What to Do When You’re Out of Vanilla Extract

You love cooking and baking, but you’ve run out of vanilla extract. What’s a foodie to do?

Luckily for you, there are so many other options! If you want to use mostly natural ingredients in your cooking, try these substitutes: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with 1 teaspoon all-natural virgin coconut oil; zest from one lemon or orange; or 2 teaspoons honey. These will give your dishes yummy flavors without artificial additives.

If you’re looking for something more traditional, try these substitutes: 1 teaspoon almond extract mixed with 1 tablespoon soy sauce; orange juice concentrate diluted with water; or rum extracts used sparingly in the recipe where it’s needed most.

And for the rest of us, I’ve put together a list of my favorite vanilla alternatives. Enjoy!

The Top 6 Vanilla Alternatives: Rating System 5/5 A timeless classic and must-have in every kitchen 4/5 Delicious, but a taste of something different 3/5 Good enough to use as a substitute without missing the original essence 2/5 Not bad, but way too cloying 1/5 Seriously not worth using Vanilla extract is one of those ingredients that people either love or hate.

And we can’t really understand why. It’s kind of a cloyingly sweet, heavily scented mixture which makes it the perfect foundation for a lot of recipes. But if you’re out of it and need to make a dessert or two, then what’s the best substitute? What you should use instead depends on your flavor preference. If you love the essence of vanilla, then I’d definitely go with one of the following suggestions. But if you don’t, then any of the ones below are all good alternatives. 1. Almond Extract

Almond extract is my favorite substitute for vanilla extract. It’s a strong flavor with a distinct, pleasing aroma that makes it a good stand-in for vanilla extract in most cake recipes. If you’re looking for something more exotic or something to use in cookies and other desserts, consider using oils like orange and lemon zest, cinnamon or vanilla beans to flavor your homemade treats. 2. Vanilla Bean

If you love the subtle, floral taste of vanilla bean then you can use it to make your own vanilla extract in your own home. Steep 1 vanilla bean in 2 tablespoons of rum for 6 months before using. 3. Vanilla Powder

A more modern substitute for vanilla extract is pure vanilla powder. You blend a little honey, vodka or non-alcoholic spirits and a few drops of the powder together and then add to the recipe as instructed. 4. Vanilla Bean Paste

Vanilla bean paste combines the essential oils from both vanilla beans and extracts them into a thick, clear paste that tastes like real vanilla beans without any alcohol or fillers. It’s fast, easy and makes delicious food. You can find it at most grocery stores or online. 5. Vanilla Extract

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If all else fails, simply use a little bit of vanilla extract instead of the real thing. With a little experimenting, you can adjust the strength to your taste and still get a good vanilla flavor without having to buy actual vanilla beans. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract adds plenty of sweet flavor to baked goods and other recipes that you’ll love.

Don’t make an extra trip to the store. There are plenty of ways to make a vanilla substitute without sacrificing flavor or quality.

There are a few pantry staples I take for granted: baking soda, molasses and vanilla extract. The containers are so large, I just assume I have some on hand. But, sometimes someone uses up the last few drops of vanilla without putting it on the shopping list, and my pantry shelves lay bare when I’m in the middle of mixing up a batch of cookies.

Don’t make an emergency run to the store! You can create a vanilla substitute with ingredients you already have on hand. When you do run to the store, here are the vanilla brands the Taste of Home Test Kitchen recommends.

Vanilla Substitutes

Here’s what you can use in place of vanilla in recipes.

Maple Syrup

My go-to substitute for vanilla extract is maple syrup. It has the same sweet aroma, and it does a pretty good job of mimicking vanilla’s mellow flavor. Use the same amount of maple syrup as you would vanilla, and you’ll barely notice the difference. (This is why vanilla is so expensive.)

Almond Extract

Almond extract is significantly more potent than vanilla, but it will provide a similar flavor profile if you use it sparingly. You’ll only need to use half the amount of almond extract, and you might be surprised at how much you like its nutty flavor in your favorite vanilla recipes.

