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!

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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 the associate editor of Simply Recipes and lives in Easton, Pennsylvania. She goes out of her way for farmers' markets, a crazy new ingredient, yoga, and a great cup of tea. Her first cookbook, Tasting Pennsylvania, will be published in 2018.

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15 Comments

No ImageWhy is Vanilla Extract So Expensive Right Now?

  • CJ

    I just replace vanilla with lemon or orange zest for sugar cookies. Which is about the only recipe I make where I could really taste the vanilla anyway.

    But I do hope to price comes back down. I used to enjoy adding a little vanilla to my coffee.

  • Pat Hamilton

    I’d be very careful of Mexican vanilla. Their quality control down there is very different. I’ve heard they use a toxic chemical in processing.

  • Judith

    As kid my mother used the imitation vanilla, but as an adult I could afford the pure vanilla and that is what I bought. But now cost is so expensive $35.00 at Costco yesterday. I was just in Mexico and bought 2 bottles for $8.00 each.

  • Matty

    When my husband and I were in Mexico several years ago I stocked up on vanilla. It is so much less expensive. I am now using the last bottle… Maybe another trip to Mexico is in order?

  • LJW

    I accidentally replied to your comment further up if you are interested.

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How to Make Vanilla ExtractWhy is Vanilla Extract So Expensive Right Now?