Vanilla Sugar Is The 2-Ingredient Kitchen Staple With More Uses Than You Think

If you've ever followed a recipe that calls for whole vanilla beans, you've certainly seen the advice to bury the used vanilla pod in a container of sugar to use later. The very best vanilla beans are so fragrant they can continue to add subtle flavor even after they've been used, and since they don't come cheap, getting maximum use from them is the way to go. Plain white sugar makes a perfectly good ingredient for crafting vanilla sugar, but if you want to go all out, you can also try scenting a jar of rich demerara or raw sugar (or even a sugar substitute).

There's no formula for making vanilla sugar, you can add as many spent beans as you want to your container depending on how strong you'd like the vanilla flavor to be. A good starting point is a cup of sugar for each used bean. The more pods you add, the stronger the vanilla flavor will be. You'll find it takes a few weeks for your sugar to take on a full vanilla flavor. Although you can keep adding sugar to make up for what's used, that will dilute the strength of the vanilla essence if you don't add more beans.

Let your imagination guide you in using vanilla sugar

Once you've made some vanilla sugar you might be wondering how to use it — don't let that container get left behind in the corner of your pantry. Of course using vanilla sugar in recipes like chocolate chip cookies or other baked goods that already call for sugar and vanilla is a natural, but that's the tip of the iceberg. Imagine your next Old Fashioned stirred up with vanilla sugar that enhances the natural caramel notes of the whiskey. Or crunchy vanilla raw sugar sprinkled on your cinnamon toast or oatmeal for extra depth of flavor. It's perfect for sweetening your chai or coffee, too.

Don't limit your use to sweets; vanilla plays well on the savory side of the kitchen, too. A bit of vanilla sugar can be added to perk up the vinaigrette for an arugula and strawberry salad, bridging the bitter and sweet flavors nicely. For addictively delicious fries, do as some restaurants do and mix a teaspoon of vanilla sugar with a tablespoon of salt and shake it on — you'll love this on popcorn too.