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Substitutes For Vanilla Extract – What Can I Use Instead?

How many times have you decided not to bake something only because the recipe called for vanilla extract and you didn’t have it home? But you could do it, and the result would be just as good.

What can you use instead of vanilla extract? There are many substitutes for vanilla extract. While you cannot replicate the exact flavor of vanilla extract with other ingredients, you can achieve a similar result. These are the best substitutes for vanilla extract:


11 Vanilla Extract Substitutes

Vanilla extract is one of the best ingredients you can use in baking. But it is not the end of the world if you don’t at the moment. There are quite a few vanilla extract substitutes, and you can find at least one of them in your pantry or fridge.

If you somehow don’t have any of the options below, don’t postpone baking your cake or cookies. Leave out the vanilla extract. So long as it doesn’t play the primary role in the recipe, you can skip on it for the moment.

Here are 11 vanilla extract substitutes.

1. Honey

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Honey is one of those ingredients you most likely have in your kitchen. Being used for a variety of cooking tasks, honey is also a good substitute for vanilla extract.

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While the flavor profiles of vanilla and honey are different, the latter adds nice floral hints to baked goods.

One thing to keep in mind when using honey is that it is very sweet. Thus, you will need to reduce the amount of sugar indicated in the recipe.

2. Almond Extract

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Almond extract is a great substitute for vanilla extract, especially for those allergic to vanilla. It may have the same price point, but the flavor it adds to baked goods is very similar to that of vanilla.

Almond extract can be used in baking cakes and other desserts. It is also added into toppings and cake or cupcake fillings for an added nutty aroma.

Almond extract can be quite intense. Thus, be careful to not overdo it.

3. Maple Syrup

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Maple syrup is one of the more accessible vanilla extract substitutes. It doesn’t taste like vanilla extract. But it will add warmth to your baked goods as vanilla extract does.

Similar to honey, maple syrup should be used in moderation. Otherwise, it will make the dessert too sweet.

4. Bourbon


Bourbon is one of the most popular alcohols used in baking. Due to hints of caramel and vanilla in it, bourbon can create an effect similar to the one created by vanilla extract.

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Bourbon is used in baking not only for the hints of warm flavors it adds but also because it improves the moisture of the sponge.

It pairs well with a range of flavors commonly used in baking, including brown sugar, pecans, mint, and many fruits, such as apples and peaches.

5. Lemon Zest

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If what you are baking will benefit from a light citrusy aroma, then go ahead and zest some lemon in batter or cream you are making. The zest of citrus fruits is not as acidic as the juice. It adds just the right amount of freshness.

Depending on your preferences and the recipe, you can also use lime and orange zest.

6. Coffee

coffee beans

Coffee is a common ingredient in chocolate desserts, brownies being the brightest example.

If you don’t have vanilla extract at hand, substitute it with a teaspoon of coffee. Espresso powder will work well and so will your regular instant coffee.

Alternatively, you can brew some strong coffee and use it as 1:1 substitution for vanilla extract in chocolate baked goods. Coffee will enhance the taste of the chocolate and cocoa powder.

7. Spices

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If you are good with spices and know how to use them so that they don’t overpower other flavors in the recipe, you can substitute vanilla extract with spices.

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Some spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg are perfect for adding the warmth that vanilla extract adds to baked goods.

Spices are also much cheaper than vanilla extract and will last you longer. Additionally, you can use them in a variety of savory dishes too.

8. Brandy


As we have already told you in the beginning, vanilla extract is made with soaking the pods and beans of vanilla in water and alcohol. Thus, using an alcohol substitute for vanilla extract should not be a problem.

Substitute vanilla extract with brandy measure for measure. Brandy is especially good in baked goods that contain fresh fruit.

You can also use a small amount of brandy extract instead of vanilla extract.

9. Vanilla Milk

vanilla milk

There are many vanilla-flavored milk options on the market. Vanilla-infused almond, soy, and cashew milk are some of the more popular options.

If a small amount of milk won’t mess up your recipe, then using vanilla milk instead of vanilla extract is a great option. It is also very easy as you will have to substitute one part of vanilla extract with one part of vanilla milk.

10. Vanilla Beans

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If you are looking for the closest substitute for vanilla extract to achieve the most similar result, then you should go for vanilla beans.

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Though this is not an ingredient to be always sitting around in your pantry, if you happen to have vanilla beans at hand, don’t hesitate to use them.

To substitute a teaspoon of vanilla extract you will need to scrape half of the seeds of a vanilla bean.

Vanilla powder is also a great 1:1 substitute for vanilla extract. Vanilla powder is essentially finely ground vanilla beans.

11. Rum


Yet another alcohol substitute for vanilla extract for those that don’t mind some spirits in their baked goods.

Rum is a common ingredient in one of the most popular desserts, Tiramisu. It can also be used in cakes instead of vanilla extract. Rum has an underlying toasted aroma and will be fit in with various recipes.

The substitution of vanilla extract with rum is 1:1.

What Is Vanilla Extract and Why It’s Used

Vanilla extract is a solution of water and alcohol with vanilla. It is made by soaking the pods and beans of vanilla into mixture. As this mixture ages, the flavor of the solution becomes more and more prominent and rich.

If you happen to have vanilla pods at hand, you can easily make your own vanilla extract and use it in a variety of baked goods, puddings, and creams.

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There are lots of artificial vanilla options on the market. They come in two forms – in liquid and powder form. Artificial vanilla extract, made of synthetic vanillin, is often referred to as imitation vanilla.

While many people won’t be able to detect the difference between authentic vanilla extract and a high-quality artificial one, there is no doubt that the former is more preferable. It is richer in flavor and makes the taste of baked goods deep while not adding any unpleasant aftertaste.

It is better not to skip using vanilla in baked goods as you will miss the chance of enhancing all the flavors that you have going on. If you have chocolate in your dessert, it will make it taste a few times richer. It also comes in handy for dessert made with eggs.

You have probably encountered the problem of egg smell in baked goods. A small amount of vanilla extract will make it disappear.

In a word, if you consider yourself a baker, it is good to have vanilla extract at hand as almost every recipe calls for it. But if you consider yourself a good baker, it is important to know what you can use instead of vanilla extract in different recipes.

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