There is a Standard of Identity for vanilla extract in the United States. To be labeled Pure Vanilla Extract, a gallon measure must contain 13.35% vanilla bean extractives (10-ounces of moisture-free solids), 35% alcohol, and the balance in distilled water.
What is not listed in the Standard of Identity is sugar, corn syrup, caramel color or any other additives pure vanilla may contain.
Some companies include one or more of these ingredients on their labels, but most do not – even though their pure vanilla contains it. The same is true with alcohol. Grain alcohol is the most commonly used alcohol in vanilla, but sugarcane alcohol is also used. Sugar or corn syrup are often used to mask the harsh notes of alcohol or to make the extract smell and taste better if the quality of the beans used were not good quality.
If you have issues with gluten or sugars, check with the company whose vanilla you’ve purchased.
Two-Fold Vanilla Extract
Two-fold, three-fold (our purée), or ten-fold vanilla extracts.
The fold equals the strength rating; so two-fold vanilla extract is made using twice as many vanilla beans as are in single-fold vanilla extract.
Bakers prefer the double-fold extract because it gives a powerful aromatic vanilla flavor that cannot be duplicated by simply adding twice as much single-fold extract.
When baking you can use the same amount of two-fold vanilla extract that the recipe calls for if you want a strong flavor, or you can use a little bit less and make the bottle last longer. Most two-fold vanilla extracts are not available in supermarkets and must be ordered.
Imitation Vanilla Extract
Imitation vanilla is synthetic vanillin made in a laboratory. If the product is clear, it’s 100% synthetic vanillin. If it is caramel color, it has been dyed with caramel color (which also contains sugar) or other dyes.
Natural Vanilla Flavor Vs Artificial Vanilla Flavor
The FDA defines the term “natural flavor” as anything derived from something a normal person would consider food. For instance, corn, cloves, and rice bran all contain chemical structures that scientists have manipulated into vanilla flavoring.
If they’re all technically chemicals, how are natural flavors different from artificial flavors?
It depends on the processing. In order to get from tree bark to vanilla flavoring, manufacturers add solvents, preservatives, and other chemicals. And they don’t have to disclose any of this on the label.
Oftentimes, these additives make up most of the flavoring - up to 80-90%, to be exact. The result is a flavoring agent that’s anything but “natural.”
Solvents and other chemicals used to make natural flavors aren’t that different from those used in artificial flavors.
The only real difference between the two is their origin.
Natural flavors technically have to start as something that resembles food. Artificial flavors, on the other hand, are derived from man-made chemicals.
Vanilla Favor Label
Vanilla flavor is made with required amount of vanilla bean extractives, but without alcohol. Propylene glycol is the most common carrier used for producing the flavor.
The Standard of Identity states that this product cannot be labeled extract due to the lack of alcohol. Vanilla flavor is a good choice for anyone who is avoiding alcohol. Unfortunately, however, some people are allergic to propylene glycol. In that case, a reasonable substitute for vanilla flavor is pure ground vanilla bean powder.
With Other Natural Flavors Label (WONFs)
Other Natural Flavors (known in the vanilla industry as WONFs which stands for “with other natural flavors”) came onto the market during the vanilla crisis that began in 2000 after three cyclones struck Madagascar in just a few months.
The cyclones destroyed at least 30% of the vanilla beans, and as a result, with so little vanilla available and costs soaring, manufacturers wanted something affordable for flavoring frozen desserts, dairy, and packaged desserts.
To meet the demand for a more affordable vanilla, there is now even a product on the market made from highly genetically modified yeast and DNA created on a 3D printer.
It should be noted that WONFs sometimes contain synthetic vanillin to boost flavor. So if synthetic is something you want to avoid, be sure to read the label carefully.
Vanilla Extract Vs Vanilla Essence
Vanilla essence and vanilla extract are often talked about as if they are the same thing – the bottles might look similar, but what’s inside is not.
Vanilla essence is a manufactured liquid that tastes a bit like vanilla but contains little or no real vanillin. There are a number of ways a synthetic vanilla flavor can be made.
Vanilla Bean Paste
Vanilla bean paste usually has a more concentrated vanilla flavor than regular Vanilla Extracts.
Making your own homemade vanilla bean paste is a simple, easy and effortless process that can save you money and give you the best quality of bean paste for all your baking needs.