10 Best Vanilla Extract Substitutes for Your Recipes

vanilla extract substitute
18 min reading time

Vanilla extract is often used in baking as a flavor enhancer. From chocolate chip cookies to vanilla lattes, the unmistakable taste of this sweet aroma can brighten up any food or beverage. However, sometimes you may run out of your trusty jar when it’s time to bake (or just enjoy an espresso at home). Fortunately, some good substitutes can yield similar (or even better!) results with fewer ingredients. So if you’re wondering what to use instead of vanilla extract for your special recipes, keep reading: we’ll explore some excellent vanilla extract substitutes and how they will enrich all kinds of dishes!

What is Vanilla Extract?

Vanilla Extract is a flavoring derived from the seeds of various species of vanilla orchids, most commonly their pods. It’s made by grinding up these beans and then soaking them in alcohol to extract the flavor. In commercial products, it’s usually made with sugar, water, alcohol, and sometimes additional natural flavors like vanilla bean pieces or oils.

Vanilla extract can range from clear to dark brown and typically has an intense aroma reminiscent of vanilla custard or ice cream. Its flavor is very sweet with buttery notes; similar to other vanillas but with a deeper complexity that adds depth to recipes. The extract also has a slightly bitter aftertaste which helps balance out too-sweet desserts like cakes and cookies.

It’s widely used as a flavoring agent in food preparations such as cakes, cookies, cantaloupe smoothies, pancakes, and savory dishes such as dressings, sauces, and soups for an extra kick of flavor! Studies have shown that consuming foods containing small amounts of natural vanillin (the primary component found within pure Vanilla Extract) can increase your serotonin levels—a chemical associated with happiness—thereby helping improve mood and promote happiness! Additionally, its anti-inflammatory properties have been linked to reduced risk for chronic illnesses like heart disease when consumed regularly over time.

Best Vanilla Extract Substitutes You Can Use in Recipes!

1. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract in certain baking recipes, but it’s important to note that there are some key differences between the two. Maple syrup is a sweetened and concentrated syrup made from the sap of maple trees. It typically has a very distinct flavor profile and is much sweeter than vanilla extract. This means you’ll need to use less of it when substituting for vanilla extract; about one-third as much as what is called for in the recipe should suffice. However, since maple syrup does not contain any alcohol like many varieties of vanilla extract do, the taste will differ slightly—a sweeter flavor without any hint of alcohol. 

When using maple syrup in place of vanilla extract, you should also consider its color: compared to most pure extracts, which are clear or light brown (depending on brand), maple syrup has an amber hue which could affect your finished product’s look significantly depending on what you’re making. So if aesthetics matter equally with taste, keep this factor in mind too! 

Ratio: Maple syrup can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract in a 1:1 ratio

2. Vanilla Bean Paste

Vanilla bean paste is an excellent substitution for vanilla extract when baking. It’s most commonly used in recipes where the small flecks of vanilla seeds are desired as a visual flourish. Vanilla bean paste is made by taking full-length vanilla beans, chopping them up, steeping them in alcohol and sucrose (sugar), and then scraping the remaining pieces into a concentrated syrup. This results in an intense flavor that more closely resembles fresh, real vanilla than just using extract would provide.

In addition to the stronger taste you get with it, using vanilla bean paste also adds texture to your finished product because of those tiny black seeds left over from the process. The paste will leave flecks throughout whatever it’s added to; something that can make cakes or cookies look especially appealing – not to mention taste even better! On top of this, when adding pure extracts like these directly into a cake batter or dough mix, you’ll also find that their flavor becomes slightly muted once cooked due to evaporation of alcohol content during baking (unlike syrups which don’t contain any evaporative agents). So if you want a really robustly flavored treat without diminishing its character too much during cooking time – go with this wonderful substitute!

Ratio: Vanilla bean paste can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract with a 1:1 ratio

3. Vanilla Powder

Vanilla powder is frozen-dried vanilla beans milled into a fine, light powder. It can be used as a one-for-one replacement for vanilla extract in recipes—just add one teaspoon of the powder instead of one teaspoon of extract.

Vanilla powder and extract have distinct flavors that come through in baking, but they have some differences worth noting. The most striking difference between vanillas is that pure vanilla bean powder has no added sugar or other sweetening agents like ethyl alcohol or corn syrup; it’s simply raw ground-up dried beans. On the other hand, most commercially available extracts contain these ingredients to give them their signature sweetness and viscosity. As such, using powdered will provide a more natural flavor without any additives whatsoever while still providing sweetness if needed from other sources such as sugar or honey in a recipe. 

