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Vanilla is a flavoring derived from the vanilla bean. Vanillin is the name of the distinctive chemical in vanilla. Vanilla extract is alcohol containing flavor (vanillin) from the vanilla bean. Vanillin itself, produced by a modern chemical process, is widely sold in a form similar to vanilla extract.

When a recipe specifies vanilla, usually the recipe is intended to work with either vanilla extract or vanillin. Such recipes will require modification if whole vanilla beans are used.

Vanilla is commonly used in desserts and in chocolate. Vanilla is often not noticeable as a distinct flavor, yet nevertheless greatly improves the taste of the dish it has been added to (much like salt and MSG).

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