Vanilla and vanillin: the difference simply explained

A full vanilla pod of high quality.
A full vanilla pod of high quality.

In various Desserts like ice cream, yoghurt, pudding or dessert creams, vanilla is now indispensable. It is often also Chocolate and cocoa products added to make the taste rounder. But chefs have also discovered vanilla for other dishes such as Meat and fish dishes or vinegar.

Vanilla - Queen of Spices

Vanilla is a Spicewhich is known to many people by now and without which our today's menu is unimaginable. Very often you can find it in various desserts.

Vanilla is made from fermented capsule fruits of very specific Orchids won. Pods are called pods in common parlance, even if it is not quite botanically correct. There is only 15 speciesthat are suitable for this purpose and even fewer of them are grown commercially.

The main area of cultivation is Madagascar and Indonesia. Réunionwhich gave the Bourbon vanilla its name because of its former designation "Isle of Bourbon", now plays only a minor role.

The island of Réunion offers ideal climatic conditions for growing vanilla and gave its name to the Bourbon vanilla.
The island of Réunion offers ideal climatic conditions for growing vanilla and gave its name to the Bourbon vanilla.

In addition there are for example the Tahitian vanilla from the South Pacific region. Which tastes a little different, though. More flowery and less like the typical vanilla as we know it.

Complex process and high price

A great deal of manual effort is required until you finally hold the intensely tasting vanilla pod in your hands. This starts with the manual pollination which is necessary outside Central America because of the lack of natural pollinators. Besides, you only have one day to pollinate the vanilla blossom.

The costly treatment and that Fermentation processwhich then turns the green capsule fruit into the tasty vanilla pod, also lead to the high cost.

Special vanilla beans are sometimes marked individually. Like the one here with a
Special vanilla beans are sometimes also individually marked. Like the Vanilla Bleue marked with an "E" here, which is produced in a proprietary process invented by Escale Bleue.

However, the price is subject to wide fluctuations. A sharp rise the last few years have been marked by poor harvests. Unfortunately also the Food industry the price is rising more and more, as it has to cover its constantly increasing demand.

It is no accident that vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron.

Terms and what they mean

At Jungle of designations in the food industry it's easy to get lost. But don't be afraid here, you'll get the hang of it very quickly.

1st choice2nd choiceGet your hands off me!
Vanilla: here is closed 100% real vanilla insideNatural vanilla flavour: comes to at least 95 per cent from vanilla, the remaining 5% may be other natural additivesNatural flavor: comes from various other natural raw materialswhich need not be indicated; it Tastes like vanillabut contains too 0% real vanilla
Vanilla extract: is obtained entirely from the vanilla pod, therefore 100% VanillaAroma: is in most cases artificially produced and therefore contains 0% real vanilla

Of course, it is best if you make your own food and buy real vanilla for it. It is recommendable to stock up on vanilla at specialist retailers, such as Madavanilla.

Vanillin is not the same as vanilla

Vanillin makes the Main aroma of vanilla off. However, many other aromas contribute to the unique taste of a real vanilla. Nevertheless, many consumers are satisfied with the one-dimensional taste of vanillin.

In any case, it is not surprising that the aim was to produce this substance chemically and therefore cheaply. In fact, it was in... Germany (Holzminden), where there is End of the 19th century succeeded for the first time in producing vanillin synthetically.

Vanillin can be produced by two different processes. Either artificially through chemical production or in a natural way.

The chemical variation can be made, for example, from Waste from paper production can be synthesized. The second variant is usually represented by Microorganisms from natural raw materials such as sugar beet pulp. Then the package may state that "natural flavoring vanillin" is in there.

Vanillin is used very widely. From food, over medicines up to perfumes this flavouring is used. About the worldwide consumption of vanillin is twelve times higher than it could be covered by real vanilla. This also means that most foods cannot contain real vanilla.

Vanillin is never a complete substitute for the taste of a real vanilla pod. However, the worldwide demand could never be covered by real vanilla.
Vanillin is never a complete substitute for the taste of a real vanilla pod. However, the worldwide demand could never be covered by real vanilla.

Vanilla sugar versus vanillin sugar

Vanillin sugar is cheaper as real vanilla sugar and therefore often available in large packages at a reasonable price. There is hardly a baking recipe that cannot do without vanilla sugar. Caution is required, however, since often with still other flavouring substances in vanillin sugar is being helped.