Another advantage of powdered variety is its obvious convenience factor: it takes much less time to measure out a teaspoonful than with pre-filled liquid extracts—which require extra steps for accurate measuring —and stores better due to its shelf stability (no need to refrigerate!). Finally, it tends to make your baked goods look great because the flecks of pure powdered beans won’t leave behind spots on perfect cakes and cookies! 

Ratio: Vanilla powder can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract with a 1:1 ratio.

4. Bourbon

Bourbon can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract in some recipes. While it won’t quite impart the same flavor or intensity of vanilla, it can provide a subtle sweetness and robustness that regular extracts don’t have.

When baking with bourbon instead of vanilla extract, you’ll want to use about half the amount you would for regular extract. For example, if your recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract, replace it with 1/2 tablespoon (or one-and-a-half teaspoon) of bourbon. Add some ground cinnamon and nutmeg to bring out the delicious notes from the bourbon more clearly. 

Bourbon is also great in savory dishes such as sauces and glazes where its strong flavor can really shine through. It’s a fantastic addition to stews and roasts when combined with other ingredients like onions and garlic – adding an extra layer of complexity that elevates them above ordinary flavors into something truly special! 

Ratio: Bourbon can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract with a 1:1 ratio.

5. Coffee

You can use coffee as an alternative to vanilla extract. Coffee is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many types of baking recipes to add flavor and complexity. As a substitution for vanilla extract, brewed and cooled strong coffee will lend deeper notes of roasted character with slight bitterness than pure vanilla extract. Caffeine adds another layer of subtlety that will work particularly well in certain recipes such as brownies, cakes, cookies, custards or ice cream. 

Generally, one teaspoon of regular-strength brewed coffee is equivalent to one teaspoon or half tablespoon (depending on your recipe)of pure vanilla extract when substituting it into any given recipe. Some purists might argue, however, that while swapping out ingredients like this may impact the overall flavor profile slightly; there’s no way around the fact that using actual vanilla brings with it both its unmistakable aroma and undeniable flavor combination that just cannot be replicated any other way regardless of how creative you decide to get in your kitchen!

Ratio: Coffee can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract in a 1:1 ratio

6. Almond Extract 

Almond extract can certainly be used as a substitute for vanilla extract. Still, there are some significant differences between the two that should be taken into consideration before making the switch. 

First, the almond extract has a much more intense and nutty flavor than vanilla, so it’s important to use this flavor sparingly in any recipe that calls for extracts. Almonds have an earthy taste with subtle notes of sweetness; using too much will overpower dishes such as cakes and muffins where a delicate flavoring is desired. A good rule of thumb when substituting almond for vanilla is to start with half the amount called for in any given recipe and adjust from there depending on personal preference. 

As far as nutrition goes, both extracts are highly concentrated forms of their respective flavors so they offer similar amounts of calories per teaspoon (approximately 20). That being said, almonds offer many other health benefits that may make them more desirable than vanilla if you want something nutritious to add to your diet. Almonds contain fats that can help reduce cholesterol levels, fight inflammation and provide essential antioxidants; they also boast high amounts of fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and phosphorus among other minerals.  By contrast Vanilla does not possess any notable nutrients beyond its flavoring qualities, so if you’re looking to get more out of your food opt for almonds instead! 

Ratio: Almond extract can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract with a 1:1 ratio.

7. Vanilla Rum 

Vanilla rum can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract in recipes. Vanilla rum has an intense flavor and aroma similar to pure vanilla extract. It adds warmth, complexity, and depth to food dishes. 

Vanilla extract is a liquid flavoring composed of alcohol (usually vodka or brandy) infused with small amounts of real vanilla beans. Rum, on the other hand, is distilled from sugar cane juice or molasses and often contains additional flavors such as spices or fruits like bananas. When using it as a substitution for pure vanilla extract, ensure the percentage of alcohol content matches what your recipe calls for because this will affect the final product’s consistency and texture in subtle ways. 

