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.