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What are the best vanilla beans for vanilla extract

Shawn Gavin October 16, 2022

How to decide the best vanilla beans for do it yourself vanilla extract 

     So you have found yourself wondering what are the best vanilla beans for making vanilla extract and did a search online? The choices can be daunting or even perhaps liberating depending how one thinks about it.  Madagascar vanilla, Uganda, Tahiti, or vanilla from Papua New Guinea; which type of vanilla bean should you really use and does it even matter? The answer to this question is a bit yes and a bit no, so let us get right into it. 

There are lot of choices for what type of vanilla bean to use for making vanilla extract 

A quick search online can reveal many things; The first, and possibly the most comforting, is consumers have many choices of vanilla beans and places to buy vanilla beans. The next few questions, for some, may not be that easy. What type of vanilla bean to buy? How much vanilla do you need? What grade of vanilla beans should you use? Then lastly, what type of alcohol should you use for making homemade vanilla extract? That may seem like a lot at first but trust us, making a homemade vanilla extract, is really quite easy once you make the few simple choices. 

What type of vanilla bean should you use to make vanilla extract

Here are the most common choices of vanilla beans for making vanilla extract and some reason to use or try a few of them. There is really no one bean fits all. At Slofoodgroup, we encourage users to try at least two to three types of vanilla beans before making a decision on what suits their cooking and baking needs best. 

Madagascar vanilla beans -  Grown from the vanilla planifolia orchid species, often called a flat-leaved orchid that originated in Mexico and Belize.  Vanilla from Madagascar makes up often 80% percent or more of vanilla bean consumption worldwide.  That is a lot of vanilla. It is safe to say that if 80% percent of vanilla comes from Madagascar than at least this same amount or more of baked goods, ice creams, chocolates and other food items that contain vanilla, also use vanilla from Madagascar. Madagascar vanilla is a great choice vanilla bean for making vanilla extract. The aroma of vanilla from Madagascar is just what most people expect when it comes to vanilla beans. Rich, buttery, creamy, with little notes of smokiness and soft cocoa undertones. For these reasons Madagascar vanilla beans are a great choice for making vanilla extract. The vanilla is reliable, fair priced and available in bulk quantities every year.  

Ugandan vanilla beans - Also grown from the flat-leaved vanilla orchid is another variety of vanilla bean that is a great option for making a strong and bold flavored vanilla extract. Vanilla from Uganda is rich with notes of milk chocolate, rip figs, and a buttery profile.  Uganda is also the only country in the world that has two growing seasons. Significant amount of sun in Uganda ensures the vanilla you buy from this region is fresh year-around. Personally, while this fact is quite interesting, we do not believe too much emphasis should be put into the claim that one vanilla is fresher than another since vanilla is the dried and cured fruit of the orchid plant. Drying and curing is a preservation process. Ugandan vanilla beans are however a very good choice for making vanilla extract. The vanilla beans are high in vanillin content and available at a good price often times lower priced than Madagascar vanilla.   

Comoros vanilla beans - Another West Indian (flat-leaved) vanilla bean that is absolutely delectable in our opinion. Vanilla beans from Comoros are similar to vanilla from Madagascar with deeper and richer undertones. This bourbon type of vanilla bean is well worth its price. Comoros vanilla beans make a wonderful vanilla extract that you cannot find on most store shelves. We highly recommend trying vanilla from Comoros. If you would like to read more about Comoros vanilla beans you can find them here and decide for yourself. While the price for vanilla from Comoros is a little higher than other vanilla beans, we believe it is well worth it and definitely worth having around the house.  

Interested in vanilla beans that are little softer with fruity and floral undertones?

Try some Tahitian type vanilla beans. We have outlined our two favorites and why below. 

Vanilla from Tahiti - wow are tahitian vanilla beans are lovely. The soft, fruity and floral undertones of authentic vanilla from Tahiti, truly cannot be matched by any other vanilla bean. The notes of ripe cherries and wisps of summer stone fruits like nectarines, plums and more is really enchanting. Vanilla beans from Tahiti are also quite rare making up less than 1% (0.7 according to 2013 statistics) percent of vanilla consumption worldwide. These vanilla beans are not cheap and never will be. Beware of sellers that sell Tahitian type from other regions and call it Tahiti vanilla. It is the same type of orchid (vanilla tahitensis) but not the same. You can read more about why in this article about what real Tahitian vanilla is and why is it so darn expensive. 

Papua New Guinea Tahitian Vanilla - one of the most economical choices currently in the world of vanilla beans. Vanilla Beans from Papua New Guinea are a good value for consumers. These vanilla beans have a lower moisture content than vanilla from Tahiti but are a wonderful option for those that like fruity and floral notes that Tahitian vanilla offers. Read more about these wonderful vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea and the people that grow them here.

Have you figured out how to decide the best vanilla bean for making vanilla extract yet?

If you have read this far, and not figured it out yet, the best vanilla beans for making vanilla extract is really up to you.  It is important to decide what your budget is, what flavor profile in vanilla suits your needs, and make a choice. If you are asking us to decide we have already presented a list which we also outline below. Not intended to be entirely compressive, we believe the vanilla beans mentioned above and below are the best mix of quality, value, and availability for users. 

Our top 5 vanilla beans for making vanilla extract

Here is a recap of our top five choices of vanilla beans for making vanilla extract, in no specific order:

  • Madagascar vanilla beans: these vanilla beans are used in more recipes than all other vanillas combined. Madagascar is a gold standard in vanilla and you really cannot go wrong when using these vanilla beans
  • Uganda vanilla beans: bold vanilla at a great price point. Uganda has two growing seasons and the vanilla beans offer a smooth milk chocolatey aroma that stands out in ice creams, custards and more
  • Comoros vanilla beans: deep rich and grown in some of the worlds most fertile volcanic soil, vanilla beans from Comoros are an excellent choice for making vanilla extract with depth. Vanilla beans from Comoros are absolutely one of our very favorites. Long but generally more slender than Madagascar vanilla, these beans sell out quickly every season
  • Vanilla beans from Tahiti: if there was ever a vanilla bean that could be described as sensual, it surely is vanilla from Tahiti. The soft but distinct vanilla essence when you make vanilla extract from vanilla from Tahiti is sure to stand out in cold desserts like gelato, fruit purees and even chocolates. 
  • Tahitian vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea: a great vanilla beans at a great price point. This vanilla bean is an all star for those who like Tahitian vanilla but do not have the money to splurge on vanilla from Tahiti. Soft, and aromatic these vanilla beans are probably one of the best value vanilla beans you can find. Papua New Guinea is also now the worlds second largest exporter of vanilla and grows both a Bourbon type vanilla and Tahitian type vanilla bean. 

Interested in learning about more vanilla beans from around the world? Check out our gourmet bulk vanilla beans section to find other unique vanilla beans from other origins around the would such as Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and more.