What is the difference between Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Essence?

With decades of experience in producing vanilla, the Queen team knows a thing or two about what makes a good vanilla. In this article, we shed light on one of the most topical questions in baking- what is the difference between Vanilla Essence and Vanilla Extract? We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you’ll find below!

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 over 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)
  • Water
  • Extract of Pure Vanilla Beans
  • Sugar
  • 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!


A true-blue Aussie recipes from days gone by!

Old Australian recipes often call for Vanilla Essence

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.


Modern recipes often call for Vanilla Extract new-recipe-2

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!

Retro Queen Vanilla adverts

Original Queen Vanilla bottles

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

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Comments & Reviews

Hello. I am making some Rumless Rum Balls and instead of rum, the recipe has 1 tablesp vanilla essence and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract which gives them a wonderful flavour. I tried to purchase some more vanilla essence at Woolworths but there doesn’t seem to be any available. Instead I purchased a small bottle of Queen Organic vanilla extract. I still have the green label bottle of Queen Natural Vanilla extract.. Should I still use both of these or just the one?. Thanks in advance, Alexis


Hi Alexis, you’re in luck – our Queen Organic Vanilla Extract is exactly the same as our previously named vanilla essence. This is purely a terminology change as this is a true extract – essence is the older naming. Essence has evolved to mean artificial flavour, so we want to make sure our customers know that this product is a real vanilla. You can use either the Green or red label in your rum balls, it just depends on if you would like a lower alcohol vanilla extract in your rum balls (green label) or if alcohol does not matter (red label). Hope this helps!


Hi there, what is the difference between vanilla extract and paste, I know paste is stronger but when to use what? Thank you.


Hi Jessie, we have plenty info and more in our vanilla masterclass that can be found here: https://queen.com.au/queen-vanilla/


You have changed the Almond Essance to Almond extract a few years back… why?
The almond extract does not have the same strength/flavour and the old family reciepe when I make it is just not the same flavour


Hi Karrie! We changed to name of the product to comply with updated label regulations, but the recipe itself is still exactly the same 🙂

Queen Fine Foods

Does queen vanilla essence and vanilla extract has any alcohol?


Hello! You can find the ingredient list for all Queen products (including Vanilla) over on our website here: https://queen.com.au/products/

Queen Fine Foods

Dose queen vanilla essence and vanilla extract has any alcohol?


Hello! Yes, our vanilla products do contain alcohol as this is a natural part of the extraction process. If you would like an alcohol-free vanilla, we have Imitation Vanilla Essence or Pure Vanilla Bean Pods 🙂

Queen Fine Foods

Good Day I am getting trouble i want to buy the vanilla bean paste but i cant on this site


Hi Suzanne! Our Vanilla Bean Paste is available at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets, however we don’t sell it directly through our website. There is a ‘Product Locator’ button on each product page that allows you to search by postcode for your nearest stockist. Hope that helps 🙂

Queen Fine Foods

I have found that the extract is viscous and has little flavour at all and have found the essence has a strong taste and free flowing. Why is this so.


Hi Kaye, the vanilla products in our range have different consistencies based on their applications. You can read more about this here: https://queen.com.au/getting-know-queen-vanilla/ It’s concerning to hear that your Vanilla Extract has little flavour – something doesn’t sound right! Would you mind emailing [email protected] so we can investigate? Thank you!

Queen Fine Foods

I have been trying to buy Cochineal.. Why is it not longer available?


Hi Jan, unfortunately due to demand we no longer produce Cochineal 🙁 As an alternative, our Rose Pink Food Colour provides a similar shade. Hope that helps!

Queen Fine Foods