There are a few pantry staples I take for granted: baking soda, molasses and vanilla extract. The containers are so large, I just assume I have some on hand. But, sometimes someone uses up the last few drops of vanilla without putting it on the shopping list, and my pantry shelves lay bare when I’m in the middle of mixing up a batch of cookies. Don’t make an emergency run to the store! You can create a vanilla substitute with ingredients you already have on hand.
My go-to substitute for vanilla extract is maple syrup. It has the same sweet aroma, and it does a pretty good job of mimicking vanilla’s slightly smoky flavor. Use the same amount of maple syrup as you would vanilla, and you’ll barely notice the difference. (This is why vanilla is so expensive.)
Almond extract is significantly more potent than vanilla, but it will provide a similar flavor profile if you use it sparingly. You’ll only need to use half the amount of almond extract, and you might be surprised at how much you like its nutty flavor in your favorite vanilla recipes.
Bourbon, Brandy or Rum
Believe it or not, there is alcohol in vanilla (here’s how much). To make the extract, vanilla beans are soaked in alcohol to extract its enticing flavor and aroma. Swapping in the same amount of a flavorful spirit makes a fantastic substitute if you’re not trying to avoid alcohol.
If vanilla isn’t the star of your recipe, it’s likely added to create depth of flavor. Try swapping in another spice, like cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg. These spices can be strong, so we recommend starting with a pinch.
Instant Coffee or Espresso Powder
You won’t miss the flavor of vanilla in rich, chocolaty treats if you add coffee or espresso powder instead. You won’t need to add much; a pinch of espresso powder goes a long way.
Zesting a lime, lemon or orange is a great way to add a burst of fresh flavor to your favorite baked goods. The juice is too acidic, but the zest is super flavorful and it won’t water down your dough, either.