The 6 Best Substitutes For Vanilla Extract

If you’ve ever been baking one of your favorite desserts, to find out that you’ve run out of vanilla extract halfway through the recipe, you may have wondered what you can use in its place.

Vanilla extract is a common household ingredient, particularly among keen bakers that regularly make treats for their families. Vanilla extract is packed with flavor, as just a drop is needed to lend its tasty aroma and taste to baked goods.

Even though vanilla extract is an important ingredient, there are alternative ingredients you can use when you don’t have it on hand. 

We’ve listed the 6 best vanilla extract substitutes below, as well as more information about what vanilla extract is and some reasons why you may need a substitute. 

The 6 Best Substitutes For Vanilla Extract

More About Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is a common ingredient that’s added to desserts and baked treats. The pure extract is a powerful, fragrant liquid flavoring created from vanilla pods. 

Also known as the Vanilla Planifolia, the tropical vanilla orchid has pods with small, black seeds within. These are full of strong flavors, aromas, and colors, thanks to the vanillin inside them. 

You’ll only need a small drop of the extract to add flavor to dishes, like cookies, ice creams, and cakes.  

Don’t confuse pure vanilla extract with imitation vanilla extract. The latter is artificially produced, whereas its pure version is created by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol. 

The solution is left for several months, allowing the alcohol to pull the aroma and flavorful notes out of the beans. This creates the vanilla extract itself. Its flavor will be stronger the more the beans are left to soak. 

Why Would You Need A Vanilla Extract Substitute?

Vanilla extract alternatives can be useful for several reasons. These include no access to the flavoring, desiring an alcohol-free ingredient, preferring a weaker vanilla flavor, or searching for a substitute at a better value.

Whatever your reason for requiring a vanilla extract substitute, there are lots of ingredients that can work in its place. These range from types of vanilla-flavored products, like vanilla paste, or entirely different products, like maple syrup.

Keep in mind that as vanilla has a distinct taste, use the right substitute ratios to give your recipe the same flavor and result. 

Avoid Low-Quality Substitutes

When you’re looking for a pure vanilla extract substitute, it’s important to avoid lower-quality alternatives. 

Pure vanilla extract is expensive for several reasons. These include hand collection, aging methods, and weather conditions. Despite its cost, you’ll only need a tiny amount of it in each recipe, so your bottle will last a while. 

It may be simpler to use a bottle of cheap, synthetic vanilla flavoring in place of your pure extract, but try to avoid this at all costs. 

Imitation vanilla flavoring is the result of artificial substances. It tastes very different from the real, pure version. This is significant when making dishes where vanilla is the star ingredient, like custards, or ice cream. 

In most cases, whole ingredients and pure extracts are better substitutes to use in place of pure vanilla extract. Synthetic flavorings and artificial ingredients may detract from your recipe, especially in ones that have a stronger vanilla flavor. 

The 6 Best Vanilla Extract Substitutes

Now that you know some more about pure vanilla extract, here are some substitutes you can use when you need an alternative.

Keep in mind that while these alternatives work most of the time, using ingredients that don’t have a vanilla flavor can affect your recipe’s final result.

1. Vanilla Beans

If you’re making a recipe where vanilla is the main flavor, or if you want a powerful vanilla note in your recipe, vanilla beans can be a good vanilla extract substitute.

This is particularly true in dessert recipes that don’t need to be baked, like frosting, whipped cream, or ice cream.

If you’re using vanilla beans to substitute vanilla extract, use this rule:

One large bean is equivalent to three teaspoons of vanilla extract.

If you need a smaller quantity, use two inches of vanilla bean for every teaspoon of vanilla extract required. 

2. Vanilla Paste

Otherwise known as vanilla bean paste, this ingredient has a powerful flavor and even texture that works well in many recipes. 

Vanilla paste is made of a mix of sugar, vanilla beans, and vanilla extract. Though the name may suggest otherwise, the paste’s texture is more like syrup. You may notice small hints of black vanilla beans running through the solution. 

