Three scoops of vanilla ice cream with two crossed vanilla beans in a blue bowl rests on a sand-colored hand-towel in front of some daisies.

Vanilla Vs Vanilla Bean Vs French Vanilla Ice Cream — What’s The Difference?

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There are many ice cream flavor options you can choose from. But even if vanilla ice cream is the only ice cream flavor you like, you still have a few options. You can get vanilla, vanilla bean, and French vanilla ice cream. 

What are the differences between vanilla, vanilla bean, and French vanilla ice creams? French vanilla ice cream has an egg yolk base, while the other two have a cream base. Vanilla bean ice cream contains vanilla bean specks, but the other two varieties are usually flavored with vanilla extract.

Time to compare the ingredients, preparation methods, flavor, and consistency of vanilla, vanilla bean, and French vanilla ice creams! To make this less confusing, we’ll also cover basic information about vanilla and its available forms. 

What Is Vanilla?

Vanilla is the fruit of tropical climbing orchids. It grows in the shape of long dark brown pods, which are filled with lots of tiny seeds. The seeds are extracted from the pods and used as a flavoring agent for various preparations. 

Vanilla was once considered an exotic ingredient. Today, vanilla and vanilla-derived products are widely available in all parts of the world. You can find vanilla beans, vanilla paste, vanilla powder, and vanilla extract in online and in person stores. 

This aromatic ingredient is mostly used in baking and confectionery. You can also use vanilla in the preparation of various hot and cold drinks as well as in the making of savory sauces. 

There are different types of vanilla beans depending on where they grow, which all have different flavor notes.

Most Common Types Of Vanilla And How They Taste

  1. Madagascar vanilla – Madagascar (or Madagascan) vanilla is also known as bourbon vanilla. This vanilla bean variety is known for its rich, creamy, and sweet flavor. Madagascan vanilla also has mildly spicy notes. 
  2. Mexican vanilla – Mexican vanilla has a bold flavor. It is smokey and rich with notes of cinnamon, chocolate, black pepper, and nutmeg. 
  3. Tahitian vanilla – Unlike Madagascan and Mexican vanilla, Tahitian vanilla is fruity and floral. It is sweet with hints of spicy flavor. 

Common Vanilla Byproducts

Vanilla is available in many forms. It is best to get vanilla in the bean form, as vanilla beans are highly aromatic and flavorful, but real vanilla beans are rather expensive and not as widely available as vanilla byproducts. 

Vanilla byproducts make it easy to add vanilla flavor to various recipes. They also make this product more accessible for both professional and amateur cooks and bakers. 

Most Popular Vanilla Byproducts Made From Vanilla Beans

  1. Vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is the most popular vanilla bean byproduct used in baking and confectionery. It is made by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol. It is best to get vanilla extract without any additives – only vanilla beans, alcohol, and water.  
  2. Vanilla bean paste. Vanilla bean paste is a lot thicker than vanilla extract. It contains the seeds scraped from the vanilla pods and has a very intense vanilla flavor. Vanilla bean paste has a sugar-water base. 
  3. Vanilla powder. Real vanilla powder is a dark brown powder made from ground vanilla beans. It is very potent and is best used for baking. 
  4. Vanilla syrup. Vanilla syrup is a syrup made with vanilla extract. It is best used for preparing various drinks

Vanilla Vs Vanillin 

If you have ever come across vanillin, you probably wondered what it is and how it’s different from vanilla. 

Vanillin is an organic compound that is just one of the molecules that create the complex flavor of vanilla. It is a white, crystalline powder that provides flavor and aroma similar to vanillin.

In short, vanilla contains vanillin, but vanillin does not always come from vanilla. Similar to vanilla flavor, vanillin can be both natural and synthetic. 

Natural Vs Imitation Vanilla

Whenever you are purchasing vanilla byproducts, try to get ones made with natural vanilla rather than imitation vanilla.  

