What is vanilla extract?
This process takes several months. Vanilla extract is made by soaking whole vanilla beans in vodka for several months. The rich flavor of the extract comes from the seeds within the pods, which contain a component called vanillin.
It has an intense, sweet, aromatic flavor and is a common ingredient used in baking.
Vanilla Extract Substitutes
Vanilla extract is often made with alcohol, but there are options available without alcohol if that is what you are looking for. If you have run out of vanilla extract, there are substitutes you can use.
This guide will help you find the right replacement for vanilla extract, depending on what you need it for.
1. Vanilla Paste or Fresh Vanilla Bean Pods
If you have vanilla beans on hand, this might be the best vanilla extract substitute you can use since it has the exact same flavor as vanilla extract and won’t change the intended flavor of your recipe.
You can use the same amount of vanilla bean paste as you would vanilla extract.
If a recipe calls for one teaspoon of vanilla extract, use the seeds from half of a vanilla bean.
2. Vanilla Powder
Vanilla powder has a more intense flavor than vanilla extract. Vanilla powder is made by grinding up vanilla beans into a fine powder. For example, if your recipe has 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, you should use 1 teaspoon of vanilla powder.
Use 1/2 strength of vanilla powder for whatever the recipe calls for vanilla extract.
Vanilla powder, while not as good as vanilla extract, is derived from vanilla beans and is thus a decent substitute.
3. Pure Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a great substitute for vanilla extract. Maple syrup can be used as a vanilla (1:1 replacement).
Reducing the amount of sugar in your recipe may be necessary to balance the sweetness since maple syrup has a sweet flavor while vanilla extract does not. If you want a healthier option that still has a sweet taste, try maple extract. It has a fraction of the sugar that maple syrup has.
Honey can be used as a replacement for vanilla extract in a recipe. This can be used as a direct replacement for vanilla extract in any recipe.
Honey can be substituted for vanilla in a 1:1 ratio. If you use honey instead of sugar, you will have to reduce the amount of sweetness in your recipe.
5. Rum, Brandy, Bourbon or Vanilla Liqueur
Replacements for vanilla extract that have a slightly sweet aftertaste include rum, brandy, and bourbon.
Another plus of alcohol is that it doesn’t spoil, so you can keep vanilla-flavored liqueur in your liquor cabinet. It has a similar flavor profile to vanilla extract, which is often used in baking recipes. You can also use it as a 1:1 substitute.
Bourbon actually has a flavor complex similar to vanilla. They’re both complex, smoky, and strong. This could be used as a replacement for recipes that call for lots of sugar, like pecan pie, chocolate cake, ginger, or molasses cookies. If the recipe calls for 1 ounce of bourbon, use 2 ounces instead.
Although it is sweet, brandy can be used to flavor recipes with more savory ingredients such as banana or pumpkin. Like bourbon, use a 2:1 ratio.
If you want to add a richer flavor to your baking, you can use rum instead of vanilla extract. Use 2 parts rum for every 1 part vanilla extract. This is a great choice for chocolate based desserts!
6. Almond Extract
If you have almond extract on hand, you can use it as a replacement for vanilla extract. Adding almond extract will give your baking recipes a nice flavor. The extract won’t provide a vanilla flavor to your sweet recipes, but it will give them a slight nutty flavor. Adding this ingredient really enhances the flavor of the dish.
7. Vanilla Essence
The difference between vanilla essence and vanilla extract is that vanilla essence is made from synthetic vanilla, while vanilla extract is made from the natural vanilla bean. The vanilla taste is not as pronounced.
If you want your finished product to have a strong vanilla flavor, use twice as much vanilla extract as the recipe calls for. If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, use 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence instead.
8. Vanilla Flavored Plant Based Milk
Who would have thought that plant based milk with vanilla flavoring makes an excellent vanilla extract alternative! You can replace vanilla extract with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, soy milk, or oat milk.
Use milk as a one-to-one substitution for vanilla extract.
I’ve never tried making baked goods with vanilla milk, but I imagine it would work just as well as regular milk. If you are preparing a milkshake or smoothie that requires vanilla extract, you can use vanilla flavored milk or even vanilla ice cream as a substitute.
9. Instant Coffee or Espresso Powder
This vanilla substitute is best used in chocolate recipes as it enhances the flavor of the chocolate. It would also work in savory dishes. If you’re looking to add a little salt to your dish, a pinch should do the trick. You don’t need to add an equal amount of salt, just a pinch. A little goes a long way!