Generally speaking, vanilla paste and vanilla extract can be used interchangeably, at a 1:1 ratio. 

3. Vanilla Non-Dairy Milk

In a pinch, you can use vanilla-flavored plant-based milk in place of vanilla extract. These include oat, soy, almond, and other types of nut milk. 

However, as non-dairy milk has a lighter flavor compared to vanilla extract, the flavor may be too weak in your recipe. You’ll need to add a bit more milk than you think to give your dish a vanilla flavor.

The best ratio of vanilla-flavored milk to vanilla extract is 2:1. 

For instance, if you need one teaspoon of vanilla extract, use two teaspoons of vanilla milk in your recipe. 

4. Almond Extract

Occasionally, you may be able to use almond extract in place of vanilla extract. Keep in mind that almond extract tastes more powerful than vanilla, so you won’t need as much as you think. 

A good rule of thumb is to start with ½ a teaspoon of almond extract for every teaspoon of vanilla extract. 

A tip for later is that using almond and vanilla extracts together can give your baked goods an incredible flavor profile. 

To try this for yourself, if your recipe requires two teaspoons of vanilla extract, use a teaspoon of almond extract and a teaspoon of vanilla instead. 

5. Honey

Similar to maple syrup, honey can give your dessert recipes a noticeable, slightly floral taste. This substitute works very well in cake recipes, like pound cakes and cupcakes.

Honey isn’t as strong as vanilla extract, so you’ll need to use more than you think.

Begin by using a tablespoon of honey for each teaspoon of vanilla extract. 

If you like the way honey tastes in your recipes, you can try swapping some of the sugar you use in your bakes with honey too. 

6. Maple Syrup

Pure maple syrup has a hearty, sweet flavor that can enhance vanilla notes in baking recipes. The syrup also adds moisture to baked treats, so it’s a nice addition to dryer pound cakes and muffins. 

Remember that it’s best to use pure maple syrup when using it in place of vanilla extract. As is the case with imitation vanilla extract, imitation maple syrup won’t have as clean of a taste compared to the real thing. 

Maple syrup has a different flavor from vanilla, so it’s best to begin with a 1:1 ratio and work from there. 

If you want to increase the maple notes, increase the proportions to 2:1. 

Final Thoughts

If you’ve run out of vanilla extract, try some of the substitutions above before running to the grocery store! 

Some of these, like vanilla beans and paste, are best saved for recipes with a main vanilla flavor. Others, like honey, or maple syrup, can work in recipes that don’t need much vanilla, like cakes or cookies. 

We hope you enjoy using some of these vanilla extract substitutes in your recipes! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Skip Vanilla Extract In A Recipe?

If you don’t have vanilla extract on hand and can’t find any substitutions, you can leave the extract out. However, this isn’t advised if vanilla is the main flavor within your recipe.

Examples like vanilla custard and ice cream will need the extract to deliver their main flavor. 

Are Vanilla Essence And Vanilla Extract The Same Thing?

Vanilla extract and vanilla essence are different products. Pure vanilla extract is made by drawing out natural vanillin from real vanilla beans. Vanilla essence is a synthetic product that doesn’t contain much vanillin.

Its vanilla flavor is the result of artificial ingredients, not pure vanilla.

Can Vanilla Essence Be Substituted For Vanilla Extract?

You can use vanilla essence in place of vanilla extract, but this isn’t recommended. Vanilla extract is a synthetic product with an artificial vanilla taste.

This isn’t as pleasant when compared to real vanilla extract, so it can decrease the quality of your recipe.  

The 6 Best Substitutes For Vanilla Extract

Recipe by AubreyCourse: Substitutes


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Vanilla extract is a common baking ingredient, but what can you do when you’ve run out of it? Find the best vanilla extract substitutes here.


  • Vanilla Beans

  • Vanilla Paste

  • Vanilla Non-Dairy Milk

  • Almond Extract

  • Honey

  • Maple Syrup


  • Decide on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy

Recipe Video can’t be loaded because JavaScript is disabled: The Best Substitutes For Vanilla Extract (
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