When talking about baking all types of desserts, one of the most essential ingredients is the vanilla extract. But what can be a good substitution for it?
Famous for its great smell, the vanilla extract has a main role in baked goods – specially cakes, buttercreams, cookies, brownies, and ice cream – and it is responsible to intensify the flavor of all the other ingredients. When it is not added, the taste of your dessert will be bland and dull.
The extract is made of vanilla beans soaked and mixed with water and alcohol.
But even though it is an essential ingredient, it can be easy to forget to buy new bottles, we probably do not even realize that it is missing until it is time to cook something.
Substitutions For Vanilla Extract
Below, we gathered a list of the best vanilla extract substitutions, so you do not need to run to the supermarket in a rush.
1. Maple Syrup
Made of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees, the maple syrup is the go-to vanilla extract replacement.
Most used on its own, the maple syrup is visibly thicker and more viscous than the vanilla extract but has the same memorable smell and almost the same taste.
So, you can replace one by the other in the same proportions and your recipes will not taste any different.
The only precaution is on the sugar quantities. Since the maple syrup is a little sweeter, if your recipe has sugar on it, then the best thing to do is to adjust it and use a little less of it.
And you probably already have a bottle of it since it is commonly used in pancakes.
2. Vanilla Milk
Not a usual replacement, but it can work perfectly. The Vanilla Milk is a white milk with the vanilla flavor in it – it can also be nut-based or soy-based milks with the vanilla flavoring – sometimes natural and sometimes artificial. But both will work just fine.
If used on the right proportions this can be a good substitution, even though the vanilla concentration in the milk is not that high.
Simply adjust the liquid and dry ingredients of your recipe or use this instead if the recipe has water and milk in it.
3. Almond Extract
Although the almond extract is stronger and more concentrated than the vanilla extract, if you use half of the quantities, your recipe will be simply fine.
Made of alcohol, water, and bitter almond oil, the extract is probably already sitting at your cupboard and ready to be used.
Another great advantage: most of the time, it is cheaper than the vanilla extract.
If you are making a recipe and vanilla is not a main ingredient, just something you add to intensify the flavor, then spices can do the job for you.
Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg are the best spices options and can be great substitutes. Just make sure you are adjusting the dry and liquid ingredients of your recipe so nothing unexpected happens.
These spices are cheap, easy to be found and you also probably already have them at home.
5.Bourbon, Rum And Brandy
The vanilla extract is mainly made of alcohol, which makes Bourbon, rum and brandy powerful substitutions for it.
They are already largely used in the kitchen to bake goods to change the texture and enhance the taste, and since bourbon is aged in oak, it already has a little vanilla flavor in it, which helps to balance the sugar.
Just be careful with brandy: it is sweeter than bourbon and the vanilla extract itself, so adjust the sugar in the rest of your recipe.
Odds are that you also have those at your house, and they should be used in the same quantity and proportions as the vanilla extract.
If you are not trying to avoid alcohol, these are the best replacements for the vanilla extract you can find.
Espresso powder or instant coffee are also largely used ingredients in the kitchen. They have the power to neutralize and enhance the flavors while adding a unique smell.
It should be used in a smaller quantity than the vanilla extract or the flavor will stand out in comparison to the other ingredients. Just a little will do it.
7. Homemade Vanilla Extract
If you do not want to miss the vanilla taste and smell on your recipes, then the homemade extract can be a good idea.
Purchase the vanilla beans, cut them lengthwise, add them vertically on a tight air jar and cover them with an alcoholic drink. It can be bourbon, vodka, or rum – here you can choose according to your taste. The amount of alcohol will depend on how many vanilla beans there are in the jar.
The vanilla beans must be fully covered in alcohol and the jar stored closed in a cool place. It will be ready to use after a month.
As you use the extract, the alcoholic drink should be replaced on the same proportion.
This homemade extract will be fine to use for many months. If you feel that it is starting to get weaker, just replace the beans.
If you do not have vanilla extract at home or just want to try something different every once in a while, the 7 options listed above are the best substitution for vanilla extract you can find.
Most of them are super easy to find, not expensive at all and are probably already sitting at your cupboard ready to be used.
Just remember that what works for a type of recipe and ingredients may not work for others, so do a previous research to see if the combinations will be fine together.
And if you are feeling more inspired, then the homemade vanilla extract will be perfect. The DIY extract can be adjusted according to your personal tastes and will last a lot longer.
Let us know which substitution worked better for you.