The Best Substitutes For Vanilla Extract In Your Cookies

Vanilla extract is a staple in cooking, but a lot of people don’t realize that there are many other options for the sweet, creamy flavor. This article will go through some of the most popular ones, and how they vary from extract to substitute. The recipes and their descriptions are provided as well!

The best part is that you can try out all these different flavors without having to worry about wasting vanilla extract!

The mere whiff of vanilla can send a person into a nostalgic, frenzied baking mode. This iconic bean is used in everything from ice cream to cheesecake and, of course, cookies.

If you get the urge to bake and can’t find a drop of vanilla extract anywhere in your home, all is not lost.

What is the best substitute for vanilla extract in cookies? Another form of vanilla, such as vanilla beans, vanilla bean paste, or vanilla powder. Failing a true vanilla substitute, you can also try artificial vanilla essence, maple syrup, honey, an alternative flavored extract, liquor, or spice if you’re in a pinch.

Each of these substitutions will add something original to your recipe and, depending on the type of cookies you’re baking, some may work better than others. This article will look at the best substitutes for a variety of cookies so that you can feel confident replacing the vanilla extract in any recipe.

What is Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract, of the purest variety, is made simply from vanilla beans and alcohol. The beans are soaked long enough to extract their flavor into the alcohol which can then be used in your baking.

It’s worth noting that if you’re not a very discerning baker, chances are you’ve been buying artificial vanilla for years without really noticing. It’s hugely common in baking and provides mostly the same results because at least half the power of vanilla is in the aroma.

However, if you have a finely tuned palette, you will notice a difference when you either make your own vanilla extract or buy a high-quality, real vanilla option.

Pure Vanilla Substitution Options

Whole vanilla beans have very intense flavors and are one of the most expensive spices on earth, coming in 2nd place to saffron. Since it has such a powerful flavor, however, it’s generally affordable to most people in small quantities, though not nearly as inexpensive as many other extracts or the artificial variety.

If you get your hands on a whole bean, slice the pod open lengthwise to get at the sticky insides. ½ a bean will substitute for 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

You can also save the pod, placing it in a jar of sugar to create vanilla scented sugar.

Vanilla bean paste is a thick paste made from blending the gooey insides of the vanilla beans with vanilla extract. It can be hard to find, but it’s rich and out-of-this-world delicious and can be substituted in exact measurements for vanilla extract.

Vanilla bean powder is the purest form of vanilla next to the bean itself. It’s made simply from drying the bean and grinding it into a powder. A little goes a long way, so use half the amount of extract called for in the recipe.

How To Make Vanilla Extract

Before we dive into non-vanilla vanilla extract substitutes, you might be interested to know that if you have vanilla beans or even vanilla bean paste, and a bottle of vodka, you could whip up a batch of your own homemade vanilla extract.

It’s not an instant solution, but it’s something that you can keep on hand if you happen to have a few extra vanilla beans that you don’t know what to do with.

Vanilla extract is made simply by soaking the beans in alcohol. Vodka is most commonly used for at-home brewing because it lets the flavor of the vanilla shine through with little contamination. You can use rum or bourbon if that’s what you have, but it will create a mixed extract flavor.

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Here’s how:

In a small mason or Wyck jar, drop in 3 vanilla beans that you’ve split open.

Pour over 1 cup of the alcohol of your choice. This will need to steep in a cool, dry location well covered for about a month before the flavor is powerful enough to be used as an extract.

All you have to do during this time is give the jar a shake every week or so.

If you’re in a rush, uncomfortable making an extract with your own vodka, or simply don’t have any useable alcohol, we can also show you how to make vanilla extract without alcohol. Well, it’s more of a vanilla syrup really.

Is Vanilla Extract Necessary

Vanilla extract isn’t always necessary in a recipe, though it almost always adds a depth of flavor and aromatic sweetness that will be missed. In savory recipes, we use salt to bring out the flavors of our other ingredients. In baking, we use vanilla.

