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Vanilla Paste

This easy-to-use, flavorful mixture adds bold flavor and pleasant specks of vanilla to desserts. Why, how, and when should you use it, and which one is best?


Published Feb. 4, 2022. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 15: Endless Dessert

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What You Need To Know

While extract, pure or imitation, is one of the most common and convenient ways to add vanilla flavor to recipes, it's not the only option. Dark and thick, vanilla paste is as easy to use as extract is (you simply scoop or pour what you need from the jar). In addition to vanilla flavor, vanilla paste adds appealing flecks to desserts. You can also get flecks from whole vanilla beans, but paste lasts longer and is cheaper than beans. Ground vanilla (read about ground vanilla and vanilla powder here) will also add flecks, but it's more expensive than vanilla paste. The aim of this tasting was twofold: to find out how to use vanilla paste as a substitute for liquid vanilla extract and which brand of vanilla paste is best.

What It Is: A thick, scoopable mixture of vanilla extract; ground vanilla beans; sugar; and a thickener such as xanthan gum, gum tragacanth, or carrageenan

What It Costs: Up to $5.00 per ounce

Why You Use It: You get flecks like when you use a vanilla pod, but it's cheaper (roughly $3.00 per tablespoon versus $8.00) and lasts longer. It lasts indefinitely when stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

How to Use It: Stir it in with the wet ingredients when making cookie, cake, and brownie batters. Do not use it if you're avoiding alcohol or don’t want flecks of vanilla in your dessert.

Vanilla Extract Equivalency: 1 to 1

Our Winner: Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

Tasting Notes: “Vibrant” and “strong,” with a “hint of nuttiness”

Everything We Tested

*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.

Carolyn Grillo

Carolyn is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She's a French-trained professional baker.