Helping You To Know The Differences Between Pure, Artificial, and Imitation Vanilla Extracts

Helping You To Know The Differences Between Pure, Artificial, and Imitation Vanilla Extracts has not been an easy task! We’ve taken time to research Vanilla and will try to explain what the differences are between Pure, Artificial, and Imitation, Vanilla.

The easiest explanation is that Imitation Vanilla is not necessarily made with Pure Vanilla! Imitation Vanilla is after all, Imitation, something other than Vanilla masquerading as Pure Vanilla.

The exact opposite of Imitation Vanilla is, of course, Pure Vanilla.

As for Artificial Vanilla, well we’ll come back to that, first let’s take a closer look at what goes into Imitation Vanilla.

Imitation vanilla is made from artificial flavorings, most of which come from wood byproducts and often contain chemicals.

Opinions seem to differ when it comes to the use of Imitation Vanilla, while some claim “imitation vanilla products to have a harsh quality with a bitter aftertaste.” like, while others like the Voters at claim …

“In blind taste tests, imitation vanilla is slightly preferred to real vanilla in baked goods.Voters at

The truth of the matter is that it probably depends on the manufacturer!

While some manufacturers may be less reliable than others, often including chemicals and such, Watkins has been winning awards for Vanilla for nearly a Century! Insuring nothing but the best, regardless if it’s Pure, Artificial, or Imitation, Watkins provides all three types of  quality Vanilla!

Therefore we are led to believe that all three types of vanilla are important!

Watkins  Clear Double Strength Imitation Vanilla contains:
Water, corn syrup, propylene glycol, alcohol (8.75%), artificial flavors, and some form of sugar (dextrose, corn syrup etc…)

My belief is that since Watkins Customers use Watkins  Clear Double Strength Imitation Vanilla for making white cakes and frostings this is the reason Watkins makes Imitation Vanilla. After all, since Pure Vanilla is of a dark color in nature, Watkins  Clear Double Strength Imitation Vanilla fills this need for those making white cakes and frostings!

Additionally, because Watkins knows Imitation Vanilla is usually not as strong as Pure Vanilla, Watkins  makes Double Strength Vanillaso we don’t need to use as much! A recipe calling for one teaspoon only requires 1/2 teaspoon of Watkins  Clear Double Strength Imitation Vanilla.

Using white vegetable shortening and clear vanilla, will give you a bright white icing that holds up well — especially important if you’re making a wedding cake

Now, what about Pure Vanilla?

According to
“Pure vanilla extract is expensive, but varies due to the quality of the beans used. In order to meet FDA standards, pure vanilla extract must contain 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon during extraction and 35 percent alcohol.”

Well one simple question will reveal why Pure Vanilla, no matter how pure it is; is not perfect for every situation! That question is “What happen to alcohol when we heat,  or cook with Pure Vanilla?” Here’s what Angela Johnson has to say,

Don’t use when baking and cooking where the vanilla will be heated for long periods of time. The heat weakens the flavor, so you may as well use a less expensive version of vanilla.”
Angela Johnson

So, why buy the more expensive Pure Vanilla, when in most cases we’re going to cook, or bake, with it and then freeze it! For this we’re better off with Artificial Vanilla!

So, we see that if your going to heat, bake, or cook, with Vanilla your best choice is to use Artificial Vanilla. Which has a lower alcohol level and therefore has a flavour that is is best for cooking and baking purposes.

I should include a little bit here on where and what Vanilla comes from…

Vanilla is the common name and genus name for a group of vine-like, evergreen, tropical, and sub-tropical plants in the orchid family (orchidaceae), including the commercially important species Vanilla planifolia, from whose seedpods a popular flavoring extract is derived.

The three most common types of vanilla beans are Bourbon-Madagascar, Mexican, and Tahitian.

Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla beans come from Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa, and its neighbor 420 miles away — the West Indian island of Réunion. They’re rich and sweet and the thinnest of the three types of beans. About 75 percent of the world’s vanilla-bean supply comes from the Madagascar area. The thick Mexican vanilla beans come from environs surrounding Veracruz. They have a smooth, rich flavor but are scarcer than the Bourbon-Madacascar beans because most areas where the orchid once thrived are now dedicated to oil fields and orange groves. Additionally, some Mexican vanilla products — though considerably cheaper than their U.S. supermarket counterparts — are suspect because they contain coumarin (banned by the FDA), a potentially toxic substance that can cause liver and kidney damage. Unfortunately, there’s no way for the consumer to tell which Mexican vanilla products contain this toxin …

That’s why we turn to Watkins for our Vanilla needs!
Vanilla made from the world’s finest Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans

Watkins has been the pioneer in premium vanilla and extracts for over a century and makes all three types of Vanillas.

Clear Double Strength Imitation Vanilla
For wedding cakes and other baked goods that need to be pure white, the choice of professional bakers. Colorless Clear Vanilla has all the bake-proof, freeze-proof, double strength flavor of Watkins Original Double Strength Vanilla but without the color.

Original Double-Strength Vanilla
Watkins award-winning Original Vanilla is made from the world’s finest Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans. With Watkins secret low-alcohol, double strength formula.

Watkins Pure Vanilla
USDA Certified Watkins Organic Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla
containing only water, organic alcohol, extractives of  Organic Bourbon vanilla beans,
and naturally occurring sugar.

If you have questions about this, or anything you see here, please feel free to contact me.

Brian W Hurlburt
(Independent Watkins Manager)
Associate ID# 342198
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Toll Free: 877-822-8463

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