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Buying Vanilla Bean Products, Which is Right for Your Recipe?

Slofoodgroup Team May 05, 2021

Deciding what type of vanilla bean product to buy and how much to use can be tough!

Greetings, vanilla lovers. It's us, the vanilla bean team with Slofoodgroup, and this week we are going to cover the intricacies of buying and using vanilla and vanilla beans. The various vanilla product conversions may seem tough to navigate, but we assure you, it's actually quite simple. Which is right for you will be decided solely by your needs and preferences. With such a wide variety available, though, you can rest easy knowing you are sure to find the highest quality of whichever vanilla bean product to satisfy your needs right here at Slofoodgroup. 

Where to start when buying vanilla flavors online

We're slightly biased, but we think you should start with us. That's because we have put in the time to ensure our vanilla beans and other vanilla products are both ethically sourced and of the highest quality. Perhaps you want to shop around, though, and we totally get it. So instead of explaining why Slofoodgroup offers the best vanilla beans in bulk online, unmatched quality, great prices plus so much more; let us instead start with the basics of vanilla.

In this article we are going to discuss the different types of vanilla bean products available online and offer some guidance when putting them to use in your favorite recipes. The most common different types of vanilla products are whole vanilla beans, vanilla extracts, vanilla pastes, and ground vanilla bean powders. To help you decided which is best‚ÄĒthe pros, the cons, and the differences‚ÄĒwe will break down each product below.¬† At the end of the day, the most important thing, is balancing your needs and the needs of your clients with real vanilla bean flavor.

So let's get right to it, shall we?

Types of vanilla bean products for cooking and baking:

     Buying whole vanilla beans

  • Just as the name suggests, whole vanilla beans are the cured fruit of Vanilla Planifolia, Vanilla Tahitensis, and Vanilla Pompona from the genus Vanilla of the Orchidaceae family.¬† Vanilla flowers are pollinated by hand, picked when ripe, and cured over a series of several months before ever being used. Whole vanilla beans are used in recipes, perfumes, and the base ingredient¬† in producing vanilla extract, vanilla paste, and vanilla powder.¬† Vanilla beans come from regions such as Mexico, Madagascar, Uganda, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, and several others (though, in much smaller quantities).¬† Vanilla beans are available commercially in two or more grades and grading systems can vary slightly from country-to-country. This is typically based on the type of the vanilla beans and local micro economics
  • Grade A vanilla beans are also known as prime, gourmet, luxury, and black vanilla beans. This grade of vanilla bean is soft, pliable, and easy to slice and split open.¬† Gourmet vanilla beans can be used in cooking, baking, and extract production. Professional pastry chefs often prefer to buy the gourmet grade of vanilla bean because they are easy to work with in their kitchens. Most pasty chefs do not make their own vanilla extract. Trust me, I know; I worked in many professional kitchens growing up and not one of them ever made vanilla extract from scratch.¬† Another¬†bonus of the highest tier of vanilla bean grades¬†is that grade A vanilla beans are more aromatic because they possess a higher moisture content. Moisture has a significant role in transferring aroma into almost any product.¬†
  • The second grade of vanilla beans are grade B, also known as extract grade and red vanilla beans due to the lower moisture content of these vanilla beans. This grade of vanilla beans are used primarily for making vanilla extract and compromise about eighty percent of worldwide annual output, mostly originating in Madagascar. If you are making vanilla extract we suggest you give these vanilla beans a try.
One vanilla bean is roughly the equivalent of one tablespoon vanilla extract  

         Buying Vanilla extract

    • Made by macerating vanilla beans in a solution of 35 percent alcohol by volume at a minimum ratio of 13.83 ounces of vanilla to every one gallon solvent, vanilla extract is a great all-around vanilla solution for almost any recipe. Recipes for vanilla extract can vary greatly but most are formulated with Alcohol, water, vanilla (with or without sugar or other approved sweetening agent). Why is there sugar or other sweeteners in pure vanilla extract? That's actually a question for another article but the short answer is because it is allowed, and it cuts the alcohol flavor profile, brings out the flavor of vanilla, and acts as a stabilizing agent.¬† Vanilla extract works great for quickly infusing vanilla flavor in doughs, batters, creams, custards, and more. It is the most widely consumed vanilla product. Pure vanilla extract is an all-around baking staple that can be used in a¬†numerous¬†recipes for quickly infusing vanilla flavor.
    One tablespoon of vanilla extract is roughly the equivalent of one vanilla bean.

      Buying Vanilla Paste

      • A mixture of vanilla extract, vanilla beans, sugar and a host of different thickening agents, vanilla paste is a hugely versatile, value-added vanilla product. Paste can be used to easily distribute vanilla flavor in doughs, batters, custard‚ÄĒyou name it. Another great benefit is you still get to see the vanilla seeds, which add visual delight and more vanilla flavor. The cons of vanilla paste are they are usually very high in sugar content and contain thickening agents that you may or may not want in your recipe. Overall vanilla bean paste is the easiest vanilla product to use where you get the best of both worlds of vanilla seeds and vanilla flavor.¬†
      One tablespoon of vanilla paste is equal to one tablespoon vanilla powder, less the sugar.  There is a considerable amount of sugar in most vanilla paste recipes so if you do not like added sugar in your recipes, we recommend you choose an alternative vanilla product.

              Buying ground vanilla bean powder

        • Made from drying and grinding whole vanilla bean pods. Ground vanilla beans are a value added option that can be used in many recipes ranging from gelatos, scones, chocolates, and more. The catch with real vanilla powder is there is no added sugar, ground vanilla beans do not dissolve and they require blooming or steeping in a recipe. Ground vanilla beans are very much misunderstood, and completely underrated. While a bit more difficult to get that pure vanilla flavor¬†you¬†are looking for, since it is not a liquid nor does it contain¬†sugar, whole ground vanilla beans¬†are a great alternative for both home cooks and high output commercial operations.¬†
        Two teaspoons of ground vanilla bean powder is similar to one tablespoon vanilla extract

          So which vanilla product is best? 

          The truth is, there are plenty of great options when searching for real vanilla flavor:¬†beans, paste, extract, powders‚ÄĒall can play a role in your kitchen. Some may work better for you, your recipes, your customers, your family, whomever. Feel free to mix and match. Find what works for you, and use this handy chart as a conversion reference. It may not work for every recipe but it sure will help take a little of the guess work out of it. Send us an email with any questions. Our team of vanilla enthusiasts always love to help. Happy baking, from Slofoodgroup.


          *All product conversion recommendations are purely guidelines and may be subject to change based on your recipe, the type of vanilla used, and many other natural factors.  Experiment with what works best for your recipe and taste buds. Any guidance given does not constitute a guarantee, and are solely the opinion our writers.