Published on Jan 19, 2020

Vanilla Ice Cream Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

Vanilla is frequently used to flavor ice cream, especially in North America and Europe. Vanilla ice cream, like other flavors of ice cream, was originally created by cooling a mixture made of cream, sugar, and vanilla above a container of ice and salt. The type of vanilla used to flavor ice cream varies by location. In North America and Europe consumers are interested in a more prominent, smoky flavor, while in Ireland they want a more anise-like flavor. To create the smooth consistency of ice cream, the mixture has to be stirred occasionally and then returned to the container of ice and salt to continue the solidification process. According to Iced: 180 Very Cool Concoctions, many people often consider vanilla to be the “default” or “plain” flavor of ice cream (see “Plain vanilla”).


Vanilla was first used among the Mexican people. By the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors, exploring present-day Mexico, had come across Mesoamerican people who consumed vanilla in their drinks and foods. The vanilla bean was brought back to Spain with the conquistadors. In Spain, “vanilla was used to flavor a chocolate drink that combined cacao beans, vanilla, corn, water, and honey”. The drink eventually spread to France, England, and then all of Europe by the early 1600s. In 1602, Hugh Morgan, the apothecary of Queen Elizabeth I, recommended that vanilla should be used separately from cocoa.

Ice cream can be traced back to the Yuan period of the fourteenth century. There is evidence that ice cream was served in the Mogul Court. The idea of using a mixture of ice and salt for its refrigerating effects, which is a part of the process of creating ice cream, originated in Asia. The method spread from the East to Europe when the Arabs and the Moors traveled to Spain, between 711 and 1492. Once the refrigerating method of mixing ice and salt had spread to Europe, the Italians became involved in making ice cream. By the early eighteenth century, recipes for ice cream had appeared in France. According to Frozen Desserts: The Definitive Guide to Making Ice Creams, Ices, Sorbets, Gelati, and Other Frozen Delights, the French transformed ice cream into a smoother and richer food with the addition of eggs or egg yolks in the recipe. The first ice cream recipes recorded by the French in the early eighteenth century did not include egg yolks. However, by the middle of the eighteenth century, French recipes for ice cream started to include egg yolks.


When the use of vanilla in foods and drinks became independent of cacao, it became more prominent in French recipes. The French used vanilla to flavor French vanilla ice cream. Vanilla ice cream was introduced to the United States when Thomas Jefferson discovered the flavor in France and brought the recipe to the United States. During the 1780s, Thomas Jefferson wrote his own recipe for vanilla ice cream. The recipe is housed at the Library of Congress.

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