Vanilla Bean Paste - Why You Need It in Your Pantry
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Vanilla Bean Paste – Why You Should Use It

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 and Sur La Table. 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!

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63 comments on “Vanilla Bean Paste – Why You Should Use It”

  1. They also sell it at Trader Joe’s, where it’s really not much more expensive than regular vanilla extract.

  2. Stefsays:

    That’s funny that you say that. I had heard it was at Trader Joe’s so I went there to buy it. They not only didn’t have it, but didn’t even know what it was. Someone told me that maybe they only have it around the holidays? Maybe only certain Trader Joe’s have them?

    • Yavisays:

      It’s funny because I wasn’t even looking for this and I found it at Ross Stores yesterday. It was in Las Vegas, NV.

  3. I LOVE vanilla bean paste and like noisy penguin, got mine at Trader Joe’s for a very good price. But like you, Stef, I couldn’t always find it. I found it, then didn’t find it again for a while — when I found it again FINALLY, I think I bought three or four bottles…I do hope it isn’t just seasonal, though for now I am set!

    Anyway, totally agree with what you wrote…love VBP!

  4. aryookisays:

    I have to say I have not tried the paste but for those married to their vanilla etract the stuff at williams sonoma is far superior to aythign you can buy at the grocery store. By the way I love your blog.

  5. Raquitasays:

    I will definately try the paste but I am married to actual vanilla beans – they aren’t that expensive if you know where to buy ’em..

    I need to hook you up..
    blog post forthcoming..

  6. Ellesays:

    I always buy it at Trader Joe’s, so I don’t think it’s seasonal, unless they’re changing things. Hope not! That stuff is like liquid gold!

  7. Stefsays:

    Scoop – Why not carry it all the time? They should know how great that product is!

    Aryooki – Aww.. thanks! I highly recommend you try the paste! You will not regret it.

    Raquita – I’m still enjoying the vanilla sugar. I’m now curious about your secret source.

    Elle – Wonder if it just depends on your particular store.

  8. I haven’t seen Vanilla Paste at Trader Joes either. But the thought has me salivating. Maybe a STL thing? I personally prefer the Nielsen-Massey myself.
    The best place to buy vanilla beans locally I think is Penzey’s. It really is easy to just slice that sucker up and scrape out the beans. Very indulgent frosting. Highly recommend trying for special occasions.

  9. nicismesays:

    I absolutely love it! Both the supermarkets near to me now stock it, thank goodness!
    Nice blog – I also love cupcakes!

  10. Stefsays:

    TW – I’d be curious to do a taste off between the scraping the beans and using the paste. My guess is it would be pretty similar.

    Nicisme – Wow! Lucky you. I wish our supermarkets carried it.

  11. Katiesays:

    I love Vanilla Bean Paste. Its fantastic. When you are making something simple and you want a little more flavor that extract will provide paste is the way to go. I have never seen it at Trader Joe’s I’ll have to look.

  12. Stefsays:

    Katie – Good luck! Hope you have it at your store.

  13. That’s so weird! I saw it last time I was there, maybe I should stockpile in case the one near my place stops carrying it.

  14. TJ’s DOES have a habit of discontinuing ALL the things I love, so I am thinking i should stock up! Glad you don’t think it is easonal though, Elle!

  15. Stefsays:

    I just found out that it has, in fact, been discontinued. See this post:

  16. Anonymoussays:

    This stuff is great!!! TJ’s by me didnt have it anymore :(

    I use it in my vanilla bean cake and frosting – out of this world! and it looks so good with the specks.

  17. Jensays:

    I also love using vanilla paste! Beanilla Trading Company,, has excellent paste and it is well priced. Their vanilla beans are also amazing! I ordered some last week… they smelled so good that I bought more today.

  18. Anniesays:

    I had never heard of the paste either. However, i do have a ton of vanilla beans (u can buy them in bulk online, this batch came from ebay). I make my own vanilla extract, but what is the exchange for your oreo cookie filling if using the beans or extract instead of the paste?

  19. Shannonsays:

    I use the vanilla bean paste in things you want the specks, ie cheescake, panna cotta, ice cream
    I use the nielson-massey extract in things that the vanilla flavor will really standout ie pudding,cupcakes from scratch icing etc

    I use the cheap vanilla extract only for box mixes or like chocolate cake–something not very vanilla

    By the way, I love your blog!

