Zero waste vanilla sugar to replace vanilla essence

In an effort to be zero waste, I wanted to replace common vanilla essence with a vanilla flavouring that doesn’t come in plastic. The solution was to create it myself and this recipe really delivers: no waste, max taste!

Why vanilla sugar?

In short, vanilla sugar is regular sugar mixed and infused with vanilla. Being from France and Norway, this vanilla flavouring is all I’ve ever known. However, as with vanilla essence, we also by them pre-made in plastic. So I found this recipe on many different Norwegian blogs (all with slight variations on dosages) and it is brilliant.

Why not homemade vanilla essence?

I looked into making homemade vanilla essence, but it takes months to infuse, and I was not blessed patience at birth.

Also, recipes for vanilla essence relies on alcohol, which I’m pretty sure would be impossible to find in bulk. How cool would that be though!?

In my experience, every time I’ve replaced vanilla essence with vanilla sugar it has worked flawlessly. So as usual, I chose the easiest solution.

MELBOURNE TIP: I found my vanilla pod in bulk at Friends of the Earth in Fitzroy – a must-try shop for everyone keen on spices, herbs and other oddities in bulk. They even had tofu, dried noodles and tortilla chips in bulk!

I also have a vague recollection that The Source Bulk Shop had vanilla pods in store once.

Vanilla sugar

Prep: 10 min // Yields: 200 g


1 vanilla pod, whole
200 g white granulated sugar


Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise in half. Then, with the same knife, scrape off the vanilla paste (which is the soft part inside the pod). Add the paste to your blender.
Keep the empty vanilla pod. This empty pod won’t be eaten but added later to the finished product to infuse the sugar with extra taste.

Add the sugar to the vanilla in the blender. Blend for 1-2 minutes, or until it’s mixed evenly. Transfer to an airtight container together with the empty vanilla pod (I chopped the vanilla pod in smaller pieces as in the picture above, but it is not necessary).

Ta-da – that’s it! The sugar can be used straight away, but keep in mind it will infuse and intensify in taste with time.

Tips & notes

HOW MUCH SUGAR INSTEAD OF ESSENCE? In general, vanilla essence is more concentrated than vanilla sugar, so I usually double the amount. However, I’ve always felt vanilla flavouring is a bit like salt and pepper, everyone likes different intensities, to add to taste.