Easy Homemade Vanilla Sugar | 3 Simple Methods

Find out how easy and inexpensive it is to make vanilla sugar, why you might need it, and in what recipes to use it! 

Homemade vanilla sugar is so easy to make that it’s almost not worth dedicating a whole post to it. Well, almost. 

In this post, I am showing you how you can make it and why you might need to have it around, especially for the holidays.

Bonus: You will love having the lovely scent of real and fresh vanilla in your kitchen!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to youYou can read my full disclosure.

Why You’ll Love This Easy Recipe?

  • You will absolutely love the taste of real vanilla
  • You also have total control over the ingredients
  • It is very affordable to make it at home
  • Vanilla sugar is so versatile and works in so many recipes
  • You won’t have the alcohol of vanilla extract
homemade vanilla sugar on a wooden spoon in front of jar and with vanilla beans

Why Make Your Own?

Aside from the fact that commercial vanilla sugar (or Dr Oetker vanillin sugar) is not widely available in the US, there are lots of good reasons to make your own.

The aroma of the vanilla binds very nicely with the sugar. Seeing those little black specs in the sugar (or the finished dish) always lets you know that this is real vanilla, not some synthetic flavoring. 

Below I am showing 3 different methods. You can choose the one that works best for you and your recipes. 

What is Vanilla Sugar?

Growing up in Germany, we really only had vanilla sugar. We used that in all our recipes. Since you use it mostly in sweet recipes, it works perfectly. Nobody used vanilla extract.

However, most pre-packaged vanilla sugar isn’t actually real vanilla. Did you know that vanilla is considered the second most expensive spice? Instead, they use an artificial flavoring and then call it “Vanillin Zucker” in German.

The most popular brand is Dr. Oetker. In the United States, they call it “artificially flavored vanilla sugar”. You can tell that it lacks those little black specks of real vanilla. Also, it doesn’t taste quite as good. 

double pack of Dr. Oetker vanilla sugar

What is the Difference between Vanilla Sugar and Vanilla Extract?

In short: one is a powder and the other one is a liquid. Depending on the recipe, they are somewhat exchangeable.

The other difference is the medium. For the extract, you will need to use some alcohol to get the vanilla flavor out of the beans. 

When to Use Your Homemade Vanilla Sugar Versus Vanilla Extract:

Most people know what recipes they need the vanilla extract for. The extract is a very versatile ingredient for many foods or drinks such as your homemade pumpkin spice latteeggnogyogurt, vanilla ice cream, or cakes.

However, there are a lot of German baking recipes that require vanilla sugar.  Many German shortbread cookies wouldn’t be as tender if you used vanilla extract.   

I always need vanilla sugar for my holiday baking. There are many cookie recipes (such as the traditional German vanilla crescents, also called Vanille-Kipferl) that will work better with vanilla sugar as they will be coated in them after baking. 

boxes and plate with homemade cookies

The Ingredients

You only need two ingredients: 

  • Sugar: I personally prefer using powdered sugar but it doesn’t really matter what type of sugar you use. White sugar, brown sugar, and coconut sugar all work equally well!
  • Whole vanilla beans: You can find fresh vanilla beans in the spice or baking aisle of most grocery stores. Otherwise, you can find them online. Typically, they are somewhat expensive but a little bit goes a long way. There are many different varieties. Madagascar vanilla beans are considered the best for their rich taste and aroma. Mexican vanilla beans have a slightly mellower taste but typically thicker beans. And Tahitian vanilla beans have a more floral flavor.
bag of powdered sugar, small glass jar with wooden spoon and lid and vanilla bean pods

Helpful tools and equipment:

You probably already have all the tools you need: 

  • Glass jar: You can really use any jar but I always love using a glass jar. A small Mason jar with a canning lid is perfect or any pretty small jar (homemade vanilla sugar makes a great gift!). Ikea has some nice glass jars with flip-tops. Or you can repurpose any jar from your kitchen (make sure to thoroughly clean it) as long as it is an airtight container. 
  • Knife: I recommend having two knives: one sharp kitchen knife and a regular dinner knife with a blunt tip. 
  • Funnel: Depending on the size and shape of your jar, you might like to use a funnel. 
  • Small cutting board: This helps in slicing the vanilla beans open. 
10 vanilla beans and kitchen knife

Substitutions

If you can’t find or don’t want to use vanilla beans, here are another 2 ways you can still make vanilla sugar. I will explain how to use them under “How to Make”  

  1. Vanilla bean paste: Sometimes it is easier to find vanilla paste than beans. It can also be cheaper. 
  2. Vanilla extract: You can also use vanilla extract. Again, this is often more affordable than buying vanilla beans. For this method, mix 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract with ½ cup of sugar. Spread this on a cookie sheet and let it dry for about 30 mins. You can then break it up with a fork or in a food processor.

Storage and Shelf Life

If you store your vanilla sugar properly in an airtight container, it can generally last for one year if not longer. 

