Madagascar Vs. Tahitian Vanilla Beans

Zak Ruvalcaba/

Different types of vanilla beans have different applications and uses. Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans are no exception. When comparing the two, keep in mind the properties that differentiate them, such as flavor profile and origin. These vanilla beans are different and therefore have different purposes.


Madagascar vanilla beans are grown on the islands of Reunion and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, about 75 percent of the world's supply of vanilla comes from this region. Tahitian vanilla is much more rare. It's native to Oceania, a cluster of islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Scent and Flavor

Madagascar vanilla beans have a very rich, full-bodied woody flavor. They are used most frequently used beans because they are so versatile. Tahitian vanilla beans are much more delicate than Madagascar beans. Rather than being sweet and strong, Tahitian vanilla beans have light floral overtones.

Culinary Uses

Both Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans can be used in cooking, but Madagascar beans have more applications. Madagascar vanilla beans are most commonly used to flavor ice cream, baked goods, chocolate and other sweets. Tahitian vanilla beans are usually paired with delicate desserts, such as fruit-based items, ice creams and custards. Tahitian vanilla beans are best used in foods that don't require intense heat to prepare.

Other Uses

Madagascar vanilla beans are primarily used in cooking. However, the essential oil from Tahitian vanilla beans is often mixed into perfumes and soaps. Because the scent of Tahitian vanilla beans is so delicate, they are more subtle when added to body fragrances.


Both Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans need to be stored in the same manner. The cured beans should be kept in an airtight container. As heat can dry and damage the beans, place them in a dark, cool place (such as a pantry). Both types of vanilla beans last about 18 months under these conditions.