Vanilla is one of the essential ingredients in baking. 

Read any baking recipe, and they’ll almost all call for vanilla extract. Even though the measurement is small (often only a teaspoon or so), the impact vanilla has on your baking is astounding.

Vanilla comes in many types, including powders, extracts, and the bean itself. If you’re looking to learn more about where vanilla came from and how to bake with it, read on. 

Where Does Vanilla Extract Come From?

Vanilla comes from a tropical orchid originally grown in Mexico. Did you know that vanilla isn’t a bean, but rather the fruit of the orchid? Vanilla is plucked and cultivated before it’s sold in different forms using a labor-intensive process.

The flavor of vanilla is sweet and woody, which adds excellent flavor to any baked product. Vanilla is a scent that people rarely don’t enjoy. It’s widely available and you can easily find it at your local grocery store or conveniently order online at

The Types of Vanilla Extract 

There are various ways that you can purchase vanilla, and each lends itself best to certain types of use.

Vanilla beans are the beans that are cultivated during the harvesting process, and can be sold as-is. You can use the seeds or even the beans in your baking. 

You’re probably wondering: what is vanilla extract made of?

You get pure vanilla extract by soaking the vanilla bean in alcohol and water, and likely the application of low heat. It extracts the flavor from the bean, and leaves behind the sweet syrupy mixture you have probably used before. Depending on how the vanilla was extracted, how much heat was used, and various other factors, the concentration will change. 

This is different from vanilla essence, which is the artificial version made of vanillin. This is the main compound found in vanilla beans, but used in smaller amounts to make more essence. 

Have vanilla beans at home? You can try to make homemade vanilla extract too. 

Vanilla bean paste adds thickeners and sugar to the extract to get a thicker, pasty form of vanilla. 

How to Bake With Vanilla 

Baking with vanilla is easy and often called for in similar amounts and ways in recipes. Usually, you’ll add a teaspoon to a tablespoon of vanilla to your recipe when you’re combining the wet ingredients. 

While other parts of baking need to be extremely precise, such as adding baking soda or baking powder, vanilla is more flexible. You can add a touch less or more than the recipe calls for, depending on your personal preferences and taste.

Are you out of vanilla? Try using a vanilla substitute

Get Cooking With Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is a great way to level up any baked good. You’re guaranteed to bring some added sweetness and a wonderful aroma by adding a dash to your next granola, cookie, or banana bread recipe.

Looking for more ways to improve your baking repertoire? Check out the rest of the blog.