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Is Vanilla Paste Better Than Extract?

Slofoodgroup Team décembre 27, 2023

When it comes to flavoring food and beverage, vanilla is a top choice around the world, but when choosing how to incorporate its profound flavor, there are several options. Vanilla paste and vanilla extract are two of the most popular choices. Vanilla extract is more commonly found in pantries across the globe, but vanilla paste has had a relatively recent surge in popularity that has folks wondering whether paste is a better choice in cooking, baking, and beverage preparations.

There is no simple yes or no answer to whether or not vanilla paste is better than extract. While in many recipes one can be substituted for the other, each has its own unique characteristics and best use cases. Read on to learn the differences in these two ingredients and when you might want to use one rather than the other.

Vanilla Paste vs Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is renowned for its inclusion in dishes far and wide, but not all extracts are created equally. The overall flavor will vary based on the type of vanilla beans used and the fold number, or concentration, of vanilla beans to liquid. Most commercial vanilla extracts are made using Vanilla Planifolia beans and take on their flavor characteristics—sweet, creamy, slightly floral, with hints of oak.

Vanilla Paste

Like vanilla extract, the flavor of a given vanilla paste is determinant of the types of beans used to create it, but in general, will carry notes of flowers and buttercream, with oaky back notes. It is a thick, highly concentrated blend of vanilla extract and whole vanilla bean pods, including the vanilla bean seeds. It is often combined with a small amount of sugar or syrup, which acts as a thickener, but also enunciates the vanilla flavor. Vanilla paste contains the small, flavorful specks of vanilla bean.

When to use Vanilla Extract

Because vanilla extract is a liquid, it’s not something you would want to use in sensitive recipes in which the addition of moisture could alter the consistency of the end product. For most baking recipes, especially those where the liquid content is crucial, vanilla extract is the go-to choice—especially with doughs and batters. Its ease of measurement and consistent flavor distribution make it a reliable option. If you want a deeper vanilla flavor but don’t want the black specks from the paste and don’t want to add any more liquid, try using a stronger fold of vanilla extract.

When to use Vanilla Paste

Vanilla paste is often chosen in cases where added moisture content could throw off the final product—such as custards and frostings. It is also adored for aesthetic appeal, adding elegance via the contribution of the vanilla bean seeds, which appear as tiny black flecks. Because it is highly concentrated, a little vanilla paste goes a long way in adding intense flavor.

Is Vanilla Paste or Vanilla Extract a Better Choice?

Whether vanilla paste or vanilla extract is better really comes down to preference. Both vanilla paste and vanilla extract contribute robust vanilla flavor, though when put side-by-side, extract will present as more subtle. In most cases, one can be substituted for the other, so you just need to decide whether you want a more intense vanilla flavor and black specks or a more subtle vanilla flavor with no specks. The exception, of course, is what we mentioned earlier: if added moisture will throw off your recipe, you will want to choose paste.