Good Question: What Is Vanilla Powder?

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

As you restock your pantry and tools this week we’ll be looking at a lot of pantry and baking staples. Here’s a good question from Anne on one of our favorite baking staples: vanilla.

I’m just curious if y’all have ever used/posted/heard of “vanilla powder.” It’s a substitute for vanilla extract and was highly recommended in a Cook’s Illustrated article. I’m in need of some new vanilla soon and have been thinking about getting some of the powder, but wanted to see if you guys had weighed in on it ever.

Anne, we haven’t discussed vanilla powder yet, but this is a great time. Vanilla powders and pastes are usually made from ground vanilla beans, but you need to be careful when buying them because the powders often have been mixed with powdered sugar as a sweetener for coffee or a topping for a cake. If you are buying vanilla to use just for baking, then you should make sure you get pure vanilla powder or paste. Some of these powders are also synthetic extracts, so just be careful what you buy.

The benefit to using a pure vanilla bean paste is that when you mix it directly into a batter or a cookie dough you get the straight vanilla flavor without it being diluted in the alcohol of a vanilla extract. These pastes are powerful and often expensive as well.

I do not personally use vanilla powder or paste on a regular basis, and at this point I haven’t entirely substituted one of those for my normal vanilla extract. So I’ll let the readers weigh in: do you use vanilla extract or powder, and would you substitute one of these entirely for vanilla extract?

Here’s one popular brand of vanilla that comes in all these forms:
Nielsen-Massey Vanillas

(Images: King Arthur Flour)