Aaaahhhh……………vanilla. What’s better in baking then the rich, deep flavor of vanilla? It adds such amazing flavor to everything from candies to cakes to cookies, it’s an absolute staple in every kitchen the world over. Like most people, I use to always bake with vanilla extract but then I discovered vanilla paste and once I did, my whole world changed. Vanilla paste will take your baked goods to the next level, it’s THAT good!
Vanilla paste can be used in exactly the same way as extract only it has a richer, stronger flavor. It also imparts all of the appealing vanilla flecks into your baking so not only will your baked goods taste better, but they will look prettier too! Although called “paste” it really doesn’t have the consistency of paste at all, it’s more like a thick, rich maple syrup. Because vanilla paste is made from the scrapings of a vanilla pod and not alcohol, it won’t have the unpleasant flavor of extract if you taste it straight. Instead, it will taste rich and delicious.
I keep both vanilla extract and vanilla paste in my spice cabinet but I use them in different ways. For recipes where the vanilla flavor will be very pronounced (buttercream, custards, pound cake, puddings, sugar cookies, etc.) I will opt for the vanilla paste since the flavor is stronger. Plus, I love the flecking in baked goods that are very vanilla forward. On the flip side, when a recipe calls for vanilla but it’s not really the “star of the show”, I’ll use the vanilla extract instead. The nice thing is they can be used interchangeably and they measure out teaspoon for teaspoon. That being said, I have been known to double the vanilla paste in some recipes because when it comes to vanilla, you just can’t go wrong with adding a little more!
Vanilla paste is readily available in many stores, especially cooking stores such as Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. A popular brand is Nielsen-Massey (pictured above) which is absolutely delicious and reasonably priced. You can also find vanilla paste online, my favorite site for all things vanilla is Beanilla . Their prices are fantastic and their products are wonderful, especially their Grade A vanilla beans which are so fresh, soft, and oily. Generally speaking, expect to pay a little more for the vanilla paste then you would for vanilla extract however, I think the extra cost is worth every penny.
I truly cannot recommend vanilla paste enough, it really is a “Kitchen Must Have” and it’s one of my most favorite ingredients. The next time you’re baking up a cake or a batch of sugar cookies, definitely give it a try. I am confident that once you try vanilla paste, your little bottle of extract will start to collect some dust in that spice cabinet!
**Tip** – When using vanilla extract always use “pure vanilla extract” and NOT “imitation vanilla extract”. Pure vanilla is made by extracting flavor from real vanilla beans using 35%+ alcohol. Pure vanilla should be dark and rich just like the beans it was extracted from. Imitation and “clear” vanilla extracts are made from artificial ingredients.
For more information on vanilla extract and to learn how to make your own, click here .