Vanilla paste is a blend of whole vanilla beans, vanilla extract, along with sweeteners and a thickener. The result is a source of vanilla flavor that is well suited for custards, creams, and moister desserts. Not only does vanilla paste provide a strong vanilla flavor, it provides the small black flecks from the vanilla seeds as well. Vanilla paste is available in many places, may not be found in every grocery store. If you need vanilla paste in a hurry and cannot find it in a brick and mortar near you, consider one of the vanilla bean paste substitutes below.
Table of Contents
- Your best bet: Whole vanilla beans
- A decent second choice: Vanilla extract
- In a pinch: Vanilla powder
- Other alternatives
- Must-read related posts
Your best bet: Whole vanilla beans
Vanilla beans are expensive, so you may not always have them on hand. If the price is not an issue for you, they happen to be one of the best ways to add a concentrated vanilla flavor to your baked goods. They are the source of the flavor in vanilla paste and are therefore the best substitute for it.
Like vanilla paste, vanilla beans will provide a similar appearance in lighter colored desserts. Both products will provide the small black specks commonly associated with vanilla bean ice cream and that can make creamy desserts visually appealing. You use vanilla beans by splitting the pods with a sharp knife and scraping the seeds out with the knife’s edge. You can then add those seeds to your dessert.
Use one vanilla bean pod for each teaspoon of vanilla bean paste in your recipe.
A decent second choice: Vanilla extract
Most bakers are familiar with vanilla extract. It is widely available, which makes it the easiest way to add the flavor of vanilla to your desserts. Unlike whole vanilla beans, vanilla extract is relatively affordable. Like vanilla paste, the extract gets its flavor from vanilla beans; however, it does not contain the seeds from inside the bean. You won’t get the small black specks that come from using the paste or the whole bean.
Vanilla extract comes from soaking whole vanilla beans in a solution. This infuses the water with vanillin and other compounds in the bean that are responsible for its flavor. Another downside of vanilla extract is that it contains alcohol. It may be possible to taste the alcohol in some dishes.
Like vanilla paste, vanilla extract’s liquid form works well in many of the custard applications for which vanilla paste is often used.
Use vanilla extract as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla paste.
In a pinch: Vanilla powder
There are different types of vanilla powder, but all can provide a clean vanilla flavor. Vanilla powder is usually made by grinding vanilla beans to powder or by drying a mixture consisting of cornstarch or sucrose and vanilla extract. The powder made from the beans is generally more concentrated than the variety made with extract.
The advantage of using either type of vanilla powder to flavor desserts is the fact that it will provide flavor without any additional moisture or alcohol notes. This means that it is desirable for cookies and similar baked goods, but is not as easy to use in creamier or moister desserts.
Despite the differences in textures, vanilla powder can still be used as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla paste.
Imitation vanilla extract (also known as vanilla essence) is not as concentrated a source of vanilla flavor as vanilla extract, but the flavor that it does provide is not too far from the real thing. Like vanilla extract, it is also a liquid and can be used in many of the same applications.