Crème brûlée is my friend’s favorite dessert. Not surprising, since this decadent has all the fineries one might crave. Therefore, when my friend called to inform me that she would be visiting soon, the first dish that I thought to fix was, as you’ve guessed rightly, crème brûlée. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any vanilla sugar at home. But despite my misgivings, the vanilla sugar substitute I used turned out to be perfect.
The crème brûlée turned out tasting amazing. My friend didn’t even notice any difference! Therefore, I decided to write today’s blog. Vanilla sugar is hard to find in countries outside Europe. Most people don’t even know it exists. Hence a little introduction is below.
What is Vanilla Sugar?
Vanilla sugar, also known as Vanillezucker, is a sweet crystalline condiment. It is basically just regular white sugar that is infused with vanilla beans. It is widely used in European desserts. However, it is a rare ingredient in other countries, including the U.S.
Prior to this incident, I had always used store-bought vanilla sugar. But running out of it prompted me to look for other options. I have jotted together my favorite vanilla sugar substitutes just for you.
How do you use vanilla sugar?
As I mentioned before, vanilla sugar is just a combo of regular sugar and vanilla beans. So you can add it to coffee and tea instead of regular sugar. I also use it in desserts like vanilla cake, vanilla cupcakes, strawberry shortcakes, and even sugar cookies.
But I avoid using it in recipes that have overpowering ingredients like the chocolate cake. Vanilla seeds are already quite expensive. There is frankly no point wasting them on such dishes where the taste won’t even show. Instead, keep them for special desserts or beverages like coffee and tea, where they’ll be of some use.
You can use vanilla sugar to replace regular sugar in 1:1 substitution.
What if my recipe also calls for vanilla extract?
It is likely that your recipe will also call for vanilla extract. So won’t vanilla sugar overpower the vanilla taste in the recipe? I never minded the extra vanilla taste in my dish.
However, if you don’t want to add too much vanilla, the right thing will be to decrease its amount slightly. But do not completely leave it out. Extra vanilla is better than no vanilla.
Homemade Vanilla Sugar Recipe:
Homemade vanilla sugar is way easier to make than you would have thought. It requires a few ingredients and no fancy appliances or preparation methods. You can find numerous vanilla sugar substitute recipes on the internet. I have written mine below:
- Vanilla beans
- Food processor
Method of preparation:
- First, put sugar in your blender or processor.
- Next, take your vanilla and cut it in half lengthwise.
- Scrape out the seeds and put them in your food processor. You can use another utensil or your fingers to remove the seeds from the knife as they are sticky.
- Then, pulse or grind your sugar with the vanilla seeds until thoroughly mixed. Note you will be grinding your sugar to a fine powder. But that is fine since it works in almost all baking recipes.
- Pour your sugar in the jar and dip empty vanilla pods in it. These pods add more flavor as time goes by. I’d suggest you use the sugar in two weeks – before the flavor gets bad.
What sugar should I use for vanilla sugar?
I find that regular sugar gives the best vanilla flavor. But if dietary preferences or some other reason prevents you from enjoying it, you can also use other sugar.
Brown sugar is kind of overpowering, as the molasses undertone overpower any vanilla flavor. So either increase the number of vanilla beans or use some other sugar.
Similarly, coconut sugar is too coarse. Therefore, you will have to grind for a bit longer to make sure that it is fine.
Can I reuse vanilla beans?
Yes, you can reuse vanilla beans. Once you are done submerging vanilla beans in the sugar, you can use them to make vanilla extract. They won’t be as flavorful as before since the seeds are gone.
But you can still put them in alcohol to extract flavor. I usually wait about six months before using homemade vanilla extract. But since the pods are empty, I recommend waiting for at least a year.
Remember that some flavor will be further lost when you wash the sugared vanilla beans. It is necessary to wash the beans prior to extraction. Make sure the vanilla beans are dried completely before beginning the next step.
Can I use vanilla paste or vanilla extract for vanilla sugar?
Yes, you can. But both the paste and extract add moisture to your vanilla sugar. This is not optimal for baking recipes. Of course, you can consider drying them, but the results won’t be the same.
One tablespoon of vanilla extract or paste is enough to make one cup of vanilla sugar. This is my favorite vanilla sugar substitute for cookies as the batter is already wet.
What can I use instead of vanilla sugar?
5 Decadent Vanilla Sugar Substitutes
If you are out of vanilla sugar or can’t find any at home, the best thing is to make it at home with the sugar of your choice. Or you could use an entirely different ingredient altogether.
1. Vanilla Extract
The closest thing that matches the vanilla seed flavor is its extract. You can add the extract to sugar, as mentioned before. But vanilla extract is not very sweet.
Therefore, you will want to add an extra few spoons to match vanilla sugar’s sweetness. This substitute works for almost all recipes except baking ones. Baking requires extreme precision, and a little imbalance can ruin the product.
2. Vanilla Powder
Vanilla powder is your second best bet. It is quite a lot like vanilla beans as they are very similar to vanilla beans in taste and texture. Vanilla powder is purely extracted from vanilla beans; therefore, expect a rich taste in your baking goods.
However, remember that it contains alcohol which is responsible for carrying the taste. Vanilla powder is extremely rich and sweet, such that it can be overpowering at times!
I recommend adding a little amount to your sugar and then working your way up. There is no point in adding too much at the same time, as it will ruin the flavor of your dish. You can add it to coffee, cookies, and other recipes that call for vanilla extract.
3. Vanilla Syrup
Another ingredient that matches the flavor of vanilla sugar is vanilla syrup. It is a common tea and coffee sweetener. It provides a nice aroma and a rich vanilla taste. This substitute is great for making cakes and other baked items.
4. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is used as a sweetener in both sweet and sour dishes. You can use it to replace vanilla sugar in a variety of dishes. It has a similar sweetness which makes it a good replacement.
Substituting maple syrup for vanilla sugar carries no specific measurements. You have to adjust it according to taste since maple syrup is a liquid and vanilla sugar solid. Moreover, Maple syrup has a dark color, distinctive flavor, and caramel notes.
You can pour maple syrup on top of pancakes, waffles, et cetera.
5. Regular Sugar
If you have none of the ingredients mentioned above available, you can use regular sugar. It is made from sap and then given a crystalline shape. Replace it in equal amounts.
This is a good substitute consistency-wise. However, it does not lend any vanilla-like flavor to the dish. You can either leave the vanilla out or use some vanilla bean byproduct to mimic the taste. This is my preferred vanilla sugar substitute for baking.