Vanilla Soufflé

James Beard

Author and Educator

Making a soufflé strikes fear into the hearts of many home cooks. But if you start with the versatile vanilla bean for maximum flavor and divide the process into its separate parts, this impressive and delicious dessert becomes a no-brainer. Once you become comfortable with the basic recipe, try substituting other flavors like chocolate to the base.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut into two 1-inch pieces, or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 5 egg whites


Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Butter a 6-cup or 1 1/2 quart soufflé dish and coat with sugar.

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan and blend in the flour with a whisk. Stir until smooth, add salt, and cook the mixture for 2 or 3 minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour.

Heat milk with one piece of the vanilla bean until it is just below the boiling point. Remove the bean, and stir the milk into the flour mixture. Let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, but be careful it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Slice along the length of both pieces of vanilla bean and scrape the black seeds from the inside into the milk-flour base. Add the sugar. Remove from the heat and stir in the lightly beaten egg yolks. Return to very low heat for a minute or two, stirring until the eggs are just heated through.

Remove to a large bowl and allow to cool. (The recipe can be made up to this point and refrigerated, say before dinner. Sneak out to the kitchen towards the end of the meal, or afterwards, to complete the rest.) Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, then gently stir a quarter of them into the vanilla base. Fold in the rest of the whites with a rubber spatula until they are completely incorporated, but do not overfold.

Pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish until it is about two-thirds to three-fourths full. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, depending on how you like your soufflé. Allow 25 minutes for a soufflé that is firm on the outside and slightly runny inside, 35 minutes for one that is firm throughout.

Serve immediately with a dollop of whipped cream.


4 servings