Making vanilla sugar is so easy. With only 2 ingredients – vanilla and sugar – you can have your own ready to go in next to no time and it’s wonderful for simply flavouring your coffee or other sugared drinks but works great in baking too.
When I created my custard powder post, many readers asked what vanilla sugar is and while you can buy it – great for convenience – here is an example where homemade TRULY is best. I say homemade is best for a lot of recipes and I definitely mean it, but when it comes to vanilla sugar, there is no truer statement. Homemade is worlds above the flavour of shop-bought.
In this post, I cover a couple of different methods for the best flavour, uses and storage.
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What is vanilla sugar?
Vanilla sugar is, exactly as it sounds, vanilla flavoured sugar. It’s sometimes called vanillin sugar too. Vanilla bean sugar is made by infusing the flavour of vanilla seeds and beans with sugar. It can be used 1:1 for regular sugar when sweetening drinks or for adding to your baking.
Store-bought vanillin sugar has an imitation vanilla flavour – it’s a synthetic flavouring so it doesn’t taste even nearly as good as making it at home.
With just 2 ingredients it’s easy to make at home and makes a really lovely gift too. For my recipe, I like a fairly bold vanilla flavour in mine and it’s still quite affordable, but you can increase the ratio of sugar which will lighten the vanilla flavour and stretch it further.
As I mentioned above, you only need 2 ingredients – sugar and vanilla – but each of these come in different forms so let’s explore it further.
Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.
Which sugar to use
For the most standout vanilla flavour you’ll want to stick to regular white granulated sugar or caster sugar (superfine sugar). You can also add it to brown sugar which will give you almost a butterscotch flavour – vanilla with caramel notes – which is really lovely.
Other types of sugar, like coconut sugar or monk fruit sweetener may also work but will give different flavour profiles.
Which vanilla to use
It’s most common to make vanilla sugar using vanilla beans – scraping the seeds from the beans and mixing those with sugar, then sticking the vanilla pod into the sugar too which will infuse more flavour over time.
I like to go a step further to give mine a more intense flavour – grinding whole beans right into the sugar. Let me tell you, the flavour is phenomenal, and nothing is wasted which I love. You can do this with regular beans or by drying them first and turning them into vanilla powder.
Vanilla bean powder is my favourite option and gives the most intense flavour of all. I love this option because we’re using the whole bean and, since the excess moisture has been removed, the resulting homemade vanilla sugar keeps longer and doesn’t clump. Sure there is a little extra time involved but the benefits – flavour and shelf life – far outweigh the time you’re letting them dry.
Pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste technically can be used, however they are a liquid product and will add moisture to your sugar making it clump. This extra moisture content may also reduce the shelf life.
What you’ll need
- Vanilla beans: The best way to make this affordable is to try to buy the vanilla beans in bulk. I like the Native Vanilla Grade B Tahitian Vanilla Beans. You can also use Madagascar vanilla beans or Mexican vanilla beans. Grade B vanilla beans will be best to use for this as they are more dried out than Grade A (which are more plump and moist, which will in turn add more moisture to your sugar).
- Or vanilla powder: You can make your own vanilla powder (I do and it’s definitely my favourite option) but you can also buy it online or in some supermarkets or cake specialty stores.
- Food processor: While not an absolute necessity, a food processor does make the process of blending the vanilla into the sugar much easier. I like using a powerful mini food processor for this. Even distribution of the vanilla through the sugar, which is easier with a processor, makes the flavour infuse better as well.
- Spice grinder: If you want to use the vanilla powder option (my fave) but can’t find it, you can make it very easily yourself. You’ll just need a spice grinder or coffee grinder to grind the dry beans to a fine powder.
- Jar: You’ll need a good preserving jar / mason jar to store the sugar in. If you’re gifting it, these Weck preserving jars make a beautiful gift.
How to make vanilla sugar (step-by-step)
So how do you make vanilla sugar? I’m going to focus on three options here, the third being my favourite;
- The standard method: using the seeds and adding the empty pod to infuse.
- Whole standard vanilla bean method: Using a whole vanilla bean with no other special treatment.
- The vanilla powder method: Drying the beans, then blending them with the sugar.
Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.
The standard method
- Step 1: Slice a regular vanilla bean in half.
- Step 2: Use the tip of the knife to scrape just the seeds out of the pod.
- Step 3: Add the sugar and beans to a food processor and blend until evenly dispersed and the sugar is slightly finer.
- Step 4: Pour into your jar then fold and tuck the empty vanilla bean pod in too. It will continue to infuse flavour as time goes by.
