A lot of people have never heard about vanilla bean paste, and up until just a few years ago, I hadn’t either. I’m including a tutorial for homemade vanilla bean paste, as well as vanilla extract and vanilla sugar. Before we get started, I am going to tell you the difference between the three items, and I’ll give you my recommendations as to which form of vanilla works best in which recipes.
What is the Difference Between the Extract, the Paste, and the Sugar; And How Do I Know Which to Use in My Recipe?
What is vanilla bean paste?
Vanilla bean paste combines the entire vanilla bean pod, vanilla seeds, vanilla extract and a sweet thickening agent, such as sugar syrup, maple syrup, agave syrup, corn syrup or honey. Vanilla bean paste is more concentrated than vanilla extract and will give your recipe those beautiful specks of vanilla bean that people like to see. In general, vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste can be used interchangeably, but I think it is best used in creamier things like vanilla custard, ice cream, frostings, whipped cream, etc.
What is vanilla extract?
Vanilla extract is usually made by soaking vanilla bean pods in a solution of alcohol (usually vodka or rum) and water. Vanilla extract doesn’t have those eye-pleasing little specs, but it does give your recipe the full vanilla flavor. It works well in any baked recipe, such as cookies and cakes, and it can also be added to drinks, like hot chocolate or even coffee or tea.
What is vanilla sugar?
Vanilla sugar is granulated sugar that is infused with vanilla flavoring, commonly from whole vanilla pods and seeds, or simply spent vanilla pods. Vanilla sugar is great in drinks like coffee, tea, and hot cocoa, and it is also delicious sprinkled on top of cookies or muffins before you bake them. Another favorite way to use it is to sprinkle it on your fresh cut-up strawberries and mix it together, then let it sit for a while for the flavors to marry. You can also use it in place of plain sugar any time you want, but it’s better used in places that will highlight the flavor of vanilla, instead of buried in the dough/batter of cookies or cakes.
What is imitation vanilla?
Imitation vanilla doesn’t use any part of the vanilla bean. Instead, it is made by refining petrochemicals. Do I really need to go any further? Trust me when I tell you to pay the higher price to get the real vanilla extract. Yes, the imitation vanilla will save you a little bit of money, but there is a huge difference in flavor, and it will make a negative impact on the flavor of your food. And do the words “refining petro-chemicals” sound appetizing to you? Probably not.
What Kind of Vanilla Bean Should I Use?
Now that we’ve gone over the vanilla products, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t give you a little information on a few varieties of vanilla beans.
Types of Vanilla beans
Although there are literally more than 150 types of vanilla all over the world, the main four are Madagascar, Mexican, Tahitian, and Ugandan.
Madagascar beans are the most popular kind of vanilla. They are the thinnest beans and also are known to have the most flavor, which has been described as clear and creamy.
Mexican vanilla beans have a reputation as being the best vanilla beans in the world. Mexican vanilla has a mellower, smooth, quality, and a spicy, woody fragrance.
Tahitian vanilla beans are the most expensive vanilla beans, however, they have an amazing taste and aroma, and the flavor is often described as cherry-chocolate and caramel.
And, finally, the Ugandan beans are much rarer than the first three I mentioned. Their flavor is often described as milk-chocolate tasting and seems to be the sweetest flavor of the four.
Tutorials and Recipes
Here is a list of some of the materials needed, such as the vanilla beans and the jars I used for these recipes, and links to these items:
Materials and Ingredients Used in these recipes
Groceries to Be Purchased
- Alcohol, such as Vodka, Rum, Brandy, or Bourbon
- Honey (or Agave Syrup, Maple Syrup, or Corn Syrup)
- Vanilla Extract for the Vanilla Bean Paste (which can be used by making the recipe included at the end of this post, or by purchasing a bottle from the store)
- PAM Cooking Spray (for making it so much easier to remove the honey, or any of the other kinds of syrup, from the measuring cup in the Vanilla Bean Paste recipe).
Vanilla Bean Paste
You will be using 10 vanilla beans, 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract, and 1 cup of honey. The full printable recipe is at the bottom of this post, or you can click here.
Begin by slicing the beans lengthwise, trying not to go all the way through the bean, but just so that you can open the bean up flat to expose the seeds inside. Now, when I say “seeds”, they aren’t really recognizable seeds; they look more like very finely ground coffee grounds. After you slice them open and lay the flat, use the back of the knife to scrape the inside of the bean to remove most of the seeds. The seeds will go right into a blender.
Next, chop the beans into approximately 1-inch pieces and toss them into the blender, as well. Then, add in 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract and 1 cup of honey.
*Fun tip: spray the inside of your measuring cup, lightly, with PAM baking spray before squeezing the honey into the cup. This will enable you to just pour the honey out of the measuring cup without it sticking to the inside. Just use a small spatula, and it will come out easily.)
When you have all of the ingredients in the blender, keep blending and pulsing until it has a smooth consistency.
Place a fine mesh sieve over the top of a bowl or glass Pyrex measuring cup, and pour the paste into the sieve to strain out any larger pieces that weren’t fully processed. After the paste has been strained, carefully pour the paste into a sterilized glass jar with a lid. (If the glass jar has been run through a heated dishwasher, this will be considered safe to use for this.)
