Undoubtedly, the best vanilla extract is pure vanilla extract, but why is pure vanilla extract so much better than imitation vanilla extract?
The word “pure” signifies that the vanilla extract is made from only natural vanilla beans, water and alcohol. The flavoring is free from any colorings, preservatives, or other additives. This alone makes pure vanilla extract more desirable, but the superiority of pure versus imitation vanilla extract goes far beyond this definition.
As a flavor chemist, it is impossible to artificially duplicate the robust flavor complexity of the natural vanilla bean. Research has shown that there are hundreds of flavor components in different quantities, often minute, in the vanilla bean. These aromatic components change depending on several factors in the cultivation of the vanilla orchid, including climate and soil. Vanilla beans from different regions have unique flavor profiles. Even the most remarkable flavor chemist cannot possibly replicate this diversity.
Most imitation vanilla extracts are a weak solution of naturally derived (from lignin or wood pulp) or artificially derived (synthesized in a lab) vanillin. Vanillin is the most prominent flavor in the vanilla bean, but it is only one of more than two hundred. Even more “complex” imitation vanilla flavors will only boast five or six flavoring components and cannot possibly compete with the natural sophistication of pure vanilla extract. Imitation vanilla extracts have a disappointingly simple flavor profile and leave much to be desired in baked goods, ice creams and other sweets.
Using pure vanilla extract will elevate the taste of every dessert with exotic and intense flavors while providing you the peace of mind that your flavoring is natural and chemical free. You simply cannot go wrong swapping an imitation vanilla extract with a fine quality pure vanilla extract.
– Margaret Kobel, Chemist, Cook Flavoring Company