Vanilla is an essential cooking ingredient for which there is no true substitute. The flavor of real vanilla is made up of over 250 organic components, which gives it great depth and complexity, compared to only one flavor component in artificial vanilla. There are three main types of vanilla: Madagascar Bourbon (named after the Bourbon Islands, not the liquor), Tahitian (fruity), and Mexican (spicy). Here is a list of premium vanilla extracts that I consider to be the very best.
01 of 07
Nielsen-Massey Vanillas has been in business almost 100 years. They consistently produce some of the finest vanilla extracts you can buy. Products available include Madagascar Bourbon, Tahitian, Mexican, and 100% Organic. Although you can't buy directly from the company, these vanilla extracts are available everywhere at grocery stores, gourmet shops, and online sites like Williams-Sonoma and Baker's Catalogue. About $20 for 8 ounces, $37.95 for 32 ounces.
02 of 07
Great flavor and wonderful, rich aroma. Blue Cattle Truck Mexican Vanilla is imported from the birthplace of Vanilla. Produced in the south of Mexico by the Canosa Family whose craft of creating vanilla has been a family tradition for over one-hundred years. Grandfather Jose Canosa established his award-winning vanilla company in 1917 after fleeing his native Spain during World War I. Single Sourced, using Grade-A Mexican vanilla beans then bottled in the United States. $19.95 for 8.4 ounces.
03 of 07
Really, really good vanilla at very reasonable prices. Aromatic, nice balance, with beautiful color. A favorite of pastry chefs. $12.85 for 8 ounces or $19.75 for 16 ounces. Also available from The Vanilla Company is a certified organic version as well as Mexican and Tahitian vanilla bean extracts.
04 of 07
A masterful blend of premium Madagascar Bourbon and Tahitian vanilla beans are used to create this wonderfully fragrant and flavorful extract. $19.99 for an 8-ounce bottle. Available to buy directly from Sonoma Syrup or from several gourmet shops around the country. Check their website for more details.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
The only commercial grower in the United States, this extract is made from vanilla beans cultivated and processed in Hawaii. A small, family operation, owners Jim and Tracy Reddekopp have turned a labor of love into a successful business. Deep, smooth flavor. Especially recommended for baking. $15.00 for a 4-ounce bottle.
06 of 07
Penzeys, one of my favorite sources for spices, also makes a great vanilla extract. $9.50 for 4 ounces, $27.95 for 16 ounces.
07 of 07
All natural, fair trade, organic vanilla extract made from beans grown in Papua New Guinea. Buy direct or check their website for a listing of stores that carry Singing Dog Vanilla.