“Plain vanilla” is a very misleading description of the world’s most popular flavor. Most kids think “vanilla” means unflavored, but just try making a pudding or a custard without this aromatic, mellow ingredient, and you will discover how important it is. And just think what it would have been like to live in a plain gray world before the discovery of the Americas—with no vanilla anything (or chocolate!). However, most vanilla extracts contain corn syrup, even when the label says “pure vanilla extract.” I’ve found several brands that contain no sugar. You can also make your own extract quite easily. Here’s how I do it:

Split a vanilla bean lengthwise, being careful to retain all the tiny seeds, and place it in a small glass bottle. Cover with brandy, rum, or vodka and cap the bottle. Give the bottle a shake occasionally. It will be usable in about 4 weeks. Replenish the liquor in the bottle as it is used. When the vanilla bean loses its scent, replace it with a fresh one. The strength of the extract will vary with time, so taste it and use more or less if necessary. More recipes for homemade vanilla extract can be found here.

I’ve listed a few brands of vanilla extract without corn syrup or sugar below. Most of these companies also sell vanilla beans. (If you are willing to buy vanilla beans in bulk, you may find a good price from a bakery supplier.)

Spice Islands vanilla, distributed by World Finer Foods, Inc., Bloomfield NJ 07003, available at grocery stores and from

Simply Organic vanilla, distributed by Frontier National Brands, Inc., Boulder CO 80301, available at Frontier Co-op.

Cook’s Choice vanilla extract is widely available and can be ordered from Cook’s Vanilla.

Trader Joe’s Tahitian Blend vanilla extract is sugar-free. (Trader Joe’s sells several kinds of vanilla, so be sure to get the one that lists only “bourbon, Tahitian vanilla beans, alcohol, and water” as ingredients.)

Singing Dog, all natural, fair trade, organic, and sugar-free vanilla is available in natural food stores nationwide and online. They even have yummy, sugar-free, low-carb recipes on their site, including one for a Flourless, Sugar-free Chocolate Cake and one for a Sugar-free Chocolate Mousse.

What’s a singing dog? Singing Dog vanilla is made from vanilla beans grown in Papua New Guinea, home of a wild dog that does not bark but “sings” like a whale. There is a link from this page on the Singing Dog Website to a recording if you want to hear the dog’s song.


“The Totonac people, who inhabit the East Coast of Mexico in the present-day state of Veracruz, were the first to cultivate vanilla. According to Totonac mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew.”
~ Janet Hazen, Vanilla, 1995

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(C) 2008, Judy Barnes Baker,

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Judy Barnes Baker

The working title for my first book was, “You’ll Never Know What You Are Missing.” It summed up my goal: to make eating for health synonymous with eating for pleasure. Once you discover the secret, you will find that the very best food for weight management, longevity, the treatment and prevention of disease, and over-all health and happiness is also the most sumptuous, satisfying, and indulgent way of eating the world has to offer. You are invited to the feast. Enjoy!
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15 years ago

I am finding more and more things at Costco that are so good and such a savings. We have been buying our steaks there and cutting our own. Much cheaper and better. Asparagus has also been much cheaper there so have been having fun with that.

15 years ago

Great post! I found it very interesting indeed. 🙂

15 years ago

Oh, excellent – thankyou! I used to keep a vanilla pod in sugar, but of course had to stop that, and I didn’t fancy it in Splenda, somehow – brandy will do the trick nicely 🙂