What Is The Perfect Substitute For Vanilla Extract?

8 mins read
vanilla extract
By Ruthie Hansen/Flickr. Copyright 2021.

Want a good substitute for vanilla extract? Read this article to try out some of the best substitutes for vanilla extract.

What is Vanilla Extract?

vanilla extract
By Ginny/Flickr. Copyright 2021.

Vanilla Extract is available in two forms – Natural or Pure vanilla extract, which comes from pollinated vanilla orchid (Vanilla planifolia) that produces vanilla bean pods, and Artificial vanilla extract that is a product of refining petrochemicals. To know about the uses of vanilla pods, click here.

Vanilla extract is a flavoring ingredient popularly used in baked goods and desserts. It has an intense and aromatic smell.

This liquid flavoring is also used in meats, drinks, marinades, and dressings. You can also add it to healthy meals like smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, and roasted fruits.

A substitute for vanilla extract is needed because there might not be any available to make the dish. One might not like the flavor or want a non – alcoholic substitute.

Don’t worry, and we have provided below some good options that are a must-try.

1) Best Substitutes for Vanilla extract

Whether in sweet or savory recipes, the alternatives for vanilla extract can be used according to one’s preferences and usage. Look at the ingredients mentioned below and select the best one for you.

1.1) Vanilla Paste

substitute for vanilla extract
By Amy Zirkle/Flickr. Copyright 2021.

Vanilla Paste or Vanilla bean paste comprises vanilla extract, sugar, and vanilla beans.

With a strong flavor and smooth texture, Vanilla bean paste has a loose consistency like syrup. But, it can substitute for vanilla extract in terms of taste.

Vanilla paste is ideal for more rich-looking desserts like ice cream, cupcakes, and milkshakes. However, if you don’t want the fancy black specks, go for the more straightforward vanilla extract.

1.1.1.) How to use it?

Vanilla bean paste can be used in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute for vanilla extract.

1.2) Vanilla Beans

substitute for vanilla extract
By mady70/unlimphotos.com Copyright 2021.

Flavor-wise, Whole vanilla beans are the closest substitute for vanilla extract, as the latter is made of vanilla beans soaked in water and alcohol.

You can use vanilla beans in your recipe if it is vanilla-based. However, one of the cons of using this ingredient is its price compared to vanilla extract.

1.2.1.) How to use it?

1) Firstly, slice the vanilla bean in half and take out the seedy interior.

2) As a substitute for vanilla extract (1 tbsp/15 ml) use the seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod.

Check out this video to know how to use a vanilla bean.

1.3) Almond Extract

substitute for vanilla extract
By Eric.Ray/Flickr. Copyright 2021.

A good substitute for vanilla extract in desserts like pound cakes and cookies is an almond extract, although it might be a little stronger and add a nutty flavor to the dish.

This is a perfect alternative if you love a dessert that would bring out the almond flavor. Although, the recipe needs to be dealt with carefully as too much almond extract might make the dish bitter.

1.3.1) How to use it?

1:1 ratio is to be followed to substitute vanilla extract with almond extract due to the flavor profile.

Fun Fact: Almond is generally healthy, packed with vitamins and proteins, and can produce many items like almond milk, butter, and paste. Click here to know more health benefits of almonds.

1.4) Maple Syrup

substitute for vanilla extract
By tacar/unlimphotos.com Copyright 2021.

For rich and sweet recipes, using maple syrup instead of vanilla extract is a good option, as it also binds the baked goods and adds moisture to the dishes.

Since maple syrup is a natural sweetener made of xylem sap of the maple trees, it can also be used as pancake toppings and in other baked recipes.

1.4.1) How to use it?

Maple syrup might differ slightly in flavor but can substitute for vanilla extract in a 1:1 ratio.

Note: If you plan to use maple extract instead of maple syrup, reduce the ratio to half the amount. Do not use imitation syrup as a substitute for pure maple syrup, as it might drastically change the taste.

