What does vanilla extract do in baking?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “what does vanilla extract do in baking” with an in-depth analysis of what vanilla extract does in baking. Moreover, we are going to discuss how to make vanilla extract at home and the difference between vanilla extract and vanilla essence.

The recipes of those tasty macaroons, delicious cookies, marshmallows, creamy buttercream frostings, and mouth-watering cakes, all call for a bit of vanilla extract. So if you are wondering what this vanilla extract does in baking, you need not worry as we are going to answer all your vanilla extract related queries. 

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

What does vanilla extract do in baking?

Vanilla extract is used to add that subtle vanilla taste with a hint of sweet aroma in your doughs and batter during baking.

The vanilla extract acts as both the flavoring agent and as the flavor enhancer. Not only does it induce a sweet taste to the doughs and cakes it is used in but it also enhances the flavor of the dish itself and makes it taste more delicious and tasty.

Do raw vanilla beans impart flavor to the recipes?

The raw vanilla beans do not add the flavor in any recipe if they are used as it is. The vanilla beans have to be fermented to bring the oils and compound vanillin to the surface that is responsible for that sweet and flowery aroma of the vanilla extract.

Can I use ground vanilla beans during baking?

When it comes to ground vanilla beans, they are already fermented which means that their essential oils and vanillin have come to the surface and it has developed that complex flavor profile. 

But you should keep in mind that the store-bought ground vanilla is sometimes adulterated with dextrose or sucrose. Moreover, it takes some time for the ground vanilla beans to impart their flavor so ground vanilla can better be used in warm beverages if you let them soak in the liquid for sometime before consuming it.

Can I make vanilla extract at home?

Yes, you can make vanilla extract at home by using split vanilla beans and alcohol. So all you gotta do is take some 4 oz bottles and wash them thoroughly. Now cut the vanilla beans in half and afterward split them or what you can do is to cut 1” pieces of vanilla beans.

Now add 3 split halves of vanilla beans (or otherwise 1 ½ whole vanilla beans) into each bottle and add vodka in the bottle. 

Let them sit for about 2 months so that the flavor and aroma of the vanilla beans would be incorporated into the vodka. Do not forget to shake the bottles occasionally during this time. You will notice that after 2 months the color of the vodka would have changed to a brown one and that is the indication that your homemade vanilla extract is ready. 

Other FAQs about Vanilla Extract which you may be interested in.

How much vanilla extract in beer?

Can you put vanilla extract in coffee?

Does vanilla extract go bad?

Why do you add vanilla extract last when baking?

Vanilla is added last because the vanilla extract is alcohol-based and just like alcohol it has the tendency to evaporate during cooking owing to high temperature. For instance, if you heat something like custard when you are on your way to make a delicious pie, you add vanilla extract in the last spot, if you add vanilla extract too early its taste won’t be strong. 

What is the difference between vanilla extract and vanilla essence?

Vanilla extract and vanilla essence both have that warm and subtle vanilla taste to them. The main difference between the vanilla extract and the vanilla essence is that vanilla extract is less processed as compared to vanilla essence. Moreover, vanilla extract has a stronger vanilla flavor and aroma to it as compared to the vanilla essence.

Vanilla extract is essentially prepared by using ethyl alcohol, vanilla beans, and water. A gallon of vanilla extract has to have 35% alcohol and 13.35 oz of vanilla beans added to its formulation according to the standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Apart from this, vanilla extract can also have some sweeteners like dextrose, sugar, or fructose corn syrup added to it.

On the other hand, vanilla essence has emulsifiers, water, ethanol, propylene glycol, and artificially made flavors and aroma in it.

So vanilla extract can have its flavor and aroma twice stronger as compared to the vanilla essence. So if you want to substitute vanilla extract with vanilla essence in your recipes then you should add twice the recommended amount of vanilla extract.


In this brief guide, we answered the question “what does vanilla extract do in baking” with an in-depth analysis of what vanilla extract does in baking. Moreover, we discussed how to make vanilla extract at home and the difference between vanilla extract and vanilla essence.





Mahnoor Asghar is a Clinical Nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is compassionate and dedicated to playing her part in the well-being of the masses. She wants to play a fruitful role in creating nutrition and health-related awareness among the general public. Additionally, she has a keen eye for detail and loves to create content related to food, nutrition, health, and wellness.