  20. Evasays:

    I’ve never heard of vanilla paste. I am definately going to give it a try. Do you use the same amount that the recipe calls for? For example if a recipe says to use 1 tsp of vanilla extract, do you use the same amount of vanilla paste? This is such a great blog. I always look forward to new entries.

  21. Stefsays:

    Eva – Thanks! I’m so glad that you enjoy the blog! You can use the paste 1 for 1 instead of extract. In case it wasn’t clear – I highly, highly recommend it, especially in frosting.

  22. Wilenesays:

    would like to THANK you for introducing me to vanilla bean paste, i bought mine from amazon was 3 bottles for 18$ and free shipping :) i tasted it out of the bottle b/c the smell was so wonderful it wsa kinda sweet i was suprised im making your vanilla bean buttercream frosting as soon as i post this so TY AGAIN for introducing me to new products i would never have thought of!

  23. Stefsays:

    Wilene – Hope you enjoyed the frosting! Let me know what you thought!

  24. Kristensays:

    I love vanilla bean paste. I buy mine from Singing Dog Vanilla. It adds such an intense vanilla flavor, which I love!

  25. Anonymoussays:

    I LOVE vanilla paste too!!
    I buy mine from Vanilla Food Company and purchase it in a big 32 oz bottle (which works out to be so much cheaper than buying the small 4 oz bottle)


  26. I love this stuff. It tastes so much more concentrated. Plus, if you’re lazy, like I am at times, it’s so much easier to use than splitting open an actual bean. ;)

  27. Tifanisays:

    We get it at Fresh Market. Our first experience with the paste was at a Viking Cooking School class, and we were sold from then on. I can’t think of anything it doesn’t make better. You should taste the strawberry ice cream I made with it today. YUM!

  28. Love Vanilla Bean Paste – wish you could find as easily as vanilla extract!

  29. Lisa!says:

    I buy it from Amazon- 12 oz (3 x 4oz bottles) for $18 and no shipping if you have Amazon Prime.

    It is good stuff…

  30. Christiesays:

    I’m going to make your favorite vanilla frosting tonight – I just wanted to let anyone in the San Antonio area know that I found vanilla bean paste at Central Market off Broadway in Alamo Heights. It was a bit pricey ($11.99), but somehow I just know it’ll be worth it. :)

  31. Sherrysays:

    I just bought mines for $5, but it says “best by Oct. 13”


    So, does vanilla bean paste expire?

  32. just bought my first bottle of vanilla bean paste and will be baking something with it tonight!

  33. Kim Webster Grovessays:

    This is so great to read. I just bought VB paste on a whim at HomeGoods for $5.99/bottle. They are great for selling discountined items. Now I read this – you just rocked my baking cupcake world!

  34. Angelasays:

    Nugget Grocery Stores carry it!

  35. I am such a sad panda… I called 5 different places locally and only one actually carried it (Williams Sonoma) but they were, naturally, out of stock! Darn it being summertime… the lady at the store said that they would have more in stock sometime next month, but it was bought out really fast because apparently everyone and their dog wanted to use it for their icecream… Darn them, darn them, darn them! Don’t they know my frosting is more important?? :(

    Thankfully I did purchase it from Cupcake Projects amazon store. I’m hoping it will get here in time so I can frost the Cupcake Explorer vanilla cupcakes with the Vanilla Bean Buttercream frosting before I have to turn my results in! *crosses fingers*

    ♥ Kate

  36. Anonymoussays:

    I am very new to your post (as in have been reading it avidly for the past two hours) and am enjoying it immensely. Here in New Zealand we do actually have the paste as well but it is 5 times the price of ordinary vanilla essence. I once read the back of an imitation vanilla essence bottle and one of the ingredients was propylene glycol – for those not in the know this can be used as antifreeze for engines. Errrkkk. Sara

  37. Anonymoussays:

    The Arizona Vanilla Company has 3 kinds of Vanilla Paste, and also sells vanilla beans in bulk. –

  38. Mariasays:

    The Beanilla website also carries vanilla bean paste. It’s not as expensive as I thought it would be, so I might order some and try your icing recipe! Here’s a link to the Beanilla store:–7M_AhKsCFQ0BQAod-UZo2g

  39. Anonymoussays:

    Neilson-Massey’s vanilla paste pales in comparison to a bottle of Madagascar bakers syrup I found from a company called nakedsweetshop. There syrup is made from organic cane sugar and contains absolutely no alcohol. I had found that the paste from NM was not strong enough and I found myself still adding a tsp of extract to reach the desired flavor. The bakers syrup from NSS is amazing. You are able to 1/2 most recipes and still get a beautiful aroma as well as gourmet look. The best thing about it is that it comes in 3 different flavors-vanilla-spiced orange-and cocoa. Dear god the cocoa syrup is incredible. Since then I have gone through 3 bottles and have never had so many comments on my treats. I recommend everyone go to you will not be disappointed!!!!!!