Common Mistakes or Troubleshooting

Here are some things that can go wrong: 

  • Vanilla sugar is too strong: If you find your vanilla sugar too strong, make a note of it for next time. You can easily add more sugar to make it less strong.  
  • Lumpy sugar: If you find lumps in your sugar, you can add it to a food processor, coffee grinder, or spice grinder  (without the pods) and mix it into a fine powder. 
  • No airtight container: Your sugar might also get lumpy if additional moisture gets into it. Make sure to use an airtight container. Also, be sure to use clean and dry utensils and ingredients. 
  • Low-quality vanilla beans: If DIY vanilla sugar has very little aroma it could be because you may not have used good-quality vanilla beans. Be sure to use grade-A beans instead. 
  • Not splitting vanilla beans: For the best results, be sure to split the vanilla beans. That opens up the beans and allows the seeds to infuse the sugar.  

How to make homemade vanilla sugar: 

Here are different ways to make it: 

Method 1 (my favorite method):

  1. For about 4 oz of sugar, I am using 1 whole vanilla bean.  But keep in mind that there is no hard and fast rule and you can tweak the ratios as needed.
  2. Fill your jar about half-way with sugar.
  3. Placing a vanilla bean on a cutting board, carefully cut it open lengthwise.  With the round tip of a knife or a spoon scrape out the inside as much as possible and add it to the jar with the sugar.
  4. Fill the jar with more sugar. Put the lid on a give it a good shake.  Place the jar in a cool and dark place for at least 1 week. Longer is better.  If you remember it, you can shake the jar occasionally. 
  5. If after 2 weeks, your homemade vanilla sugar is pretty intense, you can always add more sugar. I also sometimes add more sugar as I am going through it. 
vanilla bean pods on cutting board with knife with vanilla seeds on tip

Method 2:

  1. Use about ½ cup of sugar and add it to your jar.
  2. Cut your whole vanilla bean in thirds and add them to the sugar. 
  3. Close the lid and give the jar a good shake. Keep the jar in a dark place for about 1 week. 

Method 3 (best flavour):

  1. Fill your jar with sugar. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the vanilla bean seeds. Add them to the sugar. 
  2. Cut your empty pod in thirds and stick them into the sugar as well. 
  3. Put a tight lid on the jar and keep it in a dark place for at least one week. 
small lidded jar with sugar and vanilla bean seeds

Bonus Tip:

If you have any leftover vanilla beans (either scraped out or spent), be sure to keep them. You can then add them to any glass jar, add rum or vodka and make your own vanilla extract.

Shop this post:

Vanilla beans: https://amzn.to/3hOPYOg

Organic cane sugar: https://amzn.to/2ZXednn

Organic coconut palm sugar: https://amzn.to/3mIldxW

Lidded 4 oz jars: https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/korken-jar-with-lid-clear-glass-40378571/

My favorite small sharp knife: https://amzn.to/2Ek4AY2

Measuring cup: https://amzn.to/2EkBYhl

homemade vanilla sugar on a wooden spoon in front of jar and with vanilla beans

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homemade vanilla sugar on wooden spoon with jar and vanilla beans
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Easy Homemade Vanille Sugar

Find out how easy and inexpensive it is to make vanilla sugar, why you might need it, and in what recipes to use it! 
steeping time7 days
Total Time7 days
Course: Baking
Cuisine: German
Keyword: vanilla sugar
Servings: 1 jar
Calories: 443kcal
Cost: $3

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces sugar (preferably powdered)
  • 1 whole vanilla bean

Instructions

  • Add sugar to a glass jar.
  • With a sharp knife, split vanilla bean open lengthwise.
  • With a spoon or the blunt tip of a knife scrape out the seeds and add them to the sugar. Mix well.
  • Let this sugar sit in an airtight container for one week.

Notes

  • you can also cut the vanilla bean open, cut it into thirds, and add the pieces to the sugar
  • or add the scraped vanilla bean to the sugar with the seeds
  • you can use any spent or scraped vanilla beans and let them steep in vodka or rum to make your own vanilla extract 

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 443kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @ourgabledhome or tag #ourgabledhome!

28 Comments

  1. I love the idea of vanilla sugar! I’m going to make it to use it in my holidays baking. Thank you so much for sharing so many wonderful recipes!!!

  2. I LOVE those German vanilla crescents! I can’t remember the last time I had one. My mom used to hunt all around the city looking for vanilla sugar. If only she’d known how easy it is to make your own.

    1. Oh, I love those vanilla crescents (Vanille-Kipferl), too and the vanilla sugar is an essential ingredient in them. Now, you’re half-way there to making them ~ Anja

  3. I don’t know how you do everything. You make everything look so easy. I love how hands you are in your kitchen, and that you have so many wonderful recipes to share.

  4. I love this! Our family has been on the journey to make as much as we can from home. I agree it always taste better and is often more affordable. Not to mention how frustrated it has been lately when you can’t find simple ingredients in the store it’s nice to just make it yourself!

    1. Yes, both the vanilla extract and the sugar are so easy to make and a lot cheaper (and better) than store-bought. Happy making ~ Anja

  5. I have never used vanilla sugar but it sounds like it would be a great baking addition! I’ll have to try it this fall!

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  13. I really like the idea of using the vanilla sugar in baked goods, such as cookies like you did! What a great idea!

    Thanks for linking up and sharing your post with on the Embracing Home and Family Link-up party! We hope you join us again this Friday!

    -Cherelle

  14. I’ve never heard of vanilla sugar, how interesting! I also use vanilla extract in nearly every recipe (and in some of my smoothies too). Will definitely give this a try.

    1. As I said in the post, vanilla sugar is very popular in Europe. So good for cookie recipes where you don’t want to add any liquid.

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