Imitation vanilla is made from artificial vanillin. The flavor of imitation vanilla is not as deep and complex. High temperatures cause the flavor of fake vanilla to degrade, too, which is another reason to avoid using it in baking. 

Products made from natural vanilla are obviously pricier, but real vanilla products have a very strong flavor and you need to use only a little of them. It’s worth buying extracts, syrups, and powders that contain natural vanilla beans. 

Different Types Of Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla is one of the most popular ice cream flavors. Different types of vanilla may be used to give ice cream unique vanilla flavors. As a result, the vanilla ice creams you see in stores have different labels. 

Though the French weren’t the ones to invent ice cream, they were the first to use vanilla to flavor ice cream. Vanilla ice cream was then introduced to the United States by Thomas Jefferson.

Gradually, vanilla ice cream became popular in different parts of the world. Now, vanilla ice cream is the most eaten ice cream flavor in the world!

Here are the most common types of vanilla ice creams based on how they are labeled and what vanilla product has been used to make them:

  1. Vanilla ice cream
  2. Vanilla bean ice cream
  3. French vanilla ice cream

Some ice creams may be labeled as “artificially flavored” if artificial vanilla has been used to make them. Some brands also label their vanilla ice cream as vanilla-flavored ice cream, which is essentially the same as vanilla ice cream. 

What Are The Differences Between Vanilla, Vanilla Bean, And French Vanilla Ice Cream?

If you love vanilla ice cream and it’s the first thing you reach for whenever you’re in the ice cream aisle, you’ve definitely noticed the different types of vanilla ice cream you can get, and you probably love them all.

So, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Is there a difference between vanilla, vanilla bean, and French vanilla ice cream? Let’s find out!


The most common ingredients used in the preparation of vanilla and vanilla bean ice cream are cream, whipping cream, milk, sugar, and various sweeteners. The ingredient list may vary from brand to brand. 

The difference between French vanilla ice cream and other types of ice cream doesn’t have anything to do with the key ingredient, vanilla. 

What makes French vanilla ice cream different is that it contains egg yolks along with the typical ice cream ingredients. The egg yolks in the base of French vanilla ice cream affect the flavor, texture, and color of this ice cream. 

Commercially manufactured vanilla ice cream may also contain preservatives and various additives, including flavor and texture enhancers. 

Types Of Vanilla

Vanilla, vanilla bean, and French vanilla ice creams are all flavored with vanilla, but not necessarily the same type. Check the ingredient list to find out what type of vanilla flavoring your ice cream contains.

Vanilla bean ice cream contains vanilla seeds and sometimes ground vanilla bean pods. While the pods are not as aromatic as the seeds, they give vanilla bean ice cream its signature speckled look. Vanilla bean ice cream can also contain artificial or natural vanilla flavoring.

Regular vanilla and French vanilla ice creams may contain artificial or natural vanilla flavoring. Unlike vanilla bean ice cream, there is no need to have vanilla specks in French vanilla ice cream. 

As noted earlier in this article, vanilla beans are named after the places they come from. This is why some people think that French vanilla ice cream is vanilla ice cream made with vanilla beans originating from France. 

This is not true, as the word ‘French’ in the name of vanilla ice cream implies that it is made in the French way of making ice cream, i.e., with an egg yolk base. 


Vanilla ice cream and vanilla bean ice cream taste similar despite the fact that the first one is flavored with vanilla extract while the second is made with vanilla seeds. 

The flavor of vanilla beans, however, is more intense compared to the flavor of vanilla extract. This may be the reason why many people claim that vanilla bean ice cream has a brighter, deeper vanilla flavor

Even if you are not able to taste the difference between naturally and artificially flavored vanilla ice cream, or vanilla ice cream and vanilla bean ice cream, you’ll most likely notice how different French vanilla ice cream tastes. 

Thanks to the egg yolks used in the preparation of this ice cream, French vanilla ice cream has a custard-like flavor. The more egg yolks the manufacturer adds into their French vanilla ice cream, the more prominent its custard flavor will be. 


