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How to use vanilla extract (and five favorite cookie recipes)

Five favorite cookies!

When I first wrote about vanilla extract here on The Perfect Pantry, I called vanilla and chocolate the culinary Romeo and Juliet, because you almost never see a recipe for chocolate that doesn't also include a little bit of vanilla to enhance the flavor. In the past few years, I've learned to appreciate the flavor of vanilla on its own. Well, almost... I love vanilla ice cream, but I love it more when it's packed with chocolate chips, or Oreo cookies, or topped with hot fudge sauce.

Pure vanilla extract is made by fermenting the flavorless pods of a Central American orchid in ethyl alcohol. Once opened, the extract keeps indefinitely in the pantry cupboard with no need to refrigerate. (If, heaven forbid, you are using imitation extract, the shelf life is only two years.) You can learn more about vanilla extract in my original ingredient post.

When I bake, I like to use the best pure vanilla extract I can find. I'm partial to extract made, since 1888, by Charles H. Baldwin & Sons, a hardware store in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Wherever you get your vanilla, be sure to use the real thing.

I always keep a couple of bottles of vanilla extract in my pantry. More often than not, I use it to make cookies. Here are five of my favorites, and you'll be pleased to know they're not all chocolate.

Chocolate Nutella nut cookies.

These chocolate Nutella® nut cookies might just be the perfect mid-afternoon snack.

Lemon lavender cookies.

Some people love lemon the way I love chocolate. If that's you, try these lemon lavender cookies.

Crispy oatmeal cookies.

Crispy oatmeal cookies cradle a big scoop of ice cream for an ice cream sandwich.

Granola cookies.

I've been making these granola cookies since my college days, and that's long enough to know that I will always love them.

Sweet and salty peanut chocolate chunk cookies.

By far the best cookies I've ever made, according to, well, everyone, these sweet and salty peanut chocolate chunk cookies have it all: salt, sweet, and crunch.

What's your favorite cookie made with vanilla extract? (If you've posted a recipe, feel free to leave a link in the comments.)

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Of course I only use pure vanilla extract and add it to almost every sweet thing I bake or cook. I love it now with rum (my vanilla rum panna cotta was heavenly!). But now I want cookies and will check out your recipes! They look great!

Jamie, I'm drooling at the thought of vanilla rum panna cotta. For breakfast, if I had some right now.

I don't think I've ever had pure vanilla extract, but it sounds like something to seek out.

Kalyn, there are many good brands of pure vanilla extract sold online, and also in markets like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Even for doing a small amount of baking (that's me, not much of a baker), it pays to use the real stuff.

I love Vanilla. But I'm partial to using pure Tahitian Vanilla Powder in smoothies where I'd rather not taste the alcohol.

Cousin, we're using the vanilla powder you brought us for smoothies, too.

As above, I sometimes put a drop of vanilla in the morning smoothies for my husband!
As for me.. I love vanilla but how can I waste any time on vanilla ice cream when there are so many other flavors to conquer?!! *sigh*

It's almost baking 'season' here in Phoenix ;} Waaaay too hot right now to get anywhere near the oven but I'm looking forward to making these treats.

Thanks to my spouse having a 30 day trial Amazon Prime membership in the spring, and me looking for deals I couldn't pass up before it ended, I am the proud owner of vanilla beans. My daughter has made some killer vanilla bean ice cream with them, and the remnants are turning sugar into vanilla sugar as I type.
I used to be stingy with my McCormick vanilla, but when I got a bottle of Mexican vanilla from a dear friend of my mom's I started being more liberal. Now I buy vanilla in a larger bottle and frequently throw it in muffins, waffles . . . makes me think I need to try it in a pizza.
Thanks! The lemon lavender cookies have me especially intrigued!

Thank you for promoting PURE Vanilla! So many people out there are using imitation vanilla. It's made with wood & coal tar byproducts & contains sugar along with caramel color to make it brown to look like vanilla. The use of imitation vanilla is devastating to the vanilla farmers! We as consumers can support the vanilla farmers and their families by always using PURE VANILLA.

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