Is Vanilla Extract Vegan?

Finding a recipe that doesn’t involve vanilla extract when baking is all but impossible, it’s one of the staples in any bakers cooking collection.

And it’s not exactly something you can substitute or just take out of your recipe without it seriously impeding the taste, texture, and flavor. 

Is Vanilla Extract Vegan

Though the addition of vanilla extract may only be small, it sure is mighty, not only does it add a delicious flavor to your sweet-tooth cravings but it will also enhance and improve the other ingredients within your recipe. 

But what is vanilla extract made of? This is a very important question for vegans as if there are any animal byproducts involved it is not suitable for consumption.

And that can completely write off most recipes that you’ll find. 

Well, you’ll be happy to know that most kinds of vanilla extract are vegan! So all those recipes are available to you and the whole wide world of baking is waiting for you to take on the adventure!

In this article, we’ll delve a little deeper into this topic and discuss how vanilla extract is vegan and why so many individuals are under the impression that it might not be. 

Doesn’t Vanilla Extract Come From Beavers? 

It did use to, yes. Long ago, most formulas for vanilla extract were made using castoreum. What is castoreum? It’s a substance that is acquired from the anal secretions of beavers.

Yep, that’s right. Enough to put you off those cute cupcakes, isn’t it? 

But don’t worry if the thought of drizzling a teaspoon of liquid derived from the anus of a beaver doesn’t sound appealing to you, you’ll be happy to learn that this method has become almost extinct.

Questionable collection methods aside, it is also very challenging and expensive to do. Now, there are much easier and vegan-friendly methods of creating vanilla extract. 

The vanilla extract you’ll see on the shelves of stores now is made by breaking down vanilla pods and then filtering them through a water and ethanol mixture.

Which I must say sounds much more palatable than the older option. Artificial vanilla extract is also vegan-friendly! 

Vanilla Extract Vs Natural Vanilla Flavor

Vanilla Extract Vs Natural Vanilla Flavor

It is worth noting that vanilla extract and natural vanilla flavor may seem like the same thing, but they are not.

Sure, your mouth won’t really taste the difference between vanilla extract and vanilla flavoring, but the make up of the two can be vastly different. 

The FDA defines ‘natural flavor’ as any flavor that is derived from a natural food source.

This natural food source could potentially be an animal byproduct but there is not really any way of knowing for sure as it is not protocol for the manufacturers to explicitly state the food source that is used. 

And while castoreum is now rarely used in vanilla extract, it can still play a large role in creating vanilla flavors.

It is becoming less and less used within food components but more often than not you’ll still find it in many fragrances for candles, lotions, and the like. 

My Advice

For pretty much any vanilla extract, you can guarantee that it will be suitable for vegans.

The use of castoreum in vanilla extract is all but extinct now and a quick glance at the ingredients list should be able to highlight whether or not the extract is produced through the filtration of water and ethanol.

So you’re pretty safe on this front. 

When it comes to vanilla flavoring, the best option that you have is to call the manufacturer directly to ask them about the food source that is used to create the flavoring.

There is a good chance that it will be vegan as typically castoreum tends not to be used in food products anymore.

However, as it will not be specifically stated in the ingredients list it is impossible to know for certain without calling for confirmation.

This way you can completely avoid confusion and guarantee that what you are using is 100% vegan-friendly. 

Make It At Home

Another way to ensure that you have 100% vegan vanilla extract is to make it yourself at home.

Second-guessing what ingredients are in store-bought options can be pretty stressful, and if you already enjoy baking, why not give it a go yourself? It tastes great!

You’ll need to be patient as it can take anywhere from one to three months to actually cure, but once it has, you have unlimited access to your own homemade vanilla extract that is 100% vegan! 

All you need to do is follow this vanilla extract recipe

Final Thoughts

Vegan bakers can rest easy knowing that pretty much all vanilla extracts, even artificial ones, are completely vegan.

So you won’t be sat stuck scratching your head wondering how you’re going to make that recipe taste delicious without using it. Use away! 

I haven’t yet come across a formula in a store that hasn’t been appropriate for vegans.

I think vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike, can say that they’d prefer to use a vanilla extract that is derived from water, ethanol, and vanilla beans over a flavoring that uses beaver secretions.

The old beaver method also costs quite a lot of money and can be quite difficult to obtain so it is really counterproductive for both customers and manufacturers alike. 

It may also be worth keeping in mind that the cheaper the extract, the more artificial it will be.

Whether or not the extract is artificial may not be of massive importance to you, but if it is, it is worth paying that little bit extra to ensure that you are consuming all-natural ingredients. 

So now that you know that you can use vanilla extract, it’s time to decide what grand baking adventure you’ll be taking on next.

Will it be vegan cupcakes? Vegan brownies? The possibilities are endless. 

Jenna Priestly
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