Vanilla Bean Paste – Why You Should Use It

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Vanilla bean paste will make all of your vanilla desserts even better! Learn what vanilla bean paste is, how it’s different from vanilla extract, why you should buy vanilla bean paste, where you can buy it, and how to use it.

vanilla bean paste on a spoon

What is Vanilla Bean Paste?

Vanilla bean paste is a thick syrup made using vanilla bean pod seeds and vanilla extract.

thick vanilla bean paste dripping down a spoon onto a tabletop
Vanilla bean paste will not only make your desserts look pretty (see the vanilla flecks in the frosting photo below), but it will also give them an intense vanilla flavor – think of vanilla bean ice cream compared to plain vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla bean frosting on a spatula
While I would never drink vanilla extract straight up, I have been known to lick my fingers if they get some vanilla bean paste on them. It’s still a bit strong – not to mention expensive – to pour on your pancakes, for example.

How is Vanilla Bean Paste Different From Vanilla Extract?

Vanilla extract is made from soaking vanilla bean pods in alcohol. The alcohol takes on the vanilla flavor, but it doesn’t have any of the beans nor the thickness of vanilla bean paste.

How To Use Vanilla Bean Paste

adding vanilla bean paste to vanilla buttercream frostingUse vanilla bean paste as a 1:1 substitution for vanilla extract in any recipe.

Because it is more expensive than vanilla extract, I suggest saving it for recipes where it really shines. It is amazing in vanilla frosting and I love using it in creme brulee. It is also fabulous in cream pie!

Why Use Vanilla Bean Paste Instead of a Vanilla Bean?

You certainly could use an actual vanilla bean instead of the vanilla bean paste in any recipe. But, using a vanilla bean is far more work – you’ll need to steep the liquid in your recipe with the bean and scrape out the seeds. And, using a bean is a bit more pricey.

If you are using a recipe that calls for a bean, substitute one tablespoon of vanilla bean paste for every bean the recipe calls for. Add the paste with the wet ingredients as you would any extract. 

vanilla beans

Vanilla beans from FITNCLEAN Spices

Where To Buy Vanilla Bean Paste

Vanilla bean paste is sold at specialty cooking stores. I’ve seen it at Williams-Sonoma. You can also buy a variety of different vanilla bean paste brands on Amazon. The one that I typically use is Nielsen-Massey.

a spoon with vanilla bean paste in the foreground with a bottle of Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste in the background
Many of you commented that Trader Joe’s sells cheap vanilla bean paste. I had heard that it had been discontinued. However, recently someone left a comment that they saw it in the store again. Leave a comment if you see it in the store!