Everyone takes their coffee differently, so when trying to impress a friend or meet the demands of a customer, what’s the difference between French vanilla and vanilla syrup?

The difference between French vanilla and vanilla syrup isn’t defined. United States’ current food guidance says a product labeled as a type of vanilla syrup must have a vanilla taste and a kind of sweetener. While there’s no direct rule about French vanilla usage, it’s understood that French vanilla syrup should be sweet, taste like vanilla, and have a custard-like or creamy flavor. 

Because the U.S. first marketed French vanilla flavoring, you don’t need to travel to the cafes of Paris to figure out what it means. Below we’ll explain what to consider when choosing between French vanilla and vanilla syrups, and how the FDA regulates their differences. 

What is French Vanilla and Vanilla Syrup? 

Producers reserve the French vanilla name for syrups and products that have a creamy, custard-like flavor, but is that truly the case?

Flavorings like French vanilla and vanilla syrup fall under the U.S. FDA oversight, but the organization doesn’t have a specific rule on what French vanilla means. Broadly, the FDA says producers cannot outright lie or misrepresent their foods in marketing. So when reading a French vanilla syrup ingredient list, expect some inconsistency as usage of the word isn’t legally enforced and is largely based on the producer.

French vanilla flavors have been around for a while and can be found in products beyond simple syrups. In coffee products, you can find French vanilla instant coffees or ready-to-brew cups of coffee. You’ll probably notice the French vanilla label on common sweet milk products like whipped creams, coffee creamers, and ice creams (notice a trend?)  

Defining vanilla syrup is simpler than french vanilla, because the FDA has definitions for imitation vanilla versus real vanilla extract in addition to sugars or artificial sweeteners. But how does that impact you at the grocery store or our coffee shop consumers? 

vanilla beans and vanilla flower

Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup

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4.5 out of 5
Vanilla Bean Simple SyrupVanilla Bean Simple Syrup
Features

Hand Crafted, Barista Tested, Syrups for Coffee, Tea, Cocktails. This Syrup is made with high quality Madagascar Vanilla. We leave a whole vanilla bean in the bottle to continuously infuse. NON-GMO.

Pros
  • Hand Crafted
  • Barista Tested
  • Infused with Vanilla Bean
  • NON-GMO
Cons

Monin Vanilla Syrup

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4.6 out of 5
Monin Vanilla SyrupMonin Vanilla Syrup
Features

Coffee drinkers looking for a flowery, French vanilla flavor will enjoy Monin’s French Vanilla. It adds a smooth taste that will level out your coffee whether you’re at home on the weekend or grabbing a pick-me-up before work. Unlike many French vanilla syrups, Monin’s French Vanilla clearly identifies its Madagascar source of vanilla. Although its custard flavoring isn’t clearly identified on the label, it’s a start! There syrups are always allergen-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, Halal, Kosher, and contain no artificial colors, flavors, ingredients, preservatives, sweeteners, and are non-GMO. Monin also supports bee colonies by sending waste syrup to feed bees since 2008, and has fed over 374 billion bees!

Pros
  • Pure Madagascar vanilla ensures high-quality, rich flavor to drinks and desserts
  • Distinctive and sweet vanilla extract aroma
  • Smooth, custard-like vanilla flavor
Cons
  • Price may be too expensive for some
  • Some may prefer other flavors

Torani Vanilla Syrup

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4.6 out of 5
Torani Vanilla SyrupTorani Vanilla Syrup
Features

Bring coffeehouse flavor to your home with Torani Vanilla Syrup for Coffee! One of the best selling syrups, Torani Vanilla Syrups provides the expected vanilla coffee flavor without question. Their ingredient list doesn’t explain what form of vanilla they’re using, so we don’t recommend this one for more than the price.

Pros
  • Creates homemade cafe-style favorites with one simple ingredient
  • Available in a variety of delicious flavors
  • Made with quality that is unparallelled
  • Transform drinks and baked goods with Torani's flavorful experience
  • Included syrup pump dispenses without a mess
Cons
  • Pump may not fit all 750 ml bottles
  • Unclear ingredients and sourcing

Mexican Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup

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4.9 out of 5
Mexican Vanilla Bean Simple SyrupMexican Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup
Features
  • Cane sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Vanilla beans

Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup is homemade and fresh to order. It is made with organic raw cane sugar, vanilla beans, and Mexican vanilla extract. This syrup comes in an 8oz eco-friendly plastic bottle. It is vegan, gluten-free, and natural. It can be added to hot and iced coffee, lattes, espresso, mochas, and hot cocoa.

Pros
  • Made with natural ingredients
  • Vegan
  • Gluten-free
Cons
  • Crystallization may occur

SAVA Madagascar Vanilla Bean Syrup

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3.6 out of 5
SAVA Madagascar Vanilla Bean SyrupSAVA Madagascar Vanilla Bean Syrup
Features

Sourced from Madagascar, Sava Syrup only uses farm-grown vanilla. A husband-and-wife living in Missouri created the company after living in Madagascar for several years and creating connections with Vanilla farmers. Their syrups use true vanilla beans sourced straight from the soils of Madagascar.

Pros
  • Made with 100% pure Madagascar gourmet vanilla beans
  • Organic cane sugar syrup
  • No artificial flavors, essences, or extracts
  • Add to coffee drinks, desserts, cocktails, and more
Cons

Pink House Alchemy Vanilla Simple Syrup

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4.5 out of 5
Pink House Alchemy Vanilla Simple SyrupPink House Alchemy Vanilla Simple Syrup
Features
  • Made with cane sugar, water, vanilla beans, vanilla extract, and lactic acid
  • Double-filter process for unparalleled depth of taste and velvety smoothness
  • Little black specks are treasured pieces of vanilla bean

Pink House Alchemy also sources its vanilla beans from Madagascar, meaning you don’t have to worry about what’s hiding in your coffee. Pink House Alchemy has created a versatile simple syrup that can be used in coffee, cocktails, and desserts.

