Where can I get some good vanilla?

My roommate and I bake a lot* and while she clearly must be suffering from a massive head injury and thinks that imitation vanilla does the job, I simply cannot lower myself to such frighteningly untasty standards.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been paying out the wazoo for grocery store vanilla that runs me like $5 for one teeny tiny little bottle. I often find myself having to put a bit more than the recipe asks for to reach optimum vanilla-y goodness, thus leaving me with even less uses for my money.

My mom used to buy vanilla at the fair in big bottles for a reasonable price and that stuff was vanilla, let me tell you- a teeny tiny bit and you were good to go. Sadly, they don’t sell the vanilla there any more.

So where can I order some good, quality vanilla that isn’t horribly expensive, but is also tasty?

*Funny enough, neither of us actually eat the sweet stuff. Needless to say, we have lucky friends- very lucky.

Penzeys. Try the double-strength.

Sweet Celebrations. Call them up and order a catalog; you’ll be in baking heaven. The Cookie Vanilla and the South Pacific Vanilla are different, and I use both. There are several other vanillas too. Have fun!

Note that the online catalog is terrible. Also, you can get powdered vanilla too, which is great for European recipes.

Get a bottle of vodka. Grab some vanilla beans from Whole Foods or something, Madagascar ones are nice. Put a slice down the middle of said bean. Put in Vodka and store in a cool dry place for 4 months or so. You’ll have the best vanilla extract you’ve ever tasted and at least a litre of it at that for only a few quid.


Best around, IMO.


Seriously, **Dangerosa **and I were there a year or two ago and found natural vanilla on the shelves in large bottles at very reasonable prices. I don’t know that it’s worth the trip just to shop for vanilla, but if you have another reason to go, don’t forget to pick up some vanilla.

NO! Not Vodka… Use a nice Brandy… WAAAAY Better to make Vanillia Extract… Soak the beans (Roughly one been per cup of brandy) for 3-4 months in a cool dark base…

Add 1/4 teaspoon of brown sugar per cup AFTER the soak time.

Pull out the beans and put them in a small flat container, and cover with white sugar. Let dry. Pour off excess sugar, and finely grind the crystalised “remains”…
Typically produces about 2 tablespoons of vanillia sugar per bean… YMMV). This stuff is gold!


Full Metal Lotus said everything I was going to say. Meanie. :wink:

Seconded, you can buy 16oz bottles of real vanilla extract for like $10. Great gifts for anyone who bakes alot and IIRC customs could care less unless you buy like $200 worth or something like that.

If you know anyone going to mexico ask them to pick you up some, you will only need one of those bottles for a couple years. Maybe 1 per year if you bake alot.

You may want to be careful if you do this.

I get mine at Costco. One pint (16 oz.) bottles, but I don’t remember how much I paid, but less than $20 I’m fairly sure. From Cecil’s description, it is probably sythetic as well, but at least it passed through FDA. Although these days, I don’t know what that is worth…

Making my own is starting to sound pretty damn good.

The Spice House

Beans or extract. I need to order some of both.

Interesting note…I also bake a lot, and have always sworn by real vanilla. Recently, though, I saw a comparison they did in Cook’s Illustrated magazine that said that people really can’t tell the difference in the final product. I trust them implicitly, so now I’m less fussy about it.

But is there a big difference between the $2 giant bottle of fake vanilla at the grocery store and perhaps. . . nicer fake vanilla?

About the Mexican vanilla extract . . . is it better than grocery store vanilla, or just cheaper? My mom brings some back every year, including some for an aunt who bakes a lot and clamors for it.

Just wondering.

I was going to post this very same thing. The cheaper the vodka the better. I use 2 beans split lengthwise per pint. It gets better and better and better as it ages.

Waaaaay better IMO, and until I got hooked on the Mexican stuff I’d always used the real thing (and once did the vodka/Madagascar vanilla bean thing). I have most of a liter bottle of vanilla left from a trip to Mexico several years ago, and it provides an aroma that’s like absolutely nothing else. In the unlikely event that I run out before I can snag a new bottle, I’d probably try the Costco stuff.

Alternately, do you have a local Mexican grocery store or two? My local produce stand carries Mexican vanilla - it’s not nearly as cheap as it was in Mexico, but still a ton cheaper than supermarket vanilla.

Not there, but wasn’t there a terrible story a few years ago about inexpensive vanilla that wasn’t quite as advertised out of _____o, but maybe my synapses have atrophied. You gets what youse pays for.