There’s no flavour in the world quite like vanilla. It’s rich, creamy and warm, and impossible to imagine baking without it. But when it comes to adding vanilla to your recipe, which vanilla do you choose?
You’re certainly not alone if you’re a little confused by the difference between vanilla extract and essence. Is it real, is it stronger, how is it made? These are just a few of the questions we get asked on a regular basis. So, how do you wade through the choices and choose the right vanilla for your baking?
With nearly 120 years of experience in vanilla, from growing and curing to extracting and bottling, we are here to share our knowledge and hopefully make things a little less confusing next time you’re shopping (or baking!).
So what’s the difference between the two? Given the two products are often talked about as if they’re the same thing, it can get a bit confusing. In general, extract is a natural product, whereas essence is synthetic. As a result, you will usually find that extract is less processed and provides a stronger and more pure vanilla flavour when compared to essence.
- Vanilla extract is usually made by soaking vanilla pods in alcohol and water – with flavour taken up by the liquid ingredients
- Vanilla essence is a synthetic – so it’s made using artificial flavours and colours
Since it’s manufactured, you will often find vanilla essence contains very little or no real vanillin. As a result, it’s sometimes high in additional additives (e.g. colouring, flavouring, sweeteners, preservatives.
How are vanilla essence and extract made?
Queen Organic Vanilla Essence and Natural Vanilla Extract are both made with our traditional and time-honoured methods by extracting vanilla from carefully selected organic beans. With nothing artificial added, these products are 100% natural and perfect for an extensive selection of recipes.
Both our extract and essence are created using the highest quality pure vanilla beans. Both products are rich and thick with a strong vanilla flavour and aroma. While our natural extract is ideal for non-bake recipes, our organic vanilla extract-essence is perfect for everyday cakes, slices and batter-based recipes.
Queen Organic Vanilla Essence-Extract Ingredients
- Extract of Pure Organic Vanilla Beans
- [Water, Organic Alcohol (35% vol.), Organic Vanilla Bean Extractives]
- Organic Sugar
Queen Natural Vanilla Extract Ingredients
- Invert Sugar Syrup (from cane sugar)
- Glucose Syrup (Corn)
- Extract of Pure Vanilla Beans
- Preservative (202)
- Contains alcohol (<1% by vol.)
At Queen, Natural Vanilla Essence is Vanilla Extract
Our original Queen vanilla recipe was established in the early 1900s and was called ‘Vanilla Essence – Extract of Vanilla Beans’. Historically, the term ‘Essence’ meant a highly concentrated form of pure extract. If you look closely at one of our very old labels, the ingredients are alcohol, sugar, flavour (extract of vanilla beans), water added. As the name suggests, vanilla extract is extracted from real vanilla bean pods by macerating vanilla beans in a mixture of alcohol and water.
This recipe became the signature Queen blend that is now our iconic ‘red label’ bottle ‘Natural Organic Vanilla Essence’.
History has paved the way
If vanilla essence is a true vanilla extract, why do we still call it vanilla essence? The word ‘essence’ has been kept on the label over the decades as many old and loved Australian recipes call for it. It’s that simple!
With the passing of time, modern recipes started to call for simply vanilla ‘extract’ and so we added the words ‘flavouring extract’ to the label to reassure Aussie bakers that Queen Natural Organic Vanilla Essence is indeed the real deal. So, Queen Natural Vanilla Essence is Vanilla Extract.
Taking a journey back into our long vanilla history, even our old print ads featured our pure, natural vanilla essence. Aren’t they wonderfully retro!
Here’s a few of our old bottles too, do you have any of these at home? We’d love to see them!
So there you have it, next time you’re baking with a family recipe that has been passed down through generations, you can smile knowing that the vanilla ‘essence’ your recipe calls for is Queen Vanilla Essence after all! And it’s a perfectly natural vanilla extract (even if it is a little old-fashioned!).
Learn more about our Vanilla journey
We hope this article has helped to provide a deeper understanding of an often confusing baking topic! While we can’t speak for other brands, throughout our history our vanilla essence has always been a true vanilla extract and is the secret ingredient in many a loved and handed down recipe.
Hungry for more vanilla knowledge? Read on to discover more of the Queen story and learn about our commitment to vanilla that is fair, ethical and sustainable as well as what makes single origin vanilla so special and how to choose the best vanilla for your recipe.
Until next time, happy baking!
The Queen Team