10. Other Sweet Spices
Try sweet spices like cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg. Pumpkin pie spice would probably also work. Alternatively, add some lemon, lime or orange zest! You only need a little bit here – try using a pinch or two and that would be sufficient.
11. Vanilla Infused Milk
You can make your own homemade concoction by combining milk and vanilla beans! Bring the milk and vanilla beans to a simmer on low heat. Once the milk starts to bubble, remove it from the heat.
Let the mixture cool and taste for flavor. If you find the vanilla too strong, add some milk until you get the flavor you want. After cooking the beans, remove them from the pot and set them aside to use later. Pour the mixture into a container and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. Substitute at a 1:1 ratio.
12. Vanilla Sugar
One of the most common substitutes for sugar is vanilla sugar. Some people even put it in their coffee for an extra decadent treat.
If you use vanilla sugar instead of vanilla extract, you should use less sugar overall and use three times the amount of extract that the recipe calls for.
For example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, you should use 3 teaspoons of vanilla sugar. If you have any leftover vanilla bean pods, you can place them in your sugar jar to give your baking an extra special flavor.
13. Other Flavored Extracts
If you have other flavored extracts, you can substitute them for the extract called for in the recipe, using a 1:1 ratio. Choose an extract flavor that will complement the recipe you are making.
14. Citrus Zest
If you don’t mind the citrus flavor in your finished product, you can replace the vanilla extract with citrus zest.
15. Vanilla Ice Cream
You can use vanilla ice cream as a source of delicious vanilla flavor in another frozen recipe like frozen yogurt, milkshakes, floats, or smoothies.
If you’re looking to add a little something extra to your baking, vanilla ice cream can be your go-to ingredient. For example, you can use it to turn a basic recipe like blueberry muffins into a 3-ingredient recipe (or 4, or 5).
If you use milk in the recipe, it will make it creamy and lactose intolerant people should be aware of that.
16. Common Dessert Spice
Many spices are commonly used in dessert recipes. The use of vanilla extract is to add flavor, but other ingredients can have the same effect.
Which of these spices do you like? All are fine options! Try using spices like nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cinnamon to flavor your dessert, and if the recipe is missing a wet ingredient, try adding another liquid.
17. Vanilla Flavored Syrup
It works for coffee, right?! However, you should reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe when using flavored syrups because they are generally very sweet.
This substitute will not work as well in recipes that need to be baked since the final product will be wetter.
Vanilla Extract Substitute in Baking
Wondering what to use in some specific baked goods? The following are the details and specifics for cookies, French toast, frosting, brownies, and banana bread.
Substitute for Cookies
You can use maple syrup, honey, almond extract, vanilla essence, vanilla powder, vanilla sugar, or alcohol like bourbon instead of cookies.
If you do not have any of the aforementioned options, you can forego adding vanilla extract or any substitutes to your cookies; the chocolate chip flavor is what the cookies are all about, after all.
Be aware that some of the ingredients you mentioned, like almond extract, honey, maple syrup, and alcohol, will change the final taste.
Substitute for French Toast
Again, vanilla extract is used to enhance the flavor of French toast. You can make your breakfast less flavorful by skipping the vanilla extract. If you want to enhance the flavor of your dish, you can try using maple syrup, bourbon, or almond extract instead of vanilla extract.
I prefer to skip the vanilla and use cinnamon.
Substitute for Frosting
In place of vanilla extract, you can use another flavoring depending on what you are frosting and what flavor you want to create.
If you’re looking for a different flavor, you could try an extract like almond, peppermint, or lemon. Or, you could switch to using an alcohol like bourbon. Add flavors that compliment the taste of what you are frosting, such as orange or lemon juice, espresso, coffee liquor, etc.
Substitute for Brownies
Vanilla extract will make the chocolate flavor in your brownies more pronounced, but feel free to experiment with other substitutes.
Substitute for Banana Bread
It is better to use brandy instead of vanilla extract when making banana bread because brandy tastes good with bananas. If you want your dish to be rich and delicious, use twice as much brandy as the recipe calls for.
Substitute for Vanilla
Clear vanilla is a synthetic flavor that is a clear liquid. If you want to keep the color of your recipe light, use a clear vanilla flavored syrup, vanilla sugar, or a vanilla powder that is light in color.
Substitute for Dry Vanilla
Dry vanilla refers to either vanilla powder or ground up beans. If you need vanilla flavoring without the liquid, you can use vanilla powder, vanilla sugar, or a different spice like cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, clove, or chai spice mix instead, depending on the flavor you want.