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Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla

Vanilla Beans

Vanilla vs  French Vanilla

The difference between vanilla and French vanilla can be explained with the help of their use in two industries; the food industry and the fragrance industry.

Vanilla is a bean. It is the second most expensive spice after saffron. Even though it is very expensive, it is used commercially as well as domestically. It is used mainly in baking, aromatherapy, and the perfume industry.

It belongs to the orchid family and is considered to have one of the most exotic flavors known to man. To extract the flavor of vanilla, the beans are distilled in alcohol. Later, this extract is used for flavoring food.

There are three major regions where vanilla is grown. The first region includes: Madagascar, Reunion, and tropical regions along the Indian Ocean. The second region is: West Indies, Central America and South America. The third region is the South Pacific.

Use in Food Industry
In the food industry, vanilla is mainly used in baking and making ice creams. Vanilla is used mostly in preparing desserts. It is most commonly used in the ice cream industry. Both the flavors, vanilla and French vanilla, are derived from the pods of the vanilla bean, but the main difference between the two is the base.

The vanilla ice cream is flavored with either real beans added while cooking or the extract of vanilla depending upon the cost of the product. It has a paler, whiter appearance than French vanilla. The base of the vanilla ice creams is cream. Many times flecks of vanilla are added in the vanilla ice creams. These ice creams do not require any heating process.

French vanilla ice cream has egg yolk in it. The egg yolk is responsible for the rich yellow color of French vanilla. Egg yolk is also responsible for a smoother consistency of the ice cream. French vanilla ice cream does not have flecks of vanilla; they are strained out during cooking. The base of French Vanilla ice cream is egg rather than cream. This preparation requires heating as the base is actually a custard. Ask a chef and he will tell you that French vanilla is custard-based ice cream which contains egg yolk, and vanilla ice cream is cream-based ice cream with vanilla flavoring.

Use in Fragrance Industry
Vanilla fragrance is mostly used mixed with some other fragrance. They are used to blend with other fragrances like floral fragrance or fruity fragrances. It has a subdued scent.
French vanilla is a fragrance sold as a single fragrance. It is not blended and has a sweet and buttery scent.


1.Vanilla is used to make ice creams which are paler and whiter in color whereas French vanilla is yellowish and richer in texture.
2.Vanilla has flecks added to them; French vanilla has flecks strained out of them.
3.Vanilla is cream-based ice cream whereas French vanilla is custard-based with egg yolk.
4.For developing a vanilla fragrance, fruity or floral scents are blended to vanilla; French vanilla is a scent on its own.

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  1. This article really does not explain the common use of the term French Vanilla in today’s market. For example, I can get “French Vanilla” flavored coffee, from the coffee machine at work. There is no egg in it as in the ice cream. There is a popular brand of cake mix, that has both a vanilla cake, and a french vanilla cake. Both have eggs. So the name seems to to be a just a fancy title.

    • While pertaining to ice cream, french vanilla is an egg based custard and vanilla is a cream base.
      Cake and the like(coffee, spirits, and flavorings), adopt the name french vanilla, and give the culinary result with a slightly yellow color and a seemingly richer aroma..giving the so-called appearance of french vanilla (i.e. not white).
      Resulting in a marketing campaign that encompasses more than just the vanilla eating community and the food producers can capitalize on a larger target group.

  2. peaceful greetings. while the information present is certainly relevant and informative, I agree that there is lacking explanation of the difference in context beyond conventional iced cream made from animal substances. as was mentioned, French vanilla is itself a flavour or fragrance, in items having nothing to do with fowl ova. for instance, an almond, coconut, or soy -based iced cream could be both, either vanilla or French vanilla flavour (and certainly contains neither egg nor animal dairy). the brief mention of the difference in fragrance use really doesn’t explain the scent difference in much detail. the added information i, and maybe others, would like to read would better describe the flavor and fragrance profile of the two, especially French vanilla, highlighting the differences; it would perhaps include which products and/or processes are utilized in the making of one and the other, in food (other than conventional animal-based iced cream), and in fragrance. thank you for the information already present; it is useful and interesting.

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