Simple Vanilla Sauce

Simple vanilla sauce poured over a bundt cake

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 6 mins
Total: 11 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 1/2 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
220 Calories
11g Fat
29g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 220
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 7g 35%
Cholesterol 32mg 11%
Sodium 85mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 11%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 26g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 13mg 1%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 20mg 0%
*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 an even 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 cakebread 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.


Click Play to See This Simple Vanilla Sauce Come Together

"This is a great recipe to have on hand for a simple sauce to add to any dessert dish. It’s a great alternative to a creme anglaise if your dish needs to be egg-free. The sauce can be served alongside a pie, as a cake glaze or to add indulgence to a fruit cobbler." —Tracy Wilk

Simple vanilla sauce drizzling off a spoon into a white bowl
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 3/4 cup water

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 pinch salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Simple vanilla sauce ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. Pour the water into a saucepan and place it over high heat. Bring the water to a boil.

    Water boiling in a pot for vanilla sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar and cornstarch. Blend well with a whisk or spoon.

    Granulated sugar and cornstarch mixed together in a bowl with a spoon

    The Spruce Eats / 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 heavy cream into the thickened sauce.

    Heavy cream whisked into the thickened sauce

    The Spruce Eats / 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. Strain the sauce to remove any lumps.

    Butter and vanilla whisked into vanilla sauce off the heat

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  6. Spoon or drizzle warm or room temperature vanilla sauce onto a cake, bread pudding, or other dish. Enjoy.

    Vanilla sauce drizzled over a Bundt cake

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

How to Store

If you have leftover vanilla sauce, 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.

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 equivalent 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, apple brandy, or another type of fruit-flavored liqueur. Or add up to a teaspoon of finely grated orange, lemon, or lime zest.
  • 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

Drizzle vanilla sauce generously over vanilla sour cream Bundt cake, blueberry yogurt cake, or buttermilk pound cake. The sauce is also delicious on croissant bread pudding, fresh fruit, ice cream, or even cheesecake.