Here's Why Vanilla Extract Is So Expensive

Vanilla extract is a staple for many baking recipes. With its powerful scent and its ability to enhance flavors, it's a great addition to any batch of cookies or cake. But no matter the size of the bottle, it can be expensive.

Depending on the brand and the store, pure vanilla extract can cost between $1-$3 per ounce (via Southern Living). If you want to save money, you can make your own vanilla extract at home or substitute it for something else, but it won't be as strong or flavorful as pure vanilla extract, says Healthline. With how common this ingredient is for even the most amateur of bakers, you would think it should be more affordable. But there is a good reason for the high price tag, and you shouldn't regret shelling out the money. 

Despite the small amount of extract that recipes often call for, vanilla extract is much more essential to the craft of baking than you might think.

Why vanilla extract might be the best thing in your pantry

Because many baking recipes call for such small amounts of vanilla extract, some people may wonder why they should even bother paying the money for it in the first place. Vanilla extract is more essential to your recipe than you think. And a little goes a long way. 

Vanilla extract is a hyper-concentrated liquid made from vanilla beans which are steeped in alcohol and water. Because the liquid is made from alcohol, the flavors will continue to be extracted over time, deepening the flavors. According to the FDA, pure vanilla extract needs to contain 35% alcohol. Artificial vanilla extract is typically made with a synthetic vanilla flavoring called vanillin. Because it's less expensive to produce by scientists, this vanilla flavoring is widely used in many kinds of cereal and ice creams (per HuffPost). 

Whether you decide to add pure vanilla extract or artificial vanilla extract, you should be able to notice a difference between them.

But why is it so expensive in the first place?

Although vanilla is a commonly-used ingredient, the vanilla plant only grows in limited parts of the world. According to The Economist, the plant is extremely difficult to grow and mostly thrives in Madagascar. Around 80% of the world's supply of natural vanilla comes from the African island, but due to a number of challenges, from devastating storms, the pressures of deforestation, and intensive labor, the dwindling supply of the product makes it very difficult to meet the high demand (via Forbes). 

Many of these issues have contributed to the rising cost of vanilla. According to The Boston Globe, the cost of vanilla beans has increased by more than $300 per pound, and the price of the extract itself has doubled. And since new vanilla orchids take about four years to grow flowers, says Living Color Garden Center, the price isn't showing signs of dropping anytime soon (per The Boston Globe). 

If the price of vanilla extract is too high, don't fret. You can always learn to make your own, since buying the pure vanilla plant will be cheaper than the extract. Just as long as you don't skip it in your recipe!