What is the best brand of vanilla extract?

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76 Comments

Adam Y. February 2, 2019
This is the only vanilla I will use. It comes in a clear glass bottle from mexico. It is almost gone. It looks 3/4 full because it stains the glass bottle! Have not found it online like this. If you know someone going to mexico and will get it for you, you will not be disappointed.
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So S. November 12, 2018
i use neilsen massey--it's readily available at whole foods and i bought it initally after it got touted as a "good" vanilla extract by ina garten (barefoot contessa fame) and i've seen it pop up a few times floating around the youtube culinary sphere since then. HOWEVER: if you plan on baking *white* things like a white cake, you should get clear vanilla extract
 
Gail J. August 19, 2017
Bourbon vanilla is not extracted by bourbon liquor but is extracted from a variety of the vanilla orchid originally grown on the Ile de Bourbon. The name of the island changed many times and is now simply called Reunion. This is the same variety of vanilla as grown on Madagascar and is differentiated from Mexican and Tahitian varieties. Vanilla is difficult to grow and requires a lot of manual labor. The 3 varieties do differ in taste with Tahitian considered more delicate and floral and bourbon being the most assertive. Although the vanilla orchid is native to Mexico, Bourbon vanilla beans now account for 75% of the world's annual vanilla crop. Various online articles warn that Mexican food laws are different from those in the US and therefore it is best to buy Mexican vanilla which has been extracted from pods grown in Mexico but processed in the US. Apparently, the danger is the addition of coumarin, a substance banned as a food additive in the US because it can cause liver damage, but which is allowed in Mexican processed vanilla.
 
catalinalacruz November 7, 2015
Costco vanilla, Kirkland Signature label, 16 oz., is very good for the price.
 
Contessa327 April 4, 2013
The BEST vanilla I've ever tried is Rain's Choice pure vanilla extract, sold at https://www.vanilla.com/. They carry Madagascar Bourbon, Mexican and Tahitian extracts in both single-fold and double-fold. (Better than Nielsen-Massey!) They also carry fabulous 3-fold vanilla bean paste and beautiful vanilla beans.
 
Cristina S. March 27, 2013
Since no one has mentioned it here yet: Madecasse (http://store.madecasse.com/products-vanilla-spices.html)
 
Kathy L. March 27, 2013
I prefer Rain's Choice vanilla from http://www.vanilla.com because the flavor has always been outstanding and I love supporting Patricia Rain in the work she is doing for farmers worldwide. Purchases there support her work, the farmers and the planet.
 
Kathy L. November 5, 2015
Vanilla.com moved. They are now at vanillaqueen.com
 
Gia M. February 24, 2013
I have been using Nielsen Massey Vanilla from Madagascar for many years...I have used other brands before trying this one, but once I tasted this one I've never gone back to another brand. This is simply the best above the rest!
I have been using Nielsen Massey Vanilla from Madagascar for many years...I have used other brands before trying this one, but once I tasted this one I've never gone back to another brand. This is simply the best above the rest!




 
Gia M. February 24, 2013
I have been using Nielsen Massey Vanilla from Madagascar for many years...I have used other brands before trying this one, but once I tasted this one I've never gone back to another brand. This is simply the best above the rest!
I have been using Nielsen Massey Vanilla from Madagascar for many years...I have used other brands before trying this one, but once I tasted this one I've never gone back to another brand. This is simply the best above the rest!




 
Stevie W. February 16, 2013
Mexican is very good but Ugandan is the ultimate if you want that intense vanilla sensation. Ndali is the best brand. See
http://www.bespoke-foods.co.uk/products/view/spreads-baking-confectionery/ndali
I don't know who supplies Ndali in the US but maybe someone in the community knows of a supplier?
 
