Natural vanilla contains about 250 to 500 different compounds that infuse an abundance of flavors and fragrances into both food and non-food products. In this post, we look into the different types of vanilla and what unique qualities each variant brings to your recipes and non-food creations.
Choosing Your Vanilla
Many home cooks, professional chefs, and household product manufacturers use vanilla. A lot of recipes list this as a basic ingredient. Interestingly enough, you will find a variety of vanilla products on shelves. Vanilla goes by different names, types, and forms.
The budget-conscious consumer’s habit is simply to pick the cheapest. People with “price spells quality” mindsets tend to choose the priciest. However, the wisest way to go about selecting your vanilla is to choose according to your need and purpose. What are you planning to cook or make? Perhaps you want to make a homemade vanilla extract, or even try your hand at making homemade vanilla ice cream? And, what flavors and fragrances do you want your vanilla to bring out?
Why Are There Different Types of Vanilla?
Since the discovery of the orchid Vanilla planifolia in east-central Mexico, Vanilla has evolved to over 150 different types across the globe. Just like honey, vanilla beans present a unique mix of flavors and fragrances based on their location because these regions differ in soil, climate, method of preparation, harvesting, and production. Today, the most popular types are Madagascar, Tahitian, Mexican, and Ugandan vanilla.
Here, you can find out a little bit more about the different species of vanilla vines.
Madagascar Vanilla Beans
Madagascar vanilla is known as the best vanilla and what you would think of when you imagine a vanilla bean. It has a heavenly aroma and a rich, creamy vanilla taste. Madagascar vanilla also goes by the name Bourbon vanilla, but it does not have bourbon essentially. This vanilla bean grows in the islands of Madagascar, Reunion (or Ile Bourbon), and Comoros. As with Mexican vanilla, producers harvest this vanilla type from Vanilla planifolia orchids, which originated in Mexico. Now, in Mexico, bees pollinate these flowers, but in Madagascar, these require human pollination. Hence, this type of vanilla sells for higher prices.
For more insight into the hand pollination process of vanilla beans, click the link.
Madagascar is a top producer of vanilla, providing 2/3 of the global supply. Additionally, Madagascar vanilla beans are the most popular vanilla type. It features the same basic flavor components of Mexican vanilla, but people choose it for the clear yet creamy flavor it infuses into your food or drink. This vanilla type is best for baked treats that use apples, strawberries, or peaches. It is a great choice for fish and egg-based dishes. It also makes for a delicious serve of ice cream.
Mexican Vanilla Beans
Mexico is the land of vanilla’s origins. Producers wait for about nine months before harvesting the vanilla. By that time, the flower dies, then they cut the green pod from it. They dry the vanilla bean pods for 20 days, subjecting the pods to fermentation. Lastly, producers vacuum seal these in packages to preserve the quality. After two to three months of aging, Mexican vanilla is ready for distribution and sale.
This vanilla bean is thicker than other types. When it comes to flavor, you can taste its similarities with the vanilla beans of Madagascar. But Mexican vanilla beans are unique for their smooth quality and mellow taste. This vanilla also carries a woody yet spicy aroma. Those who know their vanilla love this type for the cinnamon, cocoa, raisin, tamarind, and spicy tuberose notes it brings into food.
Mexican vanilla will add depth to your recipes and scented non-food products. If your dish heavily relies on vanilla, this is your best choice for adding a bold, robust flavor to your baked cakes, cookies, bread, or ice cream. They also make great chocolate desserts and custards.
Ugandan Vanilla Beans
Ugandan vanilla is also one of your rarer types of vanilla. This strong and rich vanilla from Africa packs great flavor because of its high vanillin content. Africa experiences two dry seasons each year, and this allows producers to maintain a steady harvest for production, distribution, and sale. It leaves an earthy aroma to food. You may also spot traces of milk chocolate in the scent. Ugandan vanilla is creamy like Madagascar vanilla, but it is much sweeter and chocolatey. This will do best for desserts such as ice cream, cookies, chocolate cakes, and sweet drinks.
Tahitian Vanilla Beans
Tahitian vanilla usually refers to the species of vanilla beans tahitensis. Most is not actually from Tahiti but either Indonesia or Papua New Guinea. It has excellent flavor and fragrance while at a lower price than the Madagascar vanilla bean so many chose this when vanilla prices were very high. The orchid differs from the other top 3 listed here. While these other vanillas harvest the bean from V.planifolia orchids, Tahitian vanilla beans come from hand-fertilized V.tahitensis, a hybrid between V.planifolia and V.odorata (a very rare type).
The beans are distinctly wide and flat. It is unique for its floral, ripe fruit flavor. This vanilla is rich and deep. You could taste the cherry-chocolate, caramel, and licorice tones in the extract. Interestingly, this variant contains less vanillin compared with other types. People utilize this best for non-food products such as perfume, candles, and oils.
More Interesting Facts About Vanilla
It is the second most expensive spice in the world. Why so? For many, the exotic vanilla is not only an optional ingredient to food and non-food products; it is also a powerful ingredient that elevates any dish and commercially sold consumables. The smell of vanilla significantly increases the taste and appeal of whatever is presented for consumption or use.
What country has the best vanilla?
Madagascar is known for producing the highest quality vanilla. Not only is the aroma intense, the flavor profile goes well in food dishes, brewing or for beer, desserts, vanilla extract, and many other possibilities. Most recognize the Madagascar vanilla is the most popular due to these traits.
What type of vanilla is the cheapest?
With an increase in production yields, supplies from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia are among the list of cheaper natural vanilla variants you can buy. Even though they may be a cheaper option, they provide high quality beans. Tahitian vanilla beans from Indonesia are our second best seller.
Are there substitutes for vanilla?
It happens. You run out of vanilla just when you really need it for what you’re baking right now. While nothing can totally substitute for vanilla, you can make do with maple syrup, molasses, or honey. Don’t worry; the structure of your baked dish will not change. However, you’ll miss out on the magical flavor-enhancing quality of real, natural vanilla. So, make sure to buy an additional bottle just in case!
Whatever type of dish you are making, natural vanilla can add a whole new depth and dimension to the flavor and aroma of your finished product. The best type of vanilla to choose would be the one that suits your purpose and complements your other ingredients best. If you love experimenting with different flavors, you do not have to settle for one type. Have fun cooking and baking with over 150 types of vanilla, including the popular and creamy Madagascar vanilla, the original and earthy Mexican vanilla, the sweeter and chocolatey Uganda vanilla, or slightly floral tahitian vanilla.If you want to buy vanilla beans online, take a look at our online store today to browse our premium and comprehensive selection of vanilla beans, pastes, and extracts.