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, a lot less time than running out to the market, and time is money, after all.
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.
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:
All these methods will work depending on the recipe you're trying.
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. Just 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.
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.
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, and the amount of liquid that vanilla extract contributes to a recipe is usually negligible so there's no need to replace it with anything.
You can also learn how to make your own vanilla extract so you never run out again. It's ridiculously easy and much cheaper than store-bought extract.
It's really easy 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.