Another benefit of using rum instead of traditional extracts is that its flavor profile lasts longer than extracted liquids like whiskey or vodka because its high sugar content makes it more resistant to oxidation. Whilst you may find mixing different alcoholic beverages provides far from accurate results when baking/cooking due to varying percentages of ABV; when replacing merely 1-2 teaspoons – with perhaps double measurement – this potential pitfall can be greatly avoided 

Ratio: Vanilla rum can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract in a 1:1 ratio.

8. Vanilla-Flavored Milk

Vanilla-flavored milk can be used as an alternative to pure vanilla extract, however, there are a few things you should consider before doing so.  First off, the flavor of your finished product will not be quite the same. The main difference between vanilla-flavored milk and pure vanilla extract is that the flavoring in flavored milk is artificial. In contrast, pure vanilla extract’s flavor comes from real vanillin – a natural chemical compound in certain plants. This means that while flavored milk may act as a shortcut to adding subtle vanilla notes to dishes like cakes and custards, it won’t have an identical impact on flavor compared with real pure vanilla extract.

Also, you’ll need more volume of flavored milk than when using pure vanilla extract since it contains less concentrated vanillin content than its counterpart. Generally speaking, for every teaspoon (4ml) of pure extract required by a recipe you’ll need 6 teaspoons (24ml) of Vanilla-Flavored Milk instead. 

Of course, some people opt for Vanilla Flavored Milk over regular cow’s or Goat’s Milk because they find it easier to digest due to changing hormones throughout life stages such as puberty or pregnancy etc, but this isn’t necessarily always the case as humans are different and individual tolerance levels vary greatly from one person to another – meaning what works for one person may not work for another at all!

Ratio: Vanilla-flavored milk can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract with a 1:1 ratio. 

9. Honey 

Honey can actually make a great substitute for vanilla extract in certain recipes! It has a sweet, gentle flavor that is perfect for baking. The sugar content of honey is also lower than granulated sugar meaning you don’t have to use as much and may find your baked goods less cloying and overly sweet. Honey adds moisture to whatever recipe it’s used, so bear this in mind when using it as a substitute. 

Replace every teaspoon of vanilla extract with 1/2 tablespoon of honey. If the recipe calls for more than 2 tablespoons (or 1 ounce) of vanilla, I recommend sticking with regular extract because the flavor will get too muted if you try to replace all the required amount with honey alone. Also, remember that depending on what type of honey you are using there may be slight variations in the flavor – milder honey such as clover or orange blossom might work better than stronger varieties like buckwheat or wildflower! 

When replacing large amounts (3-4 tablespoons) please note that because both extracts contain alcohol, some recipes may not rise properly due to this difference; so test it out on smaller batches before committing to larger quantities. 

Ratio: Honey can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract in a 1:1 ratio. 

10. Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla sugar can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract, but it is important to keep in mind that the two are not interchangeable. Vanilla sugar is made by soaking vanilla pods in granulated sugar until all of the flavor and aroma from the pods has been absorbed into the sugar. While this technique impart a lot of flavor into the sugar, it won’t have quite as intense flavor as an actual extract since extracts are usually brewed at higher concentrations. 

However, if you find yourself without any extracts on hand and need to add some extra vanilla flavoring to your recipes, then using vanilla-infused sugar may work better than leaving out the extract entirely. Examples of recipes where you could use this substitution include certain types of cookies, cakes, custards or other similar desserts where only a subtle hint of vanilla might be desired or required. It can also be sprinkled over cereal, toast and even oatmeal for added sweetness and flavor. 

Ratio: Vanilla sugar can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract with a 1:1 ratio.

Why is Vanilla Extract Substitute Used?

Many recipes require an extract for added depth and complexity to their flavors. So why should you consider an alternative to the traditional pure vanilla extract? Here’s why: 

1. Cost-Effective: Vanilla extract substitutes are often much cheaper than pure vanilla extracts, so they can help save money on your grocery bill! You’ll get all the great flavor without breaking the bank. 

2. Organic Option: If you’re looking for an organic option, many brands offer extracts from natural ingredients such as plant-based or non-GMO crops. This means you don’t have to worry about any synthetic or artificial ingredients being added to your food products – making them healthier and more sustainable overall!  

3. Flexibility with Recipes: Substitutes provide another layer of flexibility when it comes to baking. Different types are available depending on what kind of flavor profile you want to reach (such as rum or almond extract). This allows cooks and bakers more freedom when creating their own recipes. 

4. Subtle Differences in Flavor Profile: Using a specific type of vanilla extract substitute may also provide subtle differences in taste compared to pure vanilla extract which could give dishes certain unique notes that enhance flavors further! 

