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Vanilla is often thought to be the plainest ice cream flavor, but that doesn't mean there aren't nuances to the classic treat! If you've ever perused the ice cream aisle, you've likely noticed some brands offer vanilla bean, while other labels simply say, vanilla. So, what's the difference between the two?

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Vanilla bean ice cream is what most people would call “real” ice cream. It can be purchased in most grocery stores, but can be a little harder to find and more expensive because it gets its flavor from the actual unprocessed grains found inside a vanilla pod. You can see minuscule black grains in real vanilla bean ice creams, which is an easy way to tell if you have vanilla bean ice cream or not.

Regular Vanilla Ice Cream

Most ice cream bought in store, at milk bars and in restaurants is regular vanilla ice cream. This type of ice cream is often mass-produced and either pure vanilla extract or processed vanilla flavoring is used to give it its taste. Because concentrated versions of vanilla are used, you cannot see the vanilla with the naked eye. Regular vanilla ice cream is normally white or off-white in color. The vanilla extract used in regular ice cream can also be used in recipes for cakes, muffins and other sweet baked goods.

Similarities

Both types of vanilla ice cream are made from the majority of the same basic ingredients which includes eggs, sugar and heavy cream. They also both have a vanilla flavor and are generally white in color. Both vanilla bean and regular vanilla ice creams can be made at home or bought pre-made.

Differences

The main difference between vanilla bean and regular vanilla ice cream lies in the ingredients used to give it its vanilla flavor. In the first instance, actual vanilla beans have been used, while vanilla ice cream gets its flavor from either vanilla extract or processed vanilla flavor supplements.