Substitutes for Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract overhead

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If you're out of vanilla extract, or you don't want to use it because of the cost or the alcohol content, turn to one of these vanilla extract substitutes instead. They'll keep your recipe on track without an extra trip to the store. Prep time is about two minutes, so a lot less time than running out to the market. These easy swaps will save you time and money.

Swapping With Pantry Ingredients

You can use any of the following ingredients to create all of these substitutes. If you don't have some of them on hand, you might want to make a moderate initial investment to stock them up. None of them go bad in a hurry, so you can enjoy some nice savings going forward after you have them in your pantry. You'll have a substitute at your fingertips for just about any recipe and they all are useful on their own.

Illustration: Ashley Deleon Nicole. © The Spruce, 2019.

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

How to Use the Substitute

Once you've picked your swap, follow these tips for how to use it:

  • Maple syrup: Replace the vanilla extract with an equal amount of maple syrup or pancake syrup. Any changes in flavor will be subtle.
  • Almond extract: Swap out the vanilla with half as much almond extract. Almond has a stronger flavor so less is required. Other flavor extracts such as orange, lemon, or peppermint can also be used in place of vanilla. Pick a flavor that will complement the other ingredients in the recipe. If you use one of these extracts, replace the vanilla with an equal amount of the substitute since they are less strong than almond. 
  • 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.
  • Rum or brandy: Try an equal amount of rum or brandy if you aren't trying to avoid the alcohol
  • Vanilla bean: Scrape out the seeds from half a vanilla bean and use them as a stand-in for one teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  • Vanilla paste/powder: Replace the vanilla extract with an equal amount of vanilla paste or vanilla powder.
substitutes for vanilla extract
The Spruce

Other Options

If you don't have any of these things on hand and you don't want to spend money on vanilla extract, simply leave the vanilla out, 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.

Make Your Own

You can also make your own vanilla extract so you never run out again. It's ridiculously easy and much cheaper than store-bought extract. Another option is to make your own non-alcoholic vanilla extract as well, but just like regular vanilla extract, it won't be ready to use for a couple of months. Start a batch this week, then use these vanilla extract substitutes until it's ready.