Baking is much more of a scientific process than cooking, however, so you may have a history of deflated souffle, bready cakes, or cakey bread, simply because you didn’t measure something exact. Unless it’s being used in something like vanilla ice cream where it’s the star of the dish, the vanilla extract doesn’t have a structural role in baking, compared to something like baking soda, for example.

This makes it much easier to substitute for a similar effect and provides plenty of effective options for you to experiment with.

Best Vanilla Extract Substitute for Flavor Overall

If the flavor is what you’re after, the absolute best solution to substituting vanilla extract is to use an alternative form of vanilla, such as the bean, bean paste, or vanilla powder.

If your reason for not using vanilla extract also prohibits you from using a true vanilla substitute – most likely the exorbitant price of the sweet spice – then the best for flavor would be to substitute with artificial vanillin, vanilla flavor or vanilla essence. This is the most obvious substitute, but if you’re searching the internet for a vanilla extract substitute, you probably don’t have artificial vanilla either.

Using Vanilla Extract in Cookies

In some baking, vanilla can make or break the subtlety of the dessert. In cookies, it’s much less noticeable and therefore you have a lot more wiggle room with viable substitutions.

Even professional bakers tend to agree that whatever the star of the cookie is, be it chocolate, ginger, peanut butter, or humble sugar, they will overpower even high-quality vanilla, so substituting or even simply eliminating it is certain cases will not noticeably affect the batch.

Depending on that star flavor, finding a substitute to complement and enhance it is more important than simply adding vanilla extract out of habit. In chocolate chip cookies, chocolate is obviously the focal flavor.

While the scent of vanilla might draw you in, chocolate tastes great on or in anything, so your options here are limitless, though our favorites are an orange extract or a dark bourbon.

If you’d rather not compete with the chocolate in your cookies, try a more mild-mannered almond or butterscotch extract instead, using half the amount that is called for in the recipe.

Vanilla Extract Substitute in Sugar Cookies

Even though many people don’t realize it, the signature “sugar” flavor in sugar cookies is usually achieved with vanilla extract. You have two choices in this case:

Try honey or maple syrup and hope that your cookie monsters don’t notice the subtle difference between flavors that are so familiar, or

Make a statement by using citrus extract or specific spices, such as ginger or cinnamon.

Substitute for Vanilla Extract in Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies can be as simple as peanut butter + sugar + egg = cookie, much to the surprise and delight of our test kitchen.

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However, such simple peanut butter cookies can lose their edge over time. Maple syrup or honey is the perfect substitute for vanilla extract in this case and, many would argue, even a better solution.

If you don’t like your cookies too sweet however you may want to use less sugar than the recipe calls for to compensate for the added sweetness of the syrup or honey.

Vanilla Extract Substitute for Shortbread Cookies

The most important ingredient in shortbread cookies is the butter, but the vanilla is there to add its support to the flavor as well.

The best solution, in this case, is to call attention to the substitute, using a lemon or almond extract to boldly make a flavor contribution.

If you’re a stickler for tradition, swapping the extract for liquor will get you a closer outcome.

Substitute Vanilla Extract in Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Similar to peanut butter cookies, not all recipes of this variety will call for vanilla extract, but it does enhance the recipe to the level of a pro baker.

Oatmeal and raisins both pair perfectly with nuts of any kind, so using an almond extract is perfect for this occasion.

Thinking about it a little more, you can’t go wrong with any of the above suggestions – maple syrup, honey, spices, and liquors would all taste amazing in an oatmeal cookie.

Use an oatmeal cookie recipe to test out flavors if you’re still nervous about substitutions.

Is vanilla extract important in cookies?

A vanilla extract gives a unique, natural flavor to the dish. Different extracts are made using different methods, with more complex processes producing more complex flavors.

The best vanilla extract is one that’s made using vanilla beans that have been baked and soaked in alcohol. This process takes several months and produces a flavorful end product that’s often used in delicate desserts and baked goods.

However, not all products on the market are made the same way, so some of them might be lower quality. Those products will not give your meat as intense flavor as you would get from an authentic vanilla extract.

What Is the Best Vanilla Extract Substitute for Flavor Overall?

