7 Amazing Vanilla Extract Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

There are a number of excellent vanilla extract substitutes to use if you run out of this key flavoring ingredient in the kitchen.

Vanilla Extract Substitutes

You may seek out vanilla extract substitutes for allergy reasons, or because you want to change the flavor in one of your favorite recipes. Made by processing vanilla pods, vanilla extract is a minor, yet important ingredient that pops up in a range of desserts and baked goods. Although vanilla is the key component to vanilla extract, it has many different flavor compounds and offers a deep and complex taste. Perfectly mimicking this flavor is difficult, but there are plenty of alternatives that can deliver a sweet bite to your dishes, such as vanilla essence, maple syrup, almond extract, vanilla flavored liquor, vanilla powder, and vanilla flavored milk. [1]

Vanilla Essence

This is one of your first and best options when looking for vanilla extract substitutes. Vanilla essence is made from synthetic compounds, rather than extracted from the vanilla pod, so this alternative is not as strong as the extract. Try doubling the amount to get a similar level of flavor when using vanilla essence in your recipe.

A jar of vanilla oil with dried vanilla beans on a small white tray

Vanilla absolute is an oil extracted from the molasses-like vanilla oleoresin. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Maple Syrup

An excellent alternative to vanilla extract, maple syrup is sweet and offers a complexity of flavor that is similar to vanilla extract. You can substitute vanilla extract for maple syrup at a one-to-one ratio. [2]

Almond Extract

Almond extract shares some of its flavor palettes with vanilla extract, although is nuttier and not as sweet. The flavor is also stronger than vanilla extract, so we recommend using half the amount as suggested for vanilla extract. This works as a particularly good alternative in baking.

Vanilla-Flavored Liqueur

A good substitute when cooking for adults, a vanilla-flavored liqueur will give you the vanilla flavor with a warming kick, although this won’t be appropriate if preparing a dish for those who abstain from alcohol.

Vanilla Powder

Vanilla powder is made from dried vanilla beans. As the source is much the same, the flavors are highly similar. However, the powder might not be suitable for all recipes due to the difference in texture. Try using half the amount of powder as extract, and increase the amount according to taste. [3]

Vanilla Bean

If you are lucky enough to come across this substitute, you will need to scrape the pulp and seeds from the bean. You can use the inside of one bean in place of one teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Vanilla-Flavored Milk

There is a range of vanilla flavored milk that can be used as an emergency substitute for vanilla extract, but vanilla flavored soy milk is the most common. The vanilla flavor from milk is unlikely to be as strong as the extract. You can reduce the milk down to make a thicker liquid that provides more flavor to your dish without changing the consistency. [4]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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