What’s the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?

There is not one single standard recipe for making vanilla ice cream. In fact, there are many different kinds of vanilla ice creams that vary in taste, texture, and color. Vanilla can be made into a variety of different flavors and the ingredients can vary with some being made from just the vanilla bean or other materials such as sugar or egg whites.

As only a few people control the manufacturing side of vanilla ice cream, variations come about through personal preferences and ingredients’ availability. This makes it hard to give an exact answer to what exactly makes up a particular type of French Vanilla but you will also find many types without this designation on the label too.

Vanilla and Vanilla Ice Cream

Actually, there is no such thing as Vanilla Ice Cream. The name was introduced in the early 1900s and has stuck ever since. The only recipe for vanilla ice cream that exists is for French Vanilla (i.e., vanilla flavored) ice cream. In the early 1900s, vanilla extract was an expensive ingredient of cooking but came into being in 1860 from Madagascar through the work of Dutch-Belgian chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul. Because of its high cost, vanilla was only used when making sauces or beverages and not for foodstuffs such as desserts, so-called ice creams were not even thought of. So the first mention of vanilla ice cream in print is in a USA recipe book published in 1896, which called for vanilla ice cream to be made by adding two envelopes of vanilla extract to a tub of half-and-half with sugar and egg yolks. The name appears twice – on page 180 and page 181.

What I want to know is why are they even still calling it French Vanilla when it’s not made do vanilla beans? Because that’s what the recipe says, doesn’t mean anything! It doesn’t say it’s from a French Vanilla Bean; it says: “5 teaspoons Vanilla Extract”… so if you have 5 teaspoons then you’re saying it’s from vanilla extract… typical American naming conventions… Oh well.

French Vanilla Ice Cream

Soon after this, the term French Vanilla began to be used as a description of ice cream from a French style recipe. At this point in time, vanilla extract was still very expensive meaning that only people with a fair amount of wealth were able to eat or purchase such luxuries as vanilla flavored foods and drinks. This is why French vanilla ice cream was considered an exclusive treat for those who could afford it.

Ingredients for Making Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream

There are three kinds of ingredients that can be used to make ice cream; milk, cream, and egg yolks, which can be combined with other flavoring ingredients. Vanilla ice cream is made using only milk and cream with no egg yolks. When they use eggs it’s called French vanilla or custard ice cream.

Milk and Cream

Pure vanilla extract makes up the bulk of the flavoring in a recipe for vanilla ice-cream, but this does not mean that the only ingredients are milk and sugar. A custard base can also be used to make vanilla ice cream; this is achieved with eggs as well as sweeteners such as corn syrup, sugar, or honey. Even though most types of ice-cream flavors are not made using egg yolks, they will still contain some kind of sweetener. Here is a typical recipe for vanilla ice cream.


3 cups of whole milk

1 cup of sugar (can use brown sugar instead)

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Eggs to the weight of the milk: 7 yolks and 3 whites


Mix all ingredients together with an electric mixer or whisk until smooth and without lumps. Cook mixture in a double boiler, or carefully in a saucepan over medium heat until custard coats back of spoon. Stir constantly, and do not boil longer than 8 minutes. Cool completely. Wait until it is completely chilled and then churn ice cream in an ice cream maker for about 15 minutes or until it is smooth and creamy.

Vanilla Beans

The most common ingredient in all modern recipes for French vanilla is the vanilla bean. Vanilla beans are the pods of a tropical vine native to Mexico. The seeds of the vanilla bean are pressed out and left to dry before being sold and used as flavoring. It is thought that the word vanilla comes from the Spanish word “bavol” which was derived from “vainilla” which means “little pod” or “little sheath”. The word vanilla has roots in South American Spanish, but it is also found in languages such as Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian. The word vanilla originated in Europe and was introduced to the Americas by Marco Polo in the 13th century.

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The aroma of vanilla beans is said to be pleasant, sweet and delicate, with a slightly warm, dark flavor. The flavor of vanilla extract is very similar to that of the pods themselves; they both taste like fresh baked cookies with cream. Vanilla seeds are larger than the pods and have a much more intense flavor, but this is what is used in most recipes for French vanilla ice cream.

Only 15% of all vanilla beans sold today are actually grown in Madagascar, although it has been suggested that this percentage might be closer to 11%. Madagascar’s natural vanilla-growing climate is tropical, which allows all of its vanilla to be grown on plantations that are run by smallholder farmers. All together the world produces roughly 1,750 tons of vanilla beans each year. This makes it the second most expensive spice in the world; the first being saffron.

