Vanillin, methyl vanillin, or 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde, is an organic compound with the molecular formula C8H8O3. Its functional groups include aldehyde, ether, and phenol. It is the primary component of the extract of the vanilla bean. It is also found in roasted coffee. Synthetic vanillin, instead of natural vanilla extract, is sometimes used as a flavoring agent in foods, beverages, and pharmaceuticals.
Methyl vanillin is used by the food industry as well as ethylvanillin. The ethyl is more expensive but has a stronger note. It differs from vanillin by having an ethoxy group (-O-CH2CH3) instead of a methoxy group (-O-CH3).
Natural "vanilla extract" is a mixture of several hundred different compounds in addition to vanillin. Artificial vanilla flavoring is a solution of pure vanillin, usually of synthetic origin. Because of the scarcity and expense of natural vanilla extract, there has long been interest in the synthetic preparation of its predominant component. The first commercial synthesis of vanillin began with the more readily available natural compound eugenol. Today, artificial vanillin is made from either guaiacol or from lignin, a constituent of wood which is a byproduct of the paper industry.
White or lightly yellow solid
1.056 g/cm³, solid
80-81°C (353-354 K)
285°C (558 K)
Solubility in water
1 g/100 ml (25°C)