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Top 8 Vanilla Bean Paste Substitutes


Vanilla bean paste is an essential aromatic in baked goods. A teaspoon of paste is enough to create a subtle yet powerful impact. Luckily, it’s easy to replicate the flavor. Learn each vanilla bean paste substitute in detail and how to use it in recipes.

black tabletop with bottle of vanilla paste and spoon filled with vanilla.

What Is Vanilla Bean Paste?

Vanilla bean paste is a mixture of vanilla bean powder and vanilla extract. This variation of vanilla is generally sold in grocery stores. The paste is often used in baked goods as an aromatic and flavoring agent. Vanilla bean paste is more potent than the extract in its flavor and aroma.

Most vanilla bean paste is commercially produced but easy to make at home. The advantage of homemade vanilla bean paste is its natural ingredients. The store-bought paste is convenient, but it comes with preservatives.

Where Does Vanilla Bean Paste Come From?

Since they share the same name, it’s easy to confuse vanilla bean paste with regular vanilla. Take note that vanilla bean paste comes from vanilla. Vanilla is the original spice, while the paste is the form. In fact, vanilla has many varieties aside from vanilla bean paste.

There are vanilla beans, extract, powder, and essence. All of these variations come from one species of the plant, “vanilla planifolia.” The sole exception is imitation vanilla extract.

This species produces 99% of vanilla consumed around the world. It’s primarily grown in tropical climates and produced mainly in Madagascar. To make vanilla bean paste, growers plant the flowers under strict requirements.

The harvesting process is highly delicate and laborious. Vanilla flowers only open for a short period and last several hours a day. Once the flowers open, growers use an artificial hand-pollination process. The flower then self-pollinates and produces vanilla beans.

Vanilla beans are long, thin pods containing seeds. After harvesting, the beans will undergo a treatment process for six months. The resulting fruit is dark brown vanilla bean pods.

The vanilla beans are then processed until they turn into a smooth puree. Vanilla extract is slowly added into the mix until it forms a paste-like consistency. Most commercial vanilla pastes use artificial sweeteners. But when it comes to homemade vanilla bean paste, we recommend using honey instead.

Vanilla bean paste is more affordable than pure vanilla beans. It’s also easier to buy since it’s available in most spice aisles.

Why Use A Substitute For Vanilla Bean Paste?

Vanilla bean paste is perfect if you want a dominant vanilla flavor. But the spice may not always be available. Fortunately, there are many handy alternatives that you can use. The goal of vanilla is to add aroma and enhance flavor. As long as the substitute achieves these two things, you’ll still have a complete dish.

Best Vanilla Bean Paste Substitutes

The best substitute for vanilla bean paste is any form of vanilla. These ingredients are readily available at grocery stores or in your pantry. Here’s a list of the eight best vanilla bean substitutes.

1. Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans are the best substitute for vanilla bean paste. It’s the only spice on this list with a stronger potency than vanilla paste. To use vanilla beans, rehydrate them in warm water for at least an hour.

Vanilla beans are usually sold in resealable pouches or glass containers. This prevents the beans from drying out and keeps the flavor intact. One downside to using vanilla beans is that it’s costly, so it may not be a practical option.

2. Vanilla Extract

You can also substitute vanilla bean paste with pure vanilla extract. Pure vanilla extract is the most affordable of all the options on this list. To make pure vanilla extract, growers soak the beans in a solution to draw out the flavors and aroma.

Pure vanilla extract only has three ingredients: vanilla beans, water, and alcohol. Since it’s an extract, the flavor is not as intense as vanilla bean paste. To use as a substitute, you can use a 1:1 ratio of vanilla bean paste and extract.

3. Vanilla Powder

Another substitute for vanilla bean paste is vanilla bean powder. This is an excellent option if you’re looking for an alcohol-free alternative. Vanilla bean powder combines pure vanilla extract, cornstarch, and an anti-clumping agent.

As a paste substitute, follow the 1:1 ratio similar to extract. Just a note, vanilla bean powder is often unsweetened.

4. Vanilla Essence

Vanilla essence can also be a vanilla bean paste alternative. But it’s important to note that essence contains little to no vanillin. This is because it’s produced using synthetic vanilla flavors.

If you’re short on stock, vanilla essence can work in a pinch. This is typically used in sweetened beverages like tea or soda. Vanilla essence is available in most grocery stores at affordable prices.