Vanilla, vanilla bean, and French vanilla ice creams all look slightly different. 

Regular vanilla ice cream has a creamy off-white or beige color. Vanilla bean ice cream comes in similar shades, but should have black specks in it. 

In the highest-quality vanilla bean ice cream, these black specks are the actual vanilla bean seeds. Some brands may also use the ground vanilla shell instead of the pods to provide the authentic look of vanilla bean ice cream. 

French vanilla ice cream has a pale yellow color as there are egg yolks in it. The more egg yolks you add to the base of French vanilla ice cream, the yellower it will be.  

Now, you might be wondering why all types of vanilla ice cream are shades of white and yellow if vanilla beans themselves have a dark color. 

Most of the time, vanilla extract is used to flavor ice cream. While vanilla extract does have a dark brown color, it is very potent.

It is added to ice cream mixtures in very small amounts compared to the amount of white ingredients used in the making of ice cream, including milk and cream.


The consistency of regular vanilla and vanilla bean ice creams is similar; the only difference is that you may feel the bean particles in vanilla bean ice cream. 

Compared to the other vanilla ice creams, the consistency of French vanilla ice cream is richer and smoother thanks to the egg yolk base. 


Vanilla ice cream is commonly made by combining cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract. The exact method of preparation will vary from brand to brand. 

Vanilla bean ice cream is prepared in a similar manner to regular vanilla ice cream, but instead of vanilla extract, manufacturers add vanilla seeds. 

Unlike vanilla or vanilla bean ice cream, French vanilla ice cream has a very specific method of preparation. 

Similar to regular vanilla ice cream, natural or synthetic vanilla flavoring can be used for French vanilla ice cream. The ingredient that must always be present in French vanilla ice cream, but not the others, is egg yolks. 

To make French vanilla ice cream, manufacturers first make a custard base for the ice cream using egg yolks. 

The method of preparation of vanilla and French vanilla ice cream reveals one of the key differences between them. Vanilla ice cream, along with vanilla bean ice cream, has a cream base. French vanilla ice cream has an egg yolk base. 


Eating vanilla ice cream right out of the tub is probably the easiest way to enjoy it, but there are many other uses for vanilla ice cream, whether it’s regular vanilla, vanilla bean, or French vanilla ice cream. 

  1. Milkshakes. Making a milkshake is one of the best ways to use different types of vanilla ice cream. You can customize the flavor of your drink by adding various ingredients, including berries, cookies, coffee, cocoa powder, cinnamon, whipped cream, etc. 
  2. Ice cream sandwiches. You can use your favorite type of vanilla ice cream and cookie to make ice cream sandwiches. We love to use chocolate chip cookies, but you can use your cookie of choice as vanilla ice cream pairs nicely with nearly all cookies. You can also use waffles to make ice cream sandwiches!
  3. Coffee. If you are craving something sweet and refreshing, try iced coffee with some vanilla ice cream. Pouring hot coffee over vanilla ice cream is always a good idea, too — affogato, anyone?
  4. Desserts. Vanilla ice cream is a dessert in and of itself, but also an essential addition to other desserts. Serve a ball of vanilla ice cream alongside brownies, apple strudel, or lava cake. You can also make ice cream cakes using your favorite type of vanilla ice cream!

Which One Is Best: Vanilla, Vanilla Bean, or French Vanilla Ice Cream? 

You are probably wondering which one is best: vanilla, vanilla bean, or French vanilla ice cream. There isn’t a definite answer to this question as it all depends on your preferences!

The flavor of regular vanilla ice cream is plainer compared to the other two, and it doesn’t have such a rich and creamy mouthfeel as French vanilla ice cream, but it partners well with other desserts. 

If you like a richer flavor and smoother texture with a custardy feel, go with French vanilla ice cream. 

If you don’t want any egg yolks in your ice cream, or want something lighter with a bright vanilla flavor, go with vanilla bean ice cream. Vanilla bean ice cream is also the best vanilla ice cream to get if you want a treat made with real vanilla. 

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