Technique: How to make Vanilla Bean Sugar

June 7, 2010

vanilla and sugar

Remember the time I told you about sticking in the used pods of vanillas into a jar of sugar to get sweet smelling vanilla sugar?

Now, what if I told you that I’ve got you something even better? Something that smells more potent, something that comes with the gorgeous specs of vanilla caviar, and something that will knock your socks off! I’m talking about whole vanilla bean sugar. The word whole is critical here.

vanilla and sugar

Normally, you would discard the pods after scraping off the inner goodness. But this time, the pods are ground to a fine powder along with the sugar. This way, not an ounce of vanilla is lost. (oh! I miss LOST and the island, but let’s not digress).

And how can you put this vanilla sugar to use? Just the same way you’d use regular sugar – in your baked goods, coffee, sprinkled over French toast or waffles (yum!).

vanilla and sugar

ash coloured vanilla sugar

Vanilla Bean Sugar Recipe

Adapted from: The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver

I used two types of Indian vanilla beans to make this, 4 of each kind. I read somewhere that mixing different types of beans results in a more flavourful end product. To make this a more economical project, what you could do is make two batches of vanilla sugar – one that can be used for special stuff (or recipes where you need the vanilla to shine through) and is very strong (with 8 vanilla beans!) and another batch for your regular use that’s made with just 4 vanilla beans.

2.2 lb / 1 kg sugar, caster or granulated
8 vanilla beans

Food Processor


  1. Cut the vanilla bean to make it two to three inches long.
  2. Add all of the beans and a third of the sugar to the food processor and grind to a fine powder.
  3. Sift the mixture and add the coarse bits back to the food processor with another third of the sugar and grind the mixture. Repeat with the last third of the sugar.
  4. If you still have bits and bobs of the vanilla bean left, grind it again.
  5. The first batch of sugar that you ground with the vanilla will be a lot more concentrated (and darker in colour), so whisk together all of the sugar to distribute the vanilla equally.
  6. Transfer to an airtight jar.
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  • Reply Lori @ RecipeGirl June 7, 2010 at 12:53 AM

    Great idea! I love to scrape a vanilla bean into my chocolate chip cookie dough. Wonder if it would be overkill to use vanilla bean sugar in the dough?

  • Reply PurpleFoodie June 7, 2010 at 12:57 AM

    You’re right. Vanilla bean innards + vanilla bean sugar will be too much.. But you know I always tend to waste precious beans when I scrape it out (do you?). I end up sticking it on the cutting board and wherever not. With vanilla bean sugar I won’t waste as much…

  • Reply FOODESSA June 7, 2010 at 2:59 AM

    Something so simple…yet immensely versatile.
    I strangely use vanilla sugar in a small fabric pouch and sneak it in my clothing drawers. Is that weird to anyone? I love it…the sweet aroma puts me in an immediate good mood every time!
    Thanks for sharing the great tip about using the vanilla pod too ;o)
    Flavourful wishes, Claudia

  • Reply Jenn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) June 7, 2010 at 3:39 AM

    I bet that smells amazing! I’ve seen Ina Garten do this. I’ll have to try it sometime. :)


  • Reply Nick (Macheesmo) June 7, 2010 at 6:50 AM

    What a great idea for the vanilla bean leftovers. I actually feel bad due to the amount of vanilla bean waste I’ve just realized I’ve created over the last few years.

    Thanks for the info! :)

  • Reply PurpleFoodie June 7, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    Foodhessa: I love the idea of making small pouches of it. I just went straight to my closed and put some leftover vanilla in it. :)

    Jenn: You totally should!

    Nick: Ha! Never to late ;)

  • Reply my little expat kitchen June 7, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    I usually just put a couple of vanilla pods in 1 kg of white sugar and just let it absorb all the flavors. This is another great idea though. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply ingrid June 7, 2010 at 9:54 PM

    I’m ALL over this!

  • Reply abha June 8, 2010 at 9:27 PM

    Hello! Shaheen,
    How wonderful to make use of everybit of this magic pod.Thanks for this post.
    Hay, can you give some information about -How to dehydrate fruits like
    cherries, peaches, plums, apricots and pineapples at home.

  • Reply Delishhh June 9, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    I used vanilla sugar in all my baking, it it used in most of Swedish baking and i wrote about this that you can get vanilla sugar in Ikea and some people can make it themselves. But this is the first full blog post i have seen of someone actaully making it. Nice work. I am curious how this tastes to the Ikea stuff.

