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Orange Vanilla Bean Syrup

Kymberly loves to cook, bake, and preserve. She'd love more time to experiment in the kitchen and come up with delicious (healthy) recipes!

This homemade syrup makes a wonderful gift!

This homemade syrup makes a wonderful gift!

This fragrant and tasty syrup has a jewel-like orange tone and is flecked with delicious vanilla seeds. It makes a wonderful homemade gift, especially for Christmas or Easter!

You can use the syrup in a variety of ways:

  • As a cake glaze over a hot cake (to let it soak in)
  • Over ice cream or yogurt
  • On pancakes or waffles
  • To flavor mineral water
  • As a hot orange drink
  • I bet it would also work in hot chocolate

Using the Whole Orange, no Waste

Orange peels are typically thrown away, especially when juicing oranges, or eating them as fruit snacks. Being quite an orange and citrus fruit fan, I have been looking for different ways to use the peel and to reduce the amount that goes into the rubbish bin.

As I am also a confirmed vanilla addict, I simply had to try pairing the two - oranges and vanilla. It made the best syrup I had ever tasted!

And comes with a lovely bonus—while the syrup cooks, a beautiful and relaxing orange and vanilla scent will fill the house.

Tip: If you don't eat the oranges, use the flesh to make your own orange marmalade or compote. It's really easy!

Orange syrup, with a few slivers of peel, flecked with vanilla seeds.

Orange syrup, with a few slivers of peel, flecked with vanilla seeds.

Summary of Instructions

  1. Prepare the orange rind by cutting it off the orange, avoiding the pith, and slicing it thinly.
  2. Cook all ingredients on a low heat until the rind is soft and slightly translucent.
  3. Continue to cook the syrup on a medium heat until the volume is about 250ml / 1 cup.
  4. Remove the rind from the syrup. Discard the vanilla bean.
  5. Cool the syrup before storing in a plastic container, or bottle while hot in sterilized glass jars.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

15 min

2 hours

2 hours 15 min

250ml / 1 cup syrup


  • 4-6 oranges
  • 250g / 1 lb sugar
  • 0.5 vanilla bean, sliced in half, lengthways
  • 1 Litre / 4 cups water

Note: using orange juice instead of, or in addition to the water, will result in a cloudy syrup.

If you want to keep the syrup crystal clear, then use only water, sugar and rind.


  1. Use blemish-free fresh fruit, and wash them thoroughly.

    : It is best to use organic fruit, to limit the residual pesticides or wax coatings often found on the rind.
  2. With a vegetable peeler (or a sharp knife), peel away thin strips of the orange rind.

    Avoid cutting deeply—the white pith will add a very bitter taste to the syrup.
  3. Cut each strip of peel into thin julienned slivers.

    If you want to create candied orange peel for decorating, cut the peel in a zig-zag pattern that maximizes the length of each sliver.
  4. Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan until lightly simmering and fully dissolved.
  5. Use more sugar for a thicker and sweeter syrup.
  6. Add the peel slivers and vanilla bean halves, and cook over a gentle heat until the peel is very soft and slightly translucent. You should be able to see gentle rolling bubbles.
  7. Continue cooking on a medium heat to reduce the liquid to about 250ml / 1 cup.
  8. Discard the vanilla bean halves, remove the peel from the syrup and drain the peel in a metal strainer, keeping the excess syrup that drips off.

    Tip: You can make candied orange peel with the fruit slivers, or add the peel to orange marmalade.
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Storing the Syrup

If you are storing the syrup in sterilized hot glass jars, ladle or pour the syrup into the jar while the syrup is still very hot.

If you are storing the syrup in plastic, let the syrup cool completely first.

Using the Orange Vanilla Syrup

The syrup is great for any number of situations:

  • Pour over ice cream, shaved ice or sorbet for a summer treat.
  • Glaze a cake with the warmed syrup while the cake is still hot. It will soak in to dryer cakes and leave a slight sweet crust. Great for bundt cakes, sponges or angel cake.
  • Drizzle over pancakes, waffles or french toast instead of maple syrup for a refreshing citrus alternative.
  • Add 3 tablespoons to a cup of boiling water for a hot orange drink - perfect in winter or when you have a cold or the flu.
  • Combine with white vinegar and pepper to make a sweet citrus salad dressing.
  • Make a sweet orange cream cheese dip for fruit or sweet bread varieties.
  • Combine with mineral water for a sweet fizzy drink - great in summer.
  • Use as a dipping sauce for grilled meats or fish.
  • Add a tablespoon or two to soy or sweet chili sauce for dipping Asian-flavored barbecued meat.

Apple Orange Reduced-Sugar Syrup

  • Replace 250ml / 1 cup of water with 250ml / 1 cup of clear apple juice.
  • Decrease the sugar to 125g / 0.5 cup.
  • Use a broken cinnamon stick instead of the vanilla bean.

This will result in a much thinner syrup with more liquid. Cook for longer to reduce it and make a smaller volume of thicker syrup.

Citrus Variations

You can use a single type of fruit peel, or mix and match citrus peels to suit your tastes.

  • Lime—a very tangy, less sweet syrup with a light green color. Use 5-6 Tahitian limes.
  • Lemon—sweeter than lime syrup, but still quite strong and tangy. Use 4-5 large lemons. This makes a fabulous cordial.
  • Orange and lemon—Use 2 lemons and 4 oranges.
  • Blood orange—replace half or all the oranges with blood oranges, and include the juice of one orange. The syrup will be cloudier because of the juice.
  • Grapefruit—use 2 grapefruits, and include the juice of half a grapefruit. Pink grapefruits are less sour.
  • Mandarin—use 10 mandarins instead of the oranges. This is much sweeter than the other citrus syrups.
  • Kumquat—use 20 kumquats instead of the oranges -- these are the fiddliest to prepare, but make the best hot drink in winter!

Spice variations

  • Add a broken cinnamon stick for a warmer spice note in the syrup.
  • Star anise adds an interesting licorice note to the syrup.
  • Clove also adds a warm anise flavor, but use only one, or it will overpower the oranges.
  • Whole black peppercorns add an interesting warm and spicy taste.
  • Cardamon pods make a fruity chai flavor - add a teaspoon to tea.

Important—Make sure you remove the spices from the syrup before bottling - it will keep longer.

Candied lime peel and lime glaze on a lemon cake.

Candied lime peel and lime glaze on a lemon cake.

Candied Citrus Peel

Toss the still hot, cooked peel strips in a little castor sugar.

You can use the candied peel to:

  • decorate cakes
  • chop and add to fruit cakes or fruit breads
  • add to salads or fruit salads for a slightly bitter-sweet citrus bite
  • decorate cocktails, water jugs or a punch bowl
  • chop and stir into cereals, muesli or cooked oats
  • munch on them when you want something sweet - one or two slivers are enough to quiet a sweet tooth craving.

Different types of citrus fruits will result in different colors and flavors of candied peel. Lime, grapefruit and lemon are much more bitter than orange, mandarin and kumquat.

Store the candied peel in the freezer. You may need to heat it in the microwave and toss it in some sugar before using it as decoration.

How would you use the orange vanilla syrup?

Let us know in the comments below!

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