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Where does vanilla flavouring come from?

Where does vanilla flavouring come from?

We recently made an interesting discovery. Exploring google trends always reveals some unusual things about the questions and queries of the United Kingdom, however, this one was the most unexpected of all.


vanilla cupcakes with vanilla flavouring

Over the past year, the biggest search under the term ‘where,’ was not, ‘where to get a covid test,’ or, ‘where can I go on holiday this year,’ but instead, ‘where does vanilla flavouring come from?’

Just to clarify, the British public isn’t in sync with their strange ponderings. This search reached a breakout as a result of a video by a TikTok user @sloowmoee, that said, “record yourself before and after googling where does vanilla flavouring come from.”

So, in an effort to answer the public, we have done all the research so you don’t have to.

The top result for this search query states that vanilla flavouring comes from Castoreum, a brown, slime like substance which has a musky vanilla-like scent. The reason this went viral is because this chemical compound comes from the anal glands of beavers. Yep, you read that right.

However, before you spit your vanilla latte out and clear every vanilla extract bottle out of your cupboards, there is no need to worry. Although it is sometimes used in some candles and perfume products, it is difficult to obtain in sizeable quantities, and therefore almost never used in food or drink.

So where does vanilla flavouring *actually* come from?

The answer makes for less viral content, but is very reassuring. The majority of vanilla flavouring is now synthetic. It is sourced from vanillin - an organic compound found in vanilla beans, which gives vanilla extract its flavour.

Artificial vanillin is made from either guaiacol - an aromatic oil derived from guaiacum or wood creosote, or lignin, found in bark.

A history of Vanilla

A member of the orchid family, vanilla was first cultivated by the Totonacs of Mexico’s East Coast. It was introduced to Western Europe by Hernan Cortez, alongside his other imports - jaguars, opossums, an armadillo, and an entire team of ballplayers equipped with bouncing rubber balls. 

The Aztecs enjoyed their chocolatl with a dash of vanilla, and Europeans soon followed suit.

It was thought of as nothing more than an additive for chocolate, until the early 17th century, when Hugh Morgan who was employed by Queen Elizabeth I - invented chocolate free, all vanilla flavoured sweet-meat. The Queen thoroughly enjoyed them, and by the next century, the French were using vanilla to flavour ice cream.

When did vanilla appear in baking?

The first known vanilla recipe appears in the 1805 edition of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, which suggests adding ‘vanelas’ to chocolate.

Now however, there are a wealth of recipes that use vanilla flavouring, so we’re gonna make your lives easier by highlighting our favourite.

Vanilla Meringue Cookies:



Fat free, this is the perfect sweet treat to satisfy your cravings. Using only 5 ingredients with a 20 minute prep time, we think this fits with our easy baking requirement.

Vanilla pimp your bakes!

If you’ve followed us for a while you’ll know we’re big fans of bake pimping, so here’s a few mixes that you can pimp with some vanilla. From frosting to glaze, meringue to vanilla sugar, get pimping and share your pics on social!


Our irresistible white chocolate and raspberry traybake

Our fabulous unicorn cake in a bottle

Our marvellous cookies and cream muffins


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Awekonimungu Justine ilm - May 15, 2023

I want to learn how to make vanilla

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