Commercially available Vanilla sugar is usually made of sugar and ground vanilla beans manufactured. It is also allowed to add vanilla extract. One can Vanilla sugar but also quite simply do it oneself. For this purpose, place a scraped vanilla pod in a glass together with sugar (approx. 1 vanilla pod for 200 g sugar).

How the consumer is tricked

Seeing black dots as a sign of true vanilla can quickly lead one astray. Some manufacturers grind after all Vanilla beans. However, the aroma has already been extracted from them beforehand and therefore has no added value for the taste.

Some food producers or ice cream makers actually go so far as to simply take Vanilla imitation coffee grounds. If you want to know more, just read my article "Nine tips on how to recognize a really good ice cream parlor".

One should be very careful if a term other than those listed above is used. These are non-proprietary and can be used without restriction. „Vanilla" is such an example.

Also from Illustrations on the package you shouldn't be fooled. The only way to be sure is to look at the ingredients list.

Live show on vanilla and vanillin at the Gelatissimo 2020

At the GELATISSIMO 2020 the ice professionals Federico Maronati and Filippo Zampieron have Live show on the subject of vanilla and vanillin given. In the end there was the Recipe to the vanilla ice cream prepared on stage, which you can of course find exclusively below.

The lecture on vanilla and vanillin

I'm sorry to say that the content did not exactly knock my socks off. The two maestri gave a lecture that nothing really new contained.

Unfortunately, some of the statements were not quite correct or were translated badly?because a member of Ballabeni Icecream was allowed to translate the Iatlien explanations into German at the same time. And you can't blame her, because this is certainly not an easy job. But neither was the whole thing well coordinated (too little time for translation), nor was it always well translated.

In addition we have in certainly 5 different variants learned the following two things:

  1. You have to be aware of your other Competitors in ice cream making differentiate. This can be achieved, for example, by real vanilla usedeven though it's more expensive.
  2. You have to give the customer communicate why the ball of ice cream is more expensive than with the competitor. However, this can also be used as Marketing be used to show that high quality products are being used. Of course you have to be aware that a higher price also more expectations the same effect.

These two "wisdoms" were rolled back and forth for what felt like 30 minutes. I think this train of thought is understandable even after the first time and is not completely innovative.

Vanilla ice cream production and test meal

The prepared Milk and cream mixture (the vanilla should be able to release its aromas for at least 24 hours) was then only whisked egg and into the Ice cream machine given. This first pasteurised the ice cream mass and then went on to the freezing process.

The special thing about this vanilla ice cream is Lemon peelthat is admitted. That, as I've learned, is a little typical Italian. This is intended to further enhance the vanilla taste and soften the yolk taste.

The taste test was then also quite good. The Dazzling consistency. You definitely notice the professional ice cream machine. However, several - and I can only agree with this - found the Egg yolk taste too prominent and the lemony note is also something needs getting used to. Supposedly the taste would still change after a few hours in the freezer. I definitely have to test that again myself.

Recipe for vanilla ice cream by Federico Maronati and Filippo Zampieron

Filippo Zampieron writing down the recipe for vanilla ice cream at the Gelatissimo 2020
Filippo Zampieron writing down the recipe for vanilla ice cream at the GELATISSIMO 2020
  • 2750 g milk
  • 700 g cream
  • 300 g egg yolk
  • 200 g skimmed milk powder
  • 350 g sugar
  • 350 g dextrose
  • 290 Dry glucose
  • 30 g Neutro
  • 3 g salt
  • 7 g lemon grated
  • 15 g vanilla (= 1 vanilla pod)

Now, if you're wondering what happened to the ingredient "Neutro" here's the explanation. I first had to find out about it too. This is a powder that is supposed to improve the consistency of the ice cream. Besides the well-known locust bean gum, it also contains various other Supplementsthat we don't really want in our ice cream. So, in retrospect, I was a little disappointed with the recipe.

A very tasty Vanilla ice cream recipe...that can do without eggs, you'll find on my site.


I hope you are now more confident in the jungle of names and know the difference between vanilla and vanillin. The best thing let the vanillin keep your hands off her. For real vanilla nut you should buy real vanilla beans and process them further. Or you can pay attention to the terms "ground vanilla pod", "vanilla extract" or in case of need "natural vanilla flavoring" in the ingredients list.

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