Why Does Vanilla Extract Taste Bad

Why Does Vanilla Extract Taste Bad? The Bitter Truth

Last Updated on June 22, 2024 by Lori Walker

Ever thought about sipping pure vanilla extract? It might seem mouth-watering and tasty, but that flavor is **super strong** and will stick around for a long time.

I remember the first time I tasted it – a teaspoonful of what I thought would be a delicious dessert essence turned out to be an intense, bitter, and almost medicinal experience.

So, why does vanilla extract taste so bad? Let’s find out. 

Why Does Vanilla Extract Not Taste Good?

Two Bottles of Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract isn’t designed for pleasant sipping; its bitter taste can be attributed to the alcohol content it contains. 

During production, vanilla pods are submerged in pure alcohol for several days at low temperatures. 

This alcohol extracts the complex flavors from the vanilla beans, creating the essence used in baking. 

“The bitter bite of vanilla extract is a reminder that in the world of flavors, even the most seemingly unpleasant notes can create culinary masterpieces.”

Leonelli Bakery

The bitterness arises from the high alcohol content, which can be overpowering when consumed independently.

Find out how long vanilla beans will last here.

What Should Vanilla Extract Taste Like?

The pure vanilla extract should possess a distinct alcoholic note, owing to its production process involving soaking cured vanilla pods in pure alcohol at cool temperatures. 

On the other hand, imitation vanilla extract offers a more prominent vanilla flavor, characterized by its delightful combination of floral, woodsy, and oaky notes. 

While both types serve as flavor enhancers in cooking and baking, pure vanilla extract’s slight bitterness contrasts with imitation vanilla’s richer, sweeter profile. 

Should Vanilla Extract Taste Like Liquor?

Yes, it is normal for vanilla extract to taste the same as liquor. This similarity arises from many vanilla extracts based on glycerin [1], a common carrier for the vanilla flavor. 

Glycerin itself possesses a slightly bitter taste, which is then highlighted by the presence of alcohol. 

Since the vanilla extract is made by steeping cured vanilla pods in alcohol, it inherits this bitterness from the alcohol component. 

As such, the liquor-like taste in vanilla extract is not only expected but also a sign of its authenticity as a baking ingredient.

What Is The Scent of Vanilla Extract?

The scent of vanilla extract is a fascinating blend of two distinct components. First, there’s the rich, sweet, and nutty aroma of vanillin, which is the primary flavor compound in vanilla. 

This vanillin aroma is what gives baked goods that irresistible, comforting scent. But there’s also a secondary presence in the form of the spirit used during the extraction process. 

“For my fragrance, I knew I wanted something sweet but with a different side to it. I have a lot of vanilla notes and bakery shop scents, but then I also have muskier notes that make it a bit edgier. It’s fun but also sophisticated.” 

Bethany Mota, American Vlogger

While it may not be as prominent as the vanilla note, the spirit passes its subtle taste to the scent of vanilla extract.

But how can you make vanilla sugar with extract?

Real & Fake Vanilla Extract: What’s the Distinction?

Jar of Vanilla Extract

The key distinction between real and fake vanilla extract lies in their ingredients. Real vanilla extract typically contains vanilla beans, alcohol, and sometimes sugar. 

The sugar adds sweetness but doesn’t alter the fundamental flavor. Those without extra ingredients tend to have a longer shelf life. 

Meanwhile, imitation vanilla extract uses artificial ingredients, often laced with chemicals, to intensify the flavor. 

This version may need more complexity than genuine vanilla extract, but it is a more cost-effective alternative. 

So, when it comes to vanilla extract, the choice between real and fake depends on whether you prefer natural complexity or a more economical option.

What Are The Drawbacks Of Consuming Vanilla Extract?

Consuming vanilla extract can have certain drawbacks, primarily for individuals with allergies; it may lead to adverse reactions like itching, swelling, or rashes.

Moreover, excessive consumption, especially among those involved in its production, can lead to side effects such as headaches and sleep problems, often caused by the alcohol content. 

People who manufacture vanilla extract are more likely to have these problems because they are regularly exposed to high amounts of extract.

While vanilla extract is generally safe, it’s important to be cautious and mindful of potential adverse reactions and side effects, especially when consumed in larger quantities.

Also Read: Do Vanilla & Lemon Go Well Together?


Why isn’t vanilla extract safe to drink?

Despite its appealing flavor, Vanilla extract contains a significant amount of alcohol, which can lead to central nervous system depression if consumed in excessive quantities. 

So, it has a similar effect on the body as drinking hard alcohol, making it unsafe for direct consumption.

Find out how long vanilla extract will last here.

Is real vanilla superior to its imitation?

The superiority of real vanilla versus imitation largely depends on the context. For baked goods, imitation vanilla flavor can suffice. 

For no-bake treats, simmered sauces, custards, and frozen desserts, using pure vanilla extract or paste tends to yield superior results, enhancing the overall flavor profile.

What effects does vanilla extract have on the body?

Vanilla extract offers several potential health benefits. It contains compounds that provide antibacterial properties, which can support overall health. 

Besides, vanilla may help lower cholesterol and glucose levels [2], promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, and aid in reducing the intake of added sugars when used as a natural sweetener in recipes.

Why does pure vanilla extract cost so much?

The high cost of pure vanilla extract is primarily due to the vanilla plant’s delicate nature. It exclusively grows in tropical regions, making cultivation and harvest challenging.

Final Say

As I’ve discovered, vanilla extract’s bitter taste is a product of its alcohol content, stemming from the extraction process that involves soaking vanilla pods in pure alcohol at low temperatures. 

This bitterness isn’t meant for sipping pleasure. 

Second, when it comes to vanilla extract, the taste should resemble liquor due to its base in glycerin and the alcohol-infused vanilla bean extraction process.

With that, vanilla extract doesn’t taste good because of its bitter alcohol content, but it’s great for making desserts taste delicious.


Lori Walker

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