Out of vanilla? Try These Swaps in Your Baking Recipe Instead (2024)

There's no doubt about it: Vanilla extract is one of the most frequently used staples in the kitchen pantry, especially for avid bakers. Vanilla brings its deeply aromatic, distinctly floral flavor and character to all kinds of cookies, cakes, pies, custards, ice creams, and more. Even chocolate tastes better when it's paired with a bit of vanilla, and that's because the two seemingly opposite flavors bring out the very best in one another. But what happens when you run out? Turn to one of these vanilla extract substitutes, and you'll never notice what's missing.

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What Is Vanilla?

The story of vanilla begins with tropical orchids, which bear elongated pods, or beans, filled with lots of tiny seeds. The orchid that gives us vanilla bean pods originated in Mexico, though much of today's world supply of vanilla comes from orchids cultivated in the South Pacific (which is why you may see "Tahiti" or "Madagascar" on the label).

What Is Vanilla Extract?

Pure vanilla extract is made from steeping chopped vanilla beans in a solution of alcohol, then straining and aging it to develop the flavor. Pure vanilla extract is our go-to for baking. It is pricy, but a little goes a long way. But when you consider the beans have to be harvested by hand, then aged, and the plants are subject to weather patterns and more, the price tag for this precious ingredient doesn't seem steep.

You may be tempted to try the more inexpensive artificial vanilla flavoring in place of pure vanilla extract substitute, but avoid the temptation. As its name suggests, imitation vanilla flavoring comes from artificial flavorings, and the flavor doesn't compare to the real thing. This is especially true in dishes like ice cream or custards that feature vanilla as the prominent ingredient.

Common Substitutes for Vanilla Extract

Other Forms of Pure Vanilla

Extract is the most common form of vanilla, but you may also have vanilla powder, vanilla paste, or the vanilla beans themselves on hand—these are our top picks for a substitute for vanilla extract.

  • Vanilla powder: You need about 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla powder for every 1 teaspoon of extract your recipe calls for.
  • Vanilla paste: The paste is roughly equivalent to the extract in terms of flavoring, so substitute in a 1:1 ratio. (Be sure to read the label on the paste or powder, as some brands may vary in concentration.)
  • Vanilla bean: One vanilla bean split open lengthwise and scraped of its seeds, equals about 1 tablespoon of extract.

Maple Syrup

If you are preparing a recipe that requires vanilla extract and you find that you've run out of vanilla in all its forms, some bakers use an equal measure of pure maple syrup in its place. Avoid imitation maple syrup, which is mostly just corn syrup.

Flavoring Extracts

You may also choose to swap in other flavoring extracts in place of the vanilla. Almond imparts a nice flavor to baked goods and spoon desserts. It is much stronger than vanilla, however, so you will only need about half as much.

Other extracts, including lemon or peppermint, impart their own distinct flavors. Depending on your recipe, experiment with one or another in place of vanilla to see if you like the result. If it's a simple sugar cookie or butter cake, it shouldn't be a problem. (Who knows? You might even create a new favorite cookie or cake in the process.)

Bourbon and Other Alcoholic Spirits

You can also try using a spirit, such as brandy, rum, whiskey, or bourbon, as a vanilla extract substitute. Because bourbon picks up some of the flavors from the oak barrels in which it is aged, its flavor is closest to vanilla. The reason? Oak is rich in compounds known as vanillins.

Make Your Own

There are two homemade substitutes for vanilla extract, neither is ready the day you make it, so they aren't substitutes you can use today, but they are an investment in future baking.

Homemade Vanilla Extract: To avoid running out of vanilla extract (those small grocery store bottles only hold so much), plan ahead by making your own extract from scratch. It's easy to make your own using vanilla beans and vodka. The extract needs about two months to develop flavor before you can use it—and it keeps indefinitely.

Vanilla Sugar: You may enjoy making vanilla sugar, which is simply a matter of burying vanilla pods in an airtight container of granulated sugar. Use new pods or those that have been scraped of their seeds for other recipes (don't let those powerhouse pods go to waste!) to prepare it. Then, whenever you need a vanilla extract substitute, simply use this sugar in place of regular granulated sugar in a recipe to achieve a similar vanilla flavor.

How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home

Out of vanilla? Try These Swaps in Your Baking Recipe Instead (2024)


Out of vanilla? Try These Swaps in Your Baking Recipe Instead? ›

If you don't have any on hand, you can almost always omit the vanilla without impacting the final texture of your baked goods; although the rich flavor extract—or any form of vanilla—brings will certainly be altered. Just remember one thing: flavor comes first.

