Simple Vanilla Sauce

Simple vanilla sauce recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  • Total: 11 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 6 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
226 Calories
8g Fat
39g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 226
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 5g 24%
Cholesterol 20mg 7%
Sodium 4mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 39g 14%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Protein 0g
Calcium 11mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This vanilla dessert sauce is a snap to prepare with just a few basic ingredients, and it's a lighter option when compared to the rich custard-based sauces that contain eggs.

The sauce is versatile as well. For a lighter version, make it with 1 cup of water and omit the heavy cream. Or, for a richer sauce, make it with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of heavy cream. For a light caramel flavor, use brown sugar in the sauce instead of granulated sugar. 

The sauce is the perfect finishing touch for all kinds of desserts. Make this vanilla sauce and drizzle it over pound cake, a moist bread pudding, pancakes, ice cream, or gingerbread cake. Or spoon the sauce over fresh blueberries, raspberries, or sliced strawberries. You'll find dozens of uses for the sweet buttery sauce. Homemade doesn't get much easier than this!


  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for vanilla sauce
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. Pour the water into a saucepan and place it over high heat. Bring the water to a boil.

    Boiling water for vanilla sauce
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  3. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar and cornstarch. Blend well with a whisk or spoon.

    Combine granulated sugar and cornstarch
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  4. Add the granulated sugar and cornstarch mixture to the boiling water and whisk to blend thoroughly. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thick. Whisk the cream into the thickened sauce.

    Whisk granulated sugar, cornstarch, and cream into vanilla sauce
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  5. Remove the thickened sauce from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk until the butter has melted.

    Butter whisked into vanilla sauce off the heat
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  6. Spoon or drizzle warm or room temperature vanilla sauce over cake, bread pudding, sliced fruit or berries, or a fruit cobbler. Enjoy!

    Vanilla sauce drizzled over bundt cake
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Recipe Tips

  • If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a small amount of milk or cream, as desired.
  • To use flour instead of cornstarch, melt the butter in a saucepan and blend in the flour. Stir the sugar into the butter and flour mixture. In a separate saucepan, bring the water to a boil; add the boiling water to the sugar and butter mixture and cook until thickened. Add the cream, vanilla, and salt. Heat through.
  • Replace the vanilla extract with an equal amount of vanilla paste or a vanilla bean. If you use a vanilla bean, split it and scrape the seeds into the water. Add the pods and then bring the water to a boil as directed. Continue with the recipe and remove the pods before serving.

Recipe Variations

  • Fruity Vanilla Sauce: Replace a few tablespoons of the water with Cointreau, peach brandy, or apple brandy, or another type of fruit-flavored liqueur.
  • Cinnamon Vanilla Sauce: Add two cinnamon sticks to the water; bring to a boil and continue with the recipe. Remove the cinnamon sticks before whisking in the butter, vanilla, and salt.
  • Vanilla Rum Sauce: Replace 2 tablespoons of the water with rum or spiced rum.
  • Vanilla Whiskey Sauce: Replace 2 tablespoons of the water with bourbon or whiskey.
  • Nutmeg Vanilla Sauce: Add about 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg to the water and continue with the recipe.

How to Use Vanilla Sauce

Drizzle this generously over vanilla sour cream bundt cake, a blueberry yogurt cake, or a cream cheese pound cake.

The sauce can also work on a croissant bread pudding, fresh fruit, ice cream, or even cheesecake.

How to Store Vanilla Sauce

If you have leftover sauce, you can keep it covered in the fridge for up to a week. Reheat it in a saucepan over low heat on the stove and drizzle it warm over baked goods or fresh fruit.