Best Vanilla Sugar Substitute: 3 DIY Vanilla Sugar Options

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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 vanilla sugar substitute on the fly.

best substitute for vanilla sugar

Why do you need a vanilla sugar substitute?

There’s a reason your recipe called for vanilla sugar in the first place! It adds a delicious flavor to hot chocolate, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, and more. To keep your recipes tasting amazing, it’s helpful to find a good substitute to use instead. However, the best substitute varies depending on the recipe at hand.

These vanilla sugar substitutes will help you find just the right option for your recipe.

Ready to make your own? Learn how to make vanilla sugar at home with my favorite tips!

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.

It’s 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?

How to Make Vanilla Sugar Quickly (2 Ways)

Normally, it takes at least a week to make vanilla sugar at home. However, I have two strategies to try to speed up the process! 

quick vanilla sugar substitute using whole vanilla beans.

Option 1: Quick Vanilla Bean Sugar

Break out the food processor! This sweet recipe is ready to go in as little as a day (although it will have a much stronger flavor after a week or two). 

  1. Blend about 2 cups of white sugar with 2-3 vanilla beans until the beans turn into small pieces. 
  2. Add the whole mixture to a glass jar and shake often for at least a day. 
  3. Strain out the little chunks of vanilla before using as desired.

Option 2: Vanilla Sugar with Extract

If you need to make vanilla sugar without vanilla bean, this is the tip for you! This version is ready immediately, so no curing time needed.

You’ll need white sugar and either vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. 

  1. Combine 1 cup of white sugar with 2-4 tablespoons of either vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. Stir well.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set your oven to the lowest temperature. Spread the vanilla sugar mixture on the parchment paper and bake on low until the sugar is dry and crumbly.
  3. Allow the sugar to cool to room temperature, then break up the clumps with your hands. 
  4. Store it in a glass jar and use it as desired.

This is quite a lot of extract to use for this amount of sugar, but since you need the sugar ready quickly, we need to use more than normal.

TIP: Feel free to scale this recipe down if you just need a small amount. At the very least, use 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 TBS extract or paste.

Best Substitutes for Vanilla Sugar

Before we jump in, pause and think about the type of recipe you’re making. How is vanilla sugar being used? If it’s just being used to sweeten a beverage or something, then you can easily replace it with regular sugar. If you are using it to roll sugar cookie dough or for a specific purpose, it can help to find a better alternative. 

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.

jar of homemade vanilla sugar using sugar and whole vanilla pods.

Homemade vanilla bean sugar

Making DIY vanilla sugar at home is incredibly easy! If you have a little bit of time, you can quickly make your own to skip a trip to the store. There are different ways to make vanilla sugar like the quick versions above, but this is the tried-and-true way I prefer.

jar of homemade vanilla extract.

Vanilla extract

Whether you use pure vanilla extract or imitation vanilla extract, either product will bring that delicious vanillin flavor to your recipe.

This is best for recipes that can tolerate additional liquid (ice cream, baked desserts, etc). Adding a teaspoon of vanilla usually won’t break a recipe unless it needs to be very dry.

You’ll need approximately 1 tsp of vanilla extract per 1.5 tsp of vanilla sugar.

jar of homemade vanilla bean paste.

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. It can be used interchangeably with vanilla extract, and you can even make it at home with just 3 ingredients!

However, vanilla bean paste is not a good fit as a topping or garnish. You don’t want to eat a sugar cookie rolled in a sticky paste.

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 in packets 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.

Vanilla syrup

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. It would not be suitable for dry applications like creating the shell for creme brulee or rolling cookie dough.

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.

vanilla maple syrup

Vanilla powder

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! 

Vanilla bean pod

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 it’s great for a variety of recipes.

Be sure to carefully slice 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.

Tip: 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. ????

ReadEco-Friendly Baking Tips for Beginners

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!

Read: Eco-Friendly Baking Tips for Beginners

best substitute for vanilla sugar
My homemade vanilla sugar with leftover pods from making extract

FAQs

Can I use vanilla sugar instead of vanilla extract? 

Technically, yes. You can absolutely use vanilla sugar to sweeten and flavor your bakes instead of adding vanilla extract. However, just be aware that vanilla sugar has far less flavor than the concentrated extract. Your final product may have less vanilla flavor than anticipated.

Does vanilla sugar taste like vanilla?

Yes! Vanilla sugar smells and tastes like vanilla candy. The scent of vanilla really overcomes you. It’s my favorite way to add a little vanilla flavor and a sweet taste to a hot cup of coffee or a variety of bakes.

Can I use vanilla paste instead of vanilla sugar?

Yes! You can use extract or vanilla bean paste to mimic the flavor and texture of vanilla sugar. Start by stirring about 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste into a quarter cup of sugar, and then use as much sugar as you need. It will have a light brown color and little clumps of vanilla seeds.

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best substitute for vanilla sugar

What’s your favorite vanilla sugar substitute?

There are so many options! My favorite vanilla sugar substitute is regular sugar since it’s so easy. I also like to follow the vanilla sugar recipe above to make my own. It makes a great gift, too!

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