Bourbon, Brandy or Rum

Believe it or not, there is alcohol in vanilla (here’s how much). To make the extract, vanilla beans are soaked in alcohol to extract its enticing flavor and aroma. Swapping in the same amount of a flavorful spirit makes a fantastic substitute. And as long as whatever you’re making is baked, the alcohol content will cook out leaving you with all of the flavor and none of the booze.

Other Spices

If vanilla isn’t the star of your recipe, it’s likely added to create depth of flavor. Try swapping in another spice, like cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg. These spices can be strong, so we recommend starting with a pinch.

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Instant Coffee or Espresso Powder

You won’t miss the flavor of vanilla in rich, chocolaty treats if you add coffee or espresso powder instead. You won’t need to add much; a pinch of espresso powder goes a long way.

Citrus Zest

Zesting a lime, lemon or orange is a great way to add a burst of fresh flavor to your favorite baked goods. The juice is too acidic, but the zest is super flavorful and it won’t water down your dough, either.

Do you have to heat vanilla extract?

It is common for recipes to call for heating the extract, however in most cases this is not necessary. The flavor of the vanilla will not be affected by being heated, nor does it have an expiration date like some of the other ingredients in baking.

What is the difference between vanilla extract and imitation vanilla?

Vanilla Extract – Is made by steeping vanilla beans in alcohol. The more expensive versions of this are aged with a little sugar to give it a rich golden color and deeper flavor. Imitation Vanilla – Is made by blending artificial flavors with corn syrup of sugar and water, which are then distilled into a liquid that may or may not contain alcohol.

Can you drink uncooked vanilla extract?

Like with most extracts, you CAN drink uncooked vanilla extract. Most recipes don’t add any extra flavoring, so you are basically drinking pure vanilla.

A home baker could use a bottle of pure vanilla extract and a bottle of imitation right back to back and not have much of a difference in the finished baked goods.

I’d recommend always using the highest quality extract, since it will add the most flavor to your baked goods. And cleaning up the bottle will make it last much longer than if it is an artificial flavor added at the end of the cooking process. To help preserve that fresh flavor, be sure to store your bottles of vanilla in a dark place when not in use.

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How do you make your own homemade vanilla extract?

Making your own homemade vanilla extract is really easy, and will save you a lot of money. You start by evenly slicing your vanilla beans, then store them in a container with the alcohol of your choice (a good quality vodka works great). The longer they sit, the stronger the extract will be. You’ll want to shake or stir the beans around at least once a week to ensure they are being infused properly.

How do you use vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract is one of the most versatile ingredients in your pantry. It can be used to enhance savory dishes like roasted vegetables, as well as sweet desserts like cookies, cakes, and ice cream.

Can you use vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans?

Yes! In fact, I recommend using vanilla extract for a lot of recipes. Vanilla beans can be hard to find at a good price, and cut open easily. Extracts are cheaper and easier to transport due to the smaller packaging. You’ll typically see it called for in recipes that call for whole vanilla beans that get blended into the batter or dough (like cookie recipes).

Why do we need vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract is an important part of baking and all those little details that make baking so amazing. Vanilla, and the flavor it adds, gives baked goods a unique aroma, flavor and texture. That’s why you don’t need to use vanilla beans to get the same effect; a little good quality vanilla extract will do just fine.

It adds moisture to cakes, cookies and other baked goods that help keep them fresh longer. I like using vanilla extract as a replacement for some of the water in recipes such as cake frosting, but you could use it in addition to other liquids like milk or honey.

Why is vanilla so expensive?

Because it’s such an important ingredient in baking, the price of vanilla is pretty high. Fresh vanilla beans are not easy to get, and since they are so small and delicate, they’re hard to process. The result is that you need to pay more for something that is essentially the same as a bottle of liquid extract.

Aging your vanilla beans in alcohol increases their flavor and makes them more expensive as well. Soaking them in alcohol and then roasting them helps release all those delicious oils into the liquid, which can enhance their flavor even further.

It’s not hard to see the benefits of buying a bottle of pure vanilla extract versus the cheaper imitation stuff. The biggest benefit is that you’ll save money and have a lot more control over what goes into your dishes. Other than that, when it comes to baking, I recommend using a bottle of pure vanilla extract for just about every cooking project! Try some baking recipes using vanilla extract and write them down in our bakers notes section below.

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