Best Substitutes For Vanilla Bean

vanilla bean pods on a table

I use a lot of vanilla bean for homemade ice cream, coffee creamer, infused maple syrup and so much more! I love this ingredient for all sorts of tasty desserts, beverages, and treats but sometimes I am all out and so is the grocery store.

And that is exactly why I’ve become the master of vanilla bean substitutes. And if you need a replacement for vanilla bean in your recipe read on for the best options and how to use them.

So what are the best substitutes for vanilla bean?

The best vanilla bean substitute is vanilla extract. You can also use vanilla powder, vanillin sugar, and vanilla sugar. That’s right. Those are two different things! Read on for details on each alternative and how to use them to make your recipe perfect!

What are vanilla beans?

Vanilla bean pods are the fruit of four different orchid species: Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla pompona (Uvaria lutea), Vanilla tahitensis, and Vanilla zeylanica.

Vanilla beans are a culinary spice often used to flavor desserts such as ice cream or chocolate. More commonly than not, vanilla extract is used as a flavor enhancer in recipes and extracts made from vanilla beans are most commonly used for cooking. And to add an extra punch to your desserts, you can add vanilla bean infusions such as vanilla syrup or vanilla infused maple syrup.

What’s the difference between vanilla and vanilla beans?

Vanilla is the flavor of the bean whereas vanilla extract is a liquid made from grinding up those beans. Vanilla extract is much more concentrated than using whole beans and has much stronger flavor. So if you are looking for more intense flavor use the extract! If not, there are some really great alternatives to vanilla beans.

Common Dishes that Use Vanilla

Vanilla is used in far more recipes than I could begin to list here but some common ones include ice cream, coffee creamer, flavored syrups, frosting, cakes, cupcakes, and my personal favorite the chocolate vanilla martini.

Vanilla Bean Alternatives

Though vanilla beans are an authentic addition to your recipes over using the substitutes listed below, the reality is that they can be hard to come by and quite expensive. Especially if you’re using them regularly. So use any of the following replacements when you don’t have any real vanilla bean on hand.

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract, also known as Vanilla Essence, is a vanilla flavoring used to flavor foods and beverages. Pure vanilla extract is an excellent vanilla bean substitute. It provides a great vanilla flavor and works in almost any recipe that calls for the bean. To substitute simply use vanilla extract in your recipe.

Vanilla Powder

Vanilla powder is created by soaking vanilla beans in hot water then grinding them up, typically using a blender or spice grinder. It’s a great substitute for vanilla bean if you don’t have any real vanilla beans on hand but it is more expensive than the extracts. Because of its higher cost, I almost always use the extract over powder but again it depends on the cost involved.

Vanillin Sugar

Vanillin sugar is a great alternative to vanilla beans. It is made from grinding up vanilla beans and sugar until they are combined. You can really taste the vanilla flavor so it makes a great alternative in recipes that use real vanilla bean but may not in recipes you would rather use the extract as the extract is more concentrated.

Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla sugar is simply regular white sugar to which vanilla powder has been added. It’s most common name in Europe is “cane caviar”. It is not as commonly used in the U.S. but it really is a great alternative to using vanilla beans instead of extract because it’s flavor is less concentrated than vanilla extract so you don’t get a super strong vanilla flavor that may not be desired in your recipe.

Using Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans are versatile and can be used in many ways. They can be used to make vanilla sugar or vanilla powder, they can be used in syrups such as maple syrup, or you can use them in baked goods such as breads and pastries. Perhaps the most common use for vanilla beans is to flavor ice cream.

Using Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is also versatile. You can use it in place of vanilla beans to make vanilla sugar, or cook with it in cakes, cupcakes, frostings, and even breads like Brioche.

Vanilla beans are also used as a culinary spice. And because of their flavor, they can be used in many savory dishes including meats and vegetables such as onions and mushrooms.

Vanilla Bean vs Vanilla Extract

Vanilla bean is the fruit of the orchid species. Vanilla extract is made from grinding up those beans. The reasons to use vanilla beans over vanilla extract is because vanilla extract is more concentrated so you wouldn’t need to use as much, and though vanilla extract can be expensive, it’s available in most grocery stores year round. The main reason to use vanilla beans over extracts are flavor and appearance. But vanilla extract still provides great flavor when no whole bean is available.

Bottom Line

Vanilla beans are a great addition to any recipe, and though using vanilla extract as a substitute for real vanilla beans is convenient, the flavor is a bit different when compared to whole vanilla beans. Using a vanilla bean paste can help you achieve the appearance of whole vanilla beans without having to deal with all the hassle and expense.

And if you still can’t get your hands on any fresh, ripe, sweet smelling vanilla beans you can use the alternatives listed above.

Written by Robin

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