Artificial Versus Real Vanilla

A reader has asked: Isn’t artificial vanilla flavor just as good as the real thing? I read that chemically synthesized ethyl vanillin is no different from ethyl vanillin in real vanilla.

A: It is true that there’s no difference between ethyl vanillin made in a laboratory or that which is extracted from real vanilla. The difference between artificial vanilla and the real thing is a little more complicated: Real vanilla has several hundred identifiable flavor components, of which ethyl vanillin is just one. So artificial vanilla gives you less than .5% of the flavor of the real thing.