What is Vanilla Powder?

Vanilla powder, also known as ground vanilla or vanilla bean powder, is a versatile baking ingredient used to add rich vanilla flavor to desserts, baked goods, and other sweet and savory dishes. It is made by grinding dried vanilla beans into a fine powder.

What is Vanilla Powder

Vanilla powder has an intense, aromatic vanilla flavor that makes it a popular choice among bakers and cooks. It can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract or vanilla beans in recipes.

Compared to other forms of vanilla, vanilla powder provides a more concentrated and robust vanilla taste. It also holds up well when exposed to heat, unlike vanilla extract which can lose some of its flavor through evaporation when baked or cooked.

How Vanilla Powder is Made

Vanilla powder is made from vanilla beans that are fully dried and then ground into a fine powder.

The vanilla beans are dried slowly under low heat until their moisture content is reduced to zero. This drying process can take weeks and helps intensify the flavor of the beans.

Once completely dried, the whole vanilla bean pod and seeds are finely ground using commercial grinders or high-powered blenders. This produces a fine brown powder that captures the full flavor and aroma of vanilla beans.

The highest quality vanilla powder is made from whole vanilla bean pods including the seeds. Lower quality powder may use vanilla seed powder or ground vanilla beans that have already been used to make extract.

Key Takeaway: Vanilla powder is simply made by drying vanilla beans completely and grinding them into a powder. No other ingredients are added.

Taste and Aroma of Vanilla Powder

Compared to vanilla extract and vanilla beans, vanilla powder has a more intense and concentrated flavor.

Since it is made from ground whole vanilla beans, it contains a higher concentration of the aromatic vanillin compound that gives vanilla its distinctive flavor and smell.

The aroma of vanilla powder is strongly reminiscent of fresh vanilla beans. It is sweet and floral with underlying woody, balsamic notes.

When tasted, the flavor is potent and robust. The initial taste is very sweet with a smooth, velvety vanilla flavor. It finishes with lingering floral and woody notes similar to the aroma.

Overall, vanilla powder provides a pure, rich vanilla flavor that is much stronger tasting than vanilla extract. Just a small amount can provide intense vanilla flavor to recipes.

Benefits of Using Vanilla Powder

There are several advantages that make vanilla powder auseful alternative to vanilla extract or beans:

  • Concentrated flavor - Made from whole, ground vanilla beans, the flavor is more intense than extract.
  • Holds up to heat - Unlike alcohol-based extracts, the flavor does not bake out or evaporate under high heat.
  • No alcohol - Vanilla powder contains no alcohol, making it suitable for children and people avoiding alcohol.
  • Adds specks - Visible vanilla bean specks can beautifully show off vanilla flavor.
  • Shelf life - Lasts 2-3 years stored properly, longer than extract or beans.
  • Economical - Vanilla beans are fully utilized when ground into powder.

For these reasons, many bakers keep vanilla powder stocked alongside extract to utilize in different recipes and scenarios.

How to Cook and Bake with Vanilla Powder

Vanilla powder can be used in place of vanilla extract, beans, paste, or sugar in any recipe.

It is versatile enough to use in both sweet and savory dishes. Here are some of the most popular ways to use vanilla powder:

Baked Goods

Vanilla powder is excellent for baking because it holds up well to heat. Add it to cake, cookies, pie dough, muffins, scones, or any other baked good to provide intense vanilla aroma and flavor. Use 1/2 tsp powder per 1 tsp extract called for.

Frostings and Fillings

Introduce specks of vanilla bean and rich flavor into frostings like buttercream and whipped cream by adding a bit of vanilla powder. It also makes an excellent addition to sweet fillings like pastry cream.

Ice Creams and Custards

Infuse creamy desserts like ice cream bases, pudding, custard, and flan with vanilla powder dissolved into the dairy or eggs before cooking. It gives a burst of flavor without that bitter taste extract can sometimes add.

Coffee and Tea

Add a teaspoon of vanilla powder to ground coffee before brewing or sprinkle some into a mug. It provides delicious flavor without sweetness.

Yogurt, Oatmeal, Smoothies

Mix a pinch of vanilla powder into yogurt, overnight oats, or breakfast smoothies. It will provide rich vanilla flavor and aroma without sweetness.

Savory Dishes

Vanilla powder can provide depth of flavor in sauces, soups, braises, dry rubs, and more. Use just a small amount and taste as you go until desired flavor is reached.

DIY Vanilla Sugar

Blend vanilla powder into granulated sugar to make your own vanilla sugar. Use a ratio of 1 tsp powder : 1 cup sugar. Store in an airtight container.


Sprinkle vanilla powder over desserts like ice cream, French toast, or fresh fruit for an extra burst of flavor and visual appeal.

Key Takeaway: Vanilla powder can be swapped 1:1 for vanilla beans or 1:2 for vanilla extract in recipes. Use it anywhere you want intense vanilla flavor.

