Natural Vanilla Flavoring
Vanilla extract adds richness to baked goods, reduces eggy flavor in recipes with raw eggs, and enhances other flavors. It’s an essential in any baker’s pantry.
Vanilla is packed with antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals that cause oxidative stress. It can also prevent the spread of cancer, as it contains properties that inhibit angiogenesis, a process by which tumors grow and spread throughout the body.
Vanilla is an incredibly common ingredient found in foods around the world. It’s not nearly as exciting or mysterious as umami, but it’s a comforting flavor that’s been used for centuries in cakes, cookies, ice cream and more. Vanilla is derived from the seed pods of tropical orchid plants that are native to Central America and South America. The ancient Maya and Aztecs used it as a flavoring, and Europeans began using it in perfumes, medicines and food after it was first brought back to Europe by explorers in the 1500s.
There are over 110 species of vanilla orchid, but the two that are most commonly used to make extract for vanilla flavoring are Vanilla planifolia and Vanilla tahitensis. Both are finicky plants that grow best in warm, humid climates and must be hand-pollinated to produce beans. As such, they’re expensive to cultivate.
Despite its widespread use, many people are unaware that most vanilla they eat isn’t natural. Since the mid-19th century, scientists have been able to create synthetic vanillin, which is chemically identical Natural vanilla flavoring to natural vanilla flavoring. This has led to large confectionary companies reverting to natural vanilla in their products and ditching artificial flavors altogether.
The other component of vanilla flavoring, eugenol, is derived from a variety of sources including clove oil, lignin (a byproduct of paper production) and even castoreum (a goo anally excreted by beavers). While the FDA has listed castoreum as safe, it’s very rare to find it in a packaged food or drink.
Natural vanilla flavoring is used in a variety of foods and drinks for desserts, baking, and even some non-food products. It is also a common ingredient in perfumes and household cleaning products.
As with all extracts, the cost of real vanilla can be high and that has led to an increase in the popularity of imitation vanilla. It is generally less expensive than the pure variety and can be purchased in grocery stores alongside the real thing.
Because it is difficult to grow vanilla beans on a large scale, the supply of vanilla flavoring is limited. Consequently, some manufacturers use substitute ingredients to enhance the appearance and taste of the product. One such ingredient is castoreum, a gooey vanilla-scented substance secreted by beavers in their castor sacs located near the animal’s anal glands. Despite its rather grotesque origins, the FDA has deemed it safe for use in food and it is found in some natural vanilla flavoring products.
Another popular option is ethyl vanillin, which is synthesized on a multi-ton scale from guaiacol or lignin extracted from wood pulp. This molecule is 2-4 times more potent than vanillin itself and has been added to some vanilla extracts since the 1930s. It is considered a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) additive and can be found in many natural and artificial vanilla-flavored products.
Vanilla may not be as exciting as umami or as revolutionary as McDonald’s Sprite, but it has been around for centuries and continues to find its way into a wide variety of foods like ice cream and cookies. It’s also one of the world’s most popular flavoring agents.
Natural vanilla flavoring comes from the pods of a particular orchid (Vanilla planifolia). The plant is grown in several countries including Madagascar, where 80% of the world’s commercially produced vanilla is harvested. It’s also grown in China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Mexico. The vanilla bean is the most expensive spice in the world, and the extract that it produces ranks among the top three most popular flavoring agents.
In a world where food trends come and go, many people have started to seek out “natural” foods. This trend has caused a lot of manufacturers to switch to natural flavors and ingredients. Unfortunately, because vanilla is so versatile, there’s not always enough vanilla available to meet the demand for it.
Most manufacturers of natural vanilla flavorings have to add other chemicals in order to get the right amount of flavor. The most common ingredient is propylene glycol. It doesn’t contain any alcohol and therefore can be used in products that need to be labeled as “alcohol-free.” This is a good choice for people who are allergic to alcoholic extracts. Other chemicals, such as benzaldehyde in coffee and eugenol in cloves, can also be used to help achieve the desired taste profile.
Vanilla is expensive and hard to grow, making it a sought-after ingredient in many foods. The vanilla plant produces only about 200 beans per acre. This makes it expensive to produce food products with a high vanilla content, such as ice cream and flavored milks.
It’s important to know which vanilla products are derived from vanilla pods or vanilla extract, and which ones contain synthetic vanilla flavoring. Some companies try to pass off artificial vanilla flavoring as natural by using a labeling loophole. In other words, they can include “natural vanilla flavor” without revealing that the product also contains a synthetic chemical like vanillin.
Fortunately, most vanilla products in the market are made from real vanilla bean pods or Candy Flavoring Oil vanilla extract. Moreover, the vanilla flavors used in foods do not contain castoreum, which is a waxy substance secreted by beavers from their castor sacs and is also known as beaver bum goo.
Vanilla flavoring is one of the most popular food additives, and it is widely accepted that it doesn’t harm humans. Interestingly, it appears that certain compounds in vanilla beans and extract may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties. However, further research is needed to confirm these claims. In the meantime, people should use these vanilla products in moderation as part of a healthy diet that is low in sugar and other refined carbohydrates.