Vanilla Extract

Many different extracts can be used as flavoring for ice cream; some common ingredients are almond, coconut and peppermint, but many people use vanilla extract as it gives a good flavor and is very easy to find. Vanilla extract is made by steeping vodka or rum into fresh cut or dried vanilla pods for at least 6 months. It is then left to mature in a barrel for at least another 6 months before it is bottled.

There are two different types of vanilla extract that can be used, one being made with actual vanilla pods and the other made with synthetic vanillin. The difference between the two extracts is the way they smell; real vanilla extract has a very strong and fresh aroma while artificial vanillin has a sweet odor. The biggest difference between the two extracts though is that real vanilla extract contains at least 35% alcohol, which helps to preserve it – synthetic vanillin does not have any alcohol in it so instead artificial vanillin needs to have chemical preservatives added to it otherwise it will spoil.

Tack “French” onto anything’s name and it automatically sounds fancier: French wine, French cheese, etc. People often assume (consciously or unconsciously) that French vanilla is higher quality than regular ol’ vanilla. However, that’s not necessarily the case—in fact, it’s not even from France.

Vanilla vs. French Vanilla Ice Cream

“French vanilla” is not a type of vanilla bean (like Tahitian or Madagascar varieties), it’s an ice cream-making method. The base of French vanilla ice cream contains egg yolks, and traditionally, the base of plain vanilla ice cream does not (this yolk-less version is also called “Philadelphia-style”). However, that doesn’t mean that every carton of plain vanilla ice cream you see on the freezer aisle is void of egg yolks—so keep that in mind if you’re shopping for someone with an egg allergy.

French Vanilla Flavor

Because of the egg yolks, French vanilla ice cream tastes richer and more custard-like than its plain vanilla counterpart.

While the French vanilla label technically only applies to ice cream, many products—like coffee creamer—are French vanilla-flavored. This means that the vanilla tastes rich, caramelized, eggy, and has a custardy flavored finish.

The Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream

Yes, there is a difference between the two varieties, but it’s not what you might think — it actually has nothing to do with the vanilla itself. What makes French vanilla “French” is that the base for the ice cream contains egg yolks, while the base for regular vanilla ice cream does not. The egg yolks lend a pale-yellow color to French vanilla ice cream and also gives it a richer, smoother consistency and mouthfeel.

On the other hand, vanilla ice cream doesn’t contain egg yolks, so it has a paler, whiter look. This type of vanilla ice cream can also be called Philadelphia-style, although it’s rare you’d see that written on the label of your favorite pint. Depending on the brand, either real vanilla beans or vanilla extract can be used to flavor both styles of ice cream.

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Which variety you go for is really just a matter of preference. Since I grew up with French vanilla, the richer consistency is what I am most used to and what I now reach for these days. Regardless, both kinds of vanilla make for seriously good sundaes.

Is it me, or has ice-cream seen a resurgence in popularity recently? For a while, it seemed all the rage was for fancy frozen yogurt shops, and their infinite number of topping combinations. I was never a fan of frozen yogurt so I, for one, couldn’t be happier that ice-cream returned to the limelight.

Here in San Francisco, there seems to be an ice-cream parlor, stand, pop-up, creamery, or what-have-you in every neighborhood. What’s great about it (other than the convenient accessibility for whenever the mood strikes) is that all the ice-cream shops in my hometown all have their own charm, ranging from the classic nostalgia of Fentons and Mitchell’s, all the way to the hipster-flavor-chic of Bi-Rite or Mr and Mrs Micellaneous. We’re even making waves here; Smitten formulates their ice-cream with liquid nitrogen, while Humphry Slocombe is releasing a highly anticipated recipe book.

But, how does that really affect me and my relationship with ice-cream, or yours for that matter? Trying new flavor combinations and seeing all the interesting things these folks are doing to rekindle the love for this frozen delight is amazing, and sometimes mind-palate-blowing. But for me, in the kitchen, I’ll always go back to my favorite: vanilla. I guess you could say I’m old fashioned that way.


– 1 cup milk

– 1/2 cup sugar

– 2 eggs, beaten

– 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out

– 1 cup heavy whipping cream

– 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

– 1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla seeds and pod. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture slightly thickens, enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 4-6 min).

2. Remove pan from heat, pass the egg mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another medium sauce pan (or large bowl). Discard the vanilla pod. Stir in the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract.

3. Cover and refrigerate mixture until chilled, then freeze mixture in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

4. Wasn’t that easy? Now go eat!

Which is better vanilla or vanilla bean ice cream?

