Why Is Vanilla Ice Cream Colored White While Vanilla Extract Itself is Brown?

Vanilla is one of the most common yet expensive spices in the world since it is labor-operated. The flowers of vanilla plants are produced through mechanical pollination. The seeds are then ripened, dried, and treated under controlled conditions to develop the characteristic flavor and aroma. 

Natural vanilla extract is obtained from the legumes of a vanilla plant, commonly grown in tropical areas. It is widely used to flavor various cuisines and beverages. Furthermore, it has been a part of medicine and fragrances for several years.

Synthetically, vanilla is made because the natural extract is way too expensive and in excessive demand. It is made from coal tar and wood pulp as an alternative. Synthetic vanilla is cheap but does not offer as many medical benefits as a natural extract.

Types of Flavors

Vanilla is considered a “default ice cream flavor.” Its flavor is added either by artificial vanilla extract or natural vanilla seeds. In artificial vanilla flavoring, the main ingredient is 100% vanillin, which comes up as the natural vanilla extract’s flavor. In natural vanilla flavor, besides vanillin, 200 other ingredients are also added. These numerous constituents may show compatibility issues with different ice cream preparations. 

Based on the type of flavor used, vanilla ice cream may be broadly divided into the following:

  • Vanilla Ice Cream: Natural vanilla extract is used as the main ingredient in vanilla ice cream.
  • Vanilla-Flavored Ice Cream: The product formed by vanillin from natural vanilla is used to make this type of ice cream.
  • Artificially-Flavored Vanilla Ice Cream: Synthetic vanillin is used as an active ingredient to make this ice cream.

The classification of vanilla ice cream, as explained by the USDA, comprises of three categories:

  • Ice cream containing vanilla extract only.
  • Ice cream comprising of 28g (almost 1 ounce) of artificial vanillin in one gallon (nearly 3.8 L) of vanilla extract
  • Ice cream prepared just with artificial ingredients 

Possible Reasons Why Vanilla Ice Cream is Not Brown


1. Like all other flavors, Vanilla ice cream is prepared with a mixture made of cream, sugar, and vanilla; it is then cooled with a container of ice and salt. The type of flavor used in vanilla ice cream varies with the location. In Europe and North America, people love the characteristic smoky flavor, while in Ireland, the anise-like flavor is in high demand. 

Irrelevant to the intensity of flavor, the preparation of ice cream involves the incorporation of an insignificant amount of vanilla compared with other ingredients like milk powder, sugar, and cream. This is the foremost reason why vanilla ice cream does not appear brown.

2. The other contributing reason for its white appearance is the whipping procedure during its manufacturing; the brown color of vanilla is lost somewhere amongst the creamy ingredients. And as a result, we get milky white Vanilla ice Cream.

3. Vanilla essence only accounts for nearly 1-2% of the total product. For better understanding, the basic recipe for vanilla ice cream is as follows:

  • Heavy whipping cream, 2 cups
  • Half-and-half cream, 2 cups
  • White sugar, ¾ cups
  • Vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon

4. A huge amount of heavy cream used in the preparation of ice cream fades the color of vanilla. This results in a slightly tan shade of white or off-white color of ice cream.

5. High-quality vanilla ice cream is made by vanilla seeds scraped out of pods. In such ice creams where vanilla essence is not used, you can spot the black dots within it. (These dots can be a sign to identify whether the real vanilla is used or the artificial flavor). On the contrary, if essence is used, then the pigmentation is way less than the taste. Few drops are enough to get the desired taste but not enough to color the milky base of the ice cream.