Is Vanilla Extract Vegan?
If you’re following a vegan diet and want to bake up some delicious treats, then it is important to know whether the vanilla extract is a plant-based or animal-based ingredient.
Fortunately, pure vanilla extract is 100% vegan, regardless of if it’s made from real or artificial ingredients. It simply contains just a few non-animal derived ingredients such as natural vanillin and ethyl alcohol.
However, there is one potentially unusual ingredient that many people may be concerned about— namely castoreum, an animal byproduct that can be found in some commercially available vanilla extracts. Fortunately, the pure vanilla extract does not contain this unvegan substance and is still safe for vegans to consume.
So when making vegan treats, feel free to use plain vanilla extract with confidence!
What Is The Process Of Making Vanilla Extract?
The process of making vanilla extract involves several steps and can take up to 12 months. First, dried vanilla beans are soaked in a mixture of alcohol and water. This mixture helps pull the flavoring and brown coloring from the dried beans, as well as other compounds that lend themselves to the final flavor of the product.
The mixture is kept in a hot, humid environment for several days to increase the concentration of vanillin in the vanilla beans. Once it has cured, the solids are filtered out and removed from the liquid. The remaining liquid is bottled and sold as simple or pure vanilla extract.
To meet FDA regulations, the pure vanilla extract must contain at least 35% alcohol by volume and 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon. Commercial manufacturers are able to manipulate their environment during this process so they can reduce curing time considerably.
However, homemade recipes typically require at least one month of waiting for artificial flavoring in vanilla extract to cure properly.
When purchasing commercial versions of vanilla extract ensure that it is labeled ‘Pure’ or ‘Real’ to guarantee that you are not consuming any artificial ingredients such as corn syrup or other sweeteners!
What Is Castoreum?
The main ingredient in vanilla extract is called castoreum. So what is castoreum? It’s a thick brown goo that comes from the castor sacs (anal glands) of beavers. This Vanilla-y flavor comes from the chemicals present in the beavers’ diet, specifically guaiacol which is a chemical precursor to vanillin.
Back during the days of the frontier, it was fairly easy to come by since there were many local pelt hunters and beaver trappers who could provide it. However, nowadays it isn’t used much to make vanilla extract since other sources are more accessible and reliable such as tropical vanilla orchids.
So if you’re trying to find out if the vanilla extract is vegan, you now have a better idea of what goes into making it and what alternatives there are available.
Artificial Vanilla Extract Vs. Pure Vanilla Extract
When it comes to vegan vanilla extract, there is no need to worry about beaver anal secretions, as neither artificial nor pure vanilla extracts contain animal products.
The difference between the two is that artificial vanilla extract (typically marketed as “vanilla flavoring,” “vanilla essence,” or “imitation vanilla extract”), contains synthetic vanillin made from the petrochemical precursor, guaiacol.
On the other hand, pure vanilla extract abides by the FDA’s rules for vanilla bean concentration and is made from real vanilla beans.
Therefore, when you’re looking for a vegan-friendly option for your baking needs, it’s best to go with pure vanilla extract instead of imitation/artificial/flavoring options. Not only does it taste better but it isn’t derived from the petroleum-based industry like imitation vanillas often are.
Plus, there are plenty of trustworthy brands that sell this type of product such as Taylor & Colledge or McCormick’s All Natural Pure Vanilla Extracts which are sure to exceed your expectations!
Is Natural Vanilla Flavor Vegan?
When it comes to vanilla extract vegan, the answer is yes! However, when it comes to natural vanilla flavor, the answer can be a bit more complicated. Natural flavors can be made of any number of substances, from plants to animal secretions, and natural vanilla flavor can potentially be made from beaver behinds.
Organic vanilla flavoring is a much better choice for vegans. This product does come from real vanilla beans and does not contain any animal products. Unfortunately, organic vanilla flavoring is less common than “natural” flavors so you should check the labels carefully if you want to make sure your food is vegan-friendly.
Fortunately, most food products with “natural vanilla flavor” won’t actually have any castoreum in them; only about 300 pounds of castoreum is produced annually compared to 2.6 million pounds of synthetic vanillin.
The majority of this production goes toward the perfume industry anyways, so there’s no need to write off all things that are labeled as having ‘natural’ vanilla flavor! Just double-check the ingredients before buying and make sure the primary source ingredient mentioned is real organic vanilla beans or extract.
Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe
If you want to be sure your vanilla extract is vegan, it’s best to make your own at home. This way you can guarantee that no animal products are included and only top-quality ingredients are used. Plus, it tastes great in recipes and takes only 1 to 3 months to cure!
Making your own homemade vanilla extract is simpler than you might think. All you need is the following:
• 2 cups of alcohol (vodka or bourbon work best)
• 6-8 whole vanilla beans, cut lengthwise and split open
Once you have these two ingredients, simply add them to a glass bottle with an airtight seal. Shake up your bottle occasionally over the course of at least one month, but preferably three months.
After this time has passed, your homemade vanilla extract will be ready for use in all of your favorite recipes! Have fun experimenting and mixing different flavors together to create unique variations on the classic flavor!
- 1 cup vodka 250 ml
- 6 vanilla beans
Making your own vanilla extract can be a great way to ensure that it is vegan-friendly. It’s a fairly simple process, but there are some important steps to make sure it turns out perfectly.
First, you’ll need to split each vanilla bean in half lengthwise using a sharp knife. Then put the beans in a jar and pour vodka over them so they are completely covered.
Next, you’ll want to close the lid on your jar and store it in a dark cool place for at least one month. You can stir the contents or shake up the jar every so often to make sure everything is combined properly.
Finally, after one month or more, you will have your very own vegan-friendly vanilla extract!
Hey'all I'm Amy, a born foodie and diagnosed with celiac disease 7 years ago. I refused to cave into tasteless, boring gulten free food and create my own!
On my blog you'll find info & cool facts along with recipes, all on gluten free foods!