Pure vanilla extract does contain a small amount of calories, approximately 12 calories per teaspoon (4 grams). The calories come from the alcohol used to extract and preserve the vanilla flavor. However, since vanilla extract is used in very small amounts, it contributes negligible calories to recipes. Plain vanilla beans and vanilla powder contain minimal calories as well.
What Are The Sources Of Calories In Vanilla?
Vanilla extract gets its calories from the alcohol used during the extraction process. Pure vanilla extract contains a minimum of 35% alcohol. This alcohol is usually ethanol or grain alcohol derived from corn, wheat, rye or another grain.
A teaspoon (4 grams) of pure vanilla extract provides about:
- 12 calories
- 0 g fat
- 2.6 g carbs
- 0 g protein
Nearly all the calories come from the alcohol content. The remaining ingredients – vanilla bean extractives, water, and sometimes sugar – contribute minimal calories.
Plain vanilla beans and vanilla powder contain very little fat, carbs or protein. Therefore, they provide negligible calories when used in small amounts.
Calories In Different Forms of Vanilla
|Type||Calories per teaspoon (4g)|
|Pure vanilla extract||12|
|Vanilla beans||Less than 5|
|Vanilla powder||Less than 5|
As you can see, pure vanilla extract contains a small amount of calories, while whole vanilla beans and ground vanilla powder provide minimal calories.
Does Vanilla Contain Sugar?
Pure vanilla extract does not contain added sugars. However, some imitation vanilla extracts use corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose or other sugars.
Here are the differences:
- Pure vanilla extract contains alcohol, vanilla bean extractives and water. It may contain sugar, but usually doesn’t.
- Imitation vanilla extract contains alcohol, vanilla flavorings (not real vanilla bean extract), water, and often sugar.
- Vanilla flavoring contains water, vanilla flavorings (not real extract), and often sugar, but no alcohol.
When a vanilla extract contains sugar, this will be listed in the ingredients. Sugar adds 4 calories per gram.
So if you see sugar in the ingredients list, that vanilla will have more calories than a pure vanilla with no sugar added.
How Many Calories Does Vanilla Contribute to Recipes?
Because vanilla extract and vanilla beans are used in small amounts, they contribute very minimal calories to total recipes.
For example, let’s say a cookie recipe calls for 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of vanilla extract. That 1 teaspoon would only add 12 calories to the entire batch.
If a recipe uses 1 vanilla bean, this may provide 5 grams or less of actual edible vanilla, adding at most 20 calories total.
In both cases, the calories contributed by vanilla are negligible compared to other ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs and butter, which provide the bulk of calories.
Here are some examples of how many calories vanilla contributes to different recipes:
- Cookies: 1 tsp vanilla extract (12 calories) in 24 cookies = 0.5 calories per cookie
- Cupcakes: 1 tsp vanilla extract (12 calories) in 12 cupcakes = 1 calorie per cupcake
- Pound cake: 1 vanilla bean (20 calories) in 1 loaf (16 slices) = 1.25 calories per slice
- Ice cream: 1 tsp vanilla extract (12 calories) in 4 servings = 3 calories per serving
As you can see, vanilla extract or beans add minimal calories per serving in recipes. The calories are negligible compared to amounts from fats, carbs and proteins in the dishes.
Nutritional Profile of Vanilla Beans
Vanilla beans are the long pods that grow on flowering vanilla orchid vines. The beans are picked, cured and dried for use in cooking and baking.
A 0.17 oz (5 gram) serving of dried vanilla bean contains (1):
- 17 calories
- 0.1 grams protein
- 0.6 grams carbs
- 0 grams fat
Vanilla beans are made up of cellulose and water. They provide a small amount of fiber from the cellulose.
Since beans are used in very small quantities, they contribute minimal calories and nutrients to recipes. Their value comes from the intense vanilla flavors and aromas.
Vanilla Bean Micronutrients
Vanilla beans contain tiny amounts of some micronutrients:
- Calcium: 3% DV
- Iron: 3% DV
- Magnesium: 2% DV
- Potassium: 2% DV
- Vitamin C: 0.5% DV
- Vitamin A: 0.2% DV
Again, since beans are used sparingly, they won’t significantly contribute to your daily nutrient intake.
Vanilla Extract Nutrition Facts
Vanilla extract is made by infusing vanilla beans in a solution of ethyl alcohol and water. This liquid solution contains the flavors and aromas of vanilla in a concentrated form.
A teaspoon (4 grams) of pure vanilla extract contains (2):
- 12 calories
- 0 grams protein
- 2.6 grams carbs
- 0 grams fat
As you can see, pure vanilla extract is very low in protein, fat, carbs and overall calories. Since it is used sparingly, vanilla extract adds little to the nutritional value of recipes.
However, it contains zero sugars. So vanilla extract can be useful for low carb diets when you want to add flavor without boosting carbs and calories.
Does Vanilla Extract Have Vitamins or Minerals?
No, pure vanilla extract does not contain significant amounts of vitamins or minerals.
Since it is produced by infusing vanilla beans in an alcohol/water solution, nutrients from the bean are not carried over.
Vanilla extract simply provides intense vanilla flavor and aroma, without extra nutrients.
