Technique: Vanilla Sugar and Vanilla Extract

July 25, 2008

Ever since I learnt how wonderfully fragrant real vanilla is, I’ve wanted to get my hand on the real stuff. Although vanilla grows in South India, it’s mostly exported, having hardly any use in Indian cuisine. When I finally found vanilla beans at a gourmet store I was ecstatic! I started thinking of all the recipes I’ll use them in and how aromatic my desserts will become with the real vanilla bean.

To have a subtle flavour of vanilla in almost everything, I made vanilla sugar and vanilla extract. You can use vanilla sugar in place of granulated sugar. Use it to flavour tea, coffee, cookies, cakes, pies or sprinkle on fruits – whatever you fancy. You can use the homemade vanilla extract in place of the store bought extract and have a more pronounced flavour of the vanilla. My extract is only two days old but it already smells so good!

Vanilla Sugar

Used vanilla pods (after having scraped off the seeds for something else)
2 cups granulated sugar

  1. Place the vanilla bean into a airtight glass jar and completely cover it with the sugar.
  2. Shake the container once a day.
  3. The sugar is ready to be used within a day.
  4. Just keep topping up with more sugar and beans as you need.

Vanilla Extract

180 ml vodka
4 vanilla beans (or more)

  1. Split the vanilla beans, then cut into half and drop it into a sterilised bottle with vodka.
  2. Give it a good shake everyday.
  3. The extract will be ready for use in 6-8 weeks. You can let the beans remain in the bottle.


  • Reply Anusha Pinto July 25, 2008 at 7:05 PM

    hmmm…hope id get to taste some of the sugar in my tea :D

  • Reply Madeline July 26, 2008 at 4:49 AM

    I’ve always wanted to try making my own vanilla essence. Thanks for the inspiration, I’ll finally do it!

  • Reply Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer July 26, 2008 at 5:52 AM

    This is the only sugar I use for baking – I keep a big container filled with sugar and those wonderful little vanilla beans – It makes a huge difference in Cakes, Cookies pretty much any baked yummies.


  • Reply Lubna Karim July 29, 2008 at 4:08 PM

    Can i use this vanilla extract to make Ice cream and Custards?

  • Reply Shaheen July 29, 2008 at 7:19 PM

    Yes Lubna,you can use this extract in just the same way you’d use the store bought one. But be sure you wait for for 6-8 weeks; else you’ve have vanilla flavoured booze. :)

  • Reply Jenn July 30, 2008 at 3:18 PM

    the vanilla looks amazing, but what really caught my eye is your awesome paisley tablecloth!!

  • Reply Kitchen Flavours August 1, 2008 at 8:14 PM

    Thank you for your suggestion. I have a suprise for you in my blog. Check out!

  • Reply Cynthia August 2, 2008 at 5:43 AM

    I already make my own vanilla sugar but thanks for the tip on making the extract!

  • Reply lalaine August 4, 2008 at 1:22 AM

    Hi Coco.

    I’ve tried this vanilla bean ice cream at Fresh and Easy… good Lord, you really can’t compare the flavors of real vanilla beans!

    Any tips on storing vanilla beans?

  • Reply Shaheen August 4, 2008 at 5:26 PM

    Hi Lalaine,

    Now you make me want to make some of my own vanilla ice cream!

    With respect to storage,I store mine in the airtight glass test tubes that in comes with in a cool, dark place (you should not store them in a refrigerator). They should be fine up to two years. Storing in sugar is perfect because you end up with vanilla sugar and the vanilla remains plump. You could also store your whole beans in a Vodka – just make sure the beans are completely covered.

  • Reply Deeba PAB August 6, 2008 at 5:58 PM

    Real vanilla is the only vanilla…I’ve made the sugar a while ago. Just need vodka to get to the extract. Yummy post…

    • Reply Jayna December 15, 2011 at 2:46 AM

      That’s an ingeinuos way of thinking about it.

  • Reply Kristen August 7, 2008 at 1:57 AM

    I have both of these on my to make this fall list! I can only imagine how wonderful it is!

  • Reply Deeba PAB August 20, 2008 at 1:02 PM

    Got he bottle, beans & vodka…am off to make my extract!! How've you been? Haven't heard from you in eons…hope all is well 7 you are reaching for your dreams! The blog's new look is GREAT! I like it very much…take care…

  • Reply Shaheen August 20, 2008 at 3:22 PM

    Thank you so much Deeba! I’ve been great. Work’s keeping me busy but I just can’t wait to come back home and make something and blog about it. I’m glad you like the new look. Some friends preferred the old look so was a bit worried. You’re so lucky to get the beans locally! I finally found the real stuff at a gourmet store in Bangalore.

    • Reply Monika January 8, 2011 at 9:45 PM

      Hi Shaheen,
      I supply the “real stuff” that you found in Bangalore… unfortunately that store shut down, but its available almost all over Mumbai… check under comments on Vanilla beans 101.
      I found your blog very useful while looking for new stores in Mumbai to supply to… am coming next week to approach more buyers!
      btw, i saw your comment on vanilla beans at Nature’s basket…those are the same…gourmet export quality under the label of Very Vanilla

      • Reply dee December 14, 2011 at 7:45 PM

        where exactly are you supplying in bangalore? how much are they and how can i get in contact with you?

        • Reply Monika December 15, 2011 at 7:07 AM

          Hi dee,
          In Bangalore am stocking at Kahawa, Serenity at Jaymahal, Grasshopper, Sorbet in Indiranagar and Whitefied, the new Godrej Nature’s Basket on CMH Rd, the Bombay Store etc.

  • Reply South Lyon United High School Figure Skating Team August 31, 2008 at 11:16 PM

    When you use vanilla sugar in a recipe that calls for vanilla extract, does the vanilla sugar replace the extract in that recipe or would you still add the extract?

  • Reply Shaheen September 1, 2008 at 3:57 PM

    I don’t completely replace the sugar because it’s a lot milder than the essence. I use vanilla sugar as a replacement for granulated sugar rather than as a replacement for vanilla essence. For me more vanilla = better flavour! :)

  • Reply Rebekah January 15, 2009 at 12:57 AM

    Is there any specific brand of Vodka I should use to make the extract? I don’t know much about Vodka. Thanks!

  • Reply Shaheen January 15, 2009 at 11:30 AM

    Rebekah: I’m not the best person to judge vodka either. I never use/consume alcohol, but this is the only exception that I made. I used Wodka Gorbatschow on the shopkeeper’s recommendation.

  • Reply Anonymous November 29, 2009 at 3:07 PM

    hi. can i know where you bought the vanilla beans in Bangalore? been searching high and low for it.

    • Reply monika January 8, 2011 at 9:50 PM

      the beans are available in all Spar outlets in bangalore, Sorbet, Nisarga- both in Whitefield, Kahawa on cunningham road.

    • Reply Earnhardt July 3, 2011 at 8:27 PM

      This arilcte keeps it real, no doubt.

  • Reply The Purple Foodie November 29, 2009 at 3:11 PM

    Hey, you can find them at Maison des Gourmets in Bangalore.

  • Reply Anonymous December 30, 2009 at 8:52 AM

    Hi there everyone,
    My sister and i have been making the extract for a while and we have hit the jack pot using brandy and leaving for 8 weeks it has a rich silky vanilla flavour and dark to blackish colour and have just had everyone raving to me this morning after giving several botle for xmas.

  • Reply The Purple Foodie December 30, 2009 at 9:56 AM

    Hey, thank you so much for reporting back!

  • Reply Aditya April 15, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    Is it really THAT easy?

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  • Reply achala sharma June 9, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    hey shaheen,

    quite often i have used the vanilla beans in my cakes and custards by scraping the insides but have not been very satisfied with the flavour, is there something wrong with the beans or what???

  • Reply The Purple Foodie June 9, 2010 at 10:40 PM

    Hey Achala, you should read the tips on buying vanilla beans in the vanilla 101 post. Making an extract is a good way of keeping all that vanilla flavour locked in. It will get better with time in the vodka, whereas just the beans will dry out over time..

  • Reply Neeta July 22, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    I saw vanilla beans yesterday in Godrej’s Nature basket.But they were chraging Rs. 180 for 3 small pods( about 9 inch each).They were kept in a plastic test-tube like pack.I want to confirm with you whether are they that expensive or is the store person charging me more.Also the store person said that you can just put little scraping of pod into your food and there’s no need to make an extract.Is this true? can the pods be crushed to powder and use?
    One more thing is the pack shows expiry date of 2 years.while I thought there’s no expiry for these.Pl.answer my queris. Thanks

    • Reply The Purple Foodie July 22, 2010 at 11:18 AM

      That is the right price. They can’t charge you more, because it has an MRP on it. If you know friends in S. India who could send you some, that will be a lot cheaper.

      You should read the posts on Vanilla 101 and Vanilla Bean Sugar to understand Vanilla better.

      Vanilla beans are fine even when used beyond 2 years in taste.They just tend to dry out a little and you may need to use more beans to achieve the same level of intensity.

      • Reply Ketan June 25, 2013 at 11:39 AM

        I got Vanilla from Cochin in Oct 2012. 60 bucks for 8 or 9 sticks :)

  • Reply Neeta July 22, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    By the way,Godrej Nature Basket also has Edmame beans and Lima beans

  • Reply Maitreyi August 1, 2010 at 3:28 PM

    Just picked up vanilla beans from coorg near bangalore.They are soo much cheaper there. i picked up 2 dozen vanilla beans from one of the farms for rs. 180 and am surprised to hear that Godrej is charging so much for them ! the vanilla sugar is a brilliant idea.. after using the vanilla beans in cakes i put the leftover outer vanilla stick in the sugar and it really seems to be making a difference :)

    • Reply The Purple Foodie August 2, 2010 at 12:47 PM

      Yes, it’s amazing how surpermarkets charge astronomical amounts for somethings that grows indigenously!

  • Reply Gauri August 7, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    Thank you for this recipe! I was just wondering, do I need to put this extract in the fridge or it is ok to leave it outside?
    Also I found Vanilla beans at a local sweets shop in Malad and they were for Rs. 20 a pod.

    • Reply The Purple Foodie August 7, 2010 at 2:12 PM

      Yes, you can leave it outside. The alcohol acts as a preservative. At Rs. 20, you’ve got a fantastic deal!

    • Reply Trisha @ My Hobbie Lobbie October 28, 2010 at 10:34 AM

      Hey Gauri, where in Malad did u find the vanilla beans .. can u give me some details, I’m from Malad too.

  • Reply Yasmin August 31, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    Can u tell me frm where u sourced vanilla beans & how much do they cost for I hear they r quite expensive

    • Reply The Purple Foodie September 4, 2010 at 9:32 AM

      Friends get me vanilla from South India when they visit and everything I have is a gift! So I’m not sure how much it costs. But it shouldn’t cost more than Rs. 20 a pod.

  • Reply shazli October 5, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    hey shaheen great blog…!!!! is there anyway to make non-alcoholic vanilla essence…… dont consume alcohol….. at the moment i use foster clarke’s vanilla essence which comes down from dubai i guess….. kindly suggest a good alternative to alcohol…. if any….

  • Reply Anon November 13, 2010 at 5:30 PM

    I’ve been reading the comments regarding the vanilla beans available in test tubes being expensive. Vanilla like tea and coffee, and also most premium gourmet food items, comes in various grades and those ones which are the higher gourmet quality are of course, charged higher. Besides, vanilla loses its smell and dries out if stored loose, or in plastic, so the packaging is important too.

    • Reply Monika December 15, 2011 at 7:11 AM

      I agree!! Didnt want to put that comment on myself, so am glad you did!
      I’ve seen some of the beans available at 20 and 30 rs and the quality is terrible.

  • Reply Anonymous December 30, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    vanilla beans available at 9867221895

  • Reply Lely February 27, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Should it be vodka? is there any substitute beside using alcohol?

    • Reply The Purple Foodie February 27, 2011 at 1:56 PM

      For a non-alcoholic version, you could simmer vanilla bean with water and a little sugar. However, the flavour won’t be as pronounced and I’m afraid that much of it will get evaporated when heating. Also, you will need to use it up in three weeks.

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  • Reply Ali April 12, 2011 at 5:45 AM


    I came across your blog completely by accident and am captivated!

    I have 2 questions if I may:
    1) will the homemade vanilla extract be of the same strength as that bought in a shop and I should therefore use the same amount?
    2) do you use a “template” for your blog and if you do would you mind sharing the name? The layout is fabulous and the colours and “handwritten” typeface work really well for you.

    • Reply The Purple Foodie April 14, 2011 at 4:32 PM

      Hi Ali,

      Thank you for the kind words. :)

      1. Yes, homemade vanilla extract made with 2-3 pods per 180ml is rather potent and would be as strong as the store bought one when used after 3-4.
      2. I use a Thesis theme for WordPress. The look as such – typeface, colours, illustrations is designed by me.

      • Reply Reema November 12, 2011 at 12:14 PM

        Isn’t that masthead font Fertigo? It’s my favorite font of all that I have known!

  • Reply ankita May 7, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    hi, in the vanilla extract to make at home, i dont drink alcohol so how do i make it without vodka….?

    also most cupcake recpies have egss and i dont use eggs….which recepies could i use without eggs for cup cakes…

    • Reply The Purple Foodie May 8, 2011 at 9:04 AM

      Hi Ankita, You can then boil down the vanilla pods in sugar syrup, but I’m worried that that will lead to a beautifully perfumed house and loss of vanilla oils by heat.

      No, you cannot you the same recipes without eggs and expect them to turn out just the same.

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  • Reply d May 29, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    love your blog.
    vanilla pods are now available at fabindia in bangalore (maybe other places too?) i bought a glass tube with 2 pods for Rs.75.
    i know you could’nt possibly write one more reply on the issue of vanilla!!! but please :) – your method for the sugar and the extract seems to use whole pods. what is your opinion on splitting and scraping the pods versus using the whole pods?

    • Reply The Purple Foodie May 29, 2011 at 10:29 PM

      Hey! I split and scrape the pod when I need the innards for cakes, cookies, etc. For pannacotta and such where I need to infuse the cream with the vanilla, I split and scrape as well as then add the pod. This extracts maximum flavour. After it’s done infusing, I discard the pod. The most economical way to use a pod is to make whole vanilla bean sugar where even the leathery pod is pulverised.

  • Reply Bhavneet kaur July 9, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    hi shaheen….can v reuse d bean used for vanilla extract for making vanilla sugar?

    • Reply The Purple Foodie July 11, 2011 at 8:46 AM

      It would barely be left with any flavour. If you give it a shot, let us all know how it worked for you!

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  • Reply Dhara December 4, 2012 at 6:34 AM

    Thanx for sharing…..Great discovery – your site!

  • Reply kirti January 18, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    HI, can you pls tell me where can i find pure vanilla extract( i dont need the pod and vodka). i searched online but did not find any online store to buy. I am from bangalore and finding it so hard to buy baking materials.

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  • Reply anjali August 4, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    I’ve made the vanilla extract yesterday but my vanilla beans are not completely immersed in the vodka. Is that fine? Thanks…

  • Reply Rituparna Dutta August 22, 2013 at 7:45 AM

    While i was surfing net for baking essentials in mumbai i found ur blog.. awesome work i think i reached paradise. vanilla beans are well available in kerala n bangalore , and the spice gardens located there.. there we find 50 bucks per bean. and it is so true the comercial essence uses d same chemical used in head lice treatment medicine. Just stay away from it

  • Reply kumud February 28, 2014 at 7:24 PM

    Your blog actually got me interested in baking and this is the first thing I want to try since it seems to be an essential item and also apparently simple. What I wanted to know is what sort of a bottle do I need. Will any glass bottle do or do I need an airtight one.

    • Reply Shaheen March 10, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      Any glass bottle!

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