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Quick, No Fuss, German Vanilla Sauce

This authentic, German Vanilla Sauce has a velvety, creamy richness that requires little to no effort to make. It will adorn all your favorite desserts – German or not!

Vanilla sauce pouring onto dessert.

German Vanilla Sauce is a mainstay dessert sauce enjoyed not only in Germany, but in several countries throughout Europe. In the U.S. it can be difficult to find in a regular grocery store. Only a few brands are available, but fret not, this is an easy to make Vanilla Sauce recipe anyone can make at home.

Vanilla Sauce has a thinner viscosity when compared to American vanilla pudding and traditional English custard. As a result, it is easy to pour or rather drizzle over popular desserts. These include Apple Strudel (See post for Apfelstrudel), bread pudding and Rote Grutze (see post for Rote Grutze) and Apple Crumb Pie to name a few.

This sauce is quick with no fuss and minimal skill required. With only five ingredients and almost no prep, it might become your favorite dessert accompaniment!


The line up is very straightforward.

Ingredients for vanilla sauce, milk, vanilla bean, egg yolk, cornstarch and sugar.
  • Whole milk (full fat for my European friends!)
  • Whole vanilla bean, any kind. The most popular and readily available beans in the US are Madagascar vanilla beans. The vanilla is the main flavoring of this sauce. Flavor will come from the dairy ingredients too, but it is important to use a fresh vanilla bean for this recipe.
  • Egg yolk. Buy eggs with amber yolks if possible. This will naturally color the sauce.
  • Cornstarch. This will make the recipe gluten-free.
  • White granulated sugar.

See recipe card for quantities.


You’ll be serving this sauce within 10 minutes. Simply follow these directions.

Milk being added to cornstarch.

Add some milk, about 1-2 tablespoon’s from the original pint of milk, to the cornstarch. Combine together until well blended. Set aside.

Milk being poured into a pot containing egg yolk and sugar.

Put sugar and egg yolk into a pot. Pour milk in and blend together using a whisk.

Vanilla pods being scraped out of a vanilla bean.

Place the vanilla bean onto a board or other hard surface. Holding the tip firmly between your index finger and thumb, slice the entire bean vertically. You will end up with two long, thin pieces. Using a serrated (jagged) knife, scrape out the small black specks. Transfer the specks or vanilla pods to the pot containing the milk, sugar and egg yolk. To avoid waste, I like to scrape the knife against the whisk. That way all the pods will end up in the pot.

Pot of finished vanilla sauce.

Over a low to medium heat, warm the milk mixture. Add in the cornstarch and milk mixture. The sauce will start to thicken. Keep stirring gently and continuously. Simmer for a minute and then remove from the heat.

Remember the sauce will have a thinner consistency than most sauces. It will thicken a little as it cools, but it is not meant to be a thick sauce.

Serve the Vanilla Sauce warm or at room temperature.


This recipe offers flexibility with ingredients used. Several substitutions can be made.

Keep in mind, when more than one substitutions is made to the original recipe, the vanilla sauce may change in taste, texture and color. It will also become less authentic, but the goal is to make it delicious and something you will want to prepare and serve.

Milk – whole milk is recommended due to its fat content, about 4%. If you do have a pint of whole milk, use this table below to create a suitable substitution. Each variation will yield 1 pint of a whole milk substitute. With this recipe, do not use condensed milk.

3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream +14.5 fluid ounces of water
3 teaspoons heavy whipping cream +15.5 fluid ounces of 1% (skimmed) milk
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream +15 fluid ounces of 2% milk
8 ounces evaporated milk +8 ounces of water
12 fluid ounces of half and half +4 fluid ounces of water
Dairy Conversion Table showing how to create one pint of whole milk from other dairy products.

Sugar- feel free to substitute sugar with honey or other natural sweetener. If using honey, use 2 tablespoons to replace the 3 tablespoons of sugar. If using an alternative sweetener to make the recipe diabetic or keto friendly, then refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines on conversion.

Vanilla Bean – they are expensive but worth it. However, a great substitution is vanilla extract which is readily available at most supermarkets. Use 2 teaspoons of extract to replace 1 vanilla bean.


