The One Simple Flavor Ina Garten Calls Her Favorite Of All Time

Out of all the chefs featured on the Food Network over the years, Ina Garten is one that has a veritable fan base due to her simplistic creativity when working with basic flavors. Whether you try your hand at her perfect roast chicken seasoned with the mild essence of lemon and thyme, or her iconic Beatty's chocolate cake that has the special inclusion of instant coffee, it's safe to say Garten's recipes are top-notch (via Food Network). The best part? Each one calls for common, everyday ingredients with just a hint of sophistication.

The Washington Post may have been onto something as they attempted to implement logic in dissecting her amassed following in 2018. Truthfully, how many other chefs can remain accessible to the general public but also exude a certain air of refinement? Refinery29 makes the claim that certain dishes like The Barefoot Contessa's easy cheese platter are expensive – calling for a slew of cheeses like Roquefort blue cheese, Brie, and Camembert — yet the famous chef balances these high-brow recipes by cultivating a store-bought Thanksgiving for The New York Times. Even the "shop" tab on The Barefoot Contessa website is full of affordable ingredient recommendations like Nestle chocolate chips and Hellman's mayonnaise. However, there is one flavor the famous chef loves more than any other. Though this basic ingredient runs the gamut of cost depending on what you're after, Garten is only after the good stuff.

Ina Garten's favors vanilla

Although Garten told Bon Appétit (via People) that she's been eating oatmeal every day for the last decade and always has butter, chocolate, and Häagen-Dazs ice cream on hand, the culinary star's favorite flavor is vanilla. In season 14, episode 5 of "The Barefoot Contessa," Garten dedicates an entire episode to the creamy delicate flavor of the vanilla bean by showcasing some of her signature recipes like vanilla rum panna cotta and white hot chocolate (per Food Network).

The seasoned chef may appreciate vanilla's subtleties in her favorite desserts but she's not the only one. Specifically, when it comes to ice cream, in July of 2022, YouGovAmerica determined that 59% of 1,000 American participants preferred vanilla over every other flavor. In terms of food flavors in general, one survey conducted by Premier Protein via OnePoll discovered 65% of respondents prioritized the flavor of their food over its nutritional benefits (per swns Digital).

Not many are turning down foods enhanced with the delicate flavor of vanilla. Kitchen Alchemy claims vanilla is such a well-loved flavor because of vanillin, a subtle sweet "aroma compound" most of us can't resist. Yet, Garten isn't just after any old vanilla extract – she's after the real deal made from vanilla beans. Not only does the famous chef use three different varieties, but she also shares her homemade method.

Garten's love for vanilla runs deep

In her episode solely dedicated to vanilla, Garten reveals she doesn't use any run-of-the-mill variety: her loyalties lie with "good vanilla" (per Food Network). The simplistic chef shares her longest-running choice which happens to be homemade and it's one she's been relying on for 30 years. In Garten's vanilla extract recipe, there are only two ingredients; vanilla bean pods and vodka. While she loves vanilla enough to make her own, the popular chef isn't shy about using whole beans when available and a quality bottled extract on occasion.

In 2017, The Conversation claimed less than 1% of vanilla used and consumed on a global scale was derived from actual vanilla pods. Even though Indiana University professor Bill Carroll claims lab-made vanillin is chemically the same as vanillin from an actual vanilla plant, America's Test Kitchen notes that along the range of pure vanilla extracts, there are various differences in flavor essence and taste of alcohol. Real vanilla extract is expensive but that's not stopping the Barefoot Contessa from recommending her favorite store-bought product which happens to be Nielsen Massey's Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract (per Cassandra's Kitchen). In the "Ask Ina" section of her website, Garten admits to using commercial extracts on her popular show to remain accessible to her fans. Whether it's vanilla pods steeped in vodka or a $30 bottle of pure vanilla extract, one fact remains: Ina Garten doesn't skimp on quality.