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What is the Difference Between Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Bean Paste?

  Vanilla is one of the most important flavors in any baker’s kitchen, so you’ll always find a bottle (or three) of vanilla extract tucked away in the pantry. Vanilla Bean Extract is an easy ingredient to use, but it isn’t the only option for adding vanilla flavor to your baked goods. You can use real vanilla beans or opt for vanilla bean paste, which is becoming much more widely available and can often be found alongside Vanilla Bean Extract in the baking aisle.

  Vanilla bean paste, which is sometimes simply referred to as vanilla paste, is a thick, syrupy liquid that has vanilla bean flecks suspended in it. These flecks can be both vanilla bean seeds and very finely ground vanilla bean pods. The syrup is a sugar syrup (often glucose) and sometimes contains natural thickeners to allow the vanilla bean flecks to remain suspended without sinking to the bottom of the bottle. Since it is made with a syrup, not with alcohol, vanilla bean paste is much thicker and more “paste-like” than vanilla extract.

  Vanilla Bean Extract an alcohol solution made by macerating vanilla beans until their flavor is drawn out. Pure vanilla extract is regulated by the FDA has having a certain concentration of vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol used to make it. Unlike the syrup in the paste, the alcohol in Vanilla Bean Extract will evaporate during baking and will leave on the vanilla flavor behind. That said, there is typically such a small amount of extract or paste used that this rarely makes much of a difference in your finished baked goods.

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