Vanilla extract has long been a popular ingredient in cakes, drinks, desserts, and other bakeries. Vanilla extract is well-known for its light, delicate flavor. Furthermore, it improves the flavor of other ingredients in more complex recipes.
If you want to make a vegan dessert but aren’t sure if you can use vanilla extract, don’t worry; vanilla extract (even artificial ones) is usually vegan. Let’s take a closer look at vanilla extracts for this.
What is Vanilla Extract made from?
The ingredients list for vanilla extract varies depending on the product. There are also many different kinds of vegan vanilla extracts available today. Have you wondered what is pure vanilla extract made of?
Natural Vanilla, as we all know, is obtained from castoreum, a beaver’s anal secretions. Castoreum is a yellow substance that is extruded from the castor sacs of beavers. This is clearly an animal product and is therefore not vegan.
Another traditional or genuine vanilla extract is made by splitting up vanilla pods and encoding them through an ethanol/water mixture.
The vanilla extract must contain 10 ounces of these vanilla beans or 13.35 percent of the total. These beans already have a lot of nutritional value.
Ninety-nine percent of the world’s vanilla extract is counterfeit imitation vanilla, not a product of the plant itself. Furthermore, chemical additives are present in imitation vanilla extracts. These are less expensive and have a more robust flavor.
1. Caramel color or other additives
Caramel color is typically extracted from corn. These are vegan because they are derived from plants. The majority of the additives used in vanilla extracts come from vegetable sources or are chemically synthesized, making them vegan-friendly. Caramel color, on the other hand, is made from sugar that has been processed with bone char and may not be considered vegan.
For soaking the crushed vanilla beans, 35% ethanol is used. As a result, one teaspoon of extract contains at least 1.73 milliliters of ethanol. Ethanol is vegan-friendly because it is produced through fermentation from glucose, starch, or yeast (check vegan status).
To make vanilla extract, soak the beans in 65 percent distilled water along with the alcohol. As a result, the vanilla extract contains a diluted mixture of approximately one cup of water to make it 35 percent alcohol.
Sugar can be obtained in a variety of ways, but the refining process renders it unsuitable for vegans. So, if you’re looking for a vegan product, look for unrefined sugar. Sucrose, which is found in vanilla extract, can be both natural and synthetic sugar.
5. Corn syrup
In addition to sugar, most vanilla extracts contain corn syrup for added sweetness. The syrup contains high fructose and is thus plant-based because it lacks fiber substances.
Health Benefits of Vanilla Extract
Vanilla extract has a plethora of health benefits.
1. It is high in antioxidants, has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, and might benefit brain health and prevent against neurological disorders.
2. Adding vanilla extract or vanilla bean powder in types of food and drinks may help you cut back on extra sugar. Using vanilla aroma to sugary drinks increased their perceived sweetness, eliminating any need for refined sugar.
3. While a plant-based diet is generally low in cholesterol, vegans can still face issues with their cholesterol levels due to factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and diet choices. However, adding vanilla to your vegan diet may help to lower cholesterol levels. It is rich in antioxidants which has potentially cholesterol-lowering effects.
4. Vanilla has a soothing effect on infants, reducing whimpering and calming prematurely born babies during and before blood tests. Adults can also benefit from the calming effects of vanilla. It can reduce startle reflexes and help with sleep apnea, and insomnia in which breathing stops again and again.
Vanilla Flavoring vs Vanilla Extract: The Real Difference
The majority of people mix up vanilla extract and vanilla flavoring. Despite the fact that they are both made from vanilla beans, the products labeled as extract and flavoring differ in some ways.
Vanilla extract is made by breaking vanilla pods and purifying them through an alcohol-water solution. While Vanilla flavor is made with the necessary amount of vanilla bean extractives, it does not contain alcohol.
The extract is obtained from only pure vanilla beans, but the soaking process is not used in vanilla flavors.
If you want to use vanilla flavors in place of pure vanilla extract in a recipe, you’ll need twice as much imitation vanilla flavoring to match the strength of the pure vanilla extract.
In the case of imitation vanilla, the chemical processing of the vanilla flavor is sometimes done by obtaining castoreum from the beaver’s castor sac.
The vanilla flavor comes from the vanilla ground bean powder.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Vanilla extract has long been a popular natural ingredient in cakes, drinks, desserts, and other bakeries. It’s a basic ingredient everyone should have at home, as its flavoring properties truly make a difference when cooking desserts.
Have you ever thought of making your own vanilla extract? It’s super easy, only takes two ingredients i.e. vanilla beans and vodka. This homemade version is made with only two natural ingredients and it’s also additive and preservative-free.
Making vanilla extract at home is very easy, healthier and more inexpensive that buying it. Also most of the store bought vanilla extract are full of chemicals.
How to make Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 6 Vanilla Beans
- 1 cup Vodka (250 ml)
- Vanilla beans and vodka are the only two ingredients needed for a recipe for homemade vanilla extract.
- Using scissors or a knife, cut the vanilla beans in half straight. If desired, leave a small amount intact at the end. If necessary, cut the beans to fit the height of your jar.
- Fill an 8-ounce jar halfway with beans. Cover with rubbing alcohol. Screw on the lid and mix thoroughly.
- Place in a cool, dark location. Allow for a minimum of two months. The stronger the vanilla flavor, the longer it sits. Shake the jar once a week, or as often as you can remember, while it’s sitting.
- They will change color, develop a much stronger flavor of the vegan vanilla extract, and be ready to use in your baking after about 5 weeks. Fill with more vodka after use. The vanilla will continue to be flavored with the same beans for up to a year.
Final Thoughts: Is Vanilla Extract Vegan?
Almost all vanilla extracts (as well as synthetic ones) are vegan-friendly. Vanilla extract contains vanillin, which is derived primarily from the plant and has numerous health benefits. Although the use of castoreum renders it non-vegan, many websites claim that it is no longer widely used.
Vanilla extract being produced in the same facility or on the same equipment as milk or other animal products is a more common occurrence. Depending on how strict your vegan diet is, this may or may not be an issue.
Examine the ingredients and see whether they come from vanilla orchid plants.