What is French Vanilla Coffee? +5 Step Irresistible Recipe

Last updated on October 5th, 2023 by Rebekah Pierce

what is french vanilla coffee

Are you a coffee lover? If so, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of French vanilla coffee – there is nothing quite like the decadent and fragrant scent of French vanilla to truly transform a coffee shop! 

With the power to transport you to Paris in just a sip, French vanilla coffee is a favorite among coffee drinkers – but what exactly is French vanilla coffee?

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at what it is – and spill the beans on this delicious brew. 

What Type of Coffee is French Vanilla?

What Type of Coffee is French Vanilla
Milk swirls in coffee.
Photo by Demi DeHerrera

So what is French vanilla coffee made of?

Let’s start with clearing up any confusion about the term ‘French vanilla’. It doesn’t actually refer to a specific type of coffee bean or roast (although you can often buy French vanilla-flavored coffee beans).

Instead, it’s a delicious flavor derived from adding vanilla from vanilla bean pods (specifically Vanilla planifolia) to coffee.

So while you may feel fancy and stylish as if you’re sitting in a French cafe sipping on French vanilla coffee, the reality is that the ‘French’ part is mostly just marketing, giving it a luxurious and sophisticated aura. 

French Vanilla coffee can also be made by adding any of the following into your brewed coffee:

  1. Scraped seeds from vanilla bean pods
  2. Vanilla extract made with alcohol
  3. Vanilla paste made of grounded extract and seeds
  4. Vanilla syrup or other synthetic vanilla flavorings
  5. Vanilla powder made of extract and cornstarch
  6. or use a French Vanilla flavored coffee pod in your single-serve coffee maker.

Is French Vanilla Coffee Actually Coffee?

French vanilla coffee is still coffee, but with a twist. The flavor is created by adding sweet vanilla extract or vanilla syrup to the coffee, giving it a relaxing and smooth taste. 

Is French Vanilla Coffee High in Caffeine?

Since vanilla itself does not contain any caffeine, the caffeine content of French vanilla coffee will vary depending on the coffee beans roast, grind profile, and brewing method used. For example, light roast, fine grind, and espresso will generally have more caffeine extracted compared to dark roast, coarse grind, and drip coffee. 

Is French Vanilla Coffee Good?

Is French Vanilla Coffee Good
Golden cup.
Photo by Jakub Dziubak

French vanilla coffee is pretty good, at least we think so! It’s a flavorful coffee just bursting with vanilla, offering a characteristic sweet, calm, rich, creamier taste than what you’ll normally get. 

That said, not all French vanilla coffees are created equal. Some are made with synthetic flavoring, which can leave an off aftertaste that lacks the depth and mystery of natural vanilla.

If you want to savor the real deal, look for coffee shops that use natural vanilla extract or vanilla bean pods in their drinks.

Is French Vanilla Coffee Healthy?

French vanilla coffee, like other flavored coffees, may contain additional calories from added sugar or artificial sweeteners. If you’re used to drinking your coffee black, then French vanilla coffee won’t be quite as healthy. But if you drink French Vanilla coffee in moderation, it should be fine.

What is a French Vanilla Latte?

What is a French Vanilla Latte
Coffee first, schemes later.
Photo by Freddy Castro

A French vanilla latte is made by combining espresso, steamed milk, and vanilla syrup. The result is a rich, heavenly delicious beverage that is much sweeter than regular coffee. 

So, if you’re looking to treat yourself to something more than your usual cup of coffee, a French vanilla latte might be the perfect choice.

But, if you’re watching your calorie intake, keep in mind that French vanilla lattes can be high in sugar. 

A typical 16-ounce French vanilla latte from a coffee shop can contain up to 50 grams of sugar, which is more than twice the recommended daily limit. Consider asking for less syrup or opting for sugar-free syrup to lower the sugar content.

French Vanilla vs. Vanilla Syrup for Coffee

French Vanilla vs. Vanilla Syrup for Coffee

French vanilla coffee creamer.
Photo by Jonathan Cooper

French vanilla is a term that was created specifically to refer to a style of making ice cream. This involves using an egg yolk and custard base. 

French vanilla coffee syrups usually only contain ingredients like cane sugar, natural flavors, and preservatives. However, the flavor still calls to mind that traditional ice cream making style. 

Vanilla syrup, on the other hand, is made by mixing vanilla extract with sugar syrup. It is also a common addition to coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, and other beverages. It tends to be more versatile than French vanilla, but also isn’t quite as sweet when used as a syrup. 

Where to Buy French Vanilla Coffee

Where to Buy French Vanilla Coffee
Coffee drink with whipped cream.
Photo by Debby Hudson

You can find French vanilla coffee at most coffee shops, grocery stores, and online retailers. You can also make your own by adding vanilla extract or syrup to your brewed coffee. 

If you’re looking for a convenient way to make French vanilla coffee at home, consider a single-serve coffee maker with a French vanilla-flavored pod.

Of course, many chain coffee shops also sell French vanilla coffee – here’s a quick overview of some options. 

What is French Vanilla Coffee Tim Hortons?

Tim Hortons uses a French Vanilla flavor shot mixed into coffee that’s sweetened with sugar.

What is a French Vanilla Coffee at Starbucks?

Starbucks offers a Vanilla Latte and a Caffè Vanilla Frappuccino, both made with their signature vanilla syrup. You can also add vanilla syrup to any of their coffee drinks.

What is in McDonald’s French Vanilla Iced Coffee?

McDonald’s vanilla-flavored iced coffee drink is made with medium roast coffee, vanilla syrup and half half in ice, making it a true fan favorite!

How to make the best French Vanilla coffee from home

What is the Best French Vanilla Coffee
French vanilla drink with macaron.
Photo by Nica Cn

Here’s an easy French vanilla coffee recipe if you want to make your own at home:

Step 1: Combine 1 ¾ cups milk with 14 oz. of sweetened condensed milk, and one vanilla pod in a large saucepan. 

Step 2: Bring the mixture to a simmer.

Step 3: Then stir in vanilla extract. 

Step 4: Brew up your favorite cup of coffee.

Step 5: Pour French vanilla mixture into your cup of coffee, and enjoy!

You can also buy flavored French vanilla coffee beans or French vanilla syrup to flavor your coffee. While this is a more convenient option, there’s nothing quite like homemade French vanilla coffee to start your day.

Now that you know what French vanilla coffee is, you can choose how and when you want to enjoy it. 

Whether you buy it from the coffee shop down the road, pick up some pods for your Nespresso, or make a homemade French vanilla mix like the one we’ve described, you’re sure to love this coffee shop staple. 


What is the French vanilla coffee flavor?

French vanilla coffee flavor is a mixture of vanilla and coffee flavors. The vanilla flavoring can come from vanilla extract, vanilla beans, or even artificial flavors.

What is the difference between vanilla and French vanilla coffee creamer?

French vanilla creamer tends to have a richer, creamier taste than regular vanilla. 

What is the difference between vanilla and French vanilla coffee syrups?

Vanilla syrup is a simple syrup that is flavored with vanilla extract. French vanilla syrup, on the other hand, is a syrup that is flavored with a combination of vanilla and other ingredients, sometimes extra sugar, or in some cases, even a small amount of hazelnut. 

What is in McDonald’s sugar-free French vanilla iced coffee?

McDonald’s Sugar-Free French Vanilla Iced Coffee is made with sugar-free French vanilla syrup, cream, and their signature McCafe coffee.

Coffee Has Never Read This Good!

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