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Ask A Foodie: What is White Vanilla?

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Varieties of white vanilla powder, plus clear vanilla

Q. You ran a NIOSA recipe recently that called for “white” vanilla. I though vanilla only came in brown? Can you buy white vanilla here?

A. I, too, was interested in the reference to white vanilla, as I hadn’t run across that ingredient before. I can see why one might think of adding white vanilla to a white cake or white ice cream. But really, I doubt if one generally adds enough vanilla, whether it is paste or extract, to turn something white into brown — or even off-white.

Nevertheless, you can find clear imitation vanilla from McCormick, as well as a variety of powdered vanilla should you wish to use them. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon vanilla, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of the powdered or clear vanilla. (I haven’t tested this, but I found it in several references.)

I found the accompanying selection of white vanilla powder and clear vanilla at Central Market.

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