Pastry chef says *This* is the best vanilla extract on Amazon

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Hello, baking holiday season! Across the country, passionate home cooks are baking to their heart’s content, crafting cookies and candies faster than Santa can eat. Although baking is a science that requires many different, precise ingredients, no baker would dare whip up such delicious treats without a jar of high-quality vanilla extract. The sugary nature is a popular favorite way to add a little sweetness to any dessert.

Before you bake any more, two different pastry chefs recommend adding a bottle of Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract ($35) to your Amazon cart. Although expensive, the decadent extract still gets a gold star for delivering a flavorful experience, whether you’re whipping up mint pods or crunchy peanuts.

Leen Nuun, Omni PGA Frisco Resort’s pastry chef and former chopped candy champion, recommend it to bring out sweetness in dishes. “This is the ‘go to’ vanilla extract when we want to bring out the rich vanilla flavor,” says Nunn. Because it is so fragrant and powerful, a little use will have a lasting effect: “My favorite way to use it [it] is to open the lid and smell the aroma first!” she said.

What to Look for in Vanilla Extract

While the Nielsen-Massey extract dominates, it’s not the only thing worth keeping in your pantry. Both Neen and the baker, Justin Ellen, agree that any good extract comes from the word “pure”. Ellen—who competed on Netflix Is It Cake? and founder of the New Jersey-based bakery, Everything Just Baked!—the word “pure” on the label indicates it’s definitely a delicious cake. “Vanilla extract is just wine and vanilla beans. No other ingredients are needed,” says Ellen.

Whatever bottle you buy, make sure you store it properly to preserve its quality. You may want to put it in the fridge, but both baking experts recommend treating your extract like a vampire and leaving it in the dark. “The best way to preserve vanilla extract is to avoid sunlight, heat and moisture,” says Chef Nunn. A dinner pantry or kitchen cabinet is enough.

And finally, consider what you’re going to bake. If you’re just rounding up a basic batch of sugar cookies, you probably don’t need the expensive bottle of Nielsen-Massey — save that for a rich flavor. “I try to only use it when I really need the flavor to shine. For example, vanilla ice cream or buttercream,” says Ellen.

Chef Nunn says that McCormick’s Culinary Pure Vanilla Extract ($40) is a good quality extract for everyday recipes. The Food Network champion also notes that, “this particular variety has more vanilla flavor than regular McCormick vanilla extract.” Similar,
Kirkland Signature Pure Vanilla Extract ($24) is another solid choice to get you through the baking season. “This is the brand I use most often for all of my desserts! It’s cheaper and still has amazing quality,” says Ellen. “[It’s] another good quality extract that doesn’t hurt the bank and is another familiar brand,” Nuun said.

There you have it — the best vanilla extracts on Amazon, straight from the pastry chefs who use them every day. Buy a bottle of your own to make this holiday season especially delicious.

Tired of sugar cookies? Try this superfood holiday bark instead.

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