The best 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Créme Frappuccino recipe

It's hard to walk by a Starbucks and not want to stop in for a Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino. This blended drink is super vanilla-y like a milkshake but light enough that we don't feel guilty about drinking it in the morning. It's funny to think that it's one of our favorite drinks at a coffee shop, considering that it doesn't contain any coffee! Surely that's not what Starbucks had in mind when it launched its Frappuccinos in 1995, but it probably didn't have any idea that what started as blended coffee, milk, and ice would turn into over 36,000 different combinations, either.

We love that Starbucks keeps coming out with exciting limited-edition Frappuccinos, but we can't get enough of this original classic. Could it be possible to recreate this magic at home, and would it taste as good? After learning that the chain's store-bought Frappuccinos can be turned into frozen Frappuccinos, we had to give a 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe a try. It turns out that it is possible to make a replica, but it won't necessarily be any healthier than the original.

Gather the ingredients for this 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe

We've all peeked in to watch the Starbucks employee making our Frappuccino, so it wasn't too hard to determine the ingredients used in the original recipe. Starbucks also makes it easy by listing every ingredient on its website: ice, milk, creme Frappuccino syrup, whipped cream, and vanilla bean powder. We even found a chart that shows how many scoops and pumps to use for each drink.

Unfortunately, one of these ingredients is impossible to source for a homemade 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe: Starbucks' proprietary creme Frappuccino syrup. According to a Starbucks barista, it's the base for their blended drinks because it adds sweetness and thickens the drink. When we dove into the ingredients list for this product, we saw it contains xanthan gum, a soluble fiber that thickens liquid into a viscous solution. It's part of what makes your Frappuccinos so thick and luscious.

So, instead of trying to recreate the syrup, we took a shortcut. Our 3-ingredient Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino is made with ice and melted vanilla bean ice cream. If your ice cream doesn't have enough vanilla flavor, you can add an optional splash of vanilla extract. Top it off with whipped cream, and it looks — and tastes — like the real deal.

For a full list of the ingredients, including the step-by-step instructions, scroll down to the directions portion of this article.

Why our shortcut works to create a 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe

We are certainly taking a shortcut by using melted ice cream for this 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe. Starbucks uses ice and milk as the base of this blended drink, but the ingredients in the creme Frappuccino syrup and vanilla bean powder are what actually give the drink its flavor. Both of these components contain sugar, and swapping in regular white sugar didn't work. The test batch made with ice, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract was not only over the three-ingredient limit, but it also had an unpleasantly gritty texture.

So we turned to ice cream. Ice cream can contain several additional ingredients, but its base is a mixture of milk, cream, sugar, and sometimes eggs. Vanilla-flavored ice cream also has the benefit of containing vanilla extract or vanilla bean pieces. So, using melted ice cream knocked out three ingredients on our list. That allowed us to add whipped cream to our list and still create a 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino.

What kind of blender do you need to make a 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe?

Sorry, but just any old blender won't work to make a successful 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe. You really need a high-powered blender to break down the ice. Otherwise, you'll end up with a snow-cone-esqe Frappuccino. But you don't need super high-tech, expensive blender like the ones Starbucks locations use (commercial-grade blenders like Vitamix's "The Quiet One," which retails at over $1,300).

Luckily, there are several high-powered blenders for home use. Some of them are pretty expensive — like all of the for-home-use Vitamix models. But, when New York Magazine interviewed chefs and smoothie pros, many agreed that Vitamix is the way to go. They describe it as giving blended drinks "the fluffiest mouthfeel that no other blender can replicate" and being capable of breaking down frozen foods and hearty nuts into creamy purees — basically anything that "would leave chunks in other blenders."

If you can't afford a fancy blender, never fear. Most smoothie blenders or bullet blenders should get the job done just fine. You're just looking for a blender that's powerful enough to turn chunky ice into a super-smooth concoction.

Blend the ingredients to make this 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe

The only prep step to making our copycat 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe is to melt the ice cream. When we tried putting it into the blender frozen, the drink's texture was a little too milkshake-like. You don't want it to be hot, either, because it will melt the ice in the blender and make the drink too watery. So, it's best to melt it gently on low power if you're using the microwave. Otherwise, let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes or thaw it in the refrigerator for an hour.

From there, this drink couldn't be easier to make. Simply add the melted ice cream and ice to the blender. If you couldn't find an ice cream that's vanilla-forward enough, add in the optional vanilla extract to the blender now. Blend the ingredients on high until they're smooth and there are no visible chunks of ice. Pour the copycat Frappuccino into a cup and top with whip cream.

You'll want to drink it in one sitting too. Frappuccinos don't freeze well because they contain all that water from the ice, which becomes very hard when refrozen. Luckily, this recipe makes a single 12-ounce serving, so drink up!

Turn this 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe into your favorite Frappuccino flavor

If the vanilla bean flavor isn't your favorite, use this recipe as a base recipe to make any number of Starbucks' Creme Frappuccinos. To make a Strawberry Frappuccino, simply add strawberry puree to the blender (or your favorite store-bought strawberry jam). Chai Crème Frappuccino is as easy as mixing in chai concentrate and topping the whipped cream with cinnamon, and the Matcha Green Tea Crème Frappuccino can be made by adding half a teaspoon of matcha powder to the mix. You can also dive into the more dessert-like Frappuccinos by adding chocolate sauce, chocolate chips, and finishing with crumbled chocolate cookies to make a Chocolate Cookie Crumble. Or blend caramel sauce into the base to create the Caramel Ribbon Crunch Crème Frappuccino.

The coffee-flavored drinks are a bit different, so this 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe won't work too well there. Starbucks uses a proprietary Coffee Frappuccino Syrup to make these drinks, and it has a strong bitter flavor. Using our ice cream base would create a drink that's too far on the sweet side.

How close did we get to the original Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe?

There were a lot of things that hit with this 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe, and one or two things that missed a little bit. We'll start with the good news: The flavor was surprisingly similar to Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino. Our version was sweet, vanilla-forward, and tasted like a lightened-up, refreshing milkshake. Overall, we were pretty happy with how well our melted ice cream mimicked the creme Frappuccino syrup.

Where we missed was the texture. Our Frappuccino came close, but it was definitely more watery. We tried adjusting the ice to ice cream ratio, but it didn't help. Adding a dash of xanthan gum was the only way we could make the texture exactly the same. But considering that it's not necessary to make the drink taste the same, we left it out of the final recipe.

When it came to nutrition, Starbucks definitely had us beat. Its tall Frappuccino clocked in at 260 calories with 35 grams of sugar. Our ice cream version contained 540 calories and 70 grams of sugar. That definitely makes our copycat more of a dessert dish than a casual afternoon delight.

3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe directions

Here's how to make our 3-ingredient copycat Starbucks Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino recipe.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 0 minutes

Serves: 1 12-ounce drink

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vanilla bean ice cream, melted
  • 1 cup ice
  • 2 tablespoons whipped cream

Optional ingredients

  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Melt the ice cream by letting it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can thaw it in the refrigerator for an hour or use low power in the microwave.
  2. Place the melted ice cream and ice in a high-powered blender. If you're using the optional vanilla extract, add it now.
  3. Blend the ingredients until they're smooth and there are no remaining chunks of ice.
  4. Pour the copycat Frappuccino into a cup and top with whipped cream. Serve immediately. The drink will not refreeze well, so drink it in one sitting.