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Vanilla Bean Paste Substitute (And How To Use Them)

Vanilla Bean Paste Substitute (And How To Use  Them)

Vanilla bean paste is a wonderful ingredient for imparting a deep vanilla flavor to all types of desserts and sweet treats.

But what do you use if you don’t have any and can’t find it at the grocery store? No need to worry! There are a few substitutes you can use to create a lovely vanilla flavor in any recipe.

In this article you will not only learn what those vanilla bean paste alternatives are, but also how to properly use them in any recipe.

So what are the best substitutes for vanilla bean paste?

The top vanilla bean paste substitutes are pure vanilla extract, vanilla bean, vanilla powder, and imitation vanilla extract.

Now let’s get to how to use each of these replacements in your recipe.

Vanilla Bean Paste Alternatives

three cups of crème brûlée

Vanilla bean paste is a truly wonderful ingredient packed with complex flavor and a thick consistency that shines in any recipe it is added to.

It is produced by combining pure vanilla extract, real vanilla bean seeds, and a thickening agent. It can be used in all types of recipes. It can be found in breakfast, dinner, and dessert recipes.

In fact, vanilla bean paste has rapidly grown in popularity in recent years for it’s rich, complex vanilla flavor and versatility.

But it’s not always readily available and most people do not keep it stocked in their kitchen (though you really should).

So if you are making a recipe that calls for this dreamy vanilla ingredient, you can use any of the following substitutes to finish your dish.

Pure Vanilla Extract

bottle of pure vanilla extract

The most popular ingredient for creating a wonderful vanilla flavor in any recipe is also an excellent substitute for vanilla bean paste.

Produced by combining vanilla beans with alcohol, pure vanilla extract retains the complex flavor of the vanilla bean in a convenient medium for baking.

But pure vanilla extract can be used in more than just baked goods, it is an excellent substitute for vanilla bean paste in any type of dish.

It is more pricey than imitation extract, but well worth the cost as it will provide a deep and rich vanilla flavor.

Related: Does Vanilla Extract Go Bad


1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract equals 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste

Vanilla Bean

whole vanilla beans and sugar on wooden spoon

The next best way to impart authentic vanilla flavor in your recipe is to use real vanilla bean instead of vanilla bean paste.

There’s a very good reason why vanilla bean paste used vanilla bean. That’s where all that wonderful flavor we all love comes from.

So it should be no surprise that vanilla bean can be used in any recipe that calls for pure vanilla bean paste.

Real vanilla beans are not available at all local super markets, but they are carried at most specialty grocery stores and health food stores.

Related: Vanilla Bean Substitutes


1 whole vanilla bean equals 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste

Vanilla Powder

vanilla powder and vanilla beans on table

Vanilla powder is a solid substitute for vanilla bean paste, and it tends to be more commonly stocked in grocery stores.

Vanilla powder is produced by grinding dried vanilla beans into a fine powder. No other ingredients are used in high quality vanilla powder, meaning it provides a great flavor ideal for any type of recipe.

Vanilla powder does not provide the same level of vanilla aroma as pure vanilla extract, vanilla beans, or vanilla bean paste though.

So if you want the wonderful aroma of vanilla in your finished recipe you will want to go with one of the options above.


1 tablespoon of vanilla powder equals 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste

Imitation Vanilla Extract

bottle of imitation vanilla extract

Imitation vanilla extract is low cost, easy to find substitute for vanilla bean paste. It is a common ingredient found in most people’s pantry so if no other alternatives are on hand, it’s a solid choice when in a pinch.

Unlike pure vanilla extract, imitation vanilla extract is not produced using authentic vanilla beans. It get’s it’s flavor from a synthetic ingredient, called vanillin.

While some claim they can discern no difference in taste between imitation vanilla extract and pure vanilla extract, I do not agree.

Though it does a decent job imitating the flavor and aroma of real vanilla, I do find the final flavor is not as rich or authentic. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good option when no other substitutes are available. So if you need a sub for vanilla bean paste and imitation vanilla extract (aka vanilla essence) is all you have, go ahead and use it!


1 tablespoon of imitation vanilla extract equals 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste

Vanilla Bean Paste Replacement FAQ

batch of chocolate chip cookies on cutting board

Is vanilla bean paste better than extract?

That depends, both vanilla bean paste and pure vanilla extract provide a complex and delicious vanilla flavor and aroma. But the presence of vanilla bean in the paste does tend to offer a more intense vanilla flavor.

When compared to imitation vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste is hands down the better tasting of the two.

Where can you find vanilla bean paste?

Some larger super markets carry vanilla bean paste and it can be found in the baking or spices section. It can also be found from many online retailers. When purchasing vanilla bean paste, only buy from brands who produce it using real vanilla beans.

Can you skip vanilla bean paste in a recipe?

Unless you are replacing it with one of the substitutes above, it’s not recommended to omit vanilla bean paste from a recipe. It provides a deep and complex flavor that will leave most recipes feeling hollow without a good substitute used in it’s place.

What is the best substitute for vanilla bean paste in crème brûlée?

Use pure vanilla extract or real vanilla bean when substituting for vanilla bean paste in crème brûlée. For vanilla extract, use a 1:1 ratio and for vanilla bean, use 1 whole bean for each tablespoon of vanilla bean paste.

What is a good replacement for vanilla bean paste in pastry cream?

The best substitutes for vanilla bean paste when making pastry cream are vanilla bean or pure vanilla extract. If using pure vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean paste, use 1 tablespoon of extract for each tablespoon of paste. When going with vanilla bean, use 1 bean for each tablespoon of paste.

What is a good alternative for vanilla bean paste when making French vanilla ice cream?

Real vanilla bean or pure vanilla extract are the best vanilla bean paste substitutes when making homemade French vanilla ice cream.

Bottom Line

If you enjoy the flavor of vanilla in your desserts, ice cream, or baked goods then vanilla bean paste is an awesome ingredient to use. But, I realize it’s not always available so using a high quality substitute becomes the way to go.

Luckily, pure vanilla extract and real vanilla bean provides a similar flavor and aroma to any recipe so all is not lost if you are all out of vanilla bean paste.