Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

Clear vanilla extract is real vanilla

Oh no, not by a long shot. Real vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in an alcohol solution until the flavor comes out, and it is unavoidably brown. The clear stuff may be made from seeds of the tonka tree, and while it may smell and taste like real vanilla it is not. And, it can contain coumarin, a blood thinner that may be dangerous for some folks. Or perhaps the clear vanilla “extract” contains synthetic vanillin which is made from paper pulp and coal tar. Best to stay with real vanilla extract, expensive as it may be.

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