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Ask a Foodie: What Is Vanillin?

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Q. I was given some vanillin sugar recently. What is it? And how do I use it?  –Judy

A. The thought behind vanillin was to produce a powdered version of vanilla.

The food dictionary at says there are two types of vanillin:  “Natural vanillin is a substance intrinsic to the vanilla bean, whereas artificial vanillin is made from wood-pulp by-products.”

The artificial variety is often included in what is sold as vanillin sugar. According to the Nordic Recipe Archive, “Vanillin sugar is slightly bitter in taste. It is added to foods only in small amount (usually 1 – 2 teaspoons per a batch of batter, dough, etc. ). It should be added to custards and sauces that are cooked on stovetop no sooner than just after cooking, otherwise it will turn bitterer.”

The following is a recipe for muffins that uses vanillin sugar as a dusting powder after the muffins have been baked. You could also use it on cereal or to dust lightly other dishes to which you want an added vanilla flavor.

Strawberry Muffins

1 cup strawberries, hulled, halved
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups almond meal (also sold as almond flour)
1/2 cup flour
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled
Vanillin sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffins pan.

Place strawberries on a large plate and use a potato masher to crush.

Place the egg whites and vanilla bean paste in a large bowl and whisk until just frothy. Using a coarse sieve, sift over the powdered sugar, almond meal and flour. Add the melted butter and crushed strawberries and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Divide the mixture among prepared muffin holes and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until muffins are golden and a skewer inserted into the centers comes out clean.

Stand in the pans for 3-4 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool. Dust with vanillin sugar before serving.

Adapted from

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One Response to “Ask a Foodie: What Is Vanillin?”

  1. Christi B says:

    I would add that it’s easy enough to make your own vanilla sugar by placing vanilla beans in a container of sugar to “steep”. This not only keeps the beans from drying out but also flavors the sugar pleasantly without the fake flavor of artificial vanillin…