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yuck! artificial vanilla extract....how do I use it up?

  • c

We take turns buying groceries and my list asked for vanilla extract for some scones and the likes. Imagine to my surprise whilst making crepes the extract wasn't the real kind! I already opened the seal by then and now have a large bottle of extract. My roommate pointed out that the artificial bottle was a lot cheaper than the real kind. Any suggestions?

The taste doesn't keep well even when making crepes.

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  1. Actually, for most uses, most people cannot tell the difference between artificial and genuine, and there is a mind over matter issue of perception when tasters know which is which. Use it freely where the vanilla is a helping flavor rather than the star player.

    1. Use it freely in baked goods. I agree with Karl S. that most people (including me) can't tell, especially in baked goods like cakes or cookies with so many other flavors.

      I would be a little more hesitant in something like a custard where vanilla takes a starring role and the product overall is a little more delicate.

      1. I work in a famous bakery in Boston and we always used all-natural vanilla in the past. We were forced to switch to artifical vanilla extract when our supplier was dropped, and no one can tell the difference in our baked goods - cookies, pastries, etc. Another idea besides baked goods is if you make your own whipped cream or buttercream, add some there... I also add some when I made french toast...

        (The only time I swear by natural vanilla is in vanilla ice cream - there's just no substitute!)

        1 Reply
        1. re: missL

          I work at a restaurant in Boston,where we still use vanilla beans in souffle base (and the management worries about food costs!) I say the same thing: if the vanilla flavor dominates, and/or essentially isn't cooked, like vanilla ice cream - then only real vanilla will do. Otherwise, artificial is so much cheaper.
          However, King Arthur's website is now advertising real vanilla for the same price it was a couple of years ago - a little les than half what it was selling for a few weeks ago!

        2. Cook's Illustrated magazine did a blind taste test of artifical vs. natural vanilla extract not too long ago, and found that the artificial tasted just as good, at least in most applications.

          1 Reply
          1. re: John Kent

            They also hate on Latini pasta, the most delicious dried pasta period. I am suspicious of them.

          2. It comes down to whether YOU like the taste of that artificial vanilla or not. If not then chuck it out. Just remember that tasting it plain, versus used in a recipe will make a big difference. Some brands of artificial taste bitter, some have an "artificial" taste, and others are so near to natural that it makes no difference.

            1. Sorry, but I disagree with the other posters---artificial vanilla makes anything made with it taste well, artificial. I believe the only good use for artificial vanilla flavoring is as a drain cleaner!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Anne

                Amen, just what I was going to suggest.

              2. b

                Use it in chocolate recipes that call for a bit of vanilla, like brownies.

                1 Reply
                1. I say return it to the store. Most supermarkets, chains, or larger food markets will take items back, even if the package is open. You have a better chance if you explain the mistake and take an exchange.

                  It's worth a shot anyway.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Pupster

                    Exactly! Just say it was a mistake and take store credit. You'll probably be able to buy a small bottle of the real stuff with your credit.

                    Incidentally, I am addicted to the vanilla paste that Trader Joe's sells. It is a thick, viscous liquid with thousands of those lovely beans suspended in it. I use it straight up on plain yogurt, ice cream, as well as in recipes. It imparts a much more robust flavor.

                    Mr. Taster

                    1. re: Mr. Taster
                      Laughing Goddess

                      Hmm, I noticed that vanilla paste in TJ's, but haven't tried it. How much do you substitute? Does 1 teaspoon paste equal 1 teaspoon liquid extract?

                      1. re: Laughing Goddess

                        "Hmm, I noticed that vanilla paste in TJ's, but haven't tried it. How much do you substitute? Does 1 teaspoon paste equal 1 teaspoon liquid extract?"

                        Yes. I've used the Nielsen-Massey vanilla paste in baking and find there's a bit more of a vanilla flavor, but that could be my imagination. Plus the aroma when you open the bottle - heavenly!

                        1. re: Linda W.
                          Laughing Goddess

                          Thanks, Linda!

                        2. re: Laughing Goddess

                          Yes it is a 1:1 ratio, though the paste has less of an alcoholic kick than the extract, so I find it easy to use more straight up (on ice cream or yogurt). One bottle of the stuff is $5 (don't know the weight)

                          Mr. Taster

                    2. Makes a good car freshener. Put cotton balls or paper towels in an empty candy tin or in a zip lock bag, lightly moisten with the vanilla, and toss it under a seat.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: snackish

                        Yes, I'd put it to other non-food uses. You can put a few drops on a tiny bit of tissue, then suck it up with your vacuum. As you continue to vacuum it will cover up the "dusty" smell and release a more pleasant scent.
                        The next time someone cooks something in the microwave that leaves a "funky" smell, fill a bowl with water and about 1 tsp. of the artificial vanilla. Microwave on HI for a minute or two (until water boils), then let it cool in the microwave.

                        1. re: Anne
                          Caitlin McGrath

                          I discovered the trick to nice-smelling vacuuming when I spilled a bunch of ground cloves. The clove scent emanates each time you vacuum and lasts a long time in a bagless vacuum.

                      2. I agree with the others; it's perfectly acceptable in things like choc-chip cookies, banana bread, etc. where no one would be able to tell if it was real or artificial. If you really can't bring yourself to cook with it, though, you could use it as an air freshener. When I need to get rid of a bad cooking smell in the kitchen (think - greasy fried fish), or just want the flat to smell nice, or the air is very dry, I fill a pot with water, add some ground cinnamon, crushed orange peel (I eat the flesh first!) and a glug of vanilla essence, and put it on a low simmer for an hour or so. Makes the house smell wonderful... a big bottle of vanilla would last for a couple of pots.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kate

                          You can also just put some vanilla extract on a lightbulb and turn it on for a nice scent (old real estate sales trick).