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mexican vanilla

looking for opinions about mexican vanilla. i have looked at a few web sites that seem to say that using mexican vanilla is just fine. i use vanilla pretty much for baking and there is value in the price of mexican vanilla versus the price of pure vanilla extract. any chowhound bakers with an opinion to help guide me? thanx.

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  1. Mexican vanilla is great for baking if it is pure vanilla. According the the web search I just did, Mexican vanilla often contains beans from the tonka tree, which contain coumarin, a substance banned by the FDA, which can cause liver damage. If you want pure, safe Mexican vanilla, you can purchase it from Penzey's Spices (http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...)

    1. The only Mexican vanilla I've ever used was brought home by a friend from Playa del Carmen. It's a huge container and is the strongest vanilla I've ever had - it also has other notes you can taste in any baked goods - specifically cinnamon. I love it in chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies but for anything with more delicate flavors i might not use it because the other flavors are so strong. you KNOW when this mexican vanilla was used in a recipe.

      1 Reply
      1. re: krissywats

        I've purchased a lot of vanilla in the grocery stores in Tijuana.

        They state that they don't contain coumarin.

        I believe them as they are the stores where the locals shop, not the tourist traps, or seedy shops on Revolution Ave.

      2. Personally, I detest the flavor of Mexican vanilla. I haven't eaten my (very accomplished) mom's baking for years for that reason.

        1. As with so many other things in life, you get what you pay for. Pure Mexican vanilla isn't cheap. There *is* cheap vanilla in Mexico, and in my experience not all Mexican vanilla is labelled to indicate that it contains coumarin. I've brought vanilla back from the Riviera Maya that had to be poured directly down the sink. I should have known from the price that it was too good to be true. Read labels and copy carefully, and be prepared for it to be different from what you may be used to.

          1. I was given a bottle of Mexican vanilla by a friend who brought it back from a trip there. It's the most heavenly-scented vanilla I've ever come across. Every time I open the bottle I'm tempted to put my finger over the opening, tip the bottle over, and dab a drop behind each ear. BTW, the bottle DOES say it's coumarin-free.

            1. I've been using Posa Mexican vanilla for years. Love it! It is coumarin free. You can find it on-line through Google, and probably any other search engine. There are usually several sellers on eBay. I have family in El Paso, and usually get them to pick up a bottle or two in Juarez for me.

              The thing I love about Posa is that it is so much richer than any other vanilla I've ever used, except whole beans, but I get the same flavor and aroma at a MUCH cheaper price with Posa without the little black spots. Posa is an "extract". The label lists the ingredients as vanilla scabbard extractives, water and alcohol. When I smell or taste it, unlike all of the other vanilla extracts I've ever used in my life, I get no alcohol taste/aroma, only lovely vanilla beans. I can't imagine anyone (who likes vanilla to begin with) ever trying it and not being hooked for life!

              1. "vanillas scabbard extractives"

                I looked up that phrase online, but it wasn't until I looked up the term "scabbard" by itself that I learned that it is defined as a 'casing' or 'sheath.'

                Thus, the Posa "pure natural" vanilla is NOT made from the vanilla bean ITSELF, but rather from extracts of vanilla bean 'skins' or 'sheathes' or casings.

                Any way to make a buck as cheaply, and as underhandedly, as possible, and certain types of human creatures will find it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Opey

                  There isn't a tourist-friendly store in Mexico that doesn't have towers of vanilla bottles in it at ridiculously low prices. There's little reliability to most and it's just not worth the effort of seeking out the "trustworthy" ones - if there's even a way of figuring that out. On a recent visit we went to a chocolate shop and the vanilla they were selling was priced more in line with the better American-branded vanillas. "You get what you pay for" applies to Mexican vanilla as it does to most other things (e.g. the "Cuban" cigars that are sold in most tourist shops in Mexico and the "sterling silver" jewelry you can buy for next to nothing).

                2. Have been using La Vencedora Mexican vanilla for years. Has vanillin as most, but no coumarin. l bought this at the maker originally after seeing the facilities and have been using since. Just back from a few Mexican cities and would not buy any vanilla there as do not trust the label, these were touristy cities. As stated by another poster this also has a cinnamon edge to it, almost viscous and wonderful in baking.

                  1. What you should avoid are MexicanVanillas containing Coumarin which is a form of Coumadin a blood thinner. Most do not use this anymore and say no coumarin on the labels. I have tried dozens of vanillas and used Premier brand mexican. I've been unable to find this brand recently and went on a tasting search for a replacement. By far the best I've ever tasted is the Blue Cattle Truck Traditional Mexican Vanilla. The beans are mexican but it's made in the USA under our FDA standards. It's not cheap but wow is it good. There is nothing better in all the different brands I've tried. It was on the Martha Steward Show, I didn't see the show but saw it mentioned in a net search. It's available via amazon and mexicanvanilla.com enjoy! I sure do!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: akfireweed

                      According to their Web site, the vanilla is made in Mexico but is "FDA registered," whatever *that* means. Sounds worth a try. Thanks for the info.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        The beans are imported and then the vanilla is made here. Made under USA FDA standards might made those uneasy with trying the mexican more willing to try it.

                    2. I used to buy it at a little open air bar in Nuevo Laredo. I can't remember the brand name, but it worked great and was only around $2.25 for a liter.It lasted forever because it was so strong you only used half the amount called for in the recipe.

                      EDIT: I did a Google search and found the brand I used to buy. Here's the link: http://danncyrooster.tripod.com/id15....

                      1. The inexpensive Mexican vanilla that is for sale in liter bottles at the tourist stops along the border and all over Arizona is not in fact vanilla but as others have said is made from the tonka bean. It does contain coumarin which is a blood thinner. I was concerned because I am quite familiar with Wafarin (coumadin) because my mother was on it for years. I spoke to a physician about it and he said that unless you are drinkng the stuff, don't worry about it. A teaspoon or two in a cake or a batch of cookies is not enough to worry about.

                        I have a bottle of Premier with me right now and while there is no mention of tonka beans on the ingredient list, vanilla beans also are not mentioned. While pure vanilla extract is a good way to go, we have found the use of the fake Mexican vanilla seems to work well for us in baked goods.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: John E.

                          Where are you finding the premier? Unless it's available online I'm out of luck. Though I do like the blue cattle truck even better.

                        2. Premier and Molina are two good brands. I've gotten Mexican vanilla that's the most horrible thing- not like anything you'd add to food at all, it was positively poison-tasting. I learned to stick to the two brands above, although there may be several more. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Molina, but I haven't actualy bought any in a long time, hopefuly they're botrh making them the same way. The reason I haven't bought any, BTW, is because once you find you have a couple of quart bottles and three smaller ones you don't feel the need to run out and buy any more for a long time. Good old days' trips to Nogales.
                          FWIW, I absolutely love good Mexican vanilla.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: EWSflash

                            I'm not sure I'd be making any runs to Nogales these days. I did go to Los Algodones once without any identification whatsoever. Now a passport is needed.

                          2. I've had some AMAZING Mexican vanilla extract. As in earth shatteringly special. I almost cried when it was gone. So very floral - it made gorgeous ice cream. But it was a super expensive gift from a generous friend, and not obtained in tourist-land.

                            I'd love to find some more. Of course I didn't keep the bottle. I am an idiot.