Vanilla extract is an alcohol-based flavoring agent. Vanilla extract is created by soaking fresh vanilla beans in strong alcohol to extract the vanilla’s flavor. Vanilla extract often has other ingredients as well. Bill extract is used in a wide range of foods and culinary uses, most commonly deserts. Vanilla ice cream, custards, and cakes all may contain vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is used as a substitute for the vanilla beans themselves, since the beans must be soaked and/or cooked for quite a while to extract their flavor.