Vanilla sugar is a hot opportunity to make the most of whole vanilla beans that have been stripped of their seeds! Don’t toss the vanilla pods after using the seeds inside- these pods still have big flavor hiding and making your own vanilla-infused sugar will help you unlock this culinary goldmine!
Vanilla sugar is granulated sugar that is infused with vanilla flavoring, commonly via whole vanilla pods & seeds, or simply spent vanilla pods. There is a quick vanilla sugar replacement you can make at home using vanilla extract that we’ll show you as well!
Vanilla sugar is commonly used in Europe as both a baking sugar and a finishing sugar. In countries where vanilla sugar is frequently used, you can purchase small, single-serving packets of vanilla sugar. Today friends, today we are making our own vanilla sugar!
3 Ways To Make Vanilla Sugar
Alright, if you have landed here you either want to know what vanilla sugar is OR you want to make your own. Now let’s talk about how to make vanilla sugar.
The best, most flavorful and aromatic vanilla sugar uses real vanilla bean pods. Whole vanilla beans are expensive to purchase but making vanilla sugar will help you use up every last drop of vanilla flavor!
We buy and use vanilla beans primarily for vegan vanilla ice cream and we used to toss all the vanilla pods after we scraped the seeds out. Tssk, tssk, friends! Learn from our mistakes, stop this wasteful madness at once!
The vanilla pods have been up close and personal with vanilla seeds (aka vanilla caviar) which gives them a bold vanilla flavor as well! All you need to do is place the emptied vanilla pods into a container of sugar and keep them tucked away for 4 weeks to extract the vanilla flavor. This is a seriously simple way to make a fancy, well-to-do club pantry staple.
Here are 3 methods to make your own vanilla sugar:
- The ratio we follow to make vanilla sugar from a scraped vanilla bean is 1 spent vanilla bean pod to 1 cup of sugar. This is a great way to fully use the vanilla beans you buy- use the seeds for one recipe, and use the pod to make vanilla sugar.
- Now, some recipes do call for using the entire vanilla bean, seeds and all, to make vanilla sugar. This method will result in a stronger flavored sugar, with visible vanilla seeds, in a much faster timeframe. For this method the ratio is 1 whole vanilla bean pod, opened and seeds loosened, to 2 cups of sugar to steep for 3 days.
- There is one more way you can make vanilla sugar that is lightning fast in comparison… use vanilla extract to make vanilla sugar! The ratio for this method is 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract to 1 cup of granulated sugar.
We recommend adding the sugar and extract to a blender and blending for 60 seconds to incorporate, scraping the sides as needed. However, this will transform the granulated sugar into powdered sugar. If you want granulated vanilla sugar, add the extract and sugar to a mixing bowl and whisk for 1-2 minutes to fully combine.
After incorporating the extract and sugar- via blending or whisking- spread the sugar out on a piece of parchment for 6 hours or overnight to dry.
Tidbit: As the prices of vanilla have increased over recent years, most commercially sold vanilla sugar uses imitation vanilla as a flavoring agent, so making your own gives a far better flavor!
Tell Me More
What is vanilla sugar used for? Vanilla sugar is used the same white sugar in baking cookies and cakes and it’s also used as a finishing sugar- powdered and dusted over pastries, fresh fruit, and other desserts.
If you are making your own vanilla sugar at home you can choose from granulated or powdered vanilla sugar! We always use granulated sugar to extract the vanilla flavor as powdered sugar can become very compact and limit the amount of vanilla flavor absorbed into the sugar…. You can easily toss some granulated vanilla sugar into a blender and make your own powdered vanilla sugar!
Vanilla sugar v. powder v. extract
There are a ton of vanilla flavoring options available in a wide variety of formats ranging from pastes to powders to liquids! What are they and which do you use when? Gahhh, decision overload!
Here’s the down-low on the top vanilla flavorings out now:
- Vanilla Powder: Vanilla powder is any combination of dried and powdered vanilla seeds and/or pods- pure, real vanilla! Beware as some commercial suppliers combine vanilla extract with sugar and sell this as vanilla powder.
- Vanilla Sugar: Vanilla sugar is any combination of vanilla seeds or pods that have infused granulated or powdered sugar.
- Vanilla Extract: Pure vanilla extract is alcohol that is infused with vanilla flavor and aroma from cured vanilla beans. Beware of ‘imitation vanilla extract’ as many don’t contain any actual vanilla!
- Vanilla Paste: Vanilla paste is a mixture of vanilla extract and ground vanilla bean pods or seeds, and sometimes sugar.
In our kitchen, we use vanilla paste, powder, and extract interchangeably at the same ratio, ie 1 teaspoon is the same for all 3. Not all brands and products are the same, so we can’t speak to all forms out of vanilla flavoring out there!
Recipes Using Vanilla Sugar
How to use vanilla sugar? Can we bake with this like regular sugar? Can we even taste the difference? How on Earth can we use this magical creation we just waited 4 weeks to taste?! Hmm, you make great points.
Ok- vanilla sugar is commonly used as a finishing sugar in Europe. When we say finishing sugar, we mean ‘you powder it and dust it on after baking, just before serving.’ Capiche? Think: a bowl of fresh summer strawberries absolutely drenched in a dusting of vanilla powdered sugar. Yes, you’re doing it right. Finishing sugar can also mean: instead of frosting, on top of biscotti, on top of cakes/brownies, etc.
Vanilla simple syrup: Um haiiii. We were out somewhere last week and I may have had a vanilla martini. We may or may not have made our own vanilla simple syrup later that week. Here’s the thing with vanilla simply syrup… vanilla is sensitive to heat and the flavor significantly decreases when exposed to heat. We whole-heartedly recommend using a blender to make vanilla sugar simple syrup! Use 1 cup of vanilla sugar + 1 cup of water and blend into eternity! This syrup won’t be as thick or syrupy as a stovetop simple syrup– BUT– the flavor! The flavor is what we’re here for!
