Why Vanilla Is So Appealing To People

Learn all about why the world is in love with vanilla.

By Kristi Eckert | Updated


The world loves vanilla. From vanilla ice cream to the vanilla flavoring that you put in your coffee, vanilla is everywhere. Many a birthday is filled with a vanilla cake. Or maybe you are one who still listens to Vanilla Ice. Come to think of it, whatever happened to Vanilla Ice? Regardless, vanilla, in all of its ivory glory has such a potent presence that it could very well give the likes of chocolate a run for its money (Shhh! Don’t tell the chocolate lovers!). Given that presence of the iconic smell and flavor is tangible in virtually every corner of the world, it stands to reason that there must be something behind this universal appeal. Hence we used our vanilla sleuthing senses to uncover the reasons behind why everyone can’t help but love vanilla. 



The scent of vanilla has strong aroma-therapeutic properties. In fact, its aromatics have been proven to be so potent that some medical institutions, including the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, have used it to calm patients experiencing high levels of anxiety prior to a test or procedure. The calming aromatics of the scent have also been used to help people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. The fact that Vanilla has the propensity to induce such calm in people is a big factor that contributes to its overall appeal. 



Vanilla not only has the welcome side effect of inducing deeply calming sensations, but in food form, it is equally as desirable. This may be based more on logic than cold hard fact, however, the flavor pairs well with and/or has the ability to enhance the taste of certain foods. For instance, more often than not recipes, particularly recipes for baked goods, call for some amount of Vanilla to be added to them. This is true for recipes that come from all parts of the world. 

Additionally, Vanilla ice cream, for instance, can level up almost any dessert you can think of. Apple Pie a la mode is certainly preferable to plain apple pie. Or imagine eating a warm brownie topped with a scoop of creamy ice cream, your mouth will water at the very thought. The fact that it is a food that goes so well with other food, along with its ability to evoke such sense-activating pleasure are make Vanilla irresistibly appealing. 


Believe it or not, the scientific reason for Vanilla’s universal appeal is likely rooted in human biology itself. According to a study conducted by researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet and the University of Oxford, the world’s love for the irresistible scent and flavor can be attributed to an evolutionary survival trait. Artin Arshamian, a scientist who was involved in the study, explained that early humans developed olfactory senses that helped them to determine when something was safe to eat. Hence, the reason why vanilla is revered collectively all over the world is simply a result of our bodies telling us that it is safe to consume. 


The power and appeal of Vanilla has never been clearer. People can’t resist it because of its propensity to induce feelings of calm. People love to indulge in it because it pairs so divinely with other food. However, at the root of it all, Vanilla is so appealing because we all are hardwired to find it so.