AntoniaJames November 5, 2015
I had my son bring back some Ndali from London, and it is super super. ;o)
 
grldollies November 24, 2012
For the past 15 yrs I've bought Rain's choice Vanilla. Double fold Mexican Vanilla, They make Madagascar Bourbon, Tahitian extracts, powders, paste and much more. Previously a friend brought me vanilla from Mexico which can be iffy. I've been happy with them. I've bought Costco Vanilla before which is good but I prefer Mexican beans the best.
 
grldollies November 24, 2012
For the past 15 yrs I've bought Rain's choice Vanilla . COMpany double fold Mexican Vanilla, They make Madagascar Bourbon, Tahitian extracts, powders, paste and much more. Previous a friend brought me vanilla from Mexico which can be iffy. I've been happy with them. I've bought Costco Vanilla before which is good but I prefer Mexican beans the best.
 
Pastry C. October 22, 2012
I am a pastry chef of 30 years and have tried all vanillas. I love Rodelle Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Extract. It has the best vanilla flavor and aroma. I used to use Nielsn but it is not has strong.
 
barbrob August 30, 2012
Buying vanilla in Mexico can be dangerous since they have few regulations on their food and you cannot believe the labels. I make my own using grade B Madagascar beans and any alcohol that is between 70-80 proof. Open any bottle of alcohol pour off a little and put in between 2 to 6 beans per cup after splitting the beans. Shake on occasion and enjoy in 8 weeks to 6 months. Use left over beans to make vanilla sugar and on average they make about 3 batches of extract. So much cheaper and better than anything you buy in store. I am making batches using rum, vodka, brandy and bourbon, will be matching recipes with ingredients.
 
Tarragon August 16, 2012
Penzeys had a "Mexican Vanilla" which I bought but haven't yet tried, as I am waiting use up my double-strength. However, the Mexican was not listed on their website a few weeks ago.
 
Dan A. August 16, 2012
Folks; About 97% of the vanilla you find on shelves and in products are imitation vanilla. It does not have to say vanilla, it can say vanillan, vanillin. It is made from wood pulp chemicals and is an accumulative poison. Do you really think that 16 pz. bottle from Mexico that says real vanilla on it is real? They have no regulations there and it is not USDA or FDA inspected. It takes a lot of work to make the real 2 oz. of it and I pay about 10 bucks or more for 2 oz. Labeling can be misleading and don't eat vanilla products from stores because bakers cannot afford the real thing. You will get nauseous, headaches, stomach aches and can damage the kidney and liver. Research it and you will see. Cheaper to find the bean and not real dried out beans that have sat on the shelves too long. You will get more. Any alcohol will do and just low percentage alcohol content is fine. Other brands might says it contains real vanilla but doesn't say pure. It is half of the poison mixed in. Even if it says does not contain this or that it is not real. Know what to buy or make your own.
 
rogerbrad April 30, 2012
I only use 'pure' vanilla, not extracts. To me the flavor is more intense.
 
Terryann March 15, 2012
Here's one: Your own, i tried this when I could find really goof vanilla. You'll need one mason jar, six to ten vanilla beans, and any kind of plain vodka. Place vanilla beans in jar, add enough vodka to cover, place lid on jar and twist to make a goof seal. Place jar in a cool sark place for 4-6 months, adding vodka if it evaporates. It takes awhile to make but worth the effort and will last a goof year. Enjoy
 
Nicole07 February 8, 2012
Penzeys is the best!
 
chef O. January 27, 2012
Switched from Pensy's brand to Costco pure vanilla. About 1/4 the price and I defy anyone to taste a difference. Gonna try to make my own as noted above when this bottle runs out.
 
Cookie16 January 26, 2012
I bought a bottle of Nielsen Massey (albeit from Marshalls) and I wasn't impressed in comparisson to all the raves I've read here. It was comparable to the vanilla I typically have on hand from Trader Joe's that I use for protein shakes and the like, but not for baking.

Thus far I have yet to find anything that could hold a candle to the Mexican Vanilla that my mother brought back to the states with her on several occasions. Nothing has been as potent, flavorful, or vanilla-y as that stuff!

Does anyone here make their own?
 
babycakes16 January 26, 2012
In a brand new love with Rodelle extract. It is gourmet!
 
Shuna L. January 2, 2012
Vanilla should be expensive. If it's not, it's been messed with a bit, or it's not exactly what it says it is, or something else. Like saffron, vanilla is incredibly difficult to produce and passes through many people/governments' hands and is often tampered with to profit a scoundrel.

