You can purchase vanilla sugar in some specialty stores, but it’s really easy to create at home. Use homemade vanilla sugar as a 1:1 replacement for regular sugar to add flavor in your coffee, tea, or baking recipes. If you decide to try it out, I have free printable labels you can use below.
Consider this the sequel to my homemade vanilla extract tutorial. Today I’m showing you how to make homemade vanilla sugar, a simple yet very special ingredient you can use in your baking. It makes a thoughtful homemade gift and only takes a few minutes to throw together. Even though there are many vanilla sugar tutorials available online and the process is basically effortless, I’d still love to teach you what I’ve learned after making it myself.
What is Vanilla Sugar?
Vanilla sugar is regular sugar infused with vanilla beans. It’s a common baking ingredient in some European regions, but in other parts of the world including the US, you can really only find it in select kitchen stores and bakeries. Vanilla sugar sounds pretty fancy and trust me– tastes pretty fancy too– but it couldn’t be easier to mix up at home.
I used to buy vanilla sugar all the time to use in my Christmas sugar cookies, but started making my own last year. I find that 1 vanilla bean per 2 cups of sugar is affordable and works wonderfully. See my recipe note if you’d like to increase the amount of vanilla.
How Can I Use Vanilla Sugar?
What’s all the fuss about this sugar? Well, it’s a simple ingredient that quickly accelerates the flavor of drinks and baked goods. It’s just regular sugar that’s flavored with vanilla beans, so you can essentially use it in any recipe that calls for sugar. Besides using it to sweeten your coffee and tea beverages, I recommend using homemade vanilla sugar as a 1:1 replacement for regular granulated sugar in recipes where vanilla is the prominent flavor and not overshadowed by more flavorful ingredients. For example, I wouldn’t use it in chocolate cake because chocolate is overpowering. Vanilla beans are expensive, so save this special sugar for recipes that could really benefit from it like vanilla cake, sugar cookies, vanilla cupcakes, strawberry shortcake, or even pound cake and spritz cookies.
- If your recipe also calls for vanilla extract, which is likely, there’s no need to reduce the vanilla extract if you’re using vanilla sugar. (Especially if you want extra vanilla flavor!) However, feel free to slightly reduce the vanilla extract amount. I wouldn’t leave it out completely though.
What You Need for Homemade Vanilla Sugar
- Vanilla Beans: You need the bean itself and the seeds inside. Vanilla beans are expensive, but you only need 1 bean per 2 cups of sugar and you can reuse the beans to make vanilla extract (more on that below). You can find vanilla beans online or in the spice aisle of most grocery stores. I use and highly recommend these Madagascar vanilla beans, these Tahitian vanilla beans, or these Tahitian vanilla beans. (Note that each are different quantities.) The beans are high quality, nice and plump, and a generous size. You can make vanilla sugar with either Grade A or Grade B vanilla beans. Grade B vanilla beans are usually used specifically for extracting purposes and they’re great for making this sugar. Grade A vanilla beans contain more moisture and could clump up your sugar overtime, but I still have year old vanilla sugar with zero clumping. You’re fine using either grade.
- Sugar: The vanilla flavor will come through the most if you use regular granulated sugar.
- Food Processor: A food processor or blender isn’t required, but it’s very helpful. Any small chopper or even a coffee bean grinder works, too. You can skip the food processor/blender and just mix the sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a bowl with a whisk, but you’ll get better flavor if you pulse the two together. The food processor/blender really helps break up those clumpy seeds, too.
- Jar: You can store the sugar in any container where you’d store regular sugar. Make sure it’s always tightly sealed to preserve freshness. This 16 ounce jar is a great size for most and has a convenient swing top. The mouth is pretty wide, which is key for scooping out the sugar. These 8 ounce jars are pretty small, but perfect if you’ll only be using the sugar for coffee and beverages. If you want to gift this sugar to the regular baker, I’m sure they’d appreciate 24+ ounces! Mason jars are perfect for this.
It’s This Easy:
- Place sugar in your food processor/blender/bowl.
- Cut the vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise. Use a knife to scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds on top of the sugar. (Save the empty beans/pods!) Use a spoon or another knife to scrape the seeds off the knife– they’re sticky and clumpy.
- Pulse/blend/whisk until all the seeds are broken up and blended. If you’re using a machine, you’re also breaking down the sugar. Finer sugar is OK to use in most baking recipes. Pour vanilla sugar into your jar.
