanilla (synthetic versions just don’t compare) is derived from the vanilla bean, fruit of an orchid plant.

Today, most of the world’s vanilla comes from Madagascar and the surrounding Bourbon Islands, off the coast of Africa. Smooth, mellow Madagascar Bourbon vanilla is an all-purpose vanilla, ideal in everything from cookies and sticky buns to cake and ice cream. Mexican vanilla, derived from a thicker and darker bean, has a stronger, spicier taste. It pairs well with cinnamon and other assertive flavors. Tahitian vanilla is less intensely flavored but more aromatic, ideal for light, fruit-based desserts and sauces.

While pure vanilla extract is familiar to bakers everywhere, vanilla comes in other forms as well, including vanilla paste, a thickened vanilla extract; and vanilla bean crush, an extract with crushed pods and seeds, which makes elegant-looking ice cream, whipped cream, and frosting, with its dark flecks of bean.

Seeds scraped from the interior of soft whole vanilla beans impart pleasingly strong flavor when steeped in custard, milk, cream, or syrup. Vanilla powder, made by grinding dried whole beans, offers robust flavor in hot drinks. And delicately infused vanilla sugar is a distinctive condiment.

Check out the links below for three of our most popular vanillas, plus delicious recipes featuring these vanillas and others.

King Arthur Pure Vanilla Extract

We searched, tested, sampled, and baked all kinds of vanilla treats before creating the first vanilla worthy of our name: King Arthur Pure Vanilla Extract.

Vanilla is the world’s most popular baking flavor – and also one of the most complex to create. Vanilla beans are harvested from a special variety of hand-pollinated orchids, then sun-dried, shade-dried, and aged, just like fine wine. The resulting extract is a complex blend of flavors, with different parts of the world offering very different vanillas.

We make our signature full-bodied extract from classically flavored Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans; and Tahiti’s mellower beans, with their suggestion of both flowers and fruit. We invite you to try our terrific new vanilla – your cookies, cakes, and pastries will never be the same!

• Superb vanilla at a great price
• Gluten-free
• Blended and bottled in the USA

Bourbon Vanilla Extract

Our favorite all-purpose vanilla, Madagascar Bourbon is rich, mildly sweet, and nicely assertive, with traditional vanilla flavor. It’s the ideal vanilla for our classic Golden Vanilla Pound Cake.

“I won't use any other vanilla. Even when I've given out my recipes to friends, I often hear ‘Mine wasn't as good as yours.’ I have to keep some secrets to myself.”

anonymous – New Jersey

Vanilla Bean Crush

This delcious, cold-press vanilla bean extract, a blend of intensely flavored Madagascar Bourbon and Tahitian vanillas, is flecked with finely crushed vanilla beans and vanilla bean seeds. It’s the perfect choice for Vanilla Cheesecake Bars.

“It’s like using fresh beans in every recipe with all the little vanilla bean specks. Super high quality with superb vanilla flavor that’s very intense. LOVE IT!”

jlbaughn2 – The Baking Circle

Vanilla Bean Paste

Super-thick, rich Madagascar vanilla is flecked with vanilla bean seeds to make our Vanilla Bean Paste. Use it to add visual appeal (as well as superb flavor) to your favorite recipes. It’s wonderful in Crème Brûlée!

“One of the top products in my pantry! I can't say enough good things about this vanilla paste. I don't even need to buy vanilla beans anymore. I'll be a fan forever! Thanks for a vanilla home run!”

Peggy D – The Baking Circle