The Difference Between French Vanilla and Vanilla Ice Cream

Have you ever walked down the ice cream isle in your local supermarket and wondered what the real difference between Vanilla and French vanilla favoring is? Did it originate in France or is this just a marketing ploy to sell the product as a fancier version of a plain ice cream? For everyone who as asked this question, or even just mused over it privately, we have an answer for you. We have the facts about the real difference between Vanilla and French vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla doesn’t come from France

Vanilla isn’t a flavoring that originates in France. In fact, it is extracted from a tropical plant that is native to a region near the equator. The French use it as much as any other people in the world, but there is a reason why it’s got the fancy title. The country has earned a well-deserved reputation for creating some of the worlds most flavorful and rich dishes and deserts on the planet. Although vanilla ice cream didn’t come from France, it’s evident that they did something special with it.

The difference between plain vanilla and French vanilla

Aside from the richness factor, France has nothing to do with the upscale sounding version of vanilla. The real difference in the two is the addition of egg yolks into French vanilla. If you compare the two side by side, you’ll find that the plain vanilla is a lighter or white color. French vanilla has a slight yellow hue, thanks to coloring from the yolks. There is also a difference in texture and flavor. Regular vanilla is more bland and it’s not quite as rich or creamy in most cases. French vanilla has an extra thickness and creaminess that makes it seem heavier. You can test this for yourself by comparing the two by trading bite for bite.

The history of French Vanilla

When attempting to trace the history of French vanilla ice cream, we came upon some interesting facts. We were surprised to learn that it’s been around since colonial times, and maybe even longer. It’s recorded in history that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson used egg yolks in their ice cream recipes. There were no supermarkets during this era so ice cream was home made. We also learned that it was during the time that Thomas Jefferson was in France, that he developed a taste for ice cream. He quite gallantly served the dessert to guests he entertained at the White House on many occasions. Jefferson had a French butler in his employ and it is believed that this is where his recipe for six egg yolks to a quart of cream became French vanilla ice cream.

Which type of Vanilla is better?

There are some people who prefer the lighter coloring and taste of plain vanilla ice cream. It’s an old standard and although the taste isn’t as rich and heavy, this is a plus for people who prefer a creamy dessert that is more plain. The lighter taste works best for making milk shakes or for topping on pies. The egg flavoring can interfere with the traditional milkshake or sundaes made from vanilla ice cream. If you enjoy a heavier flavor that is satisfyingly rich, and don’t mind the heaviness or stronger flavor that is added by the eggs, then French vanilla may be the best choice. Really, it’s a matter of preference, but we have some facts to share about French vanilla that may appeal to you.

How to prevent a leaky ice cream cone

Here’s a tip on how to put an end to ice cream cones that melt quickly and start to leak out the bottom. French vanilla ice cream is thicker and creamier and because it has egg yolks in the recipe, it is more dense and it won’t melt down and trickle into the bottom of the cone as quickly.

Final thoughts

So it would appear that there is much more to French vanilla than most of us realized. It’s not just a fancy title slapped on a tub of ice cream, it’s a real thing and for some, it’s a feat of sheer brilliance. For vanilla ice cream lovers it’s nice to have the choice between two distinct flavors with their own attributes.


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