Have you ever started to make a recipe and realized you were out of vanilla extract? If you need a vanilla extract substitute we’ve got ya covered. Here are 10+ options to use in place of vanilla extract.
Vanilla extract is an ingredient we use all the time. There really isn’t a replacement for pure vanilla, as it is such a unique ingredient, but in a pinch you can try one of the options below.
What is vanilla extract?
Vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla bean pods in alcohol until infused with flavor. Vanilla extract is used most often in sweet recipes in small amounts (anywhere from ½ teaspoon to 1 tablespoon). It adds a rich and well rounded flavor that can take a recipe from good to great. We use it mostly in sweet recipes, but you might occasionally see it in a savory recipe, too.
Vanilla extract substitutes
Fresh vanilla bean (best option 1) – Scrape the seeds from a fresh vanilla bean. Use the seeds from half of a vanilla bean for every 1-½ teaspoons of vanilla extract needed.
Vanilla bean paste (best option 2) – Use as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla extract.
Maple syrup – I recommend using double the amount of maple syrup as vanilla extract. This is a great substitute in pancakes, waffles, French toast, blondies, or oatmeal cookies.
Maple extract – Use half as much maple extract as vanilla extract. This is a great substitute in pancakes, waffles, french toast, blondies, or oatmeal cookies.
Almond extract – Use half as much almond extract as vanilla extract. This is a great substitute in white cakes, lemon desserts, berry desserts, and sugar cookies. Note: the almond flavor will likely be noticeable.
Rum, bourbon, brandy, or amaretto – Use as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla extract.
Vanilla coffee syrup – Use as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla extract.
Vanilla coffee creamer – Use as a 1:1 substitute or double the amount of coffee creamer as extract.
Spices, espresso powder – Feel free to think outside of the box and go with a completely different flavor than vanilla. Cinnamon and nutmeg pair nicely with oat, pumpkin, or nut-based recipes. Espresso powder is great for pairing with chocolate recipes.
Best recipes for vanilla extract substitutes
If using fresh vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste you can use them in any recipe that calls for vanilla extract.
As for the other substitutes, it is best to use a recipe that is not predominantly vanilla flavored. For example: Oatmeal cookies, banana pancakes, brownies, pumpkin muffins, peanut butter pie, etc. Think about the flavors in the recipe and which substitute would pair best.
When NOT to use a vanilla extract substitute
If using fresh vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste substitutes you can use them in any recipe that calls for vanilla extract.
As for the other substitutes, I do not recommend using them in a recipe that is predominantly vanilla flavored, such as vanilla cake, vanilla buttercream frosting, or vanilla pudding. You will want to get real vanilla (extract, bean, or paste) before making the recipe.
More baking resources
Vanilla Extract Substitutes
The best substitutes (see notes):
- seed scraped from vanilla bean
- vanilla bean paste
Additional options (see notes):
- maple syrup
- maple extract
- almond extract
- rum, bourbon, brandy, or amaretto
- vanilla coffee syrup
- vanilla coffee creamer
- spices or espresso powder
- See notes for substitution amounts.