French vanilla, because it’s made with eggs which makes it denser. Standard vanilla is whipped egg whites with a little vanilla added. French vanilla is like eating the filling of a crème brulee or a pancake-house style French toast.

Does Vanilla Ice Cream have eggs in it? I always thought that Vanilla Ice Cream was made only with milk and sugar but then I was told that it has eggs and I was also told that if you make ice cream without adding eggs, you can use real Vanilla Beans to flavor the ice cream ?

Yes, French vanilla ice cream does have eggs in it, so the consistency is more creamy and rich than regular ice cream (which doesn’t contain any eggs). If you want to make ice cream without eggs, you’ll need to make a Philadelphia-style vanilla.

Is vanilla bean ice cream same as vanilla?

French vanilla is the same as regular vanilla, but you add egg yolks to the cream. This will give it a richer taste.

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Where can I find pure vanilla beans?

You can buy pure vanilla beans at your local supermarket (look for the little yellow boxes on the shelf). If you’re in a hurry, you can also buy them online. Just be careful to make sure that they’re fresh and not dried out as they age quickly!

If you’re having trouble locating vanilla beans at your local grocery store, a smaller independent grocery store may have them. Also, many supermarkets carry them and are put in the baking aisle by the spices. You may also ask the baker for some if you don’t find them at your local supermarket.

What is the difference between French vanilla and regular vanilla ice cream?

There is no difference between french vanilla and regular vanilla ice cream, unless you count that french vanilla does indeed include egg yolks which make it a bit more luxurious. With more eggs in it, french vanilla has a slightly yellowish tint than standard vanilla. However, both are delicious! There’s also a big difference between french whipped vs store bought whipped cream.

How do you make vanilla ice cream with a vanilla bean?

To make vanilla ice cream with a vanilla bean, you first need to split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds from inside and put them (the seeds) into a saucepan with the rest of your ingredients. Stir. Now there are two ways to make it: 1) you can use an egg yolk to thicken it up, or 2) just let it simmer until it is thick enough that when you hold up the spoon, it coats the back (see picture below). Once it’s done, take it off heat and pass through a fine strainer into another pot. Add your heavy cream and stir. It is ready to freeze now. To make vanilla ice cream in an ice cream maker, follow instructions on your ice-cream maker.

What kind of vanilla bean is used for vanilla extract?

The main variety of vanilla bean used for making vanilla extract is the Madagascar Bourbon Variety. This one has a large pod and strong flavor. So far, it’s the best variety discovered so far. However, other varieties include Mexican and Tahitian.

What is the difference between pure vanilla extract and imitation?

Imitation vanilla includes alcohol and artificial flavors in its recipe, while real pure vanilla extracts only contain alcohol and water. Pure vanilla is also made from real natural ingredients unlike imitation, which includes artificial ingredients. And because of this fact alone, pure vanilla will have a much better taste than imitation.

What is the difference between old-fashioned vanilla and vanilla bean ice cream?

Old-fashioned vanilla is made with pure vanilla extract, while regular vanilla bean ice cream is made with pure vanilla extract and real vanilla beans.

What is vanilla extract made out of?

Vanilla extract is a liquid form of vanilla. It’s made out of water, alcohol, and vanillin (the chemical responsible for the “vanilla flavor”) from the tiny vanilla bean seeds. When you look at it on the label, it should also say that it’s made from “pure vanilla” beans as well. This just means that the contents are 100% natural with no artificial flavors or colorings added. It may also contain other ingredients such as glycerin or corn syrup (these are used to preserve the product).

How much is a cup of ice cream in ounces?

Depending on the type of ice cream you’re looking at, it will range between 200 – 350 grams (7 to 12 ounces). On average, the amount of ice cream in a cup is around 250 grams which translates to approximately 8.82 fluid ounces. However, some brands offer more or less than that amount so remember to always read the labels.

What is the difference between vanilla French vanilla and vanilla bean ice cream?

There is no difference between vanilla French vanilla and regular vanilla ice cream, unless you count that french vanilla does indeed include egg yolks which make it a bit more luxurious. With more eggs in it, french vanilla has a slightly yellowish tint than standard vanilla. However, both are delicious! There’s also a big difference between French whipped vs store bought whipped cream.

Well, as you can see, there is a definite difference between vanilla bean vs extract. The main difference between the two is the fact that vanilla extract contains only alcohol and water with tiny amounts of vanillin and glycerin whereas vanilla beans contain actual seeds from the fruit. This means that flavoring made from real vanilla beans will taste much better and richer than extract. You will also notice this if you add real Vanilla Beans to a dish, like ice cream or custard or pudding.

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