5. Easier Availability: Due to increasing demand for these types of substitutions due to health benefits or dietary restrictions, many stores now carry them readily available off the shelf, making accessing them much easier than tracking down special sources elsewhere!

How to Make Vanilla Extract At Home?

Making your homemade vanilla extract is simple and rewarding! Not only will you save money, but you’ll also have a high-quality product with a unique flavor that stands out. Here’s what you need to do: 

1. First, gather up the ingredients for your vanilla extract. You’ll need either Mexican or Madagascar Bourbon grade vanilla beans (one bean per every two ounces of alcohol), plus 40-70% ABV vodka or rum. Use spiced rum instead of plain vodka for better flavor and a richer mouthfeel. 

2. Split open the vanilla beans lengthwise; then cut them into one-inch pieces using kitchen sheers or sharp scissors. Place them in an airtight glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, such as a mason jar or jam pot with a secure lid. 

3. Pour in the alcohol until it covers the split beans by two inches (about half an inch above). Ensure all the pieces are submerged to infuse their flavor into the alcohol solution fully over time. Put on the lid tightly and store in a cool place away from sunshine and heat sources, as these tend to decompose flavors faster  

(Tip: Store at room temperature for a darker color, while fridge storage results in a paler hue if preferred). 

4. Shake lightly once every day for 4 weeks at least before bottling it off into desired containers like dropper bottles, small jars, etc., labeling it clearly with details such as ingredient name, and date made, etc., These bottles can last nearly forever as long as freezer/refrigerated conditions are maintained properly when not used so that bacteria growth won’t occur due to miscellaneous airborne moisture seeping through seal/closures provided over bottle caps/lids over time.

Table for Substitution Ratio

Here’s a table with substitutes for vanilla extract and their ratios of substitution:

Vanilla Extract Substitute Ratio of Substitution 
Vanilla Sugar1:1
Honey1:1
Vanilla-Flavored Milk1:1
Vanilla Rum1:1
Almond Extract1:1
Coffee1:1
Bourbon1:1
Vanilla Powder1:1
Vanilla Bean Paste1:1
Maple Syrup1:1
Substitution Ratio for Vanilla extract

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is there a substitute for vanilla extract in plant-based baking?

Vanilla-flavored plant-based milk, such as almond, oat, or soy, can be used as an easy 1:1 replacement for vanilla extract in plant-based baking.

Can I use imitation vanilla?

It is possible to use imitation vanilla as a substitute for pure vanilla extract in recipes. Imitation vanilla flavoring is often used in baked goods and low-heat sweets like puddings and icings. However, pure vanilla extract has a more complex flavor profile and may be preferred for its authentic taste, especially in recipes where the vanilla flavor plays a significant role

Can you skip vanilla extract in baking?

The sweet fragrant aroma and distinct flavor it brings to cakes, cookies, and pastries is unmistakable. But what if you were in the middle of baking and realized you were out of vanilla extract? Can you skip it altogether? While it may be tempting to do so, there are certain consequences to leaving it out. The finished product may lack depth and complexity, and you’ll miss out on that iconic vanilla flavor that elevates any baked good. However, you can use some creative substitutes to achieve a similar effect. So, while you may be able to skip vanilla extract in baking, it’s definitely not recommended if you want the best possible results.

What is the purpose of vanilla extract in baking?

This flavorful liquid is extracted from vanilla pods and added to baked goods for a few important reasons. Firstly, vanilla extract provides a rich and warm aroma that can enhance the overall flavor profile of the dish. It also adds a subtle sweetness that can balance out the saltiness or bitterness of other ingredients. Moreover, vanilla extract is a natural flavor enhancer, making other ingredients taste more pronounced. So the next time you’re baking, be sure to add a splash of vanilla extract for a touch of magic in your recipe.

Bottom Line

The world of baking can be an overwhelming place, especially when it comes to substitutions. If you don’t have vanilla extract in the pantry and need a substitution, consider coffee extract, maple syrup, or simply using more of whatever other flavorings are desired. Alternatively, you could whip up your own simple vanilla extract at home. With just a few easy steps and some high quality ingredients, you can ensure that your baked good will come out just right. Ultimately the most important thing is that you can create something yummy; so if that means forgoing the vanilla extract and trying an alternative, then go for it! 

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