Simple Vanilla Sauce

Simple Vanilla Sauce

The Spruce

  • 11 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 6 mins
  • Yield: 1 cup (4 servings)
Ratings (114)

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!

What You'll Need

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

How to Make It

  1. Pour the water into a saucepan and place it over high heat. Bring the water to a boil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar and cornstarch; blend well with a whisk or spoon.
  3. 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.
  1. Remove the thickened sauce from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk until the butter has melted.
  2. Spoon or drizzle warm or room temperature vanilla sauce over cake, bread pudding, sliced fruit or berries, or a fruit cobbler.

Tips and Variations

  • The pure vanilla extract—don't use imitation—may be replaced 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.
  • 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.
  • Replace a few tablespoons of the water with Cointreau, peach or apple brandy, or another type of fruit-flavored liqueur.
  • 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.
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 226
Total Fat 8 g
Saturated Fat 5 g
Unsaturated Fat 2 g
Cholesterol 20 mg
Sodium 4 mg
Carbohydrates 39 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Protein 0 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)