Difference Between Vanilla and Vanilla Extract (With Table)

Vanilla and vanilla extract is a popular choice of flavouring and is used in a wide range of products. Vanilla is one of the most popular flavourings in the world used in ice cream, yoghurt, drinks, baked goods, sauces, desserts, etc. You might have come across this flavouring or seen Vanilla being used in different recipes.

Vanilla vs Vanilla Extract

The difference between Vanilla and vanilla extract is that while one refers to the raw, pure form of a flavour, the other refers to the chemical substance that gives the flavour its characteristics. Vanilla refers to the seeds of the vanilla orchids; however, vanilla extract, as the name suggests, is the extract of its flavour.

Vanilla and vanilla flavour is obtained from Vanilla planifolia, which is a species of orchid native to Mexico. Vanilla planifolia is the only species of vanilla orchid as such Vanilla, and the vanilla flavour is widely used as a flavouring and as such is used in a wide range of products. It is found in its natural bean form.

Vanilla extract is a flavouring made from vanilla beans. It’s used to flavour a variety of different foods and beverages. It is obtained from the cured seed pods of the vanilla plant. Vanilla is used in both commercial and homemade vanilla extract. The curation process included steeping it in a mixture of water and alcohol.

Comparison Table Between Vanilla and Vanilla Extract

Parameters of ComparisonVanillaVanilla Extract
MeaningVanilla refers to the raw form of vanilla beans found naturally growing on the Vanilla orchid.Vanilla extract is the chemical substance that gives vanilla its characteristic flavour with alcohol.
CostVanilla in its pure form is more expensive.Vanilla extract can be found in varying prizes.
AlcoholNo alcohol is found in vanilla.Alcohol is an essential component of vanilla extract.
GlycerinVanilla is commercially sold in a mixture of glycerin.No glycerin is found in vanilla extract.
Strength of FlavourVanilla has a milder taste compared to vanilla extract.Vanilla extract has a stronger taste than vanilla.

What is Vanilla?

These are the dried ripe fruit of the vanilla orchid. The orchid is native to Mexico but now grows in many tropical areas around the world. The vanilla orchid belongs to the family Orchidaceae. The vanilla fruit is produced after pollination. It takes 9 months to mature, and full ripening takes place in the warmer parts of the world. The botanical name of the plant is Vanilla planifolia.

As a food flavouring, Vanilla is used in a variety of baked goods, desserts and ice cream. It is also added to liqueurs, alcoholic beverages etc. Vanilla is considered the most popular flavouring in the world. Its flavour is used in almost every type of culinary creation across the globe.

 The word vanilla is derived from the Spanish word “vainilla”, which translates to “little pod.” Vanilla as we know it today is derived from an orchid plant. All parts of the vanilla plant, including the fruit, the leaves, and the stem, contain vanillin, the chemical that gives Vanilla its distinctive flavour.

The vanilla orchid plant is native to Mexico and grows wild in the forests of Central America. It can also be cultivated in tropical regions of the world, where the plant is often grown in greenhouses. Fresh vanilla beans are hand-picked by farmers but can also be grown in greenhouses.

What is Vanilla Extract?

From the literal meaning of the word, vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans. It is made by steeping vanilla beans in an alcohol and water mixture, which is then aged for several months to create a dark brown liquid with an alcohol content of 35 per cent.

Vanilla extract is used in all kinds of recipes that call for Vanilla, one of the most popular flavours in the world today. As the second most expensive spice (saffron is #1 at $1,400 per pound), the vanilla extract is an affordable luxury that heightens the flavour of your food. Although it is called “extract” as an analogy to “extract of olives”, it is not, strictly speaking, an extract, but liquor.

The extracts are the essential oils that are extracted from plant materials. The plant materials contain essential oils, which are extracted by chemical processes. These extracted oils are called extracts. These extracts are used in sweet dishes, confectionaries, savouries, ice creams, milkshakes, soft drinks, energy drinks, liqueur and many other food products.

The level of percentage of alcohol in vanilla extract differs in the different types of extracts found like Mexican, Tahitian, Bourbon, and so on. In essence, it’s the chemicals that form the vanilla flavour that forms vanilla extract.

Main Differences Between Vanilla and Vanilla Extract

  1. Vanilla in most literature refers to raw or sun-dried vanilla beans, whereas vanilla extract is an extract of the flavouring of the vanilla beans.
  2. Vanilla is a naturally occurring product, while vanilla extract is a derived product.
  3. Vanilla does not contain any alcohol, but vanilla extract contains various levels of alcohol depending upon the company.
  4. Vanilla is commercially sold in a mixture of glycerin, while vanilla extract does not contain any glycerin.
  5. The purity of Vanilla depends on the purity of the vanilla beans, whereas the purity of vanilla extract depends upon the amount of vanillin found in the extract.


Vanilla is one of the most expensive and widely used natural flavourings used by food and other industries. It is also one of the most popular flavours in the world. It is an integral part of many recipes, desserts, and drinks. Vanilla extract can also be prepared at home following the same method as stated earlier.

Vanilla extract is, however, very concentrated and should only be used in small amounts for flavouring. The vanilla extract should not be used in place of vanilla beans. Vanilla beans should be used in place of vanilla extract when a recipe calls for vanilla beans or when a recipe calls for a smaller amount of vanilla flavour.


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/1097-0010(200002)80:3%3C289::AID-JSFA543%3E3.0.CO;2-2
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021967307000842
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