So I’ve seen a bunch of articles talking about whether or not real vanilla extract is worth it. There are some really good ones that you should read like this one on epicurous or serious eats and of course cook’s illustrated. But i think that it would be interesting to talk about it from a money perspective.
If you read those articles they generally decide that if you are making anything cooked at low temperatures (pudding, cake, drinks) it’s best to use real as you get more complex and tasty flavors. But for cookies it doesn’t make that big of a difference as most of the vanilla flavors bake-off at around 280-300 degrees.
There are some people (myself included) who kind of scoff at imitation vanilla, preferring natural stuff in general over fake in all forms. But this being a blog about money got me thinking, how much is this belief costing me? Even if I don’t use that much vanilla in a recipe, how much does it actually cost?
To compare I used McCormick Real vanilla extract priced at $1.86 per fluid oz and Spice Supreme imitation vanilla extract priced at $.22 per fluid oz. Just by glancing at it, you can tell that using the imitation vanilla is almost 90% cheaper than using the real stuff. But does that mean in a real recipe? So to compare I took my recipe for sugar cookies and ran the numbers.
It turns out that each teaspoon of vanilla extract that you use costs about $.31 while using the imitation vanilla costs about $.04. When you consider that the sugar cookie recipe costs a total of $3.06 and uses a teaspoon of vanilla that means that the vanilla costs 10% of the recipe! So using the imitation vanilla, will save about 9% of the recipe costs.
Honestly I don’t feel like I want to suggest using one over the other, as like I said earlier I do prefer towards natural things. But I think if you test the taste of your recipe, you might find that it is an effective way to cut the cost of your recipe.