  40. Anonymoussays:

    The brand I have used is LorAnn’s. They make a madagascar vanilla bean paste. Yes, it’s pricey, but its sooo good! You can order it online though at:

  41. Calliesays:

    I got my vanilla bean paste online from King Arthur Flour. They sell Nielson-Massey. It comes in a 4 oz jar and is a pretty good value, I think.

  42. is it possible to make it yourself? I’m at the country where they don’t sell those.

  43. cafn8mesays: also has fantastic vanilla paste, and gorgeous vanilla beans! The beans always ship free, and I got on their newsletter list so I receive promo codes about once a week. Such great products!

  44. Anonymoussays:

    I bought mine at ROSS. Hit and miss but always check expiration date. I paid 6.99 and it’s Nielson-Massey. Like it better than vanilla extract.

  45. Anonymoussays:

    I’m pleased to see that Sara (New Zealand) mentions the pitfalls of the vanilla essence. I have 15 vanilla orchids in my land in Grenada and when I think that I will have to hand fertilise the individual flower between 5am and7am when they start flowering. Wait 9 months for the vanilla beans to be full, pick them. Sit them in the hot sun for 3 hours a day for 14 days (wrapping them in a woollen blanket and putting in a box at night), and then lay them on a rack for two months. I wonder how the paste with those beautiful seeds can be so special after all it is the seeds have the flavour. So after giving the recipe for producing first class beans, please tell me what other than the whole pod, munched up, plus the seeds goes into the paste it cannot be that easy what keeps the flavour intact how many additives? Lizzie

  46. I just got my first bottle of Vanilla Bean Paste at my new favorite store – Surfas Culinary District in Costa Mesa!!! Along with very cool cooking gadgets, supplies, dishes, cheeses to die for and cake decorating stuff, they have a great little restaurant!!! I could spend a lot of money there!

  47. Unknownsays:

    I like Rain’s Choice vanilla paste at The taste is amazing! Plus all products there are eco-friendly and eco-humane.

    This is the Vanilla Queen’s site. There are some very interesting articles there about vanilla if you’re interested. Her stories are really interesting.

    You can buy in bulk at wholesale there or in smaller quantities at Gourmet Country.

    And there are lots of RECIPES there that use vanilla bean paste!“vanilla+paste”

  48. I actually just bought my first jar of vanilla bean paste and I found it at HomeGoods for $6.

  49. Meghansays:

    Vanilla Bean Paste doesn’t expire but as it sits in the cupboard past the expiration date it starts to become a goo instead of a thin syrup. Is there a way around this or can you heat it up to make it thinner? I always like finding it at a good deal.


  51. Pete in Alaskasays:

    I have been expirmenting with making my own flavored coffee creamers and used 2 1/2 tsp of the Vanilla Paste instead of Extract. A 1/2 a pinch of fresh ground cinnamon as a hint of counterpoint. Mix an let it sit overnight in he fridge. The paste makes a noticeable differance in the taste! Great creamer at less cost per bottle then bought. Nice thing about it is one can adjust the recipe to personal taste.

  52. ~ To go from using the imitation vanilla when I was growing up to Bourbon Vanilla pure, then scraping a bean– too expensive, Vanilla Bean Paste will be amazing. I’ve seen it on TV and posts. Vanilla bean birthday cake, may be able to make vanilla sugar with it. Definitely will use it in all things requiring vanilla.

  53. of course like your website however you need to test the spelling on several
    of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very bothersome to inform the truth then again I’ll
    surely come back again.

  54. Marysays:

    Kitchen Collection Stores also carry Vanilla Nean Paste.

  55. I found it at Michaels craft store . It was 6.99 but because it was a regular priced item I got 40% off. Good deal!

  56. carlasays:

    I need it tomorrow for my recipe ordering will take to long am I SOL?

  57. Jassays:

    But does it affect the texture? does the vanilla bean paste do something to what your baking or is it just for the little specks? I understand that it is thicker, but what does it do?

  58. Laurasays:

    So I know this is a super old post, but I just found vanilla bean paste at Trader Joe’s again yesterday! I’ve been looking for a year or so, so I thought I’d pass on the good news!

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