Calories in Vanilla Powder
Vanilla powder is made by grinding dried, cured vanilla beans into a fine powder.
Since vanilla powder is simply pulverized beans, it shares a similar nutrition profile. It contains minimal calories, carbs, protein and fat.
A 0.17 ounce (5 gram) serving of vanilla powder provides around 20 calories at most, plus trace amounts of nutrients.
So just like vanilla beans and extract, vanilla powder contributes very little in the way of calories or nutrition compared to other baking ingredients. It’s valued for its flavor.
Vanilla Nutrition Summary
- Pure vanilla extract contains 12 calories per teaspoon (4 grams) from alcohol.
- Vanilla beans and vanilla powder contain minimal calories and nutrients.
- Because vanilla is used in small amounts, it adds negligible calories to recipes.
- Vanilla provides a high level of aroma and flavor, without significantly boosting calories, carbs, fat or protein.
Vanilla makes recipes more aromatic, fragrant and delicious, while adding little to their overall nutritional value.
Health Benefits of Vanilla
While not high in vitamins and minerals, vanilla does contain some bioactive plant compounds that may benefit health:
Vanilla contains antioxidants, including vanillic acid, vanillin and phenolic acids. Antioxidants help protect your cells against damage from unstable molecules called free radicals (3).
The scent of vanilla has been shown to help relieve anxiety and stress. Vanilla aromatherapy may promote relaxation, reduce tension and decrease inflammation (4, 5).
Blood Sugar Management
Studies in diabetic animals note that oral administration of vanilla reduces high blood sugar levels and improves insulin sensitivity, which helps normalize blood sugar control (6, 7).
However, more research is needed to confirm these effects in humans.
Other Potential Benefits
Early research shows vanilla may also promote brain health, improve sleep quality and help treat stomach ulcers (8, 9, 10).
However, larger scale studies are needed.
Using Vanilla in Cooking and Baking
Vanilla is widely used around the world for its sweet, aromatic flavor. Here are some tips for cooking and baking with vanilla:
- Extract: Substitute 1 teaspoon (4 grams) vanilla extract in place of 1 vanilla bean. Add to cookies, cakes, pies, hot drinks and more.
- Beans: Use whole beans in sauces, puddings, cakes and simmers recipes. Scrape out the seeds and add both pod and seeds.
- Powder: Replace 1 teaspoon (2-3 grams) powder in place of extract or beans. Powder dissolves easily in liquids.
- Custards and Puddings: Infuse heated dairy with a split vanilla bean or add powder/extract to thickeners.
- Baked Goods: Add vanilla to cookie dough, cake batter, icings, fillings and more.
- Sauces: Simmer vanilla bean in syrups, caramel, chocolate or fruit sauces.
Store vanilla extract in a cool, dark place and use within 2-3 years. Keep whole vanilla beans in an airtight container for 1 year maximum.
Should You Be Concerned About Vanilla Calories?
In moderation, there is no need to worry about the calories in vanilla extract, beans or powder.
The small amount of calories vanilla contributes to recipes is negligible compared to the calories from fats, flours, sweeteners and other ingredients.
Plus, vanilla provides many benefits beyond just calories:
- Adds aromatic vanilla flavor to foods and beverages
- Provides antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds
- May help reduce inflammation, manage blood sugar, improve brain function and more
For most recipes, a teaspoon or two of vanilla extract or half a vanilla bean provides plenty of flavor without moving the needle on calories.
Be more concerned about calories that come from large amounts of oils, butter, sugar and refined flour rather than those from a dash of vanilla.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does vanilla have carbs?
Pure vanilla extract contains around 2.6 grams of carbs per teaspoon (4 grams), which come from naturally occurring sugars in the vanilla bean. Vanilla beans and powder contain 0.5-1 grams of carbs per 5 grams. Since vanilla is used sparingly, it adds negligible carbs to recipes.
Does vanilla have sugar?
Pure vanilla extract does not contain added sugars. However, some imitation vanilla extracts add corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose or other sugars. Always check the ingredients list. Sugar will increase the calorie content if present.
Is vanilla Keto friendly?
Yes, pure vanilla is very low in carbs and calories, so it can fit into a keto diet. Use vanilla to add flavor without boosting carbs. Limit use of imitation vanilla with added sugars.
Does vanilla have caffeine?
No, vanilla does not contain any caffeine. It can be enjoyed in the evenings.
Is vanilla vegan?
Pure vanilla extract and beans are vegan, as they are simply extracted from orchid pods. However, some “natural vanilla flavors” used in processed foods may contain castoreum, a secretion from beaver anal glands. Always check ingredients.
Vanilla extract, beans and powder contain minimal calories and nutrients. Since vanilla is used sparingly in recipes, it adds little to the total calories or nutrition profile.
Enjoy vanilla to provide aromatic vanilla flavor and to add interest to recipes. The small amount of calories contributed by vanilla are negligible, so you don’t need to worry about counting them.
Focus more on moderating your intake of oils, butter, sugar and refined grains if you are concerned about calories. When used in moderation, vanilla can be part of a healthy, balanced diet without breaking the calorie bank.