What Is The Difference Between Regular Vanilla And Mexican Vanilla Beans?
Before we get too far in this post, we should note that there isn't really such a thing as "regular" vanilla. Vanilla beans come in a wide range of sizes and flavor profiles, with different varieties hailing from various regions. Let’s delve into the intriguing world of vanilla, shining the brightest spotlight on Mexican Vanilla, a variety that we receive loads of inquiries about.
How Mexican Vanilla Beans are Different Than Other Vanilla Bean Varieties
The Spectrum of Vanilla Beans
Vanilla is a diverse spice, with each variety offering its own distinct flavor profile. Some of the most popular vanilla bean varieties include Madagascar, Tahitian, and, of course, Mexican Vanilla Beans. Each are prized for different reasons. Tahitian beans tend to have floral attributes and are adored in the worlds of perfumery and pastries. Madagascar beans are typically of the Planifolia variety and boast the classic vanilla flavor that is well-suited for custards, cookies, sauces, and beverages. Mexican vanilla is also a variety of Vanilla Planifolia, though they tend to have many more layers of flavor and are all around a bit more smooth.
Characteristics of Mexican Vanilla Beans
Let's take a look at some of the characteristics of Mexican vanilla beans that make them so special.
Flavor Profile of Mexican Vanilla Beans:
What really sets Mexican Vanilla apart from other beans is the complexity of it’s flavor profile. It’s characterized by earthy, woody, sweet, spicy, and creamy notes. It adds a depth of flavor that's perfect for both sweet and savory dishes.
Mexican Vanilla Beans Have a High Vanillin Content.
Vanillin content is a notable characteristic of any vanilla bean because it is the the compound responsible for that recognizable vanilla flavor. It can vary between species, growing region, and from plant-to-plant and bean-to-bean. Typically, though, V. planifolia hosts higher levels of vanillin content, Mexican Vanilla included. The levels of vanillin content are what we owe the rich and complex taste of these beans to.
Mexican Vanilla Beans’ Aromatic Properties:
Mexican vanilla beans, while posessing smooth and creamy properties, are also noted for their aromatic depth. While smooth and inviting, many folks also sense earthy notes reminescent of tobacco or deep woods. Others conjure images of milk chocolate after a single inhalation. There are a lot of terms that can describe the aroma of Mexican vanilla beans, but simplicity is certainly not one of them.
How to Use Mexican Vanilla Beans:
Mexican vanilla is incredibly versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes, from savory to sweet. In baking, it elevates cookies, cakes, and pastries to an extraordinary level. On the savory front, adding the caviar of a single bean can and enunciate other layers of flavor and boost the comfort levels of classic dishes like chili or mole.
How to Purchase Mexican Vanilla Beans:
Oftentimes, what is being marketed as “Mexican vanilla” is not made from a vanilla bean at all. Instead, it is sourced from a different type of bean—the tonka bean, which is actually a member of the pea family. This is the reason why you might be able to find “too good to be true” deals on Mexican vanilla extract. Oddly enough, Mexico is actually the birthplace of true vanilla beans and, to this day, still produces some of the finest vanilla beans on the market.
If you want true Mexican vanilla extract, your best bet is to make your own, though, using high-quality vanilla beans from Mexico. As is the case with just about any ingredient, it’s best to ensure you are getting yours from a reputable vendor who supports producers who are adhering to quality standards and ethical practices.
Counterfeit, low-quality, and unethical products are widespread both on the black market, as well as online. So do your research to verify you are only getting top-quality, ethically-sourced vanilla beans from Mexico. Want to cut the research phase out? We’ve got Mexican Vanilla Beans that check all the boxes.
As you delve into the world of cooking and baking with Mexican Vanilla, we invite you to share your experiences and favorite recipes with us in the comments section.