Vanilla extract appears in so many sweet recipes that it’s almost automatic to add it in when you’re making cookies or cakes, so when you see the words “vanilla extract” replaced with “vanilla bean paste” you might have to do a double take before you realize that these are quite the same thing. Vanilla extract is made by infusing vanilla into alcohol , which bakes off during baking leaving the vanilla flavor behind. Vanilla bean paste is made by infusing vanilla beans into a thick, sweet syrup made with sugar, water and some sort of (usually natural) thickener. The primary difference is that the vanilla beans are scraped into the paste, so you get all of those lovely little vanilla bean specks in whatever you’re baking along with the vanilla flavor!
Vanilla bean paste can often be found at specialty stores, like Williams Sonoma, and you can find it online easily, as well. It can be used in place of vanilla extract in any recipe. I particularly like to use it in things like vanilla ice cream, white cakes, and homemade marshmallows, where you can really see the specks of vanilla contributing to the great flavor of the finished product.