Why Ina Garten Doesn't Use Her Homemade Vanilla In Recipes

Ina Garten knows her way around a lavish dinner party. The queen of entertaining's wondrous food creations and decadent menu selections for dreamy evening parties, intimate gatherings, and the like are enough to make anyone's stomach swoon. However, from soiree-worthy French apple tarts and other fruit-filled pastries to simple classics like crackly cream cheese pound cake and chocolate chunk cookies, her scrumptious dessert recipes really do take the proverbial cake.

There's no denying that the Barefoot Contessa adores the sweeter things in life. But she's especially fond of tasty treats that feature heady notes of vanilla, a complex spice that actually holds the coveted distinction of being her favorite flavor. Of course, not just any vanilla will do; only the top-quality kind will suffice for this celebrity chef. And, surprisingly, the good stuff includes even humble store-bought varieties. 

Although there is homemade vanilla extract in her pantry, she lists ready-made, store-bought vanilla extract in her recipes to help make them easier for those who don't happen to have the DIY kind on hand.

Ina Garten says store-bought vanilla will do

The TV personality shared her proclivity for using store-bought vanilla extract in response to a query posed on the Q&A section of her website. When questioned why she uses pre-bottled varieties in her recipes when she's known for having a stellar homemade jar of it at the ready, Ina Garten said she doesn't like to assume that everyone will have one stocked at all times too. 

To help make her recipes easier to follow, she says she always tries to use ingredients that people can easily come across on grocery store shelves — vanilla extract included. In regards to the store-bought varieties, Garten can be seen grabbing a bottle of the sweet stuff in many of her cooking videos, from her fluffy vanilla cream cheese pound cake to her salted pistachio meringues. 

Although those following her hunger-inducing recipes can certainly opt for any brand they please, Garten's go-to is Nielsen-Massey — namely for its high quality. Granted, the company's pure vanilla extract is just a tad more costly than your average store brand of vanilla essence or pure extract, averaging about $19 for a four-ounce jar. But, on the flip side, it does carry a variety of vanilla bean extracts, including Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, Uganda Pure Vanilla Extract, and Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract.

You can still make her 'good' vanilla at home

Vanilla extract is made by submerging vanilla beans in a mixture of ethyl alcohol and water, otherwise known as vodka. For those keen on having a taste of Ina Garten's homemade "good" vanilla, you can still throw on an apron and whip up her favorite spice in concentrated liquid form at home. 

The Barefoot Contessa's recipe only calls for two ingredients: vanilla beans and a bottle of vodka. Of course, you'll need a container large enough to hold all of the vanilla beans without bending or breaking them, such as a large mason jar. You'll also need just a smidgen of patience because the trick to achieving this aromatic solution is to allow the vanilla beans to soak in the vodka for a month at a minimum. For a greater depth of flavor, soaking them for anywhere between six months and a year is the sweet spot.

Once the infusing is complete, you can incorporate the extract in a variety of tasty recipes just as you would the store-bought kind, using it to flavor cookies, cakes, custards, or even a simple vanilla ice cream recipe. How easy is that?