Vanilla Powder Substitutes

If you don't have vanilla powder, there are a couple suitable substitutes:

  • Vanilla extract - Replace 1 tsp vanilla powder with 2 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Vanilla beans - Substitute 1 vanilla bean for every 1 tsp vanilla powder. Scrape out the seeds.
  • Vanilla sugar - Use an equal amount of vanilla sugar as vanilla powder. However, the flavor will be weaker.
  • Vanilla paste - Swap 1 tsp vanilla paste for every 1 tsp vanilla powder. The flavor is similar but there will be no specks.

Always start with less when substituting and add more vanilla to taste. Vanilla powder has a very concentrated flavor.

Where to Buy Vanilla Powder

Authentic vanilla powder can be found at some specialty grocery stores, gourmet shops, and online:

  • Specialty food shops like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's
  • Gourmet and baking supply stores
  • Online retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Spicely, and Vanilla Bean Co
  • Direct from vanilla bean companies like Nielsen-Massey, Penzeys Spices, Spice Jungle

When buying, check the ingredient list for "pure vanilla powder" or "ground vanilla beans". Avoid products with added sugar, maltodextrin, or anti-caking agents.

Expect to pay $15-25 for a small 1-2 oz bottle from a quality brand. Vanilla powder is more expensive than extract since it uses whole beans.

Making your own powder at home from used vanilla beans can save money. Simply rinse, dry, and grind leftover pods.

Proper Storage of Vanilla Powder

To retain freshness and flavor, vanilla powder should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place.

Like vanilla beans, it should be kept away from light, heat, and humidity which can cause it to lose flavor or clump over time.

When stored properly in an airtight container, vanilla powder will keep for 2-3 years before losing potency. In comparison, vanilla extract lasts about 2 years.

If clumping occurs, you can sift the vanilla powder through a fine mesh strainer to break up any clumps. Avoid getting any moisture in the powder which accelerates clumping.

Key Takeaway: Store vanilla powder in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for 2-3 years. Keep it away from moisture, light and heat.

Signs Vanilla Powder Has Gone Bad

Vanilla powder has likely gone bad if:

  • It develops an off smell instead of the characteristically sweet, floral vanilla aroma
  • The color changes from dark brown to a dull greyish tone
  • It starts to taste bitter or rancid instead of sweet and fragrant
  • It becomes rock hard and impossible to break up even after sifting
  • More than 3 years have passed since the purchase/open date

Vanilla powder that is past its prime should be discarded. Using old, stale vanilla powder will not provide good flavor or aroma.


Is vanilla powder the same as vanilla sugar?

No, vanilla powder is ground vanilla beans while vanilla sugar is sugar infused with vanilla flavor. Vanilla powder has a much more intense flavor and smell. Vanilla sugar is often made by storing vanilla beans in sugar.

What's the difference between vanilla powder and vanilla bean paste?

Vanilla paste contains vanilla extract mixed with the seeds of vanilla beans, resulting in a thicker, speckled paste. Vanilla powder is made from ground whole vanilla beans so it has a stronger flavor and aroma.

Can you use vanilla powder for baking?

Yes, vanilla powder is excellent for baking. Since it's not alcohol-based like vanilla extract, it holds up well to oven heat without losing potency. Vanilla powder can be used for baking cookies, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, and more.

Is vanilla powder better than vanilla extract?

Vanilla powder provides a more concentrated and intense vanilla flavor compared to extract. However, extract incorporates more easily into liquid recipes. Vanilla powder is better for applications with heat while extract works well in cold preparations. Using both together gives you the best of both worlds.

How do you make vanilla powder at home?

It's easy to make vanilla powder at home from used vanilla bean pods. After removing the seeds, rinse and thoroughly dry the pods at a low temperature. Then grind them to a fine powder in a coffee grinder, high-speed blender, or with a mortar and pestle. Store the homemade powder in an airtight container.

Can you mix vanilla powder into drinks?

Absolutely! Add a small pinch of vanilla powder to enhance coffee, tea, milkshakes, protein shakes, or any other beverage. It will provide extra aroma and flavor without sweetness. For the best flavor, dissolve the powder fully before drinking.

What dishes use vanilla powder?

Vanilla powder is very versatile. It can be used in desserts like ice cream, custards, cookies, and cakes. It also provides depth of flavor in oatmeal, yogurt, coffee, sauces, stews, dry rubs, and more savory dishes. Any recipe that calls for vanilla beans or extract can benefit from vanilla powder.


Vanilla powder is an extremely useful baking ingredient made by simply grinding whole dried vanilla beans into a fine powder. Compared to extract and beans, it provides a more concentrated and intense vanilla flavor that holds up well to oven and stovetop heat.

Vanilla powder can add natural vanilla flavor and aroma to both sweet and savory recipes. Look for it in specialty stores or purchase it online. When stored properly in an airtight container, vanilla powder will keep its freshness and potency for 2-3 years.

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