Vanilla connoisseurs – or the average person wondering what the heck is the difference between vanilla from a paste and an extract – this article is for you. If you've ever asked yourself what the little black dots in ice cream, vanilla bean fraps, and other desserts are, look no further. We're about to take a dive into the world of vanilla bean paste vs vanilla extract, how each is made, and what they're used for. 

What Is Vanilla Bean Paste?

Vanilla bean paste consists of actual seeds that come from a vanilla bean pod. It's made up of a blend of vanilla bean powder and vanilla bean extract, and has a consistency similar to that of glue. However, most companies add sugar or corn syrup as a binder, (which is a bit of a deal breaker for me tbh). Vanilla bean paste was introduced in the 1990s and is very popular among bakers for its convenience. 

If you don't want your calories to come from adding vanilla flavor to your already sweet baked goods, and want a healthier version of vanilla paste without all the sugar and artificial additives that producers add, you can easily make your own.

What Is Vanilla Extract?

vanilla extract

ginnerobot on Flickr

Vanilla extract is a usually dark liquid that's used to flavor recipes and is usually cheaper than vanilla beans or vanilla bean paste. It's made by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol. Artificial vanilla bottles don't taste as good as the real stuff (and can have corn syrup in it), while pure vanilla extract is usually more fragrant. 

While pure vanilla extract is pricier than the artificial kind, you get a better bang for your buck with a richer and intensified vanilla flavor. If you're making simple desserts where the vanilla notes have a chance to stand out, splurging on a higher quality vanilla extract is definitely worth it.  

Vanilla Bean Paste Vs Vanilla Extract

cream, chocolate, ice, milk, dairy product, sweet, coffee, caramel, wafer
Rachel Kalichman

When you want those fancy black specks to show up in your desserts and taste a decadent vanilla flavor, go for vanilla bean paste. This is ideal for ice cream, white cakes, and cupcakes, milkshakes, and custard. Or you can use the vanilla directly from vanilla beans (one 2-inch piece of vanilla bean equals about 1 teaspoon of extract). 

If you're making something simple like chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, or anything where the specks won't be shown off, skip the expensive paste and add a splash of vanilla extract instead. As far as conversion goes, 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste equals about 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

The next time you whip out the baking apron and have a vanilla bean paste vs vanilla extract debate, you'll know exactly which type of vanilla is right for making your desserts taste – and look – amazing.