STORING VANILLA BEAN PASTE
The vanilla bean paste should be kept in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 3 years, but do not refrigerate it. Refrigerating it will cause condensation to form, which will spoil the vanilla. Homemade vanilla paste, unlike homemade vanilla extract, can be used immediately. It makes a great gift, especially if you use it in a recipe and then include what you made and a recipe card to go with it.
The recipe for homemade vanilla extract will be included at the end of this post. You can see the full tutorial, including photos, in my blog post from November 2021, entitled “Homemade Vanilla Extract Gifts”. The link for that post is here.
The recipe for homemade vanilla sugar is at the end of this post. More about vanilla sugar is also included in my blog post from November 2021, entitled “Homemade Vanilla Extract Gifts”. The link for the post is here.
I’m not sure if you can tell, but I love vanilla! I pretty much add some in every dessert I make.
Any of these items make an excellent gift, especially if you package them nicely and add a label (I have links for the jars, bottles, and labels, above, in the materials list).
These recipes are seriously, so easy. And even if you aren’t planning to make them as gifts, they are so much more economical to make them yourself, as opposed to buying them ready-made.
If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll show a little love by clicking on the “Like” and “Share” buttons at the bottom of this page! Also, follow me on Pinterest to pin recipes, DIY instructions, and tips from me.
One last request (since I’m already in the “asking” mood… add your email address to my email list so that I can keep you up to date on posts, videos, and more!
I really do appreciate your support, and thank you for stopping by my website and reading my words. I hope you will look for something great to celebrate this week! Whatever it is you decide to celebrate, make sure to add some vanilla!
- 6 vanilla beans (I used Tahitian, but Madagascar or Mexican would also be great choices)
- 1 cup vodka (you can also use rum, brandy or bourbon)
- 1 8-oz bottle with a tight seal (the amber bottles are best because they protect the contents from UV rays and light degradation)
- Lay your vanilla beans out on a cutting board and slit them lengthwise, only cutting it open through one layer, so you can lay the bean open flat to extract the seeds.
- Use the back of your knife to run it down the length of the inside of the bean, collecting all of the seeds. Then wipe the knife on the edge of the jar so the seeds will go into the jar. The seeds will look like a brownish-black paste.
- Add 8 ounces of vodka (or the alcohol of your choice) to the bottle. Seal the bottle and give it a good shake.
- Store your vanilla extract in a cool, dark place, like a kitchen cupboard. For the first 4 weeks, shake it up about twice a week. After that, you can shake it up much less often. Wait a minimum of 8 weeks before using the vanilla, but for best results, leave it 6-12 months before using. When your vanilla has aged enough, you can run it through a cheesecloth to remove any trace of the vanilla beans, however, this isn’t necessary before using it. After it has aged, you can also just keep topping it off with more vodka as you use it. When the flavor seems to get weaker, you can add more beans and remove some of the current beans.
- 10 vanilla beans (I usually use Tahitian, but Madagascar or Mexican vanilla beans work great, as well)
- 1 cup honey (you can substitute agave for honey, if you'd prefer to make it a vegan recipe)
- 2 Tbls. vanilla extract
- Begin by slicing the beans lengthwise, trying not to go all the way through the bean, but just so that you can open the bean up flat to expose the seeds inside. Now, when I say “seeds”, they aren’t really recognizable seeds; they look more like very finely ground coffee grounds.
- After you slice them open and lay them flat, use the back of the knife to scrape the inside of the bean to remove most of the seeds. Then add the seeds right into a blender.
- Chop the beans into approximately 1 inch pieces and toss them into the blender, as well.
- To the blender, add the honey and vanilla extract
- When you have all of the ingredients in the blender, keep blending and pulsing until it has a smooth consistency.
- Place a fine mesh sieve over the top of a bowl or glass Pyrex measuring cup, and pour the paste into the sieve to strain out any larger pieces that weren’t fully processed.
- After the paste has been strained, carefully pour the paste into a sterilized glass jar with a lid. (If the glass jar has been run through a heated dishwasher, this will be considered safe to use for this.)
HELPFUL TIP #1: Spray the inside of your measuring cup, lightly, with PAM baking spray before squeezing the honey into the cup. This will enable you to just pour the honey out of the measuring cup without it sticking to the inside. Just use a small spatula, and it will come out easily.)
HELPFUL TIP #2: You can use vanilla paste as a substitute for vanilla extract, using the same amount of paste where the recipe calls for vanilla extract.
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 2-3 vanilla beans (I like to use the ones that have been infusing my homemade vanilla extract)
- In a medium-sized bowl, add sugar.
- If you are using new vanilla beans, slit them down the middle, lengthwise, and using the back of the knife, scrape out the seeds and add them to the sugar.
- Add the vanilla beans (pods) to the sugar.
- Using a fork, mash the vanilla into the sugar and continue stirring and mashing the sugar and vanilla with a fork.
- Pour the sugar into an airtight container. I like to keep the vanilla beans buried in the sugar, to continuously infuse the flavor, but you can remove them at any time.