Vanilla Simple Syrup

Sweeten your coffee and cocktails with vanilla syrup. This easy and delicious simple syrup is the answer to homemade vanilla lattes and better cocktails.

vanilla syrup with a cutting board and vanilla beans

Homemade Vanilla Syrup recipe

Sometimes I get a hankering for an iced vanilla latte from my local coffee shop. (And probably a vanilla scone to go with it, let’s be real.)

But sometimes I don’t want to make the trek out to our nearest one. And sometimes I am worried they make it too sweet. And other times I simply would rather not pay for coffee, too!

If you’re like me, then you’ll love knowing how to make your own vanilla syrup in your own kitchen. It is perfect for recreating your favorite Starbucks drinks at home!

Here’s why you will love this easy vanilla syrup:

  • The recipe has only three ingredients. You probably have them in your kitchen already!
  • It’s very inexpensive to make. It will cost you less than two lattes!
  • You can make it in less than 10 minutes.
  • It keeps in the fridge for about a month, so you can make a big batch to enjoy all month long.
vanilla syrup with vanilla beans and a gold spoon

What is simple syrup?

Simple syrup is an easy-to-make liquid sweetener for drinks. Made with a mixture of sugar dissolved in water, this homemade syrup easily mixes into drinks because it is a liquified version of sugar.

It’s a great alternative to stirring in sugar or honey, which can take a long time to dissolve, especially in cold beverages like iced tea, iced coffee or lemonade.

Simple syrup also has culinary uses. It can be used as a dressing for fresh fruit salad or poured over ice cream. Bakers also brush it over cake layers before decorating to moisten them.

I love to make flavored simple syrups by adding infusions of herbs like rosemary or mint, but you can also add fruit, vegetables and spices.

sugar, water and vanilla extract

Ingredients in Vanilla Syrup

Vanilla syrup is made of just three simple ingredients: sugar, water and vanilla extract. Yes, that’s all you need to make your own version of Starbucks vanilla syrup!

Here’s a little more about what to grab at the grocery store:

Sugar

You can use any type of sugar for your vanilla syrup. I typically use cane sugar or granulated sugar, but brown sugar will also work.

Brown sugar will impart a caramel-like flavor and darker color, whereas white sugar will have a sugary sweetness and a clear color. For coffee and tea drinks, the color doesn’t matter as much, but for lemonade or cocktails, it might.

Feel free to use honey, demerara sugar or even a sugar substitute like stevia in lieu of sugar.

Water

I prefer to use filtered water for my simple syrups because it helps them last longer. You can use bottled water, tap water or the water from your fridge, also.

This recipe calls for a 1:1 ratio, so if you use 1 cup sugar, you will need 1 cup water.

vanilla pods wrapped in twine

Vanilla

There are four main types of vanilla that you can use in this recipe:

  • Vanilla pods: You can soak a real vanilla bean — sliced down the middle first — in your warm simple syrup for 30 minutes to impart the flavor of the vanilla beans tucked inside. However, keep in mind vanilla bean pods are expensive and sometimes hard to find.
  • Vanilla bean paste: Delicious (albeit expensive) vanilla paste is made of vanilla beans and has a dense vanilla flavor. You can use half as much paste as you’d use extract.
  • Vanilla extract: Common in many baking recipes, most people have vanilla extract on hand in their pantries. My go-to is Nielsen-Massey Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract, but any brand will work well.
  • Imitation vanilla: Either a colorless liquid or a brown one, imitation vanilla is simply a vanilla-flavored extract.

I find vanilla extract to be the simplest and best way to make vanilla syrup so I reach for this most often, but I like using vanilla pods when I have them. (Once used in syrup, you can add them to vodka to make your own vanilla extract.)

Using vanilla pods or vanilla paste will leave behind the little black flecks of vanilla bean seeds, which will float to the top of a beverage. It’s not a huge deal and can be quite pretty, but it’s something to keep in mind if you don’t like this look.

If you want a clear syrup, you should use granulated sugar and either vanilla pods or clear imitation vanilla.

vanilla beans and a bottle of vanilla syrup

Is vanilla syrup the same as vanilla extract?

No, vanilla syrup and vanilla extract are different. Vanilla syrup is a liquid sweetener that has vanilla extract mixed in.

Can you use vanilla extract instead of vanilla syrup?

No, you would not want to pour vanilla extract into a beverage. On its own, vanilla extract has a very strong aroma and flavor. It can sometimes even taste alcoholic since it contains alcohol.

Also, while vanilla extract is naturally sweet, it is not sweet enough to sweeten a drink or dessert.

That’s why making a quick simple syrup with vanilla extract is the best method for adding vanilla flavor to a beverage.

a black measuring cup pouring sugar into a pot of water on the stove

How to make vanilla simple syrup

Making vanilla bean syrup is so easy! Here’s what to do:

  1. Pour sugar and water into a small saucepan.
  2. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Don’t boil it.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract.
  4. You can use it immediately if desired. Let cool completely to room temperature before storing in a food-safe, airtight container. (I use mason jars with these lids for easy pouring.)

