What Makes Vanilla Ice Cream Vanilla?

The difference between vanilla and vanilla flavored ice cream is more than you may think.

Photo by Yunhee Kim

Vanilla is vanilla is vanilla, right? Not exactly, says John Harrison, the official taste tester for Dreyer's, the top-selling brand of ice cream in the United States. Below, Harrison and his taste buds―which are insured for $1 million―decipher common vanilla verbiage found on ice cream containers.

  • Vanilla: Made from pure Madagascar vanilla beans.
  • Vanilla flavored: Contains up to 50 percent artificial vanilla.
  • Vanilla bean: Includes specks of vanilla bean to intensify flavor and enhance appearance.
  • French vanilla: By law, this must contain at least 1.4 percent egg yolk―more than most vanillas. The result is a distinctive yellow color and a custardlike taste.
  • Double vanilla: Made with twice as much vanilla as the original.
  • Slow churned or double churned: The special processing results in a smooth, rich, creamy texture.