If the flavor is what you’re after, the absolute best solution to substituting vanilla extract is to use an alternative form of vanilla, such as the bean, bean paste, or vanilla powder.

If your reason for not using vanilla extract also prohibits you from using a true vanilla substitute – most likely the exorbitant price of the sweet spice – then the best for flavor would be to substitute with artificial vanillin, vanilla flavor or vanilla essence. This is the most obvious substitute, but if you’re searching the internet for a vanilla extract substitute, you probably don’t have artificial vanilla either.

What will happen if you don’t put vanilla extract?

Each recipe of baking requires its own type of vanilla flavoring, but it’s safe to say that if you don’t put vanilla extract in a dish, you won’t be missing out on any specific flavor. In fact, during our test kitchen experiments without the extract, we were able to taste the dish without the vanilla and it was still very good.

Only a few recipes call for a very small amount of vanilla extract – often only a teaspoon or two, but using an extract affects the final product, so if you are not familiar with cooking and baking at all then it is advised to use extracts when possible.

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However, if you are very confident in your cooking skills, then by all means feel free to omit vanilla extract. If you decide to forgo it entirely, there are two reasons why you should stick with a vanilla substitute: the price and the consistencies.

Vanilla extract is a very expensive ingredient that you can’t use half of and throw in your meatloaf – you have to use at least a teaspoon of it. This means that it’s much more expensive than other ingredients and also means that its more difficult to replace with another flavoring.

What can you use instead of vanilla extract in cookies?

Strawberries are one of the most popular desserts that are additionally flavored with vanilla extract. If you don’t own vanilla extract, consider using strawberry extract instead – but only if you plan on using strawberries in the recipe.

Most people will agree that it is impossible to tell the difference between cooked milk and milk that comes from a cow, but raw milk does have a different taste and flavor than the cooked kind. Vanilla seeds are used to flavor the raw milk, so it may be possible to use that instead. However, this is even more difficult than swapping out vanilla extract for other ingredients.

Vanilla extract is often used to make bread. This can be done with vegetable oil, but you might have to substitute the oil with oil of some kind, such as raw or roasted butter. Use butter flavoring, but with a little avocado instead of coconut milk.

Imaginative cooking is always possible. Don’t be afraid to experiment and come up with your own recipes – some substitutions and variations might be much better than what you are currently using.

Can you leave vanilla extract out of a recipe?

Vanilla extract is a very important ingredient for many recipes, especially when it relates to baking cookies. The right amount of vanilla extract is necessary to bring out the flavors and make your cookies taste as delicious as they can be.

You need a certain amount of vanilla extract in order to achieve the desired flavor. In fact, vanilla extract must be used because it makes the cookie taste more authentic. You only want the best flavor possible, so you need to use the correct amount of vanilla extract.

If you don’t have vanilla extract, you can always use vanilla bean pod. This is similar to real vanilla extract in three major ways: it’s real vanilla bean (instead of artificial flavors), it’s not a pure extract or sterilized alcohol, and it’s natural.

How much vanilla extract should I add to a recipe?

With that being said, the amount of vanilla used in the recipe must be carefully weighed and measured. The right amount gives the right result especially when it comes to baking cookies. You want to get the most flavor possible while using a small quantity of this ingredient.

Too much or too little will make your cookies taste off if you are too heavy handed with the sweetener. The amount you add in the recipe is important as it is what will make all the difference in flavor and the consistency of your cookies.

Is there a vanilla substitute for vanilla extract?

The short answer to this question is, no. There is no way to effectively replace vanilla extract with another ingredient if you are trying to make baked goods or dessert recipes. The amount of vanilla used in a recipe determines how much flavor can be achieved and many recipes call for exact measurements and ratios. Without using vanilla extract, these types of recipes just won’t taste right – they won’t taste like how you want them to be.

We hope that you have found some helpful ideas and recipes to make cooking easier, more fun, and more delicious. If you are looking for a vanilla extract substitute, try using natural extracts such as vanilla bean or pure vanilla extract. If you are looking for a sugar substitute for your cookies without the added sugar then try using agave nectar. It is also a good idea to check out this article on the health benefits of agave nectar .