- Submerge the empty bean/pod into the sugar. Cut it as needed to fit. This is actually optional, but the empty bean adds more flavor as the weeks go on.
- Use sugar immediately or wait at least 2 weeks for optimal flavor.
What Sugar Do I Use?
The vanilla flavor will come through the most if you use regular granulated sugar– like the kind you use in your coffee or baking recipes. You can use brown sugar if you’d like, but the molasses undertones may overpower the vanilla. If you’re using a coarser sugar such as coconut sugar, make sure you process the granules so they’re much finer. Smaller granules absorb more vanilla flavor. Don’t use powdered/confectioners’ sugar because it will likely clump up.
Can I Reuse These Beans for Vanilla Extract?
After you scrape out the seeds, you can cut and submerge the empty beans/pods into the sugar as pictured above. Overtime, the pods will infuse even more flavor into the sugar. What’s really resourceful, however, is using the empty vanilla beans/pods to make vanilla extract. Even though you no longer have a plump bean full of seeds, the pod still has plenty of flavor that alcohol can extract. In my vanilla extract tutorial, I recommend waiting at least 6 months before using. But now that your vanilla bean pods are practically empty, you may want to wait closer to 12 months before using so that optimal flavor is reached.
- Note: Reuse the empty beans/pod right after you scrape the seeds out of them. If you submerge them into the sugar, then use all your sugar, the empty beans/pods will have sugar all over them. If you want to use those, you’ll have to rinse them with water and wait for them to dry completely before using for extract. Some flavor may be lost during this process.
Can I Make Vanilla Sugar with Vanilla Paste or Vanilla Extract?
The best form of vanilla to use for homemade vanilla sugar is a vanilla bean. You can use 1 Tablespoon of vanilla paste or vanilla extract per 1 cup of sugar, but both add color and quite a bit of moisture to your sugar. This moisture will affect your baking recipes. You could dry spreading the wet and clumpy sugar on a baking sheet to help it dry out, but the results won’t be the same. I strongly recommend using vanilla beans.
Free Printable Labels
Click this link for the PDF: Sallys Baking Addiction Vanilla Sugar Stickers
Directions: Print out the labels on sticker adhesive paper, then cut out the circles. Peel off the labels and stick on your jars. The labels are obviously optional, but they’re a nice addition if you plan to gift the sugar to others. (Note that you’ll have a crease in the round sticker if the side of your jar isn’t perfectly flat. Looks great on the flat lid, though.)
- 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean (5–7 inch long)
- Place sugar in your food processor or blender. Any small chopper or even a coffee bean grinder works. (Process in batches if needed.) You can skip the food processor/blender and just mix the sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a bowl with a whisk, but you’ll get better flavor if you pulse the two together.
- Cut the vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise. Use a knife to scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds on top of the sugar. (Save the empty beans/pods.) Use a spoon or another knife to scrape the seeds off the knife– they’re sticky and clumpy.
- Pulse/blend/whisk until all the seeds are broken up and blended, about 10-12 pulses. If you notice extra large clumps, feel free to keep pulsing/whisking or sift them out. Pour vanilla sugar into your jar or container.
- Submerge the empty bean/pod into the sugar. Cut it as needed to fit. This is actually optional, but the empty bean adds more flavor as the weeks go on. You could also use the empty beans to make vanilla extract. See written details above this recipe.
- Use sugar immediately or wait at least 2 weeks for optimal flavor.
- Store vanilla sugar at room temperature. Give it a shake every few weeks or so. If stored in a cool, dry place, vanilla sugar has a long shelf life, 2+ years at least. (I guarantee you’ll use it up before then!)
- Ratio: I recommend 1 vanilla bean per 2 cups of sugar. Use half of a vanilla bean for 1 cup of sugar. Double, triple, or quadruple the recipe as needed. Sure you could use beans for more flavor, but vanilla beans are expensive and the flavor could become overpowering and/or the sugar could begin to clump up from all the moist seeds.
- Sugar: For best results, use regular granulated sugar. You can use brown sugar if you’d like, but its molasses undertones may overpower the vanilla. If you’re using a coarser sugar such as coconut sugar, make sure you process the granules so they’re much finer. Smaller granules absorb more vanilla flavor. I don’t recommend using powdered/confectioners’ sugar.