When to Select Beans, Extracts, Powders, Pastes, Sugars or a Caviar

This information will help you make the best choice when selecting vanilla. You should select the specific vanilla based on your needs. Selecting the right vanilla will help you save money and avoid waste. Vanilla is generally sold in the following manner:

  • Whole Grade A Vanilla Beans
  • Extract Grade Vanilla Beans
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Ground vanilla
  • Vanilla Paste
  • Vanilla Sugar
  • Vanilla Caviar

Whole Grade A Vanilla Beans

This is the highly flavorful & aromatic fermented seed pod which consists of an outer fleshy pod and containing thousands of very small seeds. The grade A vanilla bean is soft and flexible. The bean is easy to slice from top to bottom to scrape the seeds. You will find it's easier to scrape the seeds from the larger Madagascar and Mexican planifolia vanilla bean. These are great for home chefs but not economical for industrial cooking—the extract grade beans are better for large scale production. Placing the spent vanilla pod in some sugar is a great way to get some extra use from a pod that has been scraped clean.

Extract Grade Vanilla Beans

Extract grade vanilla beans come whole, split, and cut. The splitting and cut vanilla beans is a natural occurrence and happens during the sun curing process. Extract grade vanilla, sometimes called grade B, is bested used for making vanilla extracts, vanilla beer, vanilla soda... you get the idea. Extract grade beans are slightly less expensive than grade A beans as well. So you'll see a cost benefit using these for your extractive culinary projects. Check out the recipe for making your own vanilla extract.

Vanilla Extract

A pure vanilla extract is an extraction of the vanilla into a 70 proof alcohol—typically Vodka, Rum, Spiced Rum, and Brandy. However, you can also make a non-alcohol version of vanilla extract using food-grade vegetable glycerin (recipe to come). Extracts are easy to work with and impart vanilla flavor and aroma into your recipes. Working with vanilla extract means no waste and making your own is very cost effective.

Vanilla Powder

Ground vanilla is made from the ground seeds and pod of a vanilla beans. There is no waste using vanilla powder, it's easy to work with and for that reason it's very popular for the home chef and large food manufacturers alike. Vanilla powder is a rich & robust ingredient. It can be used as sprinkles, added to hot and cold drinks, and is an excellent choice for baked goods with the flavor holding up to heat and long cooking times. It's a good choice for temperamental ingredients like whipping cream & chocolate ganache.

Vanilla Paste

Vanilla paste is made up of vanilla extract, vanilla powder, and sometimes glycerine. Vanilla paste has an intense vanilla flavor and will have an appealing look in finished products. Its flavor tends to be robust and intense. Vanilla paste is easy to work with and holds up to heat and long cooking times. It can also work well with some temperamental ingredients like whipping cream. It typically contains alcohol & may not be appropriate for everyone.

Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla sugar is easy to make at home and good to have in the cupboard. You make it by adding ground vanilla or your spent vanilla pods to a jar of sugar. Once you've done that you'll want to wait a few weeks until the flavors mix. Try shaking the jar from time to time. Vanilla sugar is delicious used as sprinkles, rimming sugar, sweetening hot and cold drinks, and when using as sugar in your baked goods.

Vanilla Caviar

Vanilla caviar are pure vanilla seeds that have been hand scraped. And, as I am sure you guessed, they are very expensive. These seeds are best for garnishing the top of your deserts when presentation matters—you don't actually use these for cooking. Use vanilla caviar as a garnish on top of vanilla ice cream, whipping cream, vanilla crème brûlée, and buttercream frostings.