5. Maple Syrup

Surprisingly, maple syrup works as a replacement for vanilla bean paste. It tastes similar to vanilla except with a nutty aftertaste. It’s distinctly sweeter and has a thicker consistency.

Maple syrup is a natural flavor enhancer; you won’t notice a big difference. For substituting, you can follow the 1:1 ratio with vanilla bean paste and maple syrup. If you want to achieve the same vanilla color, we suggest using darker-colored maple syrup.

6. Almond Extract

If you don’t have any other forms of vanilla available, the next best thing you can use is almond extract. Almond extract is often overlooked, but it’s a worthy substitute. Regarding texture, it bears the same color and consistency as pure vanilla extract.

When used in recipes, the almond extract has a mild sweet taste similar to vanilla. The only difference is the slightly bitter aftertaste. But this usually goes undetected once you add other ingredients.

You can substitute almond extract for vanilla bean paste with a 1:1 ratio.

7. Honey

Honey is a surprising vanilla bean paste substitute, but it works. Both vanilla bean paste and honey have natural sweet flavors. This syrup definitely tastes sweeter and is thicker in consistency. It also has a mellow aroma compared to vanilla.

When it comes to recipes, you can replace vanilla bean paste with honey using the 1:1 ratio. Since honey is sweeter, we suggest doing a taste test. You can also use honey in place of vanilla when sweetening drinks.

8. Vanilla Ice Cream

Feel free to use vanilla ice cream when all else fails. You can use vanilla ice cream for baked goods, desserts, or beverages like soda. In fact, vanilla ice cream is a key ingredient when making cream soda.

You’ll get all the flavor, aroma, and added cream when using vanilla ice cream. It will help make your recipe creamier, frothier, and sweeter. Plus, its soft colors won’t affect the overall dish as much.

How Long Does Vanilla Bean Paste Last?

Store-bought vanilla bean paste can last up to three years. We recommend keeping it in their original containers. It’s also necessary to refrigerate the paste after you’ve opened it. This helps preserve its fresh quality and lengthens its lifespan.

Homemade vanilla bean paste has a shorter shelf life. Store it in an airtight container and keep it away from sun exposure. When stored properly, homemade vanilla bean paste can last up to a year.

If you’re making vanilla bean paste for later, store the vanilla beans properly. Please keep them in an airtight container and never refrigerate them. This will dry out the vanilla beans and encourage mold growth. Store the beans in the pantry and away from direct heat, sunlight, or humidity.

What Is The Texture Of Vanilla Bean Paste?

Vanilla bean paste combines vanilla bean powder and pure vanilla extract. It has a liquid consistency that’s thicker than the extract. The paste also has a dark brown color and visible seed flecks. When it comes to texture, maple syrup is a close comparison.

What Does Vanilla Bean Paste Taste Like?

Like all vanilla varieties, vanilla bean paste has a classic vanilla flavor. It’s a combination of sweet and smokey tastes with hints of caramel. Due to added sugar, vanilla bean paste is also notably sweeter than vanilla extract.

Vanilla bean paste is also known for its rich aroma. The scent of vanilla is floral, sweet, and incredibly unique. You’ll instantly sense that it’s vanilla when you sniff the paste. It complements other ingredients well and elevates the flavor of any dish.

Uses Of Vanilla Bean Paste

Vanilla bean paste is best used when you want the spice to dominate the recipe. The visible seed flecks also add a gourmet look to any dish. It’s worth mentioning that the paste is more affordable than whole vanilla beans. Here are six ways how to use vanilla bean paste in the kitchen:

Baked Goods

Vanilla bean paste is commonly used in baked goods. It’s an essential ingredient in butter cakes and chocolate chip cookies. There are two main ways of adding the paste when baking.

One way is to add vanilla bean paste directly into the batter. Another way is to infuse the paste’s flavors with the liquid ingredients first. Mix vanilla bean paste with milk or cream before adding it to the batter. The spice adds an extra layer of sweetness and intensifies the baked aroma.

Sauces

If you want a pro cooking tip, add vanilla bean paste to brown butter sauces. Infuse the vanilla bean paste in melted butter. Stir the sauce until the paste thoroughly mixes with the sauce. This gives the butter a thicker consistency and adds a sweet taste.

