Are you in the middle of a recipe, but just realized it calls for vanilla sugar…not extract as you thought? No worries! In this post, I’ll help you find a great substitute for vanilla sugar on the fly.
What is vanilla sugar?
Vanilla sugar is an infused sugar. This means the delicious and aromatic vanilla beans are stored in sugar, allowing the sugar crystals to absorb all of the flavor compounds in the vanilla beans.
Vanilla sugar is fantastic for baking as it adds an extra punch of vanilla flavor. I love using it to sweeten my morning coffee (so good) or for rolling sugar cookies.
It’s the best thing for topping creme brulee or for tossing freshly baked doughnuts. There are so many ways to enjoy the sweet flavor of vanilla sugar, but what happens when you run out?
The Best Vanilla Sugar Substitutes
Before we jump in, pause and think about the type of recipe you’re making. How is vanilla sugar being used?
Use regular sugar
Honestly, vanilla sugar is mostly just regular sugar. Yes, it has all of those delicious vanilla oils that make it extra delicious, but the main ingredient is sugar. You can replace it with regular sugar and your sweetness level will stay the same. It just won’t be quite as vanilla-y as before.
This is great for applications like making the topping for creme brulee or the mixture for sugar cookies as those require a dry sugar product.
If you’re making something like vanilla creme brulee and have to sub out vanilla sugar with regular white sugar, try adding vanilla bean paste to the liquid mixture to keep a strong vanilla flavor.
Whether you use pure vanilla extract or imitation vanilla extract, either product will bring that delicious vanillin flavor to your recipe.
Best for recipes that can tolerate additional liquid (ice cream, baked desserts, etc). Avoid this for recipes for cakes or cookies that may be changed too much with additional liquid. You’ll need approximately 1 tsp of vanilla extract per 1.5 tsp of vanilla sugar.
Learn how to make your own vanilla extract for delicious vanilla cake, cookies, and other baked goods all year long.
Vanilla bean paste
Have you ever tried vanilla paste? Holy smokes! It’s so incredibly delicious. It makes the very best sugar cookies and homemade ice cream.
It’s basically a really concentrated vanilla syrup and it’s a black-brown color from the high quantity of vanilla flecks.
This would be an ideal swap for vanilla sugar in a variety of recipes as it will bring the sweetness from the syrup and the intense vanilla flavor. Plus, it’s not as liquidy as vanilla extract and might not alter a recipe too much.
However, it would not be a good fit as a topping or garnish. You don’t want to eat a sugar cookie rolled in a sticky sweet paste of vanilla beans (plus it’s too expensive to waste like that!).
Store-bought vanilla sugar
Did you know vanilla sugar is really popular in European recipes? It’s actually possible to buy pre-packaged vanilla sugar there for recipes.
If you’re in Europe, look for a sachet of vanilla sugar. In the United States, check specialty stores in the baking or coffee sections.
Read: DIY Vanilla Sugar Scrub
Similar to vanilla paste, vanilla bean syrup is going to offer the extra sweetness and vanilla flavor you’re looking for. This would be a great swap in a baked custard, creme brulee, or coffee.
You can make your own by adding 1-2 vanilla beans to simple syrup. The flavor won’t be very strong right away, but it will deepen over time.
Vanilla maple syrup
This special infusion packs a lot of flavor! Just like sugar-based vanilla syrup, vanilla maple syrup will add sweetness and vanilla flavor to your recipe.
Learn how to make your own vanilla maple syrup here.
Did you know you can buy or make ground vanilla powder? It’s basically dehydrated vanilla beans ground into a fine powder.
This is the best alternative to vanilla sugar because you can simply add a tiny pinch of vanilla powder to the amount of sugar required in your recipe to make your own vanilla sugar on the fly!
Depending on your recipe, a fresh vanilla pod could be the perfect swap for you! Like vanilla powder, it’s not going to add extra liquid to a recipe so you can make your own vanilla sugar really quickly.
You’d want to carefully slice down the vanilla pod to extract the vanilla bean seeds inside. Stir into 1/2 – 1 cup of sugar.
This is an excellent substitute as you’ll be keeping that lovely vanilla fragrance without adding extra moisture.
Save the vanilla bean pod to make your own vanilla sugar! Add it to a small jar of sugar and let it sit. Over time, the sugar will absorb all those delicious oils and you won’t ever have to research this question again. 🙂
Try another infused sugar
Quick question…Does your recipe have to include vanilla sugar? Or could another type of infused sugar work just as well?
I love using coffee sugar or lavender sugar for baking. Unless you have to keep that vanilla flavor, any other infused sugar would work great!
How do I make my own vanilla sugar?
I make my vanilla sugar recipe every year when I drain my homemade vanilla extract! Dry out your beans and then store them in sugar. I typically add 4-5 beans per 4 cups of sugar, but honestly, you could use even less while whole vanilla beans.
Give them a couple of weeks to meld and you’ll have plenty of vanilla sugar for all of your sweet treats!
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What’s your favorite vanilla sugar substitute?
The best choice is either ground vanilla bean or a fresh vanilla bean pod mixed into fine sugar. This will replicate the flavor and texture of vanilla sugar without affecting the liquid in your recipe.
However, those items are expensive and not very common. Again, a good option is to just skip the vanilla sugar and use regular sugar instead. If you have vanilla bean paste, use that instead of vanilla extract to get a strong flavor.