Pros
  • Crafted from hand-selected Madagascar vanilla beans
  • Perfect for crafting tantalizing lattes, exquisite cocktails, and tempting non-alcoholic drinks
  • All-natural ingredients syrup
  • Guilt-free pleasure for all your culinary delights
  • Sweet, velvety indulgence in every bite
Cons
  • More expensive

French Vanilla Bean Coffee & Cocktail Syrup

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4.2 out of 5
French Vanilla Bean Coffee & Cocktail SyrupFrench Vanilla Bean Coffee & Cocktail Syrup
Features

Dial up your coffee and more with this delicious French Vanilla Bean Coffee & Cocktail Syrup. Try adding syrups to iced lattes, hot or iced teas, hot coffees, hot chocolates, and sweet and savory cocktails. Refrigerate and use within 4 weeks for best taste.

Pros
  • Delicious flavor
  • Versatile
  • Made with fresh ingredients
Cons
  • Short shelf life
  • May contain allergens

DaVinci Gourmet Sugar Free French Vanilla Syrup

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4.4 out of 5
DaVinci Gourmet Sugar Free French Vanilla SyrupDaVinci Gourmet Sugar Free French Vanilla Syrup
Features
  • 25 servings per container
  • Sugar Free French Vanilla Syrup
  • Craft flavorful beverages
  • Innovative flavors and quality ingredients

DaVinci Gourmet Sugar Free French Vanilla Syrup delivers the bold taste of creamy vanilla without the sugar. Be inspired and craft flavorful beverages with our sugar free French vanilla syrup for endless creativity across food and beverages. DaVinci Gourmet sugar free syrups are perfect for adding to coffees, teas, lattes, keto-friendly beverages or other drinks. From coffeehouse classics to back bar essentials, DaVinci Gourmet syrups are crafted to create a premium experience for today's beverage creators through innovative flavors and quality ingredients.

Pros
  • Non-Alcoholic
  • Perfect for Coffee Houses
  • Great for Restaurants
Cons

Benefits of French Vanilla or Vanilla Syrup

As a way to flavor drinks and foods, French vanilla and vanilla syrups are easy ways to give your coffee a splash of flowery sweetness. 

So depending on what sort of drink you’re making, both flavors can be useful. A vanilla syrup in a latte will prevent the drink from becoming too milky. But French vanilla syrup in a cup of drip dark roast coffee will add both the rich flavor of a creamy custard and the sweetness of vanilla syrup. Mix and match to your tastes!

When crafting your coffee, keep in mind that both French vanilla and vanilla syrups will have sugar or sweeteners. Too much sweeteners can be a bad thing, so limit your daily intake. Simple syrups are used in coffee, baking, desserts, and cocktails to balance bland, bitter, or burning tastes. 

vanilla beans, flower and extract

How to make the best vanilla latte

DIY Vanilla Syrups

For people conscious of what they eat, store-bought vanilla syrup can sometimes rely on imitation vanilla rather than vanilla extract. 

Rather than letting imitation flavors taint their drinks, look for ones with natural flavors or try making DIY vanilla syrup with homemade vanilla extract. The FDA defines vanilla extract as a mixture of vanilla beans soaked in ethyl alcohol. If the alcohol is 35% by volume and 100 grams of vanilla beans per liter, your vanilla extract should meet the definition.

After creating your vanilla extract, you can add the extract to a mix of water and sugar to create your own vanilla simple syrup. Drink up, because it will be both natural and delicious.

To make the best vanilla latte: brew strong coffee/espresso, heat milk, add vanilla syrup/extract, froth milk (optional), combine with coffee, sweeten (optional), and enjoy! In this video, Hanbit Cho will show you his exquisite recipe!

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The new trend - Vanilla Raspado Syrup

Vanilla raspado syrup is a delightful syrup that combines the rich, sweet flavors of vanilla with the tangy and vibrant taste of raspberries. It is specifically crafted to mimic the flavors of a raspado, a traditional Mexican shaved ice dessert. This syrup adds a burst of fruity goodness and a hint of creamy vanilla to your favorite beverages, desserts, or even as a topping for shaved ice. It offers a unique and delightful twist to your culinary creations, making them reminiscent of summertime treats and exotic flavors. Whether you're creating a refreshing beverage or adding a drizzle of sweetness to your desserts, vanilla raspado syrup is a versatile and delicious addition to your pantry.

Conclusion

As staples of the American coffee industry, coffee drinkers will be able to find French vanilla and vanilla syrups around the U.S. Both real and imitation vanilla can be sourced from many different resources and locations, so it’s best to read the bottle to ensure you’re picking the right syrup for your coffee. If you’re looking for a quick and custard-like flavor, go for the French vanilla syrup. If you’re looking for a flowery vanilla flavor, a simple vanilla syrup will do the job. Either way, make sure you love each sip from your coffee. Life’s too short to drink bad coffee.

white vanilla flower and beans

Scott's tasted his first cup of coffee in college. The sludgy cup came from the gas station closest to his apartment when he needed to stay awake during an all-night study session. Thankfully, this cup was not his last. He and his wife now enjoy a cup or two of home-brewed coffee with breakfast every morning and enjoy exploring new coffee shops and eateries. As a former journalist, he works as a communication manager for a local, art-focused nonprofit in Arizona most days and freelances the rest. As a writer at heart, Scott appreciates the union of his craft and love of coffee at Roast Love.

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