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Vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans that have been steeped in alcohol. It's widely used throughout the world to flavor desserts, like baked goods, ice cream, beverages, and custards, but some chefs use it as a secret ingredient in savory dishes as well. Pure extracts made with vanilla from the Bourbon Islands, which include Madagascar, is especially well-regarded. Mexican vanilla extract is also excellent, and even more potent, but it's sometimes adulterated with a dangerous food additive that's banned by the FDA. Look for vanilla extract among the baking supplies in your supermarket.

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Also known as

  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Natural vanilla extract


vanilla powder (use half as much) OR vanilla bean (Extract the flavor by scraping out the seeds and putting them and the vanilla pod into a liquid that's used in the recipe and let it simmer awhile. When the liquid has been infused with vanilla flavor, remove the pod. One inch of fresh vanilla bean = one teaspoon extract. Use a longer piece of vanilla if it's not fresh.) OR imitation vanilla extract (This may be less potent than pure vanilla extract, so you may need to use more.) OR Kosher vanilla sugar (for Passover) OR vanilla-flavored liqueur (1 teaspoon extract = 1 tablespoon liqueur) OR almond liqueur (1 teaspoon extract = 1 tablespoon liqueur) OR rum (1 teaspoon extract = 1 tablespoon rum) OR almond extract (use less) OR peppermint extract (use 1/8 as much)
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