What is Vanilla Sugar? (with pictures)

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt
Adding a vanilla bean to a container of sugar can give it an enhanced flavor.
Adding a vanilla bean to a container of sugar can give it an enhanced flavor.

Vanilla sugar is a favorite cupboard component for those who harbor a sweet tooth. A combination of granulated sugar and vanilla bean, it can add a decadent sweetness to breakfast foods, desserts, and other dulcet dishes. Vanilla sugar can be purchased from gourmet food vendors, or be made with a simple recipe at home.

For a small amount of vanilla sugar, simply slice a single vanilla bean open, scraping out its seeds. Deposit the seeds into an airtight container, then bury them with two cups (380 grams) of granulated sugar. Allow the mixture to sit for at least one week in a cool, dark place; it may be steeped for a longer period of time if desired. Two vanilla beans may be used to produce a stronger flavor. Wrapping the jar in aluminum foil, or steeping for up to three weeks, will also yield a bolder taste.

Vanilla sugar adds taste and sweetness to various desserts, including cookies.
Vanilla sugar adds taste and sweetness to various desserts, including cookies.

Once ready, the sugar can be used in place of granulated sugar in nearly any recipe. Some recipes for the sweetened granules call for vanilla extract. While suitable in some recipes, vanilla extract should not be used to flavor sugar used for a topping. Doing so will produce an inferior, and unpleasant, flavor. Larger batches can be made by using accurate comparative ratios if needed.

Granulated sugar mixed with fresh vanilla makes a fragrant and delicious topping for cookies and other desserts.
Granulated sugar mixed with fresh vanilla makes a fragrant and delicious topping for cookies and other desserts.

Use of vanilla sugar is only limited by the imagination. A popular flavoring agent for coffee, the sweetly-scented sugar makes an excellent cookie topping on fresh baked goods. Some vanilla aficionados like to add the confection to their hot cocoa, while others mix it in with their morning oatmeal. Shortbread cookies, popovers, ice cream, French toast, pies, ripe fruits, pastries, scones, puddings, and sweet breads can all be flavored with the food ingredients.

Though unavailable in most American supermarkets, vanilla sugar is readily available in Europe. It can be purchased in many specialty food shops. Dessert supply stores are likely to carry the grainy treat. People who live in remote locations may be able to purchase the ingredient from online gourmet stores for a moderate to expensive price. Traditional vanilla sugar is typically made with Costa Rican sugar.

Also known as Vanillezucker, this sweet crystalline condiment is often used in many European desserts. Some countries famous for using vanilla beans and sugar as sweeteners include Poland, Austria, Denmark, Slovenia, Sweden, Finland, and Germany. If stored out of direct sunlight, in a cool, dry place, the confection will typically last for up to two years.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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Discussion Comments

SarahGen

The vanilla sugar I have is actually powdered sugar with a vanilla flavor. I usually use these in cake and cookie batters. The downside is that the vanilla flavor is very mild so the flavor usually gets lost in cakes with other ingredients. So it definitely doesn't replace vanilla flavoring or real vanilla. It seems to work better in cookies.

ddljohn

@fify-- Yes, I think it would be best to use it baked goods like cookies and muffins. It would work great on top of blueberry muffins for example since the sugar does need to be coarse for that recipe.

You could also use it in place of regular sugar in custards and puddings. How strong is the vanilla flavor in the sugar? I bet it would work wonderfully in vanilla custard which already requires a good amount of vanilla flavoring. Since custard is cooked on the stove, the coarseness of the sugar won't be a problem.

You just want to avoid using it as topping on foods that are ready to go like pancakes. Less coarse vanilla sugar is better for those recipes.

fify

My mother in law was kind enough to gift me a holiday basket of goodies including a jar of organic vanilla sugar. I forgot to ask her about it and I'm trying to figure out how to use it. The sugar is rather coarse, so I don't think it's going to work on all recipes. I tried it sprinkled on some French toast, but it was too coarse and crunchy for my liking.

Should I add it to sugar cookies or something? I feel like this sugar has to be incorporated into a batter so that it melts a little.

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    • Adding a vanilla bean to a container of sugar can give it an enhanced flavor.
      Adding a vanilla bean to a container of sugar can give it an enhanced flavor.
    • Vanilla sugar adds taste and sweetness to various desserts, including cookies.
      Vanilla sugar adds taste and sweetness to various desserts, including cookies.
    • Granulated sugar mixed with fresh vanilla makes a fragrant and delicious topping for cookies and other desserts.
      Granulated sugar mixed with fresh vanilla makes a fragrant and delicious topping for cookies and other desserts.