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Vanilla Extract vs Vanilla Essence

Updated: Aug 19, 2018

There is a significant difference between vanilla extract and vanilla essence. Vanilla extract is usually a natural product made by soaking vanilla pods in alcohol. The flavour of the vanilla is absorbed by the liquid and results in the vanilla extract that we use when baking. Vanilla essence is usually a fake, chemically produced flavouring and is much cheaper than the natural extract.

Is there a difference in the taste between the two?

Yes there is. The extract has a stronger, fuller flavour, so if you use the amount you would normally use for essence you will notice the difference.

The vanilla extract available at the store often contains sugar, additives and flavourings. In contrast, homemade vanilla extract has a depth of flavour and natural ingredients.

I make my own vanilla extract because it is not only less expensive, but the flavour is unbeatable. It is also one of the most simple recipes to make. The hardest part is waiting for it to be ready for use. It takes a while!

Here’s how to make vanilla extract at home. All you need is a sterilized jar, good quality vanilla beans and a neutral tasting alcohol such as vodka.

Homemade Vanilla Extract


4 vanilla beans

230mL vodka

A sterilized jar


Slice vanilla beans in half lengthwise to reveal inside of beans. Cut if needed to make them fit into your jar.

Place them in a tall glass jar.

Pour the alcohol of choice over the beans.

Cap tightly and shake gently.

Store in a cool, dark place for at least a month, shaking occasionally. I prefer to leave 2-3 months for best flavour.

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