where does vanilla flavoring come from

Vanilla Flavoring: The Origin

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Vanilla flavoring is an artificial vanilla extract manufactured from synthetic vanillin, the chemical responsible for the distinctive flavor of vanilla beans.

This type of vanilla adds artificial flavorings to simulate the taste of pure vanilla. The vanilla taste is the subject of a popular TikTok craze that has resurfaced in recent times.

It all began when the user @/Sloowmoee uploaded a video in which he took a large sip of a vanilla latte, looked horrified while Googling the subject, and said “no more vanilla!” Since then, the inquiry “where does vanilla flavoring come from?” has dominated social media platforms.

Let's discover the actual origin of Vanilla Flavoring.

 What is a Vanilla Extract? 

What is a vanilla extract?

Before we go into vanilla flavoring in all of its varieties, you need to understand first how the flavoring is created. True vanilla is derived from the seeds of a certain orchid of the Vanilla genus.

Although there are over a hundred different types of vanilla orchids, only two produce the seed pods utilized in the vanilla extract: Vanilla planifolia and Vanilla tahitensis

This orchid's seed (also known as the pod) is commercially known as the vanilla bean. However, it is not a bean, as the plant does not belong to the legume family. True vanilla extract is a tincture made from whole vanilla beans soaked in alcohol.

Why is Authentic Vanilla So Expensive?

Why is authentic vanilla so expensive?

Wild vanilla, like other orchids, is pollinated by specialized bees. These bees are native to Mexico, which is why all commercial vanilla is hand-pollinated over a short period of time.

According to research, hand pollination is credited to a slave named Edmond Albius on Reunion Island. The technique has remained unchanged until now, and experienced workers are required to detect early morning opened flowers and hand pollinate them.

The production of vanilla is limited because of the scarcity of growing locations. Therefore, production along with the collection and processing of vanilla pods is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, which contributes to the high cost of high-quality pure vanilla extract.

What is the Source of Artificial Vanilla Flavoring?

Because vanilla flavor is so popular across the world, natural vanilla supply cannot always keep up with demand.

To get around this, as well as the high expense of manufacture, researchers have created cheaper copies of vanillin, the chemical that gives vanilla its distinctive taste.

And it is not derived from the vanilla plant. Vanillin is used in the flavoring market, confections and baked goods, the fragrance industry, etc on a large scale.

Why is Vanilla Flavoring Used in Cakes and Frosting?

When producing baked goods of any type, whether they be cakes, cookies, brownies, or anything else, vanilla will always be included in the list of ingredients. Have you ever wondered why it is used?

Vanilla may be viewed as a spice that brings out the best in sweet components, similar to how salt brings out the best in savory ones.

Vanilla imparts scent to baked goods, custards, and creams. It pairs exceptionally well with the flavors of eggs and sugar. Even numerous chocolate manufacturers add vanilla to their finished goods just to provide a more balanced taste.

The Question about Beaver

The Question about Beaver

You probably do not expect beavers to pop up when you search “where does vanilla flavor originate from?” Well, there is no nice way to say it: Castoreum is a chemical produced by a gland near the beaver's butt that has long been used as a food additive according to research.

This information might understandably gross you out and want to wash your hands off of vanilla-flavored food forever.

However, the good news is, the online fact-checking website Snopes, along with other sources, has debunked this claim of castoreum being used in food, marking the claim as mostly untrue.

According to the website, “the use of castoreum in popular food items nowadays is incredibly unusual, due in large part to the difficulty (and high cost) of obtaining the ingredient.”

Moreover, The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) questioned five vanilla flavoring manufacturers in 2011 about whether any of them utilized castoreum in their goods.

All five respondents said they did not. The businesses informed VRG that castoreum is no longer used in any form of vanilla that is supplied for human consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between vanilla flavor and vanilla extract?

The vanilla flavor contains artificial chemicals and additions such as synthetic vanillin, corn syrup, and lignin, which are derived from wood pulp.

Pure vanilla extract, on the other hand, has only two ingredients: actual vanilla beans and alcohol. By definition, vanilla extract is the solution that is obtained when the extracts of one hundred grams of vanilla beans are dissolved in one liter of ethanol which is 45% alcohol by volume.  

Vanilla extract is stronger than vanilla flavoring due to it being sourced naturally. However, both products are used heavily in making baked goods.

What are some variations of vanilla available in the market?

What are some variations of vanilla available in the market?

While whole beans and extract are two of the most often used sources of vanilla, there are other options as well.

Vanilla bean paste is another version of the spice that you may buy. It offers you the iconic flavor of vanilla for a fraction of the cost of entire beans by combining vanilla bean seeds, extract, sugar, and natural gum thickeners.

What compounds are included in artificial vanilla?

Contrary to real vanilla beans, the vanillin in imitation vanilla is synthesized in a laboratory using other ingredients.

Common components used to produce vanillin include lignin from spruce trees, maize sugar, rice bran, clove oil, and crude oil. It also frequently contains propylene glycol, which is also present in antifreeze and can leave a bitter aftertaste.

Now that you know all about vanilla, buy vanilla flavoring to mix in your cake mix to make it even more delicious!

Final Words

Finally, because of its distinct flavor and numerous applications, vanilla is a global favorite. Because genuine vanilla extract is prohibitively expensive, the world has found an alternative in synthetic vanilla flavoring.

Next time you're in the spice aisle, buy whatever you prefer, vanilla flavor or vanilla extract, without hesitation!

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Bella Howard

Bella Howard is a contributing writer and foodie with a particular love of Mexican, Chinese and Euro...

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