French Vanilla Vs. Vanilla – Top 5 Differences

vanilla ice cream

If you’ve ever shopped for ice cream or other vanilla desserts, you’ve probably noticed that there are two types: plain vanilla and French vanilla. And you’ve probably wondered about the differences between French vanilla vs. vanilla. Search no further – this article will break down French vanilla vs. vanilla for you! It will also cover what French vanilla is and what vanilla is, and analyze the top five differences so you never mistake the two again!


Table of Contents

What is Vanilla?

quart of vanilla bean ice cream

Vanilla is the fruit of orchid in the genus vanilla, which is commonly known as “vanilla bean.” It is the most basic flavor of ice cream and contains a base of sugar, cream, vanilla essence, milk, and salt.

Vanilla essence, which is an ingredient used in baking, is made when you use alcohol to soak vanilla beans in order to extract the natural flavors of vanilla.



What is French Vanilla?

quart of French Vanilla ice cream
French vanilla is a flavor in ice cream that is quite different from regular vanilla. Although it is also made from vanilla beans, this flavor’s other ingredients are what separates it from plain vanilla.

French vanilla ice cream includes egg yolk – which regular vanilla does not include – cream, milk, sugar, and salt. The egg yolk makes French vanilla ice cream appear somewhat yellowish. The egg yolk is used to provide the cream to the base, which makes French vanilla ice cream creamier in texture than regular vanilla ice cream. It is custard-based rather than cream-based.

More often than not, French vanilla is mistaken for vanilla beans produced in France. But the truth of the matter is that French vanilla ice cream was given its name because eggs are its prime ingredient.

French Vanilla is usually preferred over regular vanilla ice cream because of the richness and creamy texture base. While vanilla is soft and plain, French vanilla is notorious for having a stronger taste and scent.


Top 5 Differences Between French Vanilla and Vanilla

vanilla powder

The differences between French vanilla and vanilla lie within the base of the two flavors. They are very different from each other, and the differences are easily visible.

Here are the top five differences between French vanilla and vanilla:


The Color

French Vanilla ice cream is yellowish, while vanilla ice cream is white.


The Ingredients

French vanilla ice cream contains egg yolk, while vanilla ice cream does not contain any egg yolk.


The Base

French vanilla is custard-based ice cream; the vanilla flavor is cream-based.


The Heating Process

French vanilla ice cream requires heating in the process of preparation, but vanilla ice cream does not.


The Vanilla Flecks

In French vanilla ice cream, the vanilla flecks are strained out. In vanilla ice cream, the vanilla flecks are incorporated with the other ingredients.

Despite both being prepared with the same kind of vanilla beans, vanilla, and French vanilla ice creams are two completely different flavors. The main difference to remember is that French vanilla ice cream contains egg yolks while vanilla simply does not!


FAQs about French Vanilla and Vanilla

Do French vanilla beans exist?

No, French vanilla beans don’t exist. Vanilla beans come from orchids. Originally from Central America, there are now variations of vanilla orchids around the world. French Vanilla ice cream is made using the same vanilla beans used in vanilla ice cream, but it is prepared differently!


Is French vanilla better than vanilla?

French vanilla ice cream is richer and tastes more custard-like than plain vanilla because of the egg yolk incorporated in the ingredients. Most people tend to prefer French vanilla because of its rich and creamy texture and taste.


Why is French vanilla yellow?

French vanilla is yellow due to the egg yolks, which is why French vanilla ice cream has that pale yellow color.


Is vanilla really a bean?

A vanilla “bean” is actually the fruit of orchids in the genus Vanilla. So, basically, vanilla is an edible fruit of the orchid family and not really a “bean,” as the name implies!


What is real vanilla?

Pure vanilla extract is made when you soak ground vanilla beans in a solution of water and alcohol. If the label indicates that it’s “pure,” the extract must contain 13.35% vanilla bean solids and 35% alcohol. Anything that is not “pure” probably contains sugar or corn syrup to enhance the flavor of low-quality vanilla beans.


Final Thoughts

With vanilla and French vanilla flavors available as ice cream, iced drinks, pastries, and other desserts, it’s very normal to question the differences between the two. Most people don’t know the difference and assume that French vanilla was produced in France.

But the difference lies in the base of the ice cream and the ingredients used. Through this guide, you never have to question the difference between the two again! And you can even impress your family and friends with your knowledge the next time everyone is sitting around the table enjoying a vanilla dessert!


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Written by Laurie Graves

Laurie is a 50-something wife and boy mom, who loves to share easy recipes, DIY home ideas, and food hacks. She truly believes that with a little inspiration, anyone can make their home and meals feel special.