making vanilla sugar

making vanilla sugar |

What is it about homemade gifts?

The thought? The person? The sentiment?

For me, these are the very best gifts one can receive. I’ll take handcrafted over handbag any day.

Making vanilla sugar is very simple: it’s all about the beans.

How do I pick the right vanilla bean?

There are many types to choose from. Here are 3 common varieties:

  1.  Tahitian- floral aroma with a rich, fruity flavor
  2. Madagascar Bourbon- sweet aroma and delicate flavor
  3. Mexican- full bodied, rich and smoky

(I should be a sommelier).

My preference is Tahitian or Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans. Their flavor profile is perfect for cooking and baking and does not overpower. Mexican vanilla is good, but too strong for my taste. Really, it’s personal thing. Play around. There are no rules.

making vanilla sugar |

What’s the difference between Grade A & Grade B vanilla?

Just like meat, eggs, and maple syrup, vanilla beans are graded too (who knew?).

Grade A: also known as ‘gourmet’ or ‘prime’ these beans are considered high quality. Several factors determine quality, however the most important is moisture content. Grade A beans are very moist. They’re soft, plump, and have a shiny appearance.

Grade B: these beans have a low moisture content. Their appearance can be stiff, cracked, and dry.

Hmm… so which one would you choose? Grade A sounds like the way to go, right?

Not necessarily.

Grade A is best for cooking. Their plumpness will yield lots of seeds. It’s also more $$$.

Grade B is best for extracts and sugar. Their low moisture content will not dilute the extracts or make sugar clumpy. Although their appearance is not as desirable as Grade A, these beans still pack plenty of vanilla flavor.

Bottom line: different grades are used for different things.

making vanilla sugar |

How to cut & store vanilla beans

To open up a vanilla pod, slice it in half lengthwise to reveal the seeds. Use the back of a knife to scrape them out.

To maintain freshness, tightly wrap your beans in plastic wrap and store in an air tight container. Depending on the grade, they’ll stay soft for up to a year.

making vanilla sugar |

So, what do I use this stuff for?

Vanilla sugar is great in coffee, tea, or sprinkled over oatmeal and yogurt. Use it to bake cookies, make salted caramel sauce, add to jam… the list goes on. My favorite is with fresh strawberries and creme fraiche.

Feel free to experiment with different types of sugar too. Brown sugar, muscovado or rapadura would be nice.

Vanilla sugar will keep indefinitely when sealed in an air tight container or jar. As your supply dwindles, top it off with more sugar. Throw in additional vanilla beans as you collect them. Replenish and reuse.

And if you’re making this for the holidays, do it now. The longer it sits the better it will taste!

making vanilla sugar
Prep time
Total time
Serves: 2 cups
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans
  1. Place the sugar into the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Using a sharp pairing knife, slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds using the back of the knife. Add to the bowl. Reserve the pods.
  3. Pulse the sugar and vanilla seeds until well incorporated. Pour into a large bowl. Add back the empty pods. This method can also be done by hand.
  4. Store your vanilla sugar in an airtight container until ready to use.
*For gifts, portion the sugar into small latch jars or bags. Slice the empty pods into thirds and add as many as you'd like to each gift. Label and date.
** I've used both Grade A & Grade B vanilla beans to make sugar with excellent results. The choice is up to you.



    • Emilie says

      Right? I agree! Someone once asked if I’d rather a new Louis bag or vanilla beans as a gift… they looked at me like an alien when I responded ;) Oh, and stay in bed… life’s too short not to sleep in, Rakhee! xoxo

  1. says

    I love homemade gifts like this! And vanilla sugar is so delightful – I love the waft of amazing sweet vanilla you get when you take the lid off the container. Vanilla sugar is so perfect in strawberry balsamic jam too! Your photos are gorgeous here :)

    • Emilie says

      Aren’t homemade gifts the best? What a great idea with strawberry balsamic jam! I will have to try that.

      I just made a batch of blueberry vanilla jam to give away as holiday gifts and it came out awful. I don’t know what happened, but I got distracted (shocking) and overcooked the berries. It was like tar. Oh well.

      Thanks, Christine and have a great weekend! xx

  2. says

    Completely agree about handmade gifts. Interesting facts about vanilla. Certainly I know that the mean little pods available in tiny jars in the supermarket are nothing like the plump ones that I buy online.

    • Emilie says

      That’s my preference too. I love knowing that someone took the time to make something special for me :)

      The world of vanilla is quite interesting, isn’t it? I only found out about the different grades when researching vanilla beans to buy online. I kept reading… and reading… and I was surprised with how much I learned. Supermarket vanilla beans are most likely Grade B or C, but you never know. The plump ones are fantastic!

    • Emilie says

      Thank you darling! It is so incredibly easy to make. Just how I like it! The smell of vanilla sugar is out of this world too.

