Vanilla Essence vs. Vanilla Extract – What’s The Difference?

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Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors used around the globe. It is known for its calming aroma and pleasing taste. It is extracted from orchids known as vanilla planofolia. Seventy-five percent of the world’s vanilla comes from Madagascar; however, it is also produced in Indonesia, China and Mexico.

Vanilla beans and extracts are used in the pharmaceutical industry for perfumes food and are also one of the most expensive spices in the world. Although vanilla extract and vanilla essence have many key differences, they are both considered the same by many folks.

 Both of them are made in very different ways, and one of them has great health benefits than the other. So, what is the difference between vanilla essence and vanilla extract? Vanilla essence is a synthetic product, while the vanilla extract is a natural product.

However, Vanilla essence is cheaper but has much low nutritional value and flavor compared to vanilla extract. However, the difference does not end here; we have covered several other differences, so keep reading.

Below we have mentioned in details the health benefits, nutritional value and facts about vanilla extract and essence.

Vanilla Essence

Vanilla essence is a chemically produced substance; though it resembles vanilla, it is not vanilla. Vanilla essence consists of petroleum or crude oil, which is used in its making to resemble vanilla flavoring. The ingredients included in making vanilla essence are mentioned below:

  • Ethanol
  • Water
  • Emulsifiers
  • Propylene glycol
  • Colorant


As vanilla essence is cheaper when compared to vanilla extract, it is more commonly used for commercial purposes. It is much more convenient for folks baking in large quantities and needs lots of vanilla flavoring. However, it is made from synthetic ingredients, it has a less natural flavor, so it doesn’t work best in recipes with vanilla as the primary ingredient.

If you want to cook a cake or cookie that needs a lot of vanilla flavoring, then using vanilla essence will be bad. However, it is still widely used by many bakeries and chefs who need to make their products in bulk; when baking, add vanilla essence with other wet ingredients to form a mixture.

You probably wouldn’t want to use vanilla essence in cold desserts or custards as you have vanilla extract, which has a superior flavor. Moreover, it is recommended to use vanilla extract rather than vanilla essence because of its superior quality. Further, it is impossible to make vanilla essence at home as it is chemically produced.

Nutritional Facts

A serving of 4.2 grams of vanilla essence includes the following nutritional value:

  • Total calories 12 KCAL
  • Total fat 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates 0.5 grams
  • Sodium 0.4 mg
  • Dietary fiber 0 grams
  • Sugar 0.5 grams
  • Protein 0 grams

As we have mentioned in detail regarding vanilla essence now lets talk about vanilla extract.

Vanilla Extract

Unlike vanilla essence, a synthetic product, vanilla extract is a natural product. It is made from soaking vanilla beans in ethyl alcohol with water added. As the extract is made from vanilla beans, thus it has a strong vanilla flavor.

Typically, vanilla extract does not have any artificial flavor; however, some do contain sugar to sweeten it. However, any other artificial flavor added to vanilla extract is insignificant. The key ingredients used in making vanilla extract are mentioned below:

  • Alcohol
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla beans

The vanilla extract consists of high-quality ingredients used in various recipes for baking and other purposes. It greatly adds the vanilla flavor to the product it is added to and works great as a primary ingredient. Vanilla extract is added to the mixture after it has been cooked; similarly, it is added to cakes after frosting or icing.

It is always good to spend a few more dollars but purchase vanilla extract rather than vanilla essence as it is healthier. However, several alternatives can be used instead of vanilla extract or vanilla essence. One popular product is vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract and vanilla essence.

Vanilla bean paste is made of the essence and extract and goes well with cold products. However, as it has a thicker consistency, you have to make sure that it is blended well with other flavors. The paste goes well with vanilla coffee and lattes and is a more affordable substitute for vanilla extract.

Health Benefits

Vanilla is rich in vanillin, which is a compound that is rich in vanilla extract and beans. Studies show that vanillin has several health benefits, such as it works as an antioxidant. It has also been shown to show anti-inflammatory effects and various benefits for brain function.

Vanilla extract or powder can be used in drinks and food and can greatly reduce your sugar intake. Thus, adding vanilla to your sweets may reduce the urge to add sugar. Vanilla extract is a versatile product made of vanilla beans with several health benefits.

So, What’s The Difference Between Vanilla Essence and Vanilla Extract?

Summarizing the above-mentioned articles into key words:

  1. Vanilla essence is a synthetic product made using petroleum and other flavorings, while the vanilla extract is a natural product made by using vanilla beans.
  2. Vanilla extract has higher nutritional value and health benefits than vanilla extract.
  3. Vanilla extract has a stronger flavor and is used as a key ingredient, while vanilla essence has a mild flavor and cannot be used as the primary ingredient.
  4. Vanilla extract bottles can cost around $20 to $40, while vanilla essence has a lower price, so it is greatly cheaper.
  5. Vanilla extract has superior flavors and quality, while vanilla essence does not have great quality or taste.
  6. Vanilla essence is a more affordable option if you need to prepare products in bulk, but vanilla extract is used typically at home or for fewer products.
  7. Vanilla extract can be made at home; however, vanilla essence cannot be as it is chemically produced.
  8. The vanilla extract works well for baking cakes or making ice-creams at home, while vanilla essence is used commercially.