McCormick Science Institute



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Vanilla Page Main

Vanilla is derived from the dried, cured beans or fruit pods of the large, green-stemmed climbing perennial, Vanilla planifolia, which is a member of the orchid family. Although Vanilla beans are sometimes used in their whole form, they are most commonly used for producing extracts and flavors.


Vanilla is used principally for ice cream, soft drinks, eggnogs, chocolate confectionery, candy, tobacco, baked goods, puddings, cakes, cookies, liqueurs, and as a fragrantly tenacious ingredient in perfumery.


Vanilla originated in Mexico, but today the United States buys Vanilla beans from Madagascar, Indonesia, Uganda and Tonga. Most of the world's high-quality beans come from Madagascar, an island off the coast of Africa.


Vanilla was enjoyed by the Aztecs in a drink called Xoco-lall, which was made from cocoa and Vanilla beans. Cortéz sampled this drink and returned to Spain with reports it contained magical powers. Europeans mixed Vanilla beans with their tobacco for smoking and chewing, and considered it a miracle drug.

Quick Facts

Vanilla Beans
Vanilla Beans
Vanilla Extract
Vanilla Extract


Dark brown

Flavor & Aroma

Delicate, sweet, rich flavor; spicy, highly aromatic; persistent exceptional fragrance

Sensory Profile

Pure Vanilla extract is characterized by its delicate, fruity sweet, spicy flavor and aroma. Resinous, woody, pruney, floral/perfumey, and rummy notes are also commonly associated with Vanilla.