Whole standard vanilla bean method
- Step 1: Use scissors to cut the vanilla bean into smaller pieces.
- Step 2: Add the vanilla bean pieces to a food processor with the sugar and blend until the vanilla is only small flecks and evenly dispersed through the sugar
- Step 3: Pour the vanilla bean sugar into your jar and store in a cool, dry place.
This method is good and gives great flavour but without drying the beans first, they don’t tend to grind so finely and hence you may be left with very small pieces of pod with a chewy texture. It still tastes great but some people may not like that texture, hence the last option (below), using dried beans is by far my favourite.
Vanilla powder method
- Step 1: If you can’t find vanilla powder, make your own by drying out the beans on a baking tray in the oven, preheated to 80C / 175F.
- Step 2: Grind the dried beans in a spice grinder until you have a fine powder.
- Step 3: Add a teaspoon of the vanilla powder to 1.5-2 cups of sugar and stir through or process in a food processor until evenly dispersed.
I still like to use a food processor for mixing the vanilla powder into the sugar, even though it mixes through very easily by hand. This is simply because processing the sugar, makes the sugar grains finer too – more like store-bought vanilla sugar.
With all of these options, the flavour of the vanilla sugar deepens over time, maturing within a couple of weeks.
How to use vanilla sugar
Your homemade gourmet vanilla sugar is perfect if you want to add a little vanilla flavoured sweetness to your tea, coffee or latte, or for that matter, any sweetened drinks.
It’s great to use in desserts and baking too but is best used where the intended flavour of the baked good is vanilla. If you were to use it in chocolate cake, for example, you’ll find the flavour can be overwhelmed and, since beans aren’t cheap, it’s best to save your precious vanilla sugar where it’s going to have the most impact.
It’s wonderful in everything from cookies, to pies to panna cotta. You can even use it to make simple syrup. If you use it in a recipe that already has vanilla extract, you can either leave out some of the extract or keep it and have a bolder vanilla flavour. Some recipes I love to use vanilla sugar in are;
Yield and storage
You can create 1 ½ or up to 2 cups of vanilla sugar with one bean or one teaspoon of vanilla powder. Depending on how strong or mild you like the flavour and how far you want it to stretch.
If you want to start with 1 ½ cups then taste test, you can add more sugar to taste and to your desired vanilla level.
Keep your homemade vanilla bean sugar stored in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Small mason jars are great and can be jazzed up with pretty labels for gifting. I love these Weck jars just for their look but they also preserve really well and make a super pretty gift.
Did you try this vanilla sugar recipe?
Leaving a rating and comment below the recipe is so helpful!
- 1 ½ cups white granulated sugar (notes 1)
- 1 vanilla bean
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- food processor
- Preserving jar
- OPTION 1: Dried beans / vanilla bean powderWhile you can skip the step of drying the beans, this method is my preferred option. The resulting vanilla sugar is more intense in flavour, doesn't clump and has a longer shelf life.
- Preheat the oven to 80C / 175F. Place the whole vanilla bean onto a baking tray and bake for 1 ½ hours. Let it cool after coming out of the oven for 10 minutes.
- Place the bean into a mini food processor or spice grinder (the latter works best) and grind to a fine powder.
- Mix through the sugar (or blend through using a food processor for the most even distribution).
- OPTION 2: Regular whole vanilla beans (not dried)
- Cut the bean into a 5-6 pieces. Place on top of the sugar in a food processor.
- Process until the bean has turned to very small pieces / flecks. Please note, larger pieces will remain chewy so blend as finely as you can.
- Vanilla bean sugar should be stored in a jar with tight fitting lid or airtight container in a cool, dry spot. It's flavour will mature around 2 weeks but can be used immediately.
- Please take a moment to leave a comment & rating. It's appreciated and so helpful.
- Type of sugar: White granulated or caster sugar (superfine sugar) are best. Brown sugar will add another layer of flavour from the molasses it contains and, while the vanilla may not taste so strong, it will give you somewhat of a butterscotch flavoured sugar.
- Sugar quantity: I use 1 ½ cups of sugar for a strong vanilla sugar but you can add another ½ cup (to make it up to 2 cups) to make it stretch further and lighten the vanilla flavour a little.
- Classic vanilla sugar uses just the beans, scraped from the pod, mixed into sugar, then the empty pod is stuck in to infuse extra flavour over time. My method of using the whole vanilla bean ground up, whether dried or not, gives a more intense vanilla flavour and nothing goes to waste.
- Scale the recipe as needed – 1 bean for every 1 ½ – 2 cups of sugar.
- Nutrition shown is per 100g/3.5oz/½ cup.
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