Read the chapter on vanilla in The History of the Senses, a book by Diane Ackerman or check out Patricia Rain's website (you can buy real vanilla through her) to learn more of what I'm talking about. http://www.vanilla.com/

All this said I trust Nielsen-Massey as well, but I never buy the Tahitian.

If you want to buy vanilla beans, know that they should be shriveled up, not wet & plump, and THE WHOLE POD IS EDIBLE! Never "discard" the pod. I have written about how to get the most out of your vanilla pod on my blog: http://eggbeater.typepad.com/shuna/2007/03/vanilla_beans_p.html

Making your own vanilla extract is more expensive than buying it. It depends how much you use... in the bakery we go through almost a gallon a month. The paste is great but it *does not* replace extract in certain recipes, like chocolate chip cookies-- whose flavor relies heavily ion Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract.

I bet you didn't think this simple question would get so many detailed answers, eh? Vanilla, and the plant that bears it, is endlessly mysterious & fascinating.
 
Kathy L. November 5, 2015
Shuna, in case you're not aware, the Vanilla Queen sold her domain and moved to http://www.vanillaqueen.com. She continues to publish great stuff on vanilla particularly this latest article that attempts to alert the world of the fact that vanilla may go extinct. http://vanillaqueen.com/wheres-the-cheap-vanilla/
 
Leslie B. January 1, 2012
I really don't care for McCormick's vanilla. I've thrown out every bottle I've ever bought! My favorite store bought is Adam's. I also like the vanilla I bought in Mexico. Some of these mentioned I've never heard of!
 
ChefJune December 27, 2011
I only use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas. I prefer the Bourbon Madagascar. When I'm teaching a baking class, I often also bring a bottle of McCormick along and have the class sniff both. Then I let them choose the one they want to use. Nobody chooses the McCormick.

I contend there's quite a difference in quality of vanillas, and it's best to do research yourself.
 
CottageGourmet December 27, 2011
Add your answer here
 
Davec012 December 20, 2011
Make your own. Soak vanilla beans in vodka.
 
sonicfish December 18, 2011
Buy a bottle of Maker's Mark Bourbon or similar split several good quality vanilla beans and drop them in the bottle. Leave in a dark space for a couple weeks agitating frequently and you're done. Haven't bought extract in years.
 
jaxcat December 17, 2011
I also make my own. The recipe I use is southern and calla for cognac. I usually use VSOP brandy. It makes beautiful gifts.
 
Panfusine November 27, 2011
Nielsen Massey gets my vote...Amands's posted pic just reminded me.. this is the second Image that I've seen on the hotline that appears fuzzy..shd I email [email protected] about it?
 
amysarah November 27, 2011
Just fyi - I also mostly use Nielsen-Massey; but I often find it at Marshall's, or TJ Maxx, or other similar stores, for close to half the price of e.g., Williams Sonoma. Finding it can be kind of hit or miss, so when I see it, I buy 2-3 bottles.
 
luvcookbooks November 27, 2011
A friend brings me vanilla in big bottles from the Dominican Republic. Better than anything I've ever bought. :)
 
jla1893 November 26, 2011
Homemade is the best! I use whiskey and 3-4 vanilla beans (split and scrapped) per pint of booze.
 
Anitalectric February 7, 2011
I get by buying cheap (but real) vanilla extract and sticking leftover vanilla beans in after the seeds have been scraped out and used for another recipe. After a few days it is money.

Has anyone ever tried making homemade bourbon vanilla? I really want to try that!
 
isabelita December 21, 2010
Thank you Witloff, I'm headed to Grand Central Station.
 
witloof December 15, 2010
@isabelita, there is a Penzy's in Grand Central Market. They are a wonderful spice shop with first rate herbs, spices, and extracts.
 