  • Reply Strawberry Rhubarb Tarts June 11, 2010 at 8:37 PM

    […] recipe I used for the chocolate tart I made a while ago. To kick it up a notch, I used half vanilla bean sugar and half icing sugar. The dough smelled lovelier than any other dough I’d made before and looked […]

  • Reply Shipra June 28, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    I’m going to be making some of this tonight and I can already picture how pretty it’s going to look and how amazing it’ll smell.
    My last batch of vanilla beans have gone quite hard and dry. Any idea why that would happen in Bombay? I keep them in an airtight jar.
    I’m also going to try half a batch of sugar with the dry beans. Hope it works out.

    • Reply Celly August 26, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      Hi there,

      I thought the following might help with your problem.

      Dried out vanilla beans can be re-hydrated in either milk or warm water for several hours.

      Also you should never store your vanilla beans in the refrigerator. This will dry out your beans and excess moisture can promote a particular type of mold specific to vanilla. Store your airtight container in a cool, dark place instead.

      For future reference wrap your vanilla beans in either wax paper or plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. Be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible from the container to prevent the vanilla beans from drying out.

  • Reply The Purple Foodie June 28, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    Hey Shipra! Yes Vanilla beans do become harder over time as they dry out. I have quite a few beans that look pretty sorry right now. You could still dunk them in vodka to make extract, just use more of them.

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  • Reply Hemal September 22, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    Where will I find Vanilla beans in mumbai ???

    • Reply monika January 8, 2011 at 9:38 PM

      Vanilla beans under the brand “Very Vanilla” is available at all Nature’s Basket stores, all The Bombay Stores, Indigo Deli outlets, Roman stores

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  • Reply Brigitte Sumrall January 18, 2011 at 2:26 AM

    This site appears to recieve a good ammount of visitors. How do you get traffic to it? It offers a nice individual spin on things. I guess having something useful or substantial to give info on is the most important factor.

  • Reply My Pantry Basics March 26, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    […] Vanilla pods/beans: I’ve baked with Indian and Tahitian vanilla beans and nothing beats using the real McCoy. Pure flavour with gorgeous specks to boot. The ones I had we from farms, suppliers, friends, readers so they didn’t come labeled under a brand name. And frankly, with vanilla growing abundantly in India, you don’t need that. You just need to tap in you’re your friends and family in South India who will buy them for you. The first thing you’ve got to do when you get some vanilla: make vanilla bean sugar. […]

  • Reply Hieatt March 27, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    Can I get vanilla beans at Krogers in the spice jar place or bakery:

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  • Reply jackie November 29, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    How long does it need to sit before ready to use?

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  • Reply Brian L. Baker June 10, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    I have been thinking about flavored sugars recently. What other flavors do you think would work? I tend to BBQ more than I bake, and have been considering cold smoking sugars to add to my rub. I’m curious what you think.

  • Reply jasmine July 24, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    Sweet!! now i can make my own vanilla bean sugar rather than buying from vendors on the internet selling starbucks vanilla bean powder.. I happen to be addicted to the starbucks vanilla bean frappachino and the vanilla powder is definetally the main ingredient to a very simple recipe i enjoy oh so much!!! just milk (or 1/2 and 1/2 cream), ice, VBP, More sugar or liquid sugar cane.. blend it .. add caramell drizzel and dont forget the whipcream with a litte VBP sprinkled on top!!!! its identical!

  • Reply jasmine July 24, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    btw i get my vanilla beans at byward market in ottawa, canada it is a local farmers market that sells organic foods and lots of other things.. i suggest you check out your local farmers market or organic food stores.. not many retail stores will carry it

    • Reply Kim March 6, 2013 at 7:39 PM

      Hey jasmine,
      Where in the market do you get your beans? At a stand, or in one of the shops? :)
      -Fellow Ottawan

  • Reply MandaBear September 15, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    Hi, I love your ideas….curious though. I’m trying to stay away from sugar and am wondering if this will work with powdered stevia as well? I just started making my own yogurt and am looking for a healthy way to sweeten and flavor it.

    • Reply Kim March 6, 2013 at 7:41 PM

      It would probably work, I’d imagine. You’d just be using less vanilla, since Stevia is concentrated.
      This is actually my plan – I’m planning on growing my own Stevia, drying and crushing it to powder, and then adding vanilla.
      Hopefully it works!

  • Reply payal February 16, 2013 at 5:25 AM

    a very helpful post!! thank you!! :)
    just a few questions (actually quite a bunch of questions):
    can’t i just dump in the entire vanilla stick into the grinder along with the seeds in it? then I would sieve the grinded powder thoroughly and mix it with icing sugar. would it do the trick? or will there be lumps, etc.? and also is there any substitute for alcohol? i was thinking of steeping the vanilla sticks in water and then filling them up in a bottle and storing it. would that work?

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