What’s the difference between vanilla extract, imitation vanilla, and vanilla “flavor”? “By law pure vanilla extract must contain at least 35 percent alcohol (by volume) in the final product and have contained at least 13.35 ounces of vanilla beads per gallon in the extraction mixture. The final product may contain sugar but it is not required,” says kmcarr. “Imitation vanilla extract is primarily vanillin, most often extracted from wood pulp. Vanilla flavor may contain a combination of vanilla extract and imitation flavor.” arielleeve recently bought a product called “pure vanilla flavor” that contained glycerin, sugar, water, and vanilla bean extractives. This is probably a nonalcoholic version of vanilla extract, says greygarious. If it doesn’t contain alcohol, it can’t call itself “extract.”

What about real vanilla extract versus the imitation stuff, vanillin? “This post sent me running to my cupboard to taste and smell both the vanilla extract and the imitation,” says onceadaylily. “Both have alcohol in them, but the pure vanilla was warm and sweet by scent and taste. The imitation tasted and smelled sharper, and far more alcoholic. Thinking about what greygarious posted, I wonder if what you have is a product that tries to bridge the gap between the distinct taste differences … by eliminating alcohol from the ‘flavored’ product.”

Discuss: Vanilla “Flavor” vs. Extract?

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