If you’re using whole bean vanilla pods: Use the tip of a sharp knife to make a slice lengthwise, but don’t cut all the way through, so the whole vanilla bean is butterflied. Place the pod in the syrup after it is removed from the heat. Let infuse for 30 minutes or until your desired flavor is achieved.

For a thicker, richer version of simple syrup, you can use a different ratio of sugar to water. Try 1 ½ cups of sugar to 1 cup water or 2 cups sugar to 1 cup water to make what’s called rich simple syrup.

Vanilla syrup substitute

If you’re in a pinch and don’t have time to whip up simple vanilla syrup, you can start with ¾ cup of maple syrup or agave nectar and stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

a cork in a bottle of vanilla syrup

How to use vanilla syrup

You can mix your own vanilla syrup into tons of drinks, both alcoholic cocktail recipes and non-alcoholic drinks. This will add the great flavor of vanilla to your drinks, both hot and cold.

Mix this homemade coffee syrup right into your freshly brewed cup of coffee in the morning to sweeten it. You can also use it in lattes and cappuccinos.

Cold coffee is the perfect palette for vanilla flavor. Try stirring it into cold brew coffee, an iced coffee or iced lattes.

You could even add your homemade vanilla coffee syrup to coffee and club soda to create a coffee soda, which is a delicious, bubbly, iced drink.

This vanilla syrup recipe works just as well in tea drinks, like chai lattes or iced chai. (I love this chai concentrate.) It’s also great with black tea or rooibos, or even in iced tea.

Aside from coffee and tea, there are lots more possibilities. Stir it into lemonade to make a lightly sweet vanilla lemonade.

You can use it in any cocktail that calls for simple syrup. My husband loves the vanilla syrup in old-fashioned cocktails.

It’s wonderful at the holidays too. Stir a few teaspoons into mulled wine, hot chocolate or apple cider. You can even gift a bottle to a friend who loves making coffee drinks at home.

vanilla syrup with a gold spoon

More coffee syrup recipes

If you like making your own coffee and tea drinks and cocktails at home, there are lots of ways to create coffee shop syrups in your own kitchen.

Have you ever noticed that stirring honey into a cold drink makes it seize up? Honey syrup is the answer and imparts its sweet, floral flavor into your drink with ease.

Infused with cinnamon sticks, cinnamon simple syrup is delicious when you are craving a little spice in your coffee.

Floral and fragrant lavender syrup is especially delicious in tea drinks.

In the fall, homemade pumpkin spice syrup makes the best pumpkin spice lattes.

a cork in a bottle of vanilla syrup

Vanilla Simple Syrup

Yield: ¾ cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Sweeten your coffee, tea and cocktails with this easy, 3-ingredient vanilla simple syrup. It's easy to double if needed!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (see note)

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Do not boil.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract.
  3. Store in a mason jar for up to one month.

Notes

Sugar: You can use any type of sugar for your vanilla syrup. I typically use cane sugar or granulated sugar, but brown sugar will also work. Feel free to use honey, demerara sugar or even a sugar substitute like stevia in lieu of sugar.

Brown sugar will impart a caramel-like flavor and darker color, whereas white sugar will have a sugary sweetness and a clear color. For coffee and tea drinks, the color doesn’t matter as much, but for lemonade or cocktails, it might.

Vanilla: There are four main types of vanilla that you can use in this recipe:

  • Vanilla pods: You can soak a whole vanilla bean sliced down the middle first — in your warm simple syrup for 30 minutes to impart the flavor of the vanilla beans tucked inside. However, keep in mind vanilla bean pods are expensive and sometimes hard to find.
  • Vanilla paste: With a dense vanilla flavor, delicious (albeit expensive) is made of vanilla beans. You can use half as much paste as you’d use extract.
  • Vanilla extract: Common in many baking recipes, most people have vanilla extract on hand in their pantries.
  • Imitation vanilla: A colorless liquid, imitation vanilla is simply a vanilla-flavored extract.

I find vanilla extract to be the simplest in this recipe so I reach for this most often, but I like using vanilla pods when I have them. (Once used in syrup, you can add them to vodka to make your own vanilla extract.)

Using vanilla pods or vanilla paste will leave behind the little black flecks of vanilla beans, which will float to the top of a beverage. It’s not a huge deal and can be quite pretty, but it’s something to keep in mind if you don’t like this look.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 ounce
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 69Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 0gSugar: 17gProtein: 0g

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Comments

  1. Claire says

    My kids love vanilla soda from the local Italian restaurant, but I never knew how easy the syrup was to make.
    Now we can have them at home!

  2. Rupali says

    Such a simple and beautiful recipe! I used it in milkshakes for the kids, and they loved it. I am going to try this in a martini for myself!

  3. Donna says

    This is so handy to have on hand, and so easy to make a batch! I have been loving this in my afternoon latte for a nice treat with a bit of a pick-me-up combination. Love it

  4. Kathleen says

    Another winning simple syrup of yours! Vanilla simple syrup, I am finding reasons to make things so I can use this delectable syrup!

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