Best Vanilla For Extract: 10 Vanilla Beans Whole Extract Grade B Pods

The two biggest countries for vanilla bean production are Indonesia and Madagascar. Indonesian vanilla beans are also sometimes referred to as Tahitian, while Madagascar are occasionally called Madagascar bourbon.

Which is best? That’s a tough one—there is a split opinion on this.

Fans of Indonesian/Tahitian vanilla beans say they have a lighter, almost floral aroma. These beans infuse a sweeter vanilla flavor when used in baking.

Devotees of Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans, on the other hand, love their stronger, richer aroma. This is the classic vanilla flavor most folks think of when vanilla is on the menu.

Yes, we tried vanilla beans from 9 brands in various grades in different recipes (baking, cooking) as well as making homemade vanilla extract.

What was best for extract?

When it comes to buying vanilla beans to make your own extract at home, we’d suggest Vanilla Beans Kings beans—this 10 pack of Grade B vanilla beans is a top recommendation, after trying it out in our own test kitchen.

What We Liked

• Vacuum sealed.

• Nice aroma.

• Affordable.

What Needs Work

• Smaller in size. But that is true for most Grade B vanilla beans (versus Grade A beans).

Best Vanilla For Cooking: Indonesian Vanilla Beans Gourmet Grade A Pods

When it comes to cooking or baking with vanilla, we prefer Grade A vanilla pods. Why? Grade A beans have more moisture than Grade B—that makes it easier to get all of the vanilla seeds (and flavor) out of a pod. There is less waste—and more vanilla flavor!

If you just need a small amount of vanilla, we’d suggest this three-pod bundle from Wild Pod Vanilla—excellent quality, in our opinion, after comparing these to other Grade A vanilla beans.

What We Liked

 No GMO’s.

• Tahitian vanilla has a lighter, more floral aroma.

• Moist and fragrant.

• Made by family-owned business.

What Needs Work

• Some beans were shorter than the promised 6″ length. That matters since the longer the bean, the more vanilla!

Best Madagascar Vanilla: Vanilla Products USA 5 Grade A Prime Gourmet Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans

For vanilla bean fans, Madagascar beans are the gold standard—these beans have a much bolder, full-bodied flavor profile. When it comes to recipes for vanilla ice cream, cakes or creme brulee, we’d recommend Grade A vanilla bean Madagascar beans, such as this 5-pack from Vanilla Products USA. They were the best beans among those we sampled for this article.

What We Liked

• Vacuum packed.

• 6″ long pods.

•  Slow cured over several months. This is preferred over fast curing for flavor intensity.

• Excellent for baking.

Best Vanilla For Ice Cream: 10 Madagascar Vanilla Beans Whole Grade A Vanilla Pods

As 20th century Canadian philosopher/poet Ed Robertson once said, “I like vanilla. It is the finest of the flavors.”

When it comes to homemade vanilla ice cream, we prefer a strong vanilla bean that packs a wallop. Our recommendation: the 10 pod pack of Grade A Madagascar Vanilla Pods from Vanilla Beans Kings.

What We Liked

• 33% moisture content on average. That’s excellent—the more moisture, the more vanilla you can use for recipes.

• Sustainably sourced.

• Great aroma. 

• Excellent quality.

What Needs Work

• Some beans were less than the 5″ to 7″ promised length. We didn’t see that in the test batch we ordered, but we note other reports that say a few pods didn’t reach the 5″ minimum length.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward quality and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!