Perhaps you’re an experienced baker looking to weigh your ingredients for a more precise bake. Or maybe you’re an expatriate cook translating from the metric system to the American measurements.
Or perhaps you’ve just lost your teaspoon. Whatever the case, you’re looking for a conversion from one teaspoon of vanilla extract to grams. Read on to find out the answer to this and other questions.
What is vanilla? Where does it come from? How is it made? Why is it so expensive? What is one teaspoon of vanilla in grams? And what’s the deal with these different measurement systems anyway?
1 Teaspoon Vanilla in Grams
1 teaspoon vanilla is equivalent to about 4.2 grams. But keep in mind that while teaspoon is a measure of volume, gram is a measure of weight. In terms of teaspoons to milliliters (a metric measure of liquid volume), one teaspoon of vanilla would be equal to about 4.9 milliliters.
What is Vanilla?
Before exploring the intricacies of different measurement systems, let’s consider the ingredient. Vanilla is a vivid and familiar flavor or aroma.
It’s a sweet spice that appears in all kinds of desserts and beverages, from cookies to Coke. It’s also an important ingredient in perfumes and even medicines. But what is vanilla?
Vanilla comes from the black pods of a tiny orchid. In fact, vanilla derives from Spanish. The diminutive of vaina, it means “little pod.”
The orchid vine that produces the vanilla pod was first cultivated by Meso-American peoples like the Totonacs, and later the Aztecs. Spanish conqueror, Hernan Cortes brought vanilla to the Europeans.
The long, black vanilla pod is also called a bean, and it only appears when the orchid is pollinated. In a naturalistic setting, the orchid only opens for one days at a select moment of the year, and is pollinated by a particular species of insect, the orchid bee.
However, most commercial vanilla extract, called “bourbon vanilla” is made from hand pollinated beans.
Where Does Vanilla Come From?
Attempts to grow and pollinate vanilla naturally in 19th century Europe all failed. To this day, most of the world’s vanilla is still grown in the tropics, in Madagascar, Indonesia, and Mexico.
To accommodate the demand of commercial production, the orchid is pollinated by hand using a method invented by a 12-year-old slave child, Edmond Albius from Réunion in 1841, that is still used in contemporary production.
During the twelve-hour window when the flowers open, vanilla farmers use a splinter of wood to lift the flap between the male and female parts of the flower, allowing it to self-pollinate. The pods begin to grown within a day or two afterwards, but can take up to six months to mature.
How is Vanilla Made?
Vanilla extract is made by drying and curing vanilla pods and then rinsing them repeatedly in a solution of ethanol and water. The strongest vanilla extract comes from split pods whose seeds are released.
Extraction depends on a precise chemical process using carefully selected pods. Between hand pollination and extraction, making natural vanilla is a labor-intensive process!
As a result, vanilla is also synthesized artificially. Methyl and ethyl vanillin are made from lignin, a natural polymer in wood that is a byproduct from the pulp used in papermaking. Some vanillin used in perfume making is also made from castoreum, the musk produced by beavers.
Why is Vanilla So Expensive?
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron. Despite this, vanilla is also widely regarded as the world’s most popular aroma and flavor. The expense of natural vanilla comes from the difficulty of production.
Because natural vanilla only grows in certain places, must be hand-pollinated, must be harvested at the right time, and must be carefully sorted and cured, it is an incredibly expensive process.
Droughts and other weather problems have long threatened the farming of natural vanilla. Additionally, criminal activity around vanilla production increases the cost.
Despite this, almost 8 tons of vanilla are produced each year. Sixty percent of the world’s vanilla still comes from Madagascar and Indonesia. An 8 oz. bottle sells for $29, meaning that vanilla costs about 62 cents per teaspoon!
Why is Vanilla So Popular?
Vanilla remains the world’s most popular flavor and aroma, despite its expense. In addition to health benefits from its antioxidant properties, this might be due to some of its other therapeutic effects.
Research has shown that vanilla is calming. It can also provide relief from toothache (though not if consumed in cookies and ice cream!). In fact, vanilla as a substitute sweetener can help curb sugar intake.
How Can Vanilla be Measured?
Because it’s a rare commodity, vanilla is sold in small quantities. Bottles of vanilla are labeled in fluid ounces (fl oz) and milliliters (ml), the US and UK measures of fluid volume.
Fluid volume is typically measured differently from weight (ounces or grams) because a teaspoon of fluid can weigh more or less than a comparable amount of a dry ingredient.
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla = 4.2 grams
- 1 teaspoon of flour = 2.6 grams
- 1 teaspoon of sugar = 4.1 grams
- 1 teaspoon of table salt = 6 grams
Frequently Asked Questions On 1 Teaspoon Vanilla in Grams
Is There a Difference Between Natural and Artificial Vanilla?
Some studies revealed that people couldn’t tell the difference between foods made from natural and artificial vanilla. However, in some tests, people preferred the taste of synthetic vanilla in cookies, and natural vanilla in cakes and ice cream.
What Happens If I Leave Out the Vanilla from a Recipe?
Leaving out vanilla extract from a recipe typically won’t change the chemical structure or affect the cooking time. But it will change the flavor of the result.
Are There Less Expensive Substitutes for Vanilla?
Other extracts like lemon, lime, coconut, and peppermint are less expensive and can be substituted for vanilla in some recipes. Imitation vanilla is also a possibility. Finally, buying vanilla bean paste or powder and steeping it in vodka to make your own extract may also be less expensive.