Best Vanilla For Ice Cream: 10 Madagascar Vanilla Beans Whole Grade A Vanilla 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, ice cream) as well as making homemade vanilla extract.

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.

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

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: Native Vanilla Grade A Tahitian Vanilla Beans

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 five-pod bundle from Native Vanilla. With operations both in the US and South Africa, Native Vanilla beans imports about 2 million beans per month. The company touts its fair-trade sourcing from “micro farms” in Papua New Guinea.

We purchased and tried these vanilla beans in several recipes—very impressive. Very good quality, as compared to other Grade A vanilla beans we sampled.

What We Liked

 Sourced from small farmers in Papua New Guinea.

• Subtle floral flavor.

• Tahitian vanilla has a lighter, more floral aroma.

What Needs Work

• Pricey.

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.

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.

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