Out of Vanilla Extract? Here Are the 8 Best Substitutes
You probably have some of them in your pantry.
By Jessie Sheehan for Food Network Kitchen
Jessie Sheehan is a baker and cookbook author.
Like butter and flour, vanilla extract is integral to baking. Not only does it impart quintessential “vanilla” flavor that’s floral, sweet and a little caramel-like, but also it enhances the flavors of other ingredients in the mix. In other words, thanks to vanilla extract, your chocolate chip cookies taste more buttery, your chocolate cake more chocolatey and your cherry pie more fruity.
Vanilla has quite a unique flavor profile, which might lead you to believe there are no good substitutes if you happen to run out. But guess what? There are indeed items sitting in your pantry (or your liquor cabinet!) that can be substituted for vanilla. Vanilla also comes in a variety of forms - not just a liquid extract. So if you have vanilla powder or paste or beans on hand, they can also easily be substituted for the extract called for in your recipe.
Where Does Vanilla Extract Come From?
Vanilla extract comes from the seeds tucked inside the pods/beans of tropical orchids, which are mostly cultivated in the South Pacific.
What Is Vanilla Extract Made Of?
To make vanilla extract, the beans/pods from the orchids are chopped, steeped in alcohol, strained and aged.
What Forms Does Vanilla Take?
Vanilla comes in many forms, not just liquid extract. Vanilla can also be purchased as a paste, a bean or a powder.
What to Know about Imitation Vanilla
Artificial vanilla extract does not have the same flavor as pure vanilla extract and many do not encourage its use because of this fact. However, some of us believe that imitation vanilla does indeed have a place in baked goods, as it offers cakes, cookies, etc. a wonderfully nostalgic flavor, since it was an ingredient in many of the treats that many of us enjoyed as kids
The Best Substitutes for Vanilla Extract
We have 8 different suggestions for vanilla extract substitutions.
Why It Works: Maple syrup works as a substitute for vanilla extract because it is a liquid with a similar color and flavor to vanilla, as it is light brown, sweet and slightly caramelized.
How to Substitute: Substitute maple syrup 1:1 for vanilla extract.
Why It Works: Although it may change the flavor of your recipe dramatically, you can substitute almond extract for vanilla in some baked goods, particularly those where an almond flavor makes sense - like a cookie with nuts in it or a white or yellow cake.
How to Substitute: Substitute about half as much almond extract for the amount of vanilla called for in the recipe. Almond extract is stronger than vanilla and if you are not trying to make your baked good taste almond-y, you want to be judicious about how much you use.
Why it Works: Bourbon is aged in oak barrels and oak has compounds in it called “vanillins” which give off a vanilla-like fragrance.
How to Substitute: Bourbon may be substituted 1:1 for vanilla extract.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Why It Works: Homemade extract tastes like an even better version of the store-bought stuff. To make it, cut two beans in half lengthwise and stick them in a cup of vodka for two months in a cool spot, shaking occasionally.
How to Substitute: Substitute homemade vanilla extract 1:1 for store bought.
Homemade Vanilla Sugar
Why It Works: Vanilla Sugar is granulated sugar that has been infused with vanilla. You can make your own vanilla sugar by following the recipe here.
How to Substitute: Substitute vanilla sugar for the granulated sugar called for in your recipe.
Why It Works: Vanilla powder is a wonderful substitute because it is pure vanilla that has been processed differently than the extract.
How to Substitute: Use ½ teaspoon powder for every teaspoon of extract called for in your recipe.
Why It Works: Vanilla paste is a wonderful substitute for vanilla extract because it is nothing more than pure vanilla that has been processed differently than the extract.
How to Substitute: Substitute 1 for 1, extract for paste. The paste has the added benefit of coloring your baked goods with loads of gorgeous vanilla bean specks.
Why It Works: Because extract is made from vanilla beans, you can substitute the paste or seeds from the inside of a dried bean for extract.
How to Substitute: The paste or seeds from a whole bean can be substituted for 1 tablespoon of extract.
Try These Recipes With Vanilla Extract
Vanilla extract helps pop the flavor of the chocolate in Chocolate Chip Cookies (pictured above), as well as the caramel-y buttery notes in the cookies, and this recipe is no exception.
Pancakes will always benefit from a little vanilla.
Vanilla Cupcakes showcase the floral, yet sweet flavors of vanilla just beautifully.
Even Chocolate Cake needs vanilla if you want it to taste truly chocolate-y.