Like salt, vanilla enhances the other ingredients in a recipe; chocolate, coffee, brown sugar, and eggs (in custards and puddings) all shine a little brighter when vanilla is around. Vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans that are cured and soaked in a solution that helps to draw out the complex notes. When shopping for high-quality vanilla extract, check the ingredients list to ensure you're looking at a very simple mixture: just water, alcohol, and vanilla bean extractives. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, 4 ounces $20 at AmazonSimply Organic Vanilla Extract, 4 ounces $15 at AmazonVanilla beansVanilla beans aren't beans at all but the fruit of certain orchid plants that grow in just a handful of countries. Whole vanilla beans are the most expensive vanilla product to purchase.