equivalents

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“G” writes: Similar recipes, such as creme brulee, often call for different vanilla products, such as the vanilla bean, vanilla extract, ground vanilla, or vanilla powder. What is ground vanilla versus vanilla powder? Are there conversion equivalents for cooking purposes?

I believe that vanilla powder and ground vanilla are the same thing. I compiled this equivalency table using several sources, primarily the fantastic Cook’s Thesaurus:

Vanilla product equivalency chart

Amount Vanilla product
1 inch bean (*1)
1 teaspoon extract (*2)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon powder/ground (*3)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (*4)

While many will say there’s no such thing as too much vanilla, my thick vanilla bean extracts can easily overwhelm a dish and turn it vanilla-disgusting. Use homemade extract with care if you beef up the number of beans, like me.
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*Notes…

*1 Vanilla bean - The Cook’s Thesaurus suggests using more than 1″ of vanilla bean if it’s not especially potent or fresh. Simmer the vanilla in a liquid used in the recipe to extract the flavor.

*2 Vanilla extract - The FDA requires about 6 vanilla beans (7 inch) per cup alcohol, or 42 inches of bean per 48 teaspoons. Just less than one inch (7/8) per teaspoon extract.

*3 Vanilla powder - The Cook’s Thesaurus is a bit hazy about whether to use 1/2 or 1 teaspoon ground vanilla, probably because vanilla powders from various sources are so different. Ground vanilla could be crusty old beans or grade A beauties, who knows.

A simple experiment provides some helpful info: an 8 inch vanilla bean reduced to about 2 teaspoons of pulver in a coffee grinder. That’s a bit less than 1/4 teaspoon powder per inch of bean– certainly closer to 1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla than 1 teaspoon.

The bean I used was pretty dry. A moist bean would probably yield slightly more powder, but I couldn’t get one to grind in my coffee grinder. In this picture it looks like Vanilla-Trade.com uses an industrial chipper-shredder to make vanilla powder.

*4 Vanilla paste - “Vanilla paste” is a new, unregulated product that’s trendy at the moment. It aims to give the appearance of cooking with vanilla beans (black caviar specks), without the “hassle” of owning real beans (convenient portions). There’s really no way to know what you’re getting, but follow the directions — or hope that it’s roughly equal to extract in potency.

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