vanilla vs french vanilla

Comparing French Vanilla vs Vanilla: Flavorful Differences

Key poins:

  • French Vanilla doesn’t refer to the type of vanilla bean or its origin but rather the method of ice cream production. 
  • French Vanilla ice cream contains egg yolks, giving it a richer, caramelized flavor and a yellow color compared to regular vanilla ice cream. 
  • The term “French Vanilla” often indicates a more luxurious and complex flavor profile, extending beyond ice cream to products like coffee and creamers. 

Not only does French Vanilla sound fancy, but you may have noticed that French vanilla ice cream tastes a little more luxurious than the regular kind. So, what makes this vanilla bean so special? There is actually no difference in the type of bean used for regular or French-inspired ice cream. Rather, the difference is in the ice cream making method.

Here, we uncover everything you’ve been wondering about that aromatic dessert spice, that isn’t really from France.

What Is French Vanilla?

The name does not refer to a variety of beans, nor to where it comes from. In fact, it does not even come from Europe. It refers to the classic French method of making ice cream from a custard base. As with regular ice cream, French vanilla ice cream can make use of any type of vanilla bean or extract to impart the spice flavor.

See more: Can dogs eat vanilla ice cream?

How Is French Vanilla Different From Regular Vanilla?

Regular ice cream, also referred to as frozen dessert or Philadelphia-style ice cream, is a combination of heavy cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla. This mixture has a pale white color. French vanilla ice cream on the other hand contains egg yolks, giving it not only a yellow tinge but also making it richer with a more caramelized, custard-like flavor.

The process involves beating the egg yolks and sugar before tempering the yolks. This prevents curdling when cooked with cream, milk, and vanilla. Churning the mixture freezes it without crystallizing the ingredients. It also incorporates air to give it a light and delicate texture.

What About French Vanilla Coffee?

The French-inspired ice cream method essentially indicates that the flavor is rich, caramelized, and velvety as opposed to just having a vanilla taste. Although this technically applies to ice cream making, the name has been carried over to other products to indicate an extra luxuriousness.

Many cafes that offer French Vanilla Lattes incorporate extra hazelnut flavored syrup in addition to vanilla to add a layer of complexity and richness.

Vanilla coffee refers either to coffee that incorporates the flavored syrup or to coffee beans that have been flavored during the roasting process.

To get a rich French vanilla flavor coffee at home, add an extra layer of depth by using a vanilla coffee creamer that incorporates condensed milk instead of regular milk. This gives it that extra caramelized luxury in addition to the spice taste.

Make your French-inspired creamer by mixing 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract with a can of condensed milk and 1 to 1.5 cups whole milk or evaporated milk. Make sure everything is very well combined and store it in the refrigerator, ready to use whenever you need to add a little extra pizazz to your coffee or tea.

See more: substitute for vanilla


How long will vanilla extract last?

Once opened and stored in a cool, dry place, the extract is best used within 5 years. It may last longer but the flavor will diminish and you probably shouldn’t be keeping anything in your pantry that long anyway.

Does Starbucks offer French Vanilla drinks?

Yes, Starbucks offers French Vanilla flavored drinks as part of their menu, such as the French Vanilla Cold Brew or French Vanilla Latte, which are often available seasonally or at select locations.

Why are some vanilla ice creams yellow and others white?

The color of vanilla ice cream can vary due to the type of vanilla used and whether any additional coloring agents are added. Natural vanilla ice cream is typically pale or off-white, while some commercial varieties may use artificial colorings to achieve a more vibrant yellow hue.


French vanilla neither refers to where the spice came from nor to the type of bean. It is a method of ice cream making that uses egg yolks to create a rich and luxurious flavor, texture, and color.

Although some products are given the French vanilla label just to make them sound a little fancier, this reference really should only be reserved for vanilla products that have an extra depth of flavor with rich, caramelized undertones.

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