Vanilla extract is an ingredient that every good baker needs in their pantry. However, if you are new to baking, then we wouldn’t be surprised if you have never tasted vanilla extract on its own before. So, what does vanilla extract taste like?
Vanilla extract tastes strong and floral with sweet caramel notes.
Vanilla extract is a simple ingredient that adds a distinctive, comforting flavor to any baked good or dessert. Knowing what it tastes like is essential to use it for the right job.
In this article, we are going to be describing precisely what vanilla extract tastes like and how it can be used.
Let’s get tasting.
What Is Vanilla Extract Made Of?
To understand what vanilla extract tastes like, we need to know what it is and where it comes from.
It all starts with the vanilla pods.
These are rare seed pods that grow on special vanilla orchids. The orchids only grow in specific tropical regions like Indonesia, Tahiti, Madagascar, and India.
Once the pods are harvested, they are dried and sold whole, have the seeds extracted, or are used to make our product of the day: vanilla extract.
Vanilla extract is a tincture created by soaking fresh vanilla pods in alcohol to extract the flavor.[*]
A vanilla flavoring must be made exclusively of real vanilla and 35% alcohol to classify as an extract.
This flavoring is sold in small amounts because it is very potent and only needs to be used in small quantities.
What Does Vanilla Extract Taste Like?
Vanilla extract has a slightly sweet flavor with caramel notes and a floral aftertaste.
As we explored above, this tincture is made only of real vanilla pods and alcohol, so the flavor is intensely fragrant but with an alcohol kick.
We love the simple and comforting flavor of vanilla, but it is not an ingredient that should be eaten on its own.
The vanilla extract needs to be added to other ingredients, including sugar, to make it more palatable and bring out its flavor.
This is because it is powerful and concentrated in its extract form, which has a strong alcohol aftertaste.
Occasionally, when you use vanilla extract, you may notice some little black dots in your dish. But there’s no need to panic; these are merely some vanilla seeds that have escaped into the extract.
What Does Vanilla Extract Do?
Vanilla extract is mainly used for sweets and desserts of all kinds. It is common for a dessert to include vanilla as a base flavor to add the primary flavors on top.
Vanilla is commonly used in biscuits, cakes, custard, confectionery, tarts, and pies.
In extract form, you will measure the vanilla in a measuring spoon before adding it to the butter and sugar mix, the eggs, or directly into a filling.
A very common use for vanilla is chantilly cream. This is a classic topping and filling used in a large variety of baked goods, and it’s the vanilla that makes it unique.
A dash of vanilla extract is added to the whipping cream before it is whipped to stiff peaks and sweetened with powdered sugar.
Vanilla extract is also used to flavor beverages as it can be simply poured in and mixed through.
Vanilla is an excellent addition to smoothies, milkshakes, and flavored coffee or hot chocolate.
Does vanilla extract make things sweeter?
No, the vanilla extract doesn’t inherently make things sweeter.
It is added to sweet dishes to add flavor, but it also brings out the sweetness in a similar way that salt brings out flavors.
This is why it may seem that adding vanilla makes things sweeter when all it does is highlight already existing sweetness.
Can you eat straight vanilla extract?
Eating straight vanilla extract is completely safe, even in large quantities.[*]
However, we don’t recommend eating it by itself because it can taste very strong with a hit of alcohol, which is not very pleasant.
Why is vanilla extract so expensive?
As we explored above, vanilla is hand-picked from unique vanilla orchids.
They only grow in very specific locations, which makes them rare. The picking process is also very time-consuming.
These two factors combined make the real vanilla used to make the extract quite costly.
The cheaper versions of vanilla that you see on the shelves are likely synthetic vanilla flavoring.
Vanilla extract is a common ingredient that we think deserves a place in anybody bakers pantry. But what have we learned about its flavor? What does vanilla extract taste like?
- Vanilla extract has a floral and slightly sweet flavor.
- It needs to be added to other ingredients to dilute the flavor.
- We don’t recommend eating vanilla extract on its own.
We hope that has encouraged you to get some vanilla extract and experience the flavor for yourself.