Dee4 February 13, 2012
that one is closed, there is another spice market there now.
 
rrbtexasmomof2 December 4, 2010
I cannot believe no one mentioned Watkins brand Vanilla. They are famous for their vanilla! They have also been around for over 100 years! Find online or from a local sales associate. Also, some of your large grocery chains are starting to carry a few Watkins products!
 
jaxcat January 1, 2012
You can buy Watkins Vanilla now at Cracker Barrel if you have one. They don't all have it yet but you can call first to check.
 
isabelita December 1, 2010
I've had great success with Trader Joe's brand. What or who is Penzey? I live in NYC and I'm not familiar with this name.
 
luvcookbooks November 27, 2011
can shop at penzey's at grand central market, it's original store is in wisconsin
 
Dee4 February 13, 2012
penzey's at grand central is closed .
 
spiffypaws November 16, 2010
Penzey's double strength vanilla is the best, but frankly I prefer to use vanilla beans instead. The flavor is just so much better.
 
CottageGourmet November 12, 2010
@Tes: it's called Bourbon Vanilla not because that's the liquor used in the infusion, but rather because that was the name of the French ruling family that had re-named Madagascar "Ile Bourbon." Madagascar is where the beans are grown. I usually use vodka myself but decided to use white rum this time.r
 
Mr_Vittles October 18, 2010
I also make my own vanilla extract. Just take a mason jar, split and scrape two vanilla beans, and fill it to the brim with vodka. Then keep the jar in a dark place and shake it once a day for a month. Then whenever it gets low fill the jar up again with vodka. Also, America's Test Kitchen said McCormick Vanilla Extract was the best.
 
foodfighter October 13, 2010
I echo tes, I like homemade. You can really control the amount of vanilla beans in the extract. I use everclear (151 proof), polish grain alcohol (151 proof), or vodka. Whatever I have at the time. I dilute the everclear/grain alchohol to 100 proof. Then I soak the beans (2-3 per cup of extract in a little bit of the alcohol to soften), Process in Vita Mix on low, and add (using funnel) simmering alcohol to an empty liquor bottle. Shake daily for a couple weeks, then rubberband some cheesecloth to the top of the liquor bottle and pour into about 8 oz swing top bottles. That way they are ready for gifts.
 
luvcookbooks November 27, 2011
I luv that you have everclear, polish grain alcohol around.
 
luvcookbooks November 27, 2011
what are swing top bottles?
 
happycao January 27, 2012
Does the vodka make a big difference in taste?
 
tes October 11, 2010
I make my own. It's cost effective, extremely easy, delicious, and nerdy. The laziest path includes ebay (for a handful of fresh, fair-trade beans for about $10), a food processor (for maximum extraction), and vodka (because despite how much everyone likes bourbon vanilla, clear liquor is best for making the real thing at home.) Here's a good link:

http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Vanilla-Extraction/
 
Bevi October 8, 2010
I did get some Mexican vanilla through customs a few years ago, but failing that, I use the Costco vanilla and am happy with it.
 
AntoniaJames October 7, 2010
I noticed the last time I was at Penzeys that they now have a Mexican vanilla. Haven't tried it yet, though I plan to when my current bottle is nearly done. (I'll do a taste test!!) You can get the Penzeys online. ;o)
 
NakedBeet October 7, 2010
A friend brought back a bottle of Mexican vanilla for me from one of her trips, and I'm itching for her to go back. I don't remember the brand now, but the bottle actually says it doesn't contain any coumarin. I've used the Nielson one before as well and liked that, too.
 
Cookie16 December 23, 2011
Yep—as a Mexican, I agree whole heatedly. It's the best, very potent, and should have a label with little to no English on it. And very dark!
 
Cookie16 December 23, 2011
Oops, whole heartedly! :)
 
Debra November 12, 2018
Xel-Ha Vainilla Mexicana I got on a cruise is really good but might have coumarin...it doesn't say it in ingredients
 
aliyaleekong October 4, 2010
i'm also a fan of Nielsen-Massey and use both the extract and the paste depending on the dessert. The ground vanilla bean paste is a fantastic alternative to expensive beans - both in terms of flavor and visual.
 
tina_starke September 30, 2010
Costco sells a 16 oz bottle of Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla for about $8, about 1/3 the price of McCormick. Works for me!
 
