Home Articles Vanilla vs. French Vanilla (What’s the Difference?)

Vanilla vs. French Vanilla (What’s the Difference?)

Vanilla vs. French vanilla- are they actually different?

Vanilla has been enjoyed by humans for centuries. Its rich and complex flavor compliments a wide range of dishes and treats. 

Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream Scoops in Bowl, Sticks of Dried Orchard Seed Pods on a Marble Table

You’ve probably heard of French vanilla too. Many assume it’s just another type of vanilla. Right? 


While they sound similar, there are significant differences between the vanilla flavors. And they can affect the taste of your dishes and desserts.

Time to explore the differences between vanilla vs. French vanilla. And you can decide which one you like best!

Vanilla vs. French Vanilla (What’s the Difference?)

Vanilla versus French vanilla has long been a topic of discussion for foodies. 

Both are delicious and make for stunning desserts, but they’re not the same. 


Vanilla has a strong, sweet, smooth flavor. The taste is often described as having notes of caramel and butterscotch. 

French vanilla has the same base flavor but with an added hint of egg custard. It’s almost creamy and much richer. 


Let’s talk ice cream. Because this is the only way you’ll notice differences in their appearances. 

Vanilla and French vanilla ice cream differ in color due to their bases. Plain vanilla has a sweet cream base. So, it’s as white as a snowflake. 

And French vanilla has an egg yolk custard base. So it has a pale yellow color, reminiscent of a sunny day. The egg yolks give it that extra oomph.

Also, French vanilla has black flecks from real vanilla beans. Plain vanilla has no such variation.  


Again, ice cream is the best way to differentiate between the two vanillas. 

As I mentioned earlier, vanilla ice cream uses a regular cream base. French vanilla uses an egg custard base.

Regardless of their style, both ice creams have loads of regular dairy and dairy substitutes. 

To flavor either base, manufacturers use real vanilla beans, vanilla extract, or artificial flavors.

Now, both flavors have transcended ice cream. After all, everyone uses vanilla extract. And you’ve definitely smelled candles in both aromas. 

But anything flavored “French Vanilla” will contain additives. These mimic the delicious custard base of French vanilla ice cream.

Point of Origin

Vanilla originates from Mexico, Africa, and Tahiti but is now grown around the world. 

But French vanilla doesn’t hail from France.

The term refers to the style of preparation that uses egg yolks. And that custard-making method does come from France.


Vanilla and French vanilla are found in ice cream, coffee creamers, and fragrances.

Both kinds of vanilla are added to sodas, candies, and baked desserts. Even perfumes. Vanilla makes everything taste (and smell) scrumptious! 

Whether you’re indulging in a creamy dessert or cream soda, vanilla adds a touch of sophistication and sweetness. 

Homemade Organic Vanilla Extract in a Small Corked Bottle

What Is Vanilla? 

Vanilla is an aromatic flavor known for its sweet, warm taste. 

It’s derived from the seed pods of a tropical orchid native to Mexico.

The Aztecs were the first to use vanilla beans as a flavoring agent. But, over time, it spread to other parts of the world. Thank goodness!

Today, vanilla is used in various forms, including extracts, powders, and whole beans. 

It’s widely used in baking and desserts to enhance the taste and aroma.

Vanilla Varieties

Despite being a popular flavor, vanilla is not as simple as it seems. 

There are different types of vanilla, each with its own distinguishing taste and aroma. Let’s explore the most popular kinds.


Madagascan vanilla is a popular ingredient in the culinary world because of its unique and distinct flavor profile. 

As with all vanilla, the Madagascan variety is sweet and creamy. Unlike other vanilla varieties, it tastes almost like tobacco with spicy and fruity undertones. 

Its texture is silky smooth, blending effortlessly into desserts, drinks, and sauces. 


Mexican vanilla is a coveted ingredient among bakers and chefs alike. 

It has a rich flavor profile with undertones of caramel and spice. It’s significantly more complex than the more commonly used imitation vanilla extract. 

The texture is velvety, adding a luxurious mouthfeel to any recipe.


Tahitian vanilla is known for its flowery, fruity, and delicate flavors. It’s been said to taste like cherry, chocolate, and licorice.  

Tahitian vanilla has a creamy and supple texture, which pairs perfectly with its complex taste. 

This type of vanilla is primarily used in desserts like ice cream, custards, and pastries. It is also popular in beverages like coffee and tea. 

It adds a subtle yet distinct flavor that enhances the overall taste experience. 

Tahitian vanilla is also used in perfume-making because of its floral notes. Also, it is commonly used in aromatherapy for its calming properties.

French Vanilla Ice Cream Scoop in a Bowl Garnished with Fresh Mint Leaves

What Is French Vanilla? 

French vanilla is one of the most popular flavors of ice cream- and for good reason! 

French vanilla has a rich, velvet-like, and custardy taste.

This is because French vanilla ice cream is made with an egg yolk custard. It is French-style ice cream, thus the name. 

Traditionally, it’s made with vanilla beans imported from Madagascar. This gives it an almost spicy and more complex flavor profile. 

Which is why I prefer French vanilla to plain vanilla. Especially in ice cream. 

But it’s also delicious in coffee creamer and various other desserts! 

Do French Vanilla Beans Exist? 

Many people believe that French vanilla beans exist, but they do not.

It is, however, a common misconception. So, there’s no need to feel bad if you were one of the many.

French vanilla refers the flavor profile that includes vanilla, egg yolks, and sugar. 

And in truth, any variety of vanilla beans can be used. 

But that doesn’t change the fact that this flavor has captured the hearts of millions!

Vanilla vs. French Vanilla

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Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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