Why is Vanilla Extract So Expensive Right Now?

Have you noticed the price of vanilla extract increasing? Here's why, and what you can do about it!

Photography Credit: Alison Conklin and Emma Christensen

If you bake regularly, you may have encountered bit of sticker shock the last time you bought a bottle of vanilla extract. There are a few reasons why we’re seeing higher prices on vanilla right now.

High Demand for Pure Vanilla Extract

More consumers are seeking out pure vanilla extracts, and that’s definitely part of it.

According to the folks at Nielsen-Massey, makers of pure vanilla products, “the global vanilla industry has been volatile for some time and prices have fluctuated significantly in the past decade.”

The demand for pure vanilla across the industry has skyrocketed, so much so that in 2015, when large food and beverage companies such as Nestle, General Mills, Hershey and Kellogg’s started removing artificial ingredients and replacing them with natural products, it triggered a price jump.

How to Make Vanilla Extract

Dwindling Supplies of Vanilla Beans

In addition, Laurie Harrsen, senior director for communications and public relations for McCormick, says “there’s an unprecedented limited supply of quality vanilla beans in the marketplace, with prices escalating over 400 percent since 2014,” adding that the company won’t sacrifice quality for price.

The cyclone that hit Madagascar earlier this year—that’s where the bulk of vanilla extracts are sourced—sent prices even higher.

Vanilla is More Expensive Than Ever

But keep in mind that vanilla has never been an inexpensive purchase—it’s second to saffron in terms of its cost.

Right now, the folks at Nielsen-Massey say vanilla is about 62 cents per teaspoon—an 8-ounce bottle retails for about $29 and contains 47 teaspoon-sized servings. They use a proprietary cold extraction process that preserves the 300 compounds in the beans and that means a more flavorful product.

How to Make Vanilla Extract

Best Substitutes for Vanilla Extract

In the meantime, if you want to save some pennies and get creative with your baked goods you can investigate some of the less expensive options, such as premium vanilla flavor or imitation vanilla. Perhaps you won’t notice a difference. There’s also vanilla bean paste which is great in recipes where you want to see and taste the flecks of the bean, and vanilla bean powder, which you can be incorporated into the dry ingredients in recipes.

Nielsen-Massey says you can use their pure vanilla products interchangeably in recipes—a whole vanilla bean equals 1 T of paste equals 1 T of pure extract equals 1 T of powder.

You can also make your own extract by placing the beans in alcohol such as vodka, and purchasing beans wholesale online. Splitting the cost among friends can make it more economical—it’s typically cheaper to buy in bulk

What’s a Home Baker to Do?

I typically try to look at these kinds of events as opportunities to explore other ways of cooking and baking. This year, I’ll stock up on other kinds of extracts—lemon, lime, almond, peppermint, coconut, and so forth—and experiment with the way I bake and cook during the holidays and after. You might find that you temporarily fall in love with another flavor profile!

Or you might just go back to vanilla once the price comes down again. There are plenty of good reasons to do so.

If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

Carrie Havranek

Carrie Havranek is a food writer living in Easton, Pennsylvania who goes out of her way for farmers markets, a crazy new ingredient, yoga class, and a great cup of tea. Find more of her work her on her blog The Dharma Kitchen. Her first cookbook, Tasting Pennsylvania, will be published in spring 2018.

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Showing 4 of 10 Comments

  • LJW

    @ Marc. Definitely use a spice grinder to powder your used up vanilla pods. It makes a great flavor booster in baked goods and even acts as a thickener to some degree which may be helpful for gluten free or grain free baked goods. Could also use in smoothies. I have done a fantastic grain free cheesecake crust with the powder as well.

  • Garrett

    If you’re looking for more on the production and history of vanilla I highly recommend reading, “Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance,” by Patricia Rain.

  • Gabrielle

    I needed to restock my vanilla extract two days ago and when I saw the price I was floored. And confused. So this post is so timely for me! Thankfully I found a local (Bahamian) brand that was much more affordable than the commercial brands. I love the idea of trying different forms of vanilla though! I’ll be doing that to help out my wallet haha.

  • Lana

    I do not remove the beans after the steeping but leave them in the bottle and when the bottle is half empty I add more vodka and put that one away in the cupboard and begin using my other bottle that has been resteeping. Keeping two going all the time means I get a lot of use out of my beans. One of the bottles has been going for five years and is starting to lose it’s punch so I will add a few beans when I refill it this time.

  • Marc

    I have a batch of homemade vanilla extract steeping in a cupboard (6 months and counting…) and I’m wondering: what should I do with the steeped beans after I separate the extract from the solids? Can I dry and grind them to make a vanilla powder? They’ll be less flavorful than a fresh bean, but might still have some flavor.

    Also, now that I think of it, perhaps I should strain my homemade vanilla extract in two ways: 1) through a coffee filter to get a clear liquid, 2) through a less fine sieve so that some of the tiny vanilla flecks are in the extract. Version 1 would be for recipes where I want no flecks (e.g., cheesecake).

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