Vanilla sugar is a combination of vanilla beans and sugar. When the two are combined, the sugar is infused with the flavor of the vanilla beans. Some versions of vanilla sugar are made by combining sugar with vanilla extract instead of the beans. Vanilla sugar has long been used as a cost-effective way to use pure vanilla and get as much value as possible from the expensive vanilla beans.
Vanilla beans come from Mexico where they were first cultivated by The Totonac people and then by the Aztecs who conquered them. The plant that produces it is a type of orchid. The Spanish colonists who raided Mexico brought vanilla beans back to Europe with them. For many years, the cost of the spice meant that only the wealthy could afford them, so the flavor was known only to the nobility and other elites.
Eventually, the vanilla flavor became well-known throughout Europe. Thomas Jefferson is believed to have been the first to bring it to the United States in the 18th century.
Vanilla sugar shows up as an ingredient in European dessert recipes and then in recipes for American drugstore fountain sodas starting in the mid-19th century. In the sodas, it would have been a convenient way to get the vanilla flavor without discoloration from the bean or extract.
One early 20th-century reference to the combination of vanilla and sugar is in a 1911 publication called the International Milk Dealer. The reference is to a flavoring blend used for ice cream. The vanilla sugar described was made by grinding Mexican vanilla beans with loaf sugar.
Vanilla sugar is a more common ingredient in Central Europe than it is in the United States or the United Kingdom. In much of mainland Europe, vanilla extract is not the preferred form of the spice.
Vanilla sugar flavor profile
Vanilla sugar is a convenient way to get the flavor of vanilla and the flavor of sugar together as one ingredient. It is primarily sweet since it consists mostly of sugar. The sweetness is enhanced by a strong vanilla aroma and flavor.
Vanilla sugar made with vanilla beans is sometimes used as an alcohol-free alternative to vanilla extract. It contains no alcohol at all, so it doesn’t have even the slightest trace of the alcohol taste.
Health benefits of vanilla sugar
Vanilla sugar is primarily refined white sugar, which means that its nutritional value is limited. The nutritional value of vanilla beans is unclear. What is clear is that there aren’t enough vitamins and minerals in vanilla beans to make a significant difference to the nutrient content in vanilla sugar.
Like any other product that consists mostly of refined white sugar, vanilla sugar is calorie-dense. As a result, consuming too much of it can result in weight gain and obesity. In addition, sugar causes spikes in blood sugar and insulin, which can cause you to develop type 2 diabetes and other health issues.
Vanilla sugar shows up in many German recipes as vanillezucker. It is most commonly used as a topping for baked goods but is actually a very versatile ingredient. You can use it to make a vanilla-flavored simple syrup for cocktails and other beverages or as a substitute for plain sugar when baking scones and muffins. Use it as a sweetener in coffee or sprinkle it over oatmeal.