The simplest recipe ever – Vanilla Sugar

Well aged vanilla beans in sugar, that’s all this recipe takes.

I’m not sure I should actually call this a recipe though it does require ingredients and you can eat it when you’re finished though it is best used as a condiment or an ingredient for a different recipe. Honestly, this really is simple and it will change the way you think about vanilla.

I learned about vanilla sugar while living in Germany. There, cooks use vanilla sugar in very much the same way we use liquid vanilla. They’re sugar comes in tiny little packets, each one a perfect size for an average recipe. So, for example, if you were making chocolate chip cookies, instead of adding your teaspoon of liquid vanilla with your wet ingredients, you would add your small packet of vanilla sugar, about a tablespoon or so. Easy as pie.

Well, when we left Germany, I found myself craving vanilla sugar; it is so easy to use and I had become accustomed to adding a teaspoon to warm almond milk before I slept at night or adding it and a pat of butter to a package of frozen fruit, heating that combination on the stove, mashing or pureeing it and using it in place of maple syrup on our pancakes. Yummy!

A half used jar of vanilla sugar… it’s ready for topping up.

There are endless ways to use this simple little recipe!

Which brings us to the instructions. You will need one or two entire vanilla beans. You can buy them at well stocked grocery stores or from My Spice Sage where two beans will cost you $5. Yes, I know it sounds expensive but you will reuse those beans again and again and again. My beans are at least 5 years old and still working their magic!

Place your vanilla beans in the container with a lid. I like to use a mason jar because I can keep an eye on my sugar levels. But any jar that closes tightly will work. If you need to break the beans in half, feel free. It won’t hurt the final product.

Top it off with good quality sugar (fair trade is best!). Let it sit for two weeks. Okay, I often don’t follow that rule if I forget to fill my jar and need more quickly. But the longer your sugar sits, the more infused it will be with vanilla. And let me tell you, there is nothing better than opening a jar of vanilla sugar and sticking your nose deep inside, inhaling and practically tasting vanilla goodness. It is an experience not to be missed.

After you have made your initial jar, feel free to keep adding sugar as you use it. Just give the jar a shake to distribute the new sugar with the old. Don’t worry if your sugar gets a little clumpy. Mine does here in DC and it doesn’t in California. But it hasn’t hurt the quality either way.

Let me know how you plan to use your vanilla sugar in the comments below!

12 Comments on “The simplest recipe ever – Vanilla Sugar

  1. For vanilla beans, the US, try http://www.beanilla.com. We bought their “make your own vanilla extract kit” and some vanilla beans. Good price and quality. Also Penzy’s has a great variety of spices and flavorings; a little more expensive but always good quality.

  2. I bought a lady’s self-printed German cookbook at a local Oktoberfest. When I saw “vanilla sugar” the first time, I thought it was a typo meaning “vanilla extract,” but when I saw it again, I realized I’d better look it up. I can’t wait to make some vanilla sugar with your recipe and then make this lady’s bienenstich in a few weeks. Thanks!

    • I’m glad you find the recipe! We’re finding all kinds of ways to incorporate vanilla sugar into our American recipes too. For somethings, it is highly superior to vanilla extract. Happy Cooking!

  3. After living in the Netherlands for 30 years, I encountered some very puzzled faces when asking for vanilla sugar in the supermarkets here in the US. Some even considered it to be a seasonal or else Christmas-only product.

    I think you’ve alluded to a key difference between the application of the extract and the sugar variants. Adding extract is fine as long as the ingredients are wet, but many recipes, at least in Europe, involve adding vanilla to very dry ingredients. Due to lack of vanilla sugar, I’ve been adding extract where vanilla sugar is required and the problem is that the extract starts to clot with the dry ingredients, preventing the vanilla to distribute evenly.

    I’m sure I should be able to find vanilla beans, so I’m looking forward to executing your recipe. Thanks!

    • I’m so glad you found the recipe helpful! Vanilla sugar is so much more delicate and fragrant than the liquid version. If you find yourself stuck again and have to use the liquid in a recipe, try adding it to the wet ingredients or saving it until the end (like in a cookie or cake batter). Good luck finding those vanilla beans! If you find a better source than those listed, make sure you share it with us!

      • I just found this place which happens to have a shop close by: http://www.savoryspiceshop.com

        I picked up some Mexican and Madagascan beans together with some ‘regular’ vanilla sugar. From the person who helped me out, it seems people use vanilla sugar in coffee. I’m not that fond of French Vanilla, or any flavoured coffee sweeteners for that matter, and considering the cost for the vanilla sugar, it seems like an expensive proposition. In any case, I’m curious to see how the home made vanilla sugar works out and I now have some ready made vanilla sugar in case I want to bake something in the mean time.

        Thanks

        • How great to have a spice shop near your house! I think you’re going to be thrilled with the results. I am curious, however, if you plan on making two different vanilla sugars, one with Mexican and one with Madagascar, or if you’re going to make a blend. If you make two, you’ll have to let us know which you like better. My beans are so old, I’ve forgotten what type are! I may have to invest in some new ones :)

      • I certainly don’t want to mix the two, at least not until I’ve been able to taste the resulting sugars separately. Right now, I’ve kicked off a batch of Mexican, so this comment will also serve to record the starting date. We’ll see how it works out.

        I am curious to know if you keep the sugar jar purposefully light or dark or else aren’t concerned with the lighting. Intuitively, I would think that exposure to light would accelerate or else strengthen the blend, but there may be objections to this. Right now, I have the jar in a dark cupboard.

        • I usually keep my jar in my spice cupboard, which is dark, but I have occasionally left it out on a shelf. I haven’t noticed any difference so my guess would be that it doesn’t matter. The sugar just needs time to become infused with vanilla.

  4. Pingback: Rhubarb-Apple Crisp | Not Your Average American

  5. Great idea to post a UK link, Bernard! Thank you so much for thinking to do so!

Dare to be different. Leave a comment!

%d bloggers like this: