How to Make Vanilla Sugar (A European Classic)

Have you ever heard of vanilla sugar? It’s a German baking staple. Well, probably a European baking staple, because I’ve seen it all over Europe. I make a jar of vanilla sugar every fall and use it throughout the year. Vanilla sugar makes a lovely gift, too!

In this article I show you different ways you can make homemade vanilla sugar. I’ve tried various methods and I now know what works and what doesn’t work as well. I definitely have a favorite method! If you want to get right to my vanilla sugar recipe, scroll all the way down. If you want to read about my vanilla sugar experiments, keep reading!

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What Can I Do with Vanilla Sugar? 

You can use vanilla sugar in place of vanilla extract in cookies, pies, cakes, and other baked goods. Or you can add it to yogurt, Quark, creme fraiche, oatmeal, cereal…anywhere you want a touch of sweet vanilla flavor.

Serving coffee? Offer guests a scoop of vanilla sugar. Berries for dessert? Sprinkle a little vanilla sugar on top. Making whipped cream? Substitute vanilla sugar for vanilla extract and watch your guests swoon.

I like to sprinkle vanilla sugar on my oatmeal. Yuuuuum. You don’t need very much. Even just a little bit elevates the flavor and makes everything taste so, so good.

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Vanilla sugar also makes an easy and delightful holiday, birthday, teacher or host/ess gift!

Pour homemade vanilla sugar into cute jars, wrap it up, and you’ve got a delicious gift.

Here’s what you need to make this gift: 

  1. Cute jars and lids (I love these magnetic shaker tins, these 4 oz jars with red and white lids, and these glass 4oz jars with a swirl design and gold lids)
  2. Homemade vanilla sugar (see below) 
  3. Festive labels, washi tape (this is super cute), ribbon, or reusable gift bag (like this one)

What is Vanilla Sugar?

It’s just as it sounds – vanilla flavored sugar. When it comes to vanilla sugar, you have four options:

  1. Buy vanilla sugar in packets
  2. Make it from scratch using vanilla extract.
  3. Or vanilla paste.
  4. Or a vanilla bean.

Since I’ve tried all four options, let me tell you a little more about each so you can decide which is the best option for you. I definitely have a a favorite – keep reading to find out which one it is.

Option 1 – Buy Vanilla Sugar Packets

Easy German Vanilla Sugar

When I lived in Germany, I always used packets of Dr. Oetker vanilla sugar because I couldn’t ever find vanilla extract. After moving back to the US, I’d bring packets home whenever I’d visit Europe (the photo above is the Dutch version). These packets are convenient but the vanilla flavor is artificial. If you want the vanilla sugar taste but no vanilla bean flecks, or if you don’t want to make it yourself, this could be a good option. 

Where Can I Buy Vanilla Sugar? 

It’s super easy to find in Europe (just got to any grocery store) but in the US it’s more difficult. You can order it here from World Market, on Amazon or at a specialty food store. My recommendation, though, is to forgo the pre-made vanilla sugar packet and make your own at home!

Option 2 – Make Vanilla Sugar with Vanilla Extract

These days I always make vanilla sugar at home. It’s easy, I like knowing exactly what’s in it, and I use way more than a packet or two throughout the year! The first time I made vanilla sugar I used high quality vanilla extract (scroll down to my how-to). It worked fine and tasted good but for me there were two downsides: the sugar was no longer white and there were no vanilla bean flecks. So then I tried…

Option 3 – Vanilla Bean Paste

After finding a jar of vanilla paste at Trader Joe’s I decided to try making vanilla sugar with it. It was easy to use, tasted good, and I like that you can see the vanilla bean flakes! The downside is that the paste changes the color of the sugar and makes it clumpy. The very best option is to….

Option 4 – Use a Vanilla Bean 

You’ve probably guessed by now my favorite way to make vanilla sugar is to use a fresh vanilla bean! You get the very best flavor and those beautiful vanilla bean flecks, the sugar stays white (if you’re using white sugar), and the texture remains sprinkle-able without having to run it through a food processor or coffee grinder. It’s so pretty and delicious, you’ll want to sprinkle it on everything! 

How to Make Homemade Vanilla Sugar

Making vanilla sugar is super easy! I’m going to show you how to make fresh homemade vanilla sugar with vanilla extract, vanilla paste, and a vanilla bean. 

What You Need to Make Vanilla Sugar

  • Sugar  
  • High quality vanilla extract (like this one
  • OR vanilla paste (like this one
  • OR a vanilla bean  
  • Measuring cup/spoons or a scale
  • Mixing bowl & spoon or a Ziplock bag
  • Food processor or clean coffee grinder (optional) 
  • Glass shaker jar (like this one) or any kind of jar with a tight-fitting lid

1 – How to Make Vanilla Sugar with Vanilla Extract

Start with 1/2 cup [100 g] sugar. (Yes, I’m using a measuring up for wet ingredients in the photo below! I was just using it as a small mixing bowl.) I like a strong vanilla flavor so I add 2 tablespoons vanilla extract to 1/2 cup [100 g] sugar. You might prefer to start with 1 tablespoon and add more to taste. Be sure to stir it well after adding the extract. 

Your vanilla sugar will be wet and clumpy after adding the extract, so you’ll want to spread the sugar on a piece of parchment paper and let it dry for 20-30 minutes.

Once the vanilla extract sugar has dried, it will be clumpy and crunchy. Use a fork to break up the clumps or pulse it in a food processor or a clean coffee grinder to smooth it out. Then pour the vanilla sugar in a shaker jar or a glass jar with a good lid.

2 – How to Make Vanilla Sugar with Vanilla Bean Paste

To make vanilla sugar with vanilla bean paste, add 1-2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste to 1/2 [100 g] cup sugar (add less paste if you want a lighter flavor). Stir well. If you don’t mind it clumpy, leave as-is and store in a jar. If you prefer a smooth texture, run it through your food processor or clean coffee grinder before placing it in a jar. 

Option 4 – Make Vanilla Sugar with a Vanilla Bean (The BEST Option!) 

There are three ways you can make vanilla bean sugar. The first way is to pour sugar into a jar, stick a dried vanilla bean in it, place the lid on the jar, give it a shake, and let it sit in your cupboard for a few weeks to several months (giving it a shake every couple days). You can use the “caviar” (the seeds inside the vanilla pod) in a recipe, let the pod dry out for a day or two, and then stick it in the sugar.

That’s the easiest way to make vanilla bean sugar but it’s not my favorite. I like a strong vanilla flavor and those vanilla bean flecks, so…

Here my favorite way to make vanilla bean sugar:

The second way is to pour 1/2 cup [100 g] sugar into a bowl, jar or a Ziplock bag. Then use a sharp knife to carefully slice the bean down the middle lengthwise. Use the knife to scrape out the beautiful vanilla bean seeds (the “caviar”) and then mix into the sugar. Congratulations, you’ve made delicious vanilla bean sugar!

You can use it right away or let the flavors mature for a few days. I usually cut up the used vanilla pod and place that in my jar of vanilla sugar for a little extra flavor.  

What’s the third way to make vanilla bean sugar? You can dry your used vanilla pods, grind them up into vanilla powder, and then add them to sugar! I haven’t tried this method yet but I plan to…once the vanilla extract I recently started has matured enough for me to use some of its beans! Ohhh…I can’t wait to use this extract…and all those beans!!

You might be wondering if you can use a sugar alternative to make vanilla sugar? I’ve been wondering that, too, so I’m currently trying out monk fruit vanilla sugar. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Here are the three jars of vanilla sugar I’ve got going right now: sugar with vanilla pod (bottom left), sugar with vanilla bean “caviar” and dried pod pieces (bottom right), and vanilla monk fruit “sugar.”

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Homemade Vanilla Bean Sugar

Homemade Vanilla Bean Sugar

Yield: 1//2 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Vanilla sugar is often used in German baking and is delicious sprinkled on oatmeal, fresh fruit, in coffee, tea, and much more. Keep a jar in your cupboard to use all year long!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup [100 g] sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean

Instructions

  1. Pour sugar into a mixing bowl or Ziplock bag.
  2. Using a small, sharp knife, cut the vanilla bean lengthwise. Be careful not to slice all the way through the bean.
  3. Use the knife to carefully scrape out the "caviar" (the seeds inside the pod). Add it to the sugar and mix well.
  4. Pour vanilla sugar into a steralized jar and seal with a tight lid.
  5. Let the vanilla pod dry out for a day or two and then place it in the vanilla sugar (you may need to cut it into a couple smaller pieces).
  6. Store your vanilla sugar in a cool, dark cupboard. Give it a shake every once in a while.

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About Author

I love baking, traveling, and sharing delicious recipes for European Christmas Cookies! I used to live in Germany, have worked on 4 continents, and now enjoy baking and blogging from my adopted home in North Carolina, USA.

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