  3. says

    Gorgeous photos! And I didn’t know about the different grades of vanilla – thank you! Homemade gifts really are the best, aren’t they? :) xxx

    • Emilie says

      Hi Celia! Thank you! It’s good information to have so you don’t get ripped off. That drives me nuts! Quality beans are so important :)

    • Emilie says

      Welcome Elizabeth! I love the idea of a simple, homemade gift. This vanilla sugar is quick to put together and can be made months on advance. You can package it in cute jars or clear treat bags- make it your own! :)

  4. says

    Lovely, lovely photography, Emilie. The light is so soft and the styling is just perfect, just like your fabulous idea of giving vanilla sugar as a gift! There’s nothing like the aroma of opening a jar of sugar with a few vanilla beans inside. I keep them in my sugar jars indefinitely and they continue to produce the most tasty and fragrant vanilla sugar. Vanilla is worthy of our knowing about it.. and the flavors and how beans are graded has deepened my understanding of this widely sought ingredient. Thank you, Emilie!

    • Emilie says

      Thank you so much, Traci! I am flattered by your sweet words :)

      I didn’t really know that much about vanilla beans until I did extensive research last year. I’ve worked with both Grade A and Grade B and it is fascinating to see the difference. At first, I was convinced Grade A was better but really, it’s all about what you’re going to do with them. The flavor is not necessarily in the appearance. And like you said, it’s important to know and understand your ingredients. I feel this way about meat, dairy, olive oil, honey etc.

      Now, if only I had a piece of your cranberry streusel bread to have with my morning coffee… xo

    • Emilie says

      Hello Kara! You are quite welcome! This makes a fabulous gift idea that’s both easy and can be made in advance. Enjoy! :)

  5. says

    I love this gift idea because it’s not over the top but is a simple yet thoughtful way to show someone you appreciate them. I really appreciate this post as I’m raking my brain trying to come up with clever gift ideas. Also, where do you buy those cute little jars? Looking forward to making this.

    • Emilie says

      Hello Stacy, I love the name of your blog ;)

      The jars were a gift- however I’ve seen similar ones online and in stores.

      Search for: small glass canning jars with gaskets (the orange rubber ring).

      Check: Amazon, Sur La Table & Target (online & in store) etc.

      I got the brown craft tags and string from Michael’s, $1 bin.

      I hope this helps!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Kristie! Absolutely. Coconut sugar is a great idea. I haven’t done it myself, but I don’t see why not? If you experiment (you could always do a small batch) I’d love to hear how it turns out. I have some coconut sugar in my cabinet as we speak ;)

  6. says

    Hi Emilie! Like I said, I was searching for tips on making vanilla sugar just a moment ago. It sounds super easy. I am doing all handmade gifts for Christmas this year, so I will definitely add this to the collection. I totally died at your sommelier comment! You SO sounded like one. I actually almost snorted out some wine that I was evaluating for a piece! ;-) XO

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jayme! This literally takes only a couple of moments to put together. It’s super easy!

      Last year, I this grand idea of making tons of homemade gifts. I had it all planned out. And you know what happened? I made nothing. I got so caught up with how the gifts should look- the wrapping, the jars, the bows, that I completely overwhelmed myself and fell flat.

      This year, I’m only making a couple of things. I bought all materials on sale in November. And I promised myself that I wouldn’t go crazy! This vanilla sugar is an example of thoughtful simplicity, for both the creator and the recipient. ;)

      I hope you have fun playing around with the recipe, Jayme! I mention (below) that I’ve used Grade A & Grade B for sugar with excellent results. It’s up to you! xoxo

    • Emilie says

      Hi Donna! I laughed when I read this comment because I just read your cookie recipe on the blog (got distracted and forgot to comment!). I totally get the woes of baking with kids. It never really goes according to plan…

      Vanilla sugar is super, super easy. It’s completely mindless so you can do it even on the worst days! ;)

    • Emilie says

      Thank you Jus! Wait, can I call you Jus? My cousin’s name is Justine and I call her Jus all the time… ;)

      I’m so excited you made this already- that was fast! I’m heading over to check out your post now. Thanks for the head’s up. xoxo

  7. Monica says

    My sister in-law gave this to me as a gift last year in a mason jar with a cute label, and just loved it. Simple homemade gifts like this one always makes me feel like someone cares so it’s like two gifts in one! I just ran out of my sugar so I did a search to see how to make my own and I’m so glad because I found your site, and I just love it!

  8. Kiyomi says

    I like this. I use to use the vanilla sugar recipe using pure extract- but I prefer this one. Question though- have you any idea on the shelf life? Just wondering if it will spoil at some point.

    • Emilie says

      Hi there,

      Great question. In my experience, I’ve never had an issue with the sugar spoiling. In fact, I just keep on adding vanilla beans to the same jar as I go. You might consider starting a small jar to see how it goes.

  9. Jeannette Louise (loes) krane says

    Oei, what dumb thing did I just do? I had about 11 long bean pods that turned out to be dried and crunchy, no smell!
    My recipe called for 1 package of vanilla sugar and I did not have it. I thought those pods were old and not usable. I cut them in piece and put the 150 gram sugar for the recipe and let them sit an hour and then tried the sugar, hmm, they smelled good, tasted good, put them through a large strainer and used the sugar. the eggs and the sugar in the kitchen aid plus a teaspoon of pure vanilla liquid in it. ( only liquid in the whole recipe). The cookies are fine, but the cut beans, oops, I through away.

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