Do Vanilla Extracts From Different Countries Taste Different?

The vanilla bean is an incredibly versatile ingredient that makes anything from ice cream to traditional medicine. It’s one of the most valuable spices on the planet and comes in varying forms, the most popular being vanilla extract. However, not all vanilla extracts taste the same—their origin plays a significant role in the final flavor. We explore the most popular vanilla types and their flavor profiles below.
What is Vanilla Extract Made From?
Before we dive into the different types, we must discuss what vanilla extract is in its basic form. Vanilla extract is the liquid derived from cured and crushed vanilla beans, blending them with alcohol. Soaking the crushed vanilla in an alcohol solution helps it release its inner flavors and scents. This infusion is the familiar bottle of vanilla extract you see on grocery store shelves.
Vanilla extract is not the same as vanilla essence, a chemically derived imitation of the real thing. Pure vanilla extract offers richer, more nuanced flavors that taste different depending on the soil and climate they come from.
Four Types of Vanilla Extract: Flavor Profiles and Uses
1. Madagascan Vanilla (AKA Bourbon Vanilla)
Madagascar is the biggest vanilla producer worldwide. Vanilla extract from this country has a sweet, creamy flavor that works well in baked goods, desserts, smoothies, cocktails, sauces, and cereals. As the most popular vanilla extract variety, it’s a good all-rounder for miscellaneous recipes. Madagascan vanilla is sometimes called Bourbon vanilla because it grows in Réunion (formerly Bourbon Island).
2. Tahitian Vanilla
Tahitian vanilla extract comes from an orchid only growing in Tahiti, Taha’a, and other tiny islands in French Polynesia. Botanists believe this plant is a cross between a rare wild variety called Vanilla odorata and regular Madagascan vanilla.
Tahitian vanilla contains less vanillin – the compound that gives Bourbon vanilla its characteristic sweet scent and taste – than other varieties, giving it a darker, more caramelized flavor. Tahitian vanilla is best for floral perfumes, home fragrances, savory sauces, and no-bake desserts.
3. Mexican Vanilla
Vanilla farming began in Mexico and most of the Madagascan varieties available today originate from Central American jungles. This vanilla extract has a flavor profile similar to Bourbon vanilla and is a good substitute in most recipes. Despite its similar flavor, vanilla connoisseurs may be able to detect hints of cinnamon and other spicy flavors in the mix.
4. Ugandan Vanilla
Vanilla beans grown in Uganda have a much higher vanillin content than those from Madagascar, giving them a richer flavor. Ugandan vanilla extract is sweet with slightly chocolatey undertones. Uganda’s hot, tropical climate changes the taste of the vanilla beans that grow there, even though they are from the same species as Madagascan vanilla. Use this extract for chocolate desserts, drinks, sauces, and syrups.
Why Using Pure Vanilla Extract Matters
While home bakers may benefit from the low prices and general accessibility of synthetic vanilla essence, authentic vanilla extract is still the top choice among professional chefs. Advanced Biotech supplies a range of premium, 100% pure and natural vanilla extracts to the food and beverage industry. We partner with reputable suppliers worldwide to ensure consistent quality for all our customers.
Our range has applications in frozen desserts, canned beverages, convenience foods, cosmetics, personal care products, and more. Request product samples to see how our vanilla extracts can transform your production line, or contact us for more information.