Vanilla Icing: Icing is a great use for vanilla sugar as it isn’t heated! Heat can damage the delicate flavors of vanilla so we looooove a vanilla sugar-based icing! Try this ratio: 1/2 cup of powdered vanilla sugar to 1 tablespoon of milk. Remember how to make powdered vanilla sugar? Put granulated vanilla sugar in the blender for 30-60 seconds!
Vanilla Sugar-Sugar Cookies. Can we just say this is our plan for Christmas 2019. Forget presents. We need to create a vanilla sugar-sugar cookie recipe with vanilla sugar icing and gift it to the world. That is all.
About Vanilla Beans
Alright! You’re stoked on vanilla sugar, extracts, pastes, and more but now what? How do you dive into your own creative vanilla infusing endeavors? If you hop over to our trusty friend Amazon, there are a wide variety of vanilla beans for sale- it’s fully confusing and mysterious. Like, hi- how do I get a few of those dark, flavorful, beans coming my way?
The main choices you’ll need to make are the type of beans (the origin) and the grade of beans (the ‘quality’).
Where do vanilla beans come from?
Vanilla plants are a type of orchid! Just as the household orchids we all buy (and how many of you have sadly killed on accident– we are SO guilty!) the vanilla orchids are exotic tropical plants that will vine and climb their way up trees.
Vanilla beans are fruit— fruit that comes from a vanilla orchid flower opening for 1 day and getting pollinated by a hummingbird during that 1 day it’s open! Ok, this is our dramatization and not the case in commercial vanilla farming but still! Can’t we all agree this is a whimsical, magical spice?! We feel like Oprah is going to be giving out vanilla beans any day now…
Tahitian v Madagascar v Mexican
Madagascar- aka bourbon vanilla, is the most widely available type of vanilla for sale. Madagascar beans have a sturdier flavor and can withstand some action in the kitchen. The flavor of this bean is bolder, deeper, more concrete. Us home chefs are going to want to opt for Madagascar vanilla beans!
Tahitian- Floral notes, more fragile in flavor and aren’t as resilient to heat and cooking. This is your salt bae of vanilla, it’s a finishing touch that isn’t intended to be stewed, cooked, or heavily processed.
Mexican- The Mexican vanilla beans have a woodsy, smoky, rustic quality! In our opinion, it’s less aromatic and has a deeper flavor, but not necessarily the iconic, ‘classic’ vanilla flavor. Does this make any sense?
There are a huge variety of additional vanilla beans available: Hawaiian, Indonesian, Ugandan, etc. etc. The Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla beans are the most popular two varietals.
Grade A v Grade B Vanilla Beans
Grade A Vanilla Beans – aka ‘restaurant quality or chef-quality’ vanilla beans are longer, larger, and plumper. Grade A vanilla beans also have more moisture and are free from cracks, splits, cuts, acne, psoriasis, or any other visual discrepancies of color/texture/oily sheen. Consider this the Kardashian of vanilla– and unless you’re aiming for some high profile influencer exposure, you don’t need them!
Grade B Vanilla Beans -aka ‘extract quality’ are the beans we home chefs want to purchase! And here’s the good news: They are less expensive! Can I get an ‘Amen, Halleluiah’ over here!?
As beans used in making extracts are not prized for their appearance, but their flavor and aroma, vanilla that does not meet the gourmet quality standards set forth for grade A beans fall into this group. From what we have gathered, grade B beans may even have a stronger vanilla flavor as the moisture content in grade B beans is lower– a fancy way of saying: you got a concentrated vanilla flavor! Ummm, guys, vanilla beans are in favor of the middle class, okay? Again, let’s ‘Halleluiah!’
To sum up, the information overload that just happened: We recommend buying Grade B Madagascar vanilla beans!
Vanilla Sugar FAQs
- Can vanilla sugar go bad? Vanilla sugar has a very long, stable shelf life if stored in a cool, dry area it can last 2+ years.
- How to use vanilla sugar? Vanilla sugar is commonly used in baking cakes and cookies, in frosting recipes, and as a finishing sugar.
- Is powdered vanilla sugar or granulated vanilla sugar better? Powdered vanilla sugar is usually used as a dusting/finishing sugar or to make icing/frosting while granulated vanilla sugar is best used in baked goods.
- Can you substitute vanilla extract for vanilla sugar? For 1/4 cup of vanilla sugar, substitute 1/4 cup sugar + 1 teaspoon a vanilla extract. Keep in mind many German recipes that call for vanilla sugar are referring to powdered vanilla sugar, in this case, use 1/4 cup powdered sugar + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
One burning question I have: Please let me know if any of you wonderful people on the internet know… How many vanilla beans one vanilla flower will produce? Is it one bean per flower?Print
Making your own vanilla sugar at home is easy to do! We’ll cover how to make vanilla sugar, what types of vanilla beans to use to make vanilla sugar, and how to use vanilla sugar!
- 1 cup granulated sugar, white or cane
- 1–2 vanilla bean pods
- Place vanilla bean pods (not vanilla bean seeds or caviar) into an empty jar and add 1 cup of granulated sugar.
- Seal tightly and set aside for 4 weeks.
- After 4 weeks, use your vanilla sugar in a variety of recipes!
** To make your own powdered vanilla sugar, simply blend granulated vanilla sugar in a blender for 30-60 seconds!
** You can use both vanilla bean pods and seeds to make vanilla sugar, however we like to use the seeds to make ice cream or other sweets, and use the spent pods to make vanilla sugar!
Keywords: vanilla, vanilla sugar, vanilla recipes