hedgman September 12, 2010
Nielsen-Massey makes a three pack of 2oz samples of Mexican, Madagascar Bourbon and Tahitian. Sold exclusively by Williams-Sonoma in their stores and on their web site http://www.williams-sonoma.com/. Not inexpensive. But if you want to try the differences, it is a simple way. Then go buy a larger bottle of your fave.
 
betteirene September 8, 2010
I have four bottles of vanilla in my cupboard-- good old McCormick, Nielsen Massey, a bottle of something that my daughter-in-law's mother brought back from Mexico -- I don't know what it is because a granddaughter peeled off the label -- and a bottle of Wilton imitation clear vanilla. I use the Wilton clear vanilla for wedding cake buttercreams that need to be pure white, and for Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Melting Moments or whatever you call them; the McCormick is for fudge, chocolate cream pie and oatmeal, peanut butter or no-bake cookies; the good stuff is for brownies, ice cream, pound cakes, sugar cookies, pecan pie and anything with coconut. I don't think it's a matter of one vanilla being better than another; I think it's more a matter of taste and the recipe being used. Try this when you have the time: divide a cookie recipe in half and use a different vanilla in each half, then bake. Do the same thing for something that isn't cooked, like icing. See if you think there's a difference, then challenge others to do the same.
 
AntoniaJames September 7, 2010
I bought the Nielsen-Massey recommended by Amanda, to use in my favorite banana bread recipe. I really could tell the difference. It's excellent!! I like the other extracts made by that company, too. Now, I need to find the vanilla paste . . . . ;o)
 
drbabs August 19, 2010
I'm a Penzey's girl--fortunately they have a store in my neighborhood!
 
TheWimpyVegetarian August 19, 2010
Mexican Vanilla is my go-to vanilla extract, but now I want to try the vanilla bean paste monkeymom recommends!
 
monkeymom August 18, 2010
I just got a bottle of Nielsen Massey pure vanilla bean paste. You use it in the same amounts as vanilla extract but it gives you the teeny little seeds. It's amazing.
 
Sagegreen August 18, 2010
I have loved the flavor of vanilla from the large bottle I purchased in Mexico; I do know if coumarin was added in the processing, but hope not.
 
AlainB August 12, 2010
My favorite is Baldwin's Pure Vanilla Extract. According to them "Baldwin's Pure Vanilla Extract uses only the best, most flavorful and most expensive variety of bean-the Bourbon Vanilla Bean from Madagascar." I used to buy it in their old counrty store in West Stockbrisge, MA.
 

Voted the Best Reply!

Amanda H. July 30, 2010
I like Nielsen Massey vanilla (also like their beans) -- great flavor. Intense, floral, nutty. Comes from Madagascar.
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mgidwitz February 5, 2013
I use the vanilla bean paste from Nielsen
Massey, it's the best I've ever found.
 
AntoniaJames July 30, 2010
The brand I use is "La Vencedora," which has no alcohol, preservatives or "coumarin" (an artificial flavoring agent used in Mexico, and apparently banned by the FDA). Beans from Veracruz, Tabasco and Chiapas are used to make it. As noted above, it's amazing stuff. The bottle says that it is "concentrated flavoring (four fold). But who knows to what they are comparing it. A four ounce bottle costs just about half of what the Penzey's double strength four-ounce bottle costs. I like the Mexican better than that made from Madagascar beans (as Penzey's and many others are) because its flavor is much richer and more complex.
 
Debi March 26, 2017
Since there is no alcohol, do I need to adjust recipes bc of vanilla strength?
 
mariaraynal July 26, 2010
I've used Mexican vanilla and agree, it's wonderful. I haven't tried Penzey's double strength and am now intrigued.
 
AntoniaJames July 25, 2010
I really like Penzey's too, for baking, but for dishes where you can really taste the vanilla, I'm totally hooked on Mexican vanilla, which has a much more complex, somewhat woodsy flavor. I am away from home right now, but will post the name of the brand I use (made from vanilla beans from three different places in Mexico) when I return.
 
MrsWheelbarrow July 25, 2010
I love the double strength vanilla from Penzeys
 
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