French Vanilla Isn't As Fancy As It Sounds

The French language in and of itself sounds romantic and elegant. It rolls off the tongue like a gentle waterfall and reminds us of Parisian cafés and picnics under the Eiffel Tower. To the average American, France offers a posh, classy juxtaposition to America's laid-back culture.

So, when it comes to indulging in French food, wine, and coffee, of course, they're fancier than what we're used to! And when it comes to eating ice cream, French vanilla must be the most luxurious flavor of them all, right?

Although we can admit that French culture is sophisticated and chic, French vanilla is actually just like any other ice cream — unique and delicious, but not necessarily fancy. Unlike champagne, which can only boast that name if it's from the Champagne region of France, French vanilla isn't exclusive to France, which kind of takes away from its perceived opulence.

Instead, French vanilla is simply vanilla ice cream that has been prepared using a technique that originated in France. And guess what? Anyone from any country can try making a batch of it in their very own kitchen.

The difference between vanilla and French vanilla

Unlike regular vanilla ice cream, which uses a heavy cream base, French vanilla ice cream starts with a custard base. Both variations rely on vanilla extract, vanilla beans, or, in some cases, imitation vanilla extract. Because they both share the same central ingredient, the flavors are analogous.

What really sets French vanilla apart from regular vanilla is its texture and richness. Because French vanilla ice cream is made from an egg yolk-based custard, it offers a thicker, smoother, and noticeably richer mouthfeel than plain vanilla. For some people, French vanilla also has a stronger flavor when compared to the more neutral taste of regular vanilla.

Be careful not to fall for marketing schemes related to this. Many products, including coffee creamers, pastries, and even candles, claim to be flavored or scented with "French vanilla." However, French vanilla refers strictly to the ice cream technique. Although some of these items may include certain add-ins to mimic the flavor, this advertising method misleads shoppers into believing their product is fancier than a plain vanilla coffee creamer or candle.

So, unless your standards for fancy are contingent on egg yolks and custard, French vanilla is just another ice cream option that's no posher than proper vanilla or decadent chocolate.