Vanilla Bean Cookies

Vanilla Bean Cookie Recipe

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I have often wondered who came up with the idea to associate vanilla with plain. That’s a really puzzling concept because there is nothing plain about vanilla seeds; their unique flavor and aroma is about as complex as it gets and is the result of a combination of several hundred different chemical compounds. And it is, of course, delicious. I mean, who doesn’t like vanilla?

Now, when I use vanilla I generally reach for the bottle of extract but to add some sophistication (in the form of visible black flecks of vanilla seeds) to these Christmas cookies here I scraped the seeds of out of an actual vanilla pod and added them to both the dough and the glaze. Both components are simple but very flavorful and overall make a very delicate and buttery, crispy cookie. I made the glaze from powdered sugar, vanilla seeds and heavy cream. Cream is great for a glaze because it results in a thick, velvety texture that more or less automatically forms a bit of a pattern when you spread it on with the back of a small spoon. That’s my way of decorating a cookie artfully because I’m not really much use with a piping bag!


Vanilla Bean Cookies Recipe


For the cookies:

  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 inches vanilla bean
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the icing:

  • 1 inch vanilla bean
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 – 4 tablespoons heavy cream



For the cookies:

  1. Whisk flour and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean piece.
  3. Beat butter and sugar until well combined and creamy.
  4. Beat in the vanilla seeds
  5. Beat in the dry ingredients.
  6. Bring the dough together into a ball by hand, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Roll out the dough and cut out the cookies.
  9. Bake the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper until they are lightly browned (12 – 15 minutes).
  10. Let the cookies cool.

For the icing:

  1. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean.
  2. Whisk powdered sugar, vanilla seeds and heavy cream together. Start with 1 tablespoon of cream, then add more until you have a spreadable but not runny consistency.
  3. Spoon the icing onto the cookies and let it dry.


Food Photography and Styling: I started this shoot with the plate of cookies sitting on just a smooth fabric but that was missing something and I think the wrinkled fabric that is mirroring the texture in the icing of the cookies was it; it broke up the uniform surface and added interest to the photo. To create a winter feel I kept the white balance fairly cold and at the same time the minimally diffused light kept the atmosphere still cheerful and inviting enough. As always, I used my strobe to light the set.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5, 1/125 sec., ISO 64. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.


  1. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way says:

    Your cookies look amazingly good. I like the pattern that the glaze made — much easier than painting on the finish. And I love vanilla beans!! They make such a difference in the flavor. I usually take the empty pod and put it in my sugar canister The vanilla flavors the sugar with a light flavor. Your photos are wonderful — for the cookies I love the light, bright touch — as if someone just entered a kitchen and you’re now ready to sit down and visit.

    • Nicole B. says:

      Thank you so much, Marisa, as always I really appreciate your kind words! Using the used pod to flavor sugar is such a great idea (which didn’t occur to me, I just put it in the compost bin…will know better next time!)

  2. Louise | Cygnet Kitchen says:

    Love these gorgeous little cookies Nicole! I agree, vanilla is wonderful! I buy Madagascan vanilla pods in bulk from Costco, as I use them so much. I stuff any used pods in a jar of caster sugar so that I always have vanilla sugar! x

    • Nicole B. says:

      I should look for vanilla pods at Costco, what a great idea! (And I didn’t know you had Costco in Britain!) I didn’t think to stuff the used pods into a jar of sugar either, will definitely do that next time! :)

  3. Bam's Kitchen says:

    Beautiful Nicole. Elegant and delicious. I love how the icing forms a natural design on the cookies. As a matter of fact, I have cookie making on the list of things to do this week and will have to give your recipe a try. Happy Holidays to you!

    • Nicole B. says:

      Thank you so much, Fida. Simple and elegant is the best combination, isn’t it? It’s sometimes difficult to make it happen though. :)

  4. traci | vanilla and bean says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Nicole… vanilla is so much more than regular or plain. It is by far my most favorite of all … because of it’s richness, depth and as you said, complex flavor. Have you tried vanilla Bean Paste? These cookies are delicious and beautifully presented. I love the soft white contrast with the pretty blue plate. And one can never go wrong with a simple shortbread dough with vanilla bean.. my favorite cookie this time of year. Thank you my dear!

    • Nicole B. says:

      Thank you so much, Traci! I haven’t tried vanilla bean paste, it sounds delicious and very convenient, have to look into that. :)

  5. Sandra @ Heavenly Home Cooking says:

    Beautiful shot and beautiful cookies! I love how you decorated them with the icing. I probably would have fiddled with the pastry bag, but your way is so much easier! I agree that the wrinkled fabric adds to the photo. Thanks for the photography tips that you offer!

    • Nicole B. says:

      Thank you, Sandra! Yeah, I can pipe a dollop of frosting onto a cupcake but for anything that requires a smaller nozzle than that I’m out. :) So glad you like the photography notes. :)

  6. Kevin | Keviniscooking says:

    Poor vanilla has been put down for so long and it’s a superb flavor, nothing plain about it. I put beans in my sugar container even, love it! I did recently pick up some vanilla paste and WOW, one must use that sparingly… powerful stuff! These and the masterful photos are just exceptional. I mean look at all that texture with all that white – you always inspire me.

    • Nicole B. says:

      You are so nice to say that, Kevin, thank you! It can definitely be tricky to photograph white but I too liked how this one came out. :) I love vanilla and I’ve read that some chefs use it in savory dishes as well, like with fish. I’ve always wanted to try that, I can’t really imagine it. :)

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