Substitutes for Vanilla Extract

There are plenty of ingredients you can swap in

Vanilla extract, overhead view

Michelle Arnold / Getty Images

Vanilla extract is a common ingredient in baking, adding just a touch of flavor and sweetness. But if you discover you are out or don't want to use it because of cost or alcohol content, turn to one of these vanilla extract replacements instead. They'll keep your recipe on track without an extra trip to the store. There is little to no preparation, and these easy swaps will save you time and money.

If you have more than one of the substitutes in your pantry, choose the one that seems to provide the best flavor match for the recipe you're making.

Illustration of vanilla substitutes
 The Spruce / Ashley Deleon Nicole

Maple Syrup

The flavor of maple syrup is similar enough to vanilla extract that you can replace the vanilla extract with an equal amount of maple syrup. Pure maple syrup is best, but if you only have pancake syrup, that will work fine too. Any changes in flavor will be subtle, but maple syrup has more sugar than vanilla. So if your recipe calls for sugar, you may want to decrease the amount.

Almond Extract

Almond extract is made from almond oil and tastes like sweet almonds. It has a much stronger flavor than vanilla, so when swapping, use half as much almond extract. Your recipe will have a slightly almond tinge to it, so make sure the nutty flavor will complement the finished product.

Other Extracts

Other flavor extracts such as orange, lemon, or peppermint can also be used in place of vanilla but will change the flavor of the finished recipe more significantly. Thus, make sure to pick a flavor that will complement the other ingredients. Replace the vanilla with an equal amount of the substitute since they are less strong than almond extract. 

Vanilla Milk

If you happen to have vanilla-flavored almond or soy milk in the fridge, you can use either one to replace the vanilla measure for measure. You will get the vanilla taste, and the small amount of milk will not affect the recipe.

Rum or Brandy

To make vanilla extract: The vanilla beans are soaked in alcohol, which extracts the vanilla flavor (hence the name). Thus, using a liquor is a reasonable replacement. If you aren't trying to avoid the alcohol, try an equal amount of rum or brandy for the vanilla extract. 

Vanilla Bean

Although not a common ingredient in the typical kitchen, if you happen to have a vanilla bean in your pantry, the seeds are a good substitute. Scrape out the seeds from half a vanilla bean and use them as a stand-in for 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Vanilla Paste or Powder

Vanilla paste and vanilla powder are two products made from vanilla extract as well as other ingredients. The paste has a syruplike consistency and, along with the extract, is made of vanilla beans, sugar, water, and a natural thickener; the powder is dried vanilla extract mixed with cornstarch and is alcohol free. You can replace the vanilla extract with an equal amount of vanilla paste or vanilla powder.

Substitutes for vanilla extract
The Spruce

Make Your Own

You can also make vanilla extract using vanilla beans and vodka, but keep in mind the mixture needs to sit for at least eight weeks and preferably for several months. Another option is to make your own nonalcoholic vanilla extract, but just like regular vanilla extract, it won't be ready to use for a couple of months.

Leave It Out

If you don't have any of the substitutions on hand, you can simply leave out the vanilla extract and continue with your recipe. As long as vanilla isn't a star ingredient, there shouldn't be much difference in taste. The amount of liquid that vanilla extract contributes to a recipe is usually negligible so there's no need to replace it with anything.