Fun Fact: If you use maple syrup to substitute for a significant amount, the calorie content also changes. Click here to check out the health benefits and disadvantages of maple syrup.

1.5) Vanilla sugar

Vanilla sugar
By leeser/unlimphotos.com Copyright 2021.

Put, when you infuse vanilla beans with sugar to extract the essential oils, you get vanilla sugar. This is a common alternative used in Europe.

It can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract by replacing the regular sugar in the recipe. You can sprinkle it on cookies, cakes, and freshly baked pies.

1.5.1) How to use it?

If the recipe calls for vanilla extract, use one and a half teaspoons of homemade vanilla sugar or 1 tsp of store-bought vanilla sugar.

Note: In cases of certain food items like buttercream and custard, you need to find another substitute for vanilla extract, as the granulated sugar might make it grainy.

Tip: If you dissolve vanilla sugar into a liquid ingredient like egg and cream, it can be used as an excellent substitute for custards.

1.6) Alcoholic spirits

For a rich and caramel-filled vanilla flavor, using a flavorful spirit as a substitute for vanilla extract is a good option. Here are some of the suggestions:

1.6.1) Bourbon

By magraphics/unlimphotos.com Copyright 2021.

The popular American Whiskey -Bourbon is an excellent alcoholic substitute for vanilla extract due to its slightly sweetened and smokey flavor profile.

It can be used to make desserts like chocolate cake, pecan pie, and gingerbread.

While bourbon enhances the darker tones of vanilla extract, it tones the down the licorice ones, so choose according to your flavor profile.

1.6.2) Rum

By kvkirillov/unlimphotos.com Copyright 2021.

Rum can be used as a sweet substitute for vanilla extract or vanilla to enhance sweet recipes.

The sweetness of Rum, added with its smooth and pure texture, works excellent on toppings and ice creams. Darker rums can be used in caramel apples and other rich dishes.

1.6.3) Brandy

By agg/unlimphotos.com Copyright 2021.

Brandy is the best substitute for vanilla extract, adding a sweet and fruity flavor to the dish. It tastes well when fermented and appropriately aged.

It can be used to make buttercream frosting and banana bread.

To avoid other substitutes with a more robust flavor or aroma, brandy is a good option.

1.6.4) Vanilla liqueur

Vanilla liqueur can replace vanilla extract if someone needs an ingredient with low alcoholic content and less flavored components.

Fun Fact: The difference in compositions makes Liqueurs more expensive, so they are used by restaurants in their beverages and desserts, while extracts are used more universally due to their beneficial economic value.

How to use it?

The standard ratio for these alcohol-based vanilla extract substitutes is 2:1. It might also vary according to the recipe.

Note: Remember that alcoholic substitutes should be avoided for certain groups like children and pregnant women.

1.7) Vanilla powder

Vanilla powder
By Marco Verch Professional Photographer/Flickr, Copyright 2021.

Made of ground vanilla beans, the flavor and smell of vanilla powder are intensely sweetened and rich. If one is looking for a much stronger flavor than vanilla extract, this is a great substitute.

The vanilla powder can be used in frostings and pale cakes instead of the extract, as it won’t tint them brown.

The concentrated flavor of the powder is also beneficial for desserts. It can also be used in cereals, beverages, and sprinkling.

1.7.1) How to use it?

To use the powder as a substitute for vanilla extract, you can use 1:1 or 1/2 tsp vanilla powder to 1 tsp vanilla extract.

1.8) Vanilla flavored plant-based milk

Vanilla flavored milk like almond, soy, and oat milk can be used as substitutes for a more subtle flavor when compared to vanilla extract.

You can also use them in place of any liquid in the recipe like milk or water to get a more vanilla-flavored result.

1.8.1) How to use it?

The ratio proportions would be 1:1 to replace these kinds of milk with vanilla extract.

1.9) Honey

By senkaya/unlimphotos.com Copyright 2021.

