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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

5 Vanilla Extract Substitutes and How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home

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If you’ve ever reached into your pantry for vanilla extract mid way through a recipe only to find you’ve run out, I have 5 easy vanilla extract substitutes and a simple way you can make your own at home!

Vanilla extract substitute - how to make vanilla extract at home

Mmm… vanilla. It has to be one of my most favorite flavors in baking and sweet treats. I even add it to my oatmeal!

I usually buy vanilla extract from the store, but when I found out how easy it was to make it at home I was inspired to share the recipe with all of you.

All you need is 8 vanilla beans and Vodka. It is super easy to make, but just takes a little patience because it has to sit for at least 1 month to infuse.

That’s why I’ve also included 5 easy vanilla extract substitutes so that if you find yourself in a baking dilemma without any vanilla extract you have some options and don’t need to wait a month for your homemade vanilla extract to infuse!

Is vanilla extract necessary in baking?

Vanilla extract is not necessary in terms of the structure a baking recipe. However, leaving it out of a recipe will change the flavor. Vanilla extract enhances the flavor in cookies, cakes, and muffins and other recipes.

vanilla beans and seeds

5 Easy Vanilla Extract Substitutes

Maple Syrup

You can use maple syrup as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla extract. While maple syrup is sweet and vanilla extract is not, you may want to slightly reduce the sugar in your recipe to balance the sweetness. 

Rum or Brandy

Both rum and brandy are an excellent substitute for vanilla extract because they have a slightly sweet aftertaste. When making your own vanilla extract you soak the vanilla beans with vodka, so having an alcohol substitute works well in baking recipes.  You can use a 1:1 substitute.

Almond Extract

If you have almond extract on hand, you can use this in place of vanilla extract. It adds great flavor to baking recipes but will provide a slight almond undertone rather than vanilla flavor to your recipes. I think it gives a really nice depth of flavor. 

Vanilla Essence

Vanilla essence is made from synthetic vanilla instead of the natural vanilla bean that vanilla extract is made from. Therefore, the vanilla flavor is not as pronounced. If you use vanilla essence you will need to use twice as much essence. If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract use 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence.

Vanilla Powder

Vanilla powder has a stronger more pronounced flavor than vanilla extract. When using vanilla powder use half as much as the recipe calls. If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, use 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla powder.

vanilla extract substitute - vanilla powder

Can I use honey instead of vanilla extract?

Honey similarly to maple syrup can also be substituted for vanilla extract. You can sub 1:1 in a baking recipe. Since honey is sweet you will want to reduce the sugar to balance the sweetness. 

Can I make my own vanilla extract?

Yes! If you don’t want to use one of these vanilla extract substitutes, making your own vanilla extract is easy and requires only two ingredients. However, it takes time and patience. You cannot whip up some vanilla extract while you’re baking. It takes one month for the vanilla beans paste and alcohol to infuse. 

How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home – Step by Step

Step 1: Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise.

Step 2: Place the vanilla beans in a jar and cover with alcohol, making sure they are completely submerged.

Step 3: Cover the jar and give it a shake.

Step 4: Infuse for at least one month (2 months is great for a stronger flavor) in a cool dark place, shaking it from time to time.

Step 5: Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth when you are ready to pour it into bottles.

vanilla extract substitute - vanilla in a bottle

What is the best alcohol to use to make vanilla extract?

Vodka has a neutral flavor that lends itself well to taking on the flavor of vanilla. You can also use rum, brandy or bourbon. It is not important to use an expensive alcohol. 

Top Tips for Making Homemade Vanilla Extract

  • Let the bean infuse for at least one month. For an even stronger flavor, wait a few months. Vanilla extract is like wine – the flavor improves with age.
  • There’s no need to use top-shelf alcohol. An inexpensive 80% proof will work fine.
  • Store vanilla extract in a cool, dark place.
  • As for what type of vanilla beans to use — pretty much any type works! You can even blend different varieties of beans to get a more complex flavor.

How long does homemade vanilla extract last?

Homemade vanilla extract made with vanilla beans and alcohol lasts forever. Vanilla essence or imitation vanilla extract that your purchase will last about 2 years at the most.

Does making your own vanilla extract cost less than store bought?

YES! By making vanilla extract at home, you will be saving a lot of money – you can make it in large batches (thanks to that indefinite shelf life!) so you will always have some on hand!

Check-out these baked goods that use Vanilla Extract!

If you have tried this vanilla extract recipe, or any other recipe on my blog, then please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOKTWITTERINSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious, healthy, family friendly food!

Vanilla extract with beans on natural background
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

How to make Vanilla Extract at Home (vanilla extract substitute)

Making your own vanilla extract at home is super simple and cost effective. Once you taste homemade vanilla extract, you'll never go back to store-bought! 
Prep Time10 mins
Total Time30 d 10 mins
Course: Baking
Cuisine: American
Servings: 16 ounces
Calories: 71kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

  • 16 oz Plain Vodka My brother’s girlfriend used Ketel One
  • 8 vanilla beans

Instructions

  • Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise.
  • Place the vanilla beans in a jar and cover with alcohol, making sure they are completely submerged.
  • Cover the jar and give it a shake.
  • Infuse for at least one month (2 months is great for a stronger flavor) in a cool dark place, shaking it from time to time.
  • Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth when you are ready to pour it into bottles.

Notes

Top Tips for Making Homemade Vanilla Extract
  • Let the bean infuse for at least one month. For an even stronger flavor, wait a few months. Vanilla extract is like wine – the flavor improves with age.
  • There’s no need to use top-shelf alcohol. An inexpensive 80% proof will work fine.
  • Store vanilla extract in a cool, dark place.
  • As for what type of vanilla beans to use — pretty much any type works! You can even blend different varieties of beans to get a more complex flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 71kcal

Posted In…

Healthy Living Tips ·
Also posted in Recipes · Snacks

18 responses to “5 Vanilla Extract Substitutes and How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home”

  1. This is so great! I had no idea that there were so many substitutes. I will also be making my own now that you’ve shown me the way 🙂5 stars

  2. Hey Anjali,
    I was on here looking for this recipe and thought I’d leave a little note. I’ve been using the vanilla that you gave me from your sister in all my baking recipes and it makes a HUGE difference! I put it in my (from scratch) pancake batter and it adds so much flavor. I usually use that imitation vanilla because I always thought vanilla is vanilla but not anymore. This one is so flavorful. I just ordered my bottles today and I can’t wait to get started on my vanilla.
    Thank you!!

    • Hey Michelle!! It’s so good to hear from you! Wooohooo – I’m so happy this has made all of your baked goods more tasty! That is great to hear, I’m sure my brother’s girlfriend will love to hear this too 🙂 Hope you are doing well!

    • Hi Tess! I’ve been using this in all of my oatmeal recipes and in a lot of baked goods like healthy muffins and cookies!

  3. Ok, this is just awesome! Never thought to make my own. Everything homemade is always so much better. I put vanilla in my oatmeal too…sometimes in my smoothies too 😉 Totally have to try this soon! Thanks, Anjali 🙂

    • Thanks Kelly!! I’m so glad you found this helpful! And yeah it’s just so easy to make — as long as you have a little bit of time to wait it out it is totally worth it! Enjoy!

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