German Vanilla Sauce is typically drizzled over traditional German desserts such as Apfelstrudel (yes I know its Austrian, but it is commonly eaten in Bavaria!) and Rote Grutze.

It can also be served with:

  • Bread Pudding (US), (Bread and Butter Pudding in UK), Christmas Pudding, Spotted Dick, or any of the traditional steamed puddings from the UK.
  • Pancakes, Waffles and French Toast.
  • Apple pie and Apple tart.
  • Stewed Fruits such as Stewed Apples, Stewed Peaches and Stewed Rhubarb.
  • Donuts, Beignets, and Churros.
  • Bundt Cakes.
  • As a garnish on top of Ice Cream Sundaes.
  • Fruit Cobblers, Fruit Crisps and Fruit Crumbles.

German Vanilla Sauce can be served at room temperature or warm.


Ensure that Vanilla Sauce is in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to a week. I like to use mason jars.

If you need only a little bit of sauce, remove the required amount from the batch and return the batch to the fridge. Do not warm it all up and then refrigerate the leftovers. Heating the sauce again will only encourage microbial growth.

Freeze German Vanilla Sauce for up to 3 months. Store it in a mason jar with some space left at the top. As the sauce freezes it expands. Provide space at the top of the jar as pressure can build in the mason jar and the glass can break.

A Tip From Me

Vanilla beans provide the best and most natural flavor for vanilla flavored recipes. They can be expensive especially for plump, long and moist beans. It might seem wasteful to scrape out the pods for the recipe only to discard the shell of the bean. Place the empty vanilla bean into a container of sugar. Within a couple of weeks, the sugar with have the essence of vanilla in it. Use this vanilla sugar in recipes, or as an interesting alternative in your morning coffee or afternoon tea.

Vanilla bean in a bowl of sugar


I’ve got answers – hopefully!

  • My sauce did not thicken. This is a thinner sauce, used for drizzling over desserts, rather than coating them. If you do feel the sauce is too thin, combine 1 teaspoon of cornstarch with 2 teaspoons of milk. Bring the sauce to a low simmer and add in this mixture, keep stirring.
  • My sauce has lumps, what happened? Most likely, it was not stirred continuously as it came to a low boil. The cornstarch granules have expanded and clump together to form lumps. To prevent this from happening again, stir the sauce as it comes to a low boil slowly and consistently.
  • Do I throw away my lumpy sauce and start over? Absolutely not! Fix, fix, fix it!! Sauces that have lumps in them are best put through a strainer or fine sieve. With German Vanilla Sauce, passing it through a sieve might remove all those beautiful vanilla pods. Instead, I would recommend using a stick blender to deal with the lumps. Failing that place the sauce into a food processor.
German vanilla sauce in carafe

Recipe for German Vanilla Sauce

This authentic, homemade, silky smooth German Vanilla Sauce will elevate any dessert it is drizzled over.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Servings 6
Calories 78 kcal


  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 whole vanilla bean


  • Take 1-2 tbsp of milk from the original pint of milk and add it to the cornstarch. Mix together to make a slurry. Make sure there are no lumps.
  • Put the egg yolk, sugar and the remainder of the milk into a pot. Warm this mixture over a low to medium heat.
  • On a chopping board and with a firm grip on the vanilla bean, slice it lengthways. Lay each half length flat on the board and scrape out the pods using a paring knife. Transfer these pods to the pot.
  • Add the cornstarch slurry to the pot. The pot contents will start to thicken as the sauce forms. Keep stirring gently and continuously. Simmer for a minute and then remove from the heat.


German Vanilla Sauce has a thinner consistency than most sauces. It will thicken a little as it cools, but it is not meant to be a thick sauce.
Serve the Vanilla Sauce warm or at room temperature.


Serving: 2.5ozCalories: 78kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 3gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 30mgPotassium: 118mgFiber: 0.02gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 128IUCalcium: 97mgIron: 0.01mg
Keyword authentic, drizzle, homemade, pour, sauce, silky, smooth, store, vanilla
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


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