What can I substitute if I don't have vanilla? ›

8 substitutes for vanilla extract
  • Vanilla paste. Vanilla paste — also called vanilla bean paste — is a mix of vanilla extract, vanilla beans, and sugar. ...
  • Vanilla powder. ...
  • Vanilla sugar. ...
  • Almond extract. ...
  • Maple syrup. ...
  • Honey. ...
  • Bourbon, brandy, rum, or vanilla liqueur. ...
  • Vanilla flavored plant-based milk.
Nov 12, 2021

What happens if I don't use vanilla extract in a recipe? ›

If you don't have any on hand, you can almost always omit the vanilla without impacting the final texture of your baked goods; although the rich flavor extract—or any form of vanilla—brings will certainly be altered. Just remember one thing: flavor comes first.

Can you substitute imitation vanilla extract? ›

If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, you can swap in 2 teaspoons of imitation vanilla or vanilla flavoring to get a similar flavor. So, no matter what extract you haveon hand, it should be easy to get that warm, vanilla flavor you love in your baked and non–baked treats!

How much maple syrup to replace 1 tsp vanilla extract? ›

For every 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract called for in your recipe, use about 1 tablespoon of honey or maple syrup.

What is a good substitute for vanilla extract reddit? ›

Almond extract or maple syrup are my most common. Sometimes might need a spice blend (nutmeg/cinnamon/clove/star anise etc) depending on the item.

Is vanilla really necessary in baking? ›

Vanilla does offer more than just a bit of floral flavor. Sometimes it's a flavor enhancer and sometimes it's a flavor balancer. But to be honest, unless it's a vanilla cookie, it's not a true dealbreaker. Especially if you're making cookies that have lots of other flavors going on, like coconut or dark chocolate.

What to do if you forgot to add vanilla extract? ›

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.

Can I use cinnamon instead of vanilla extract? ›

Warming Spices

Another flavor-changing option would be to simply trade the vanilla for a warming spice like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom. Of course, you will not typically want to swap one-for-one. If your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon vanilla, consider adding 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of spice in it's place.

What extract is closest to vanilla? ›

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.

How do you make imitation vanilla? ›

Imitation vanilla is made from vanillin (the primary flavor component of vanilla). Vanillin is manufactured from a substance called guaiacol. Most of the world's guaiacol supply comes from petroleum. The vanillin is diluted with a liquid, typically alcohol or propylene glycol.

Is McCormick vanilla flavor the same as vanilla extract? ›

Vanilla flavoring uses artificial ingredients while vanilla extract creates a natural flavor from pure vanilla beans.

What can I use if I don't have vanilla? ›

If vanilla isn't the star of your recipe, using complementary baking spices instead is a great way to add flavor to your dessert. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, or ginger are great for using instead of vanilla. Depending on your recipe, this swap may need some testing.

Does maple syrup taste like vanilla extract? ›

Maple syrup has a similar flavor profile to vanilla but is also sweeter with a slightly stronger taste, so be careful which baking projects you use maple syrup in, as it can overpower other flavors. However, it can also help to bring out warmer flavors in your baked goods.

Is honey or maple syrup a better substitute for vanilla extract? ›

Simply replace the vanilla extract with an equal amount of maple syrup. It provides sweetness and full flavour in baked goods, and a tiny amount won't overpower the other flavours. Don't have syrup on hand? Honey will also do!

What can I use if I don't have a vanilla pod? ›

Vanilla extract makes a great substitute for Vanilla Pods when you haven't got any available. It is difficult to say exactly how much to use, but a good guide is using 1 teaspoon in place of one Vanilla pod.

How to make vanilla flavour? ›

You only need 2 ingredients for homemade vanilla extract: vanilla beans and vodka. Let the vanilla beans infuse the vodka for as little as 8 weeks, but for optimal flavor, wait at least 6-12 months before using. Homemade vanilla is more cost efficient than store-bought options. You can try homemade vanilla sugar too.

Can vanilla powder replace vanilla extract? ›

Yes! You can substitute vanilla powder for vanilla extract (or vice versa) in any recipe. Use a 1:1 ratio when making this substitution. If a recipe calls for one teaspoon of vanilla extract, just use one teaspoon of powder.

What does vanilla extract do in baking? ›

Vanilla extract and how important is it for the baking process. The primary purpose of vanilla extract is to add flavour to baked goods. Lacking it, baked goods tend to have a bland and boring taste. Vanilla extract can also contribute moisture to create a soft and fluffy texture.


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