Vanilla bean paste also enhances the smoky flavors without the risk of burning the sauce. There’s also an improvement when it comes to the aroma. This is especially helpful when cooking carb-based dishes like baked potatoes or pasta.

Roasted Vegetables

You can also use vanilla bean paste to improve the flavor of roasted vegetables. Since vanilla is a warm spice, it pairs well with other warm spices like cinnamon, cumin, or anise. We recommend combining the paste with different herbs and coating the vegetables thoroughly.

As it roasts, the vanilla paste will intensify the sweet flavors of the vegetables. It will add another layer of caramelization, giving the veggies a brown glossy finish. After roasting, expect an intense vanilla aroma, making it savory and delicious.

Tropical Drinks

Vanilla bean paste is a popular addition to most beverages. It’s best paired with tropical drinks and milkshakes. Coconuts, bananas, and dragon fruits taste excellent with the paste’s sweet flavor. Vanilla bean paste is naturally sweet. It will also taste delicious with acidic fruits like lemons and oranges.
Vanilla paste is a must when it comes to making vanilla milkshakes. The paste will enhance the flavor, and the seed specks will also improve the look. We recommend trying it out with a chocolate milkshake to give the drink an aromatic boost.

Wine Substitute

Did you know that you can also use vanilla paste as an alternative to wine? In fact, you can use it as a substitute for some wine-based recipes. This includes risotto or tomato stews. To use as a substitute, mix a stock of your choice and 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste.

The spice will work the same as the alcohol. Its natural aroma and flavor will quickly infuse with the sauce. The smokey flavor coming from the vanilla also highlights the earthy undertones.

Flavor Enhancer

Vanilla bean paste is best used if you want its aroma and flavor to be the centerpiece of your dish. The spice is also a perfect contrasting ingredient with other flavors. For example, the paste can cut through acidity in thick sauces.

This is especially helpful in tomato sauces which are staples in Italian recipes. Vanilla bean paste can enhance maple syrup’s flavor as well. The smokey flavor tastes excellent with the sweet and nutty syrup.

Can You Make Vanilla Bean Paste At Home?

Yes, you can make vanilla bean paste at home. Mix vanilla powder, vanilla extract, and honey. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate after use. This will help it last for up to a month.

Where Can You Find Vanilla Bean Paste?

You can find vanilla bean paste in most grocery stores in the spice aisle.

Can You Skip Vanilla Bean Paste In A Recipe?

Yes, you can skip vanilla bean paste in a recipe as long as it’s optional. However, if it’s integral to the dish, we suggest keeping it or replacing it with a suitable substitute instead.

Why Is Vanilla Bean Paste So Expensive?

Vanilla bean paste is expensive because of the bean’s delicate harvesting process. Fortunately, the paste is less costly than whole vanilla beans. The purer the spice, the more expensive it is.

What’s The Difference Between Vanilla Bean Paste And Vanilla Extract?

The difference between vanilla bean paste and pure vanilla extract is its ingredients. The paste comes from vanilla powder and pure vanilla extract. Meanwhile, pure vanilla extract comes from water, alcohol, and vanilla beans.

Is Vanilla Bean Paste Better Than Extract?

No, because both are good alternatives for vanilla in recipes. However, the paste has a stronger and more intense vanilla flavor than the extract.

How Much Vanilla Extract Is Equal To Vanilla Bean Paste?

A teaspoon of vanilla extract equals a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste.

Can You Substitute Vanilla Bean Paste For Vanilla Powder?

Yes, you can substitute vanilla bean paste for vanilla powder. Remember to follow the same 1:1 ratio rule.

What Is The Best Substitute For Vanilla Bean Paste In Crème Brûlée?

Vanilla beans are the best vanilla bean substitute in crème brûlée for a more intense flavor.

What Is A Good Replacement For Vanilla Bean Paste In Pastry Cream?

In pastry cream, we recommend using pure vanilla extract. It has a more structured flavor than the broken-down particles of vanilla powder. You may also use vanilla beans or vanilla essence as a vanilla bean paste substitute.

Summary

Vanilla bean paste is a mixture of vanilla powder and pure vanilla extract. It has a thicker consistency than the extract and visible seed flecks. This paste is often used as a flavoring in desserts, beverages, or pastries.

If you don’t have vanilla bean paste, there are other alternatives you can use. Whole vanilla beans are the best vanilla bean paste substitute. Other worthy options are maple syrup, honey, and almond extract.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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