For a healthier and natural sweetener, using honey in place of vanilla extract is a good option. The best thing about honey is that it can be used in sweet and savory dishes.

Even though it’s milder in flavor compared to extract, it is one of the sweeter substitutes. So, using it in a restrained manner is advisable.

1.9.1) How to use it?

The ratio can be 1 tbsp of honey to 1 tsp of vanilla extract, however, is one looking for a healthier alternative, replace the sugar ingredients with honey.

1.10) Spices and Herbs

Substitutes that contain herbs for sweet dishes made with vanilla extract are as follows:

1.10.1) Chai Spices

These act as a good ingredient in making cookies and pound cakes. The ratio can be 1/2 tbsp of chai spice to the prescribed vanilla extract in the recipe.

1.10.2) Lavender

Compared to vanilla extract, Lavender works perfectly as a dried herb ingredient in oatmeal and yogurt to add a floral depth to the dish.

For replacing savory dishes that use vanilla extract, these are the options:

1.10.3) Cinnamon

This warm spice can not only be used to add flavor in savory dishes like spicy toasts and oatmeal, but it can also replace vanilla extract in dishes like cakes, cookies, brownies, pancakes, and coffee.

1.10.4) Cloves

Clove works well to add a distinct aromatic flavor to your savory dishes. It provides a sweet and warm flavor and works well with vanilla extract.

Cloves are used to make many dishes like meats, curries, marinades, and even wine.

1.11) Fruit Zest

Citrus fruits work as good substitutes in dishes that don’t feature vanilla as the star ingredient. Some of the options are:

1.11.1) Lemons

To add a more acidic and bitter taste to your dishes, using lemon extract instead of vanilla extract would work.

When you use it in baked items like cookies, the sweetness combined with the bitterness of lemons creates a complex flavor that is amazing to taste. You can also try it out in other dishes like cakes and pies.

Depending on the dish and recipe, the amount may vary from 1 tbsp to 1-2 tbsp.

1.11.2) Oranges

To add an orange flavor in custards, buttercream, icing, and cupcake batters: orange is a perfect substitute for vanilla extract.

1.12) Chocolate

If you need to add a healthier chocolate ingredient to the dish, dark chocolate instead of vanilla extract is a great option. It not only contains less sugar but also has an intense flavor.

Tip: If you make treats based on rich chocolate, swapping the vanilla extract with a pinch of instant coffee powder or espresso powder is also an option.

2) The Verdict on Vanilla extract

Even though vanilla extract does not structure the recipe, it does add flavor when required, and leaving it out is also not a good option.

There might be a temptation to use artificial ingredients for recipes that do not require vanilla extract. Here’s why the switch is not recommended:

What is the difference between pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla?

Compared to homemade vanilla extract, Imitation vanilla – like vanilla essence – provide an artificial flavoring that is less expensive and adds a mild flavor.

The main risk factor is vanillin in imitation vanilla, which has artificial colors, preservatives, and sweeteners hazardous to health.

So, instead of using an artificial substitute for vanilla extract, a pure extract made of natural ingredients like water, sugar, and alcohol is a much better option.

Here is a recipe for homemade vanilla extract.

The conclusion is – these substitutes are good enough to enhance the flavor just like vanilla extract, without affecting the texture and quality of the dish. Do not skip using the extract or the substitutes because it completes the dish in terms of its flavors.

Here are some tips and tricks for making homemade vanilla:

1) Do try out the recipe provided above for homemade vanilla extract, as you can also save 77% by making it at home with simple ingredients like vanilla beans and liquor in a jar.

2) If you are looking for a spare use of the vanilla beans left, you can also make homemade vanilla powder just with a coffee grinder; it also works as a substitute for vanilla extract in half the amount.

3) If you don’t like the idea of powder, you can also go for vanilla syrup, made with simple ingredients like beans, sugar, and water in a saucepan.

If you liked this article, click here to know about the health benefits and substitutes for peanut butter. 

Suggested Reads:

10 Amazing Fitness Tips Every Woman Should Follow



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