We all love baking, especially on these crazy days! But have you encountered recipes that call for the specific use of vanilla bean? I certainly don’t always have this ingredient handy. How about vanilla extract? If you don’t have this either then by now you may be considering giving up your baking adventures.
However, there is no need to stop everything if you can’t find these two ingredients. There are some great substitutes that you could use instead and make your baked goods equally, or more, tasty!
Vanilla Bean vs. Vanilla Extract
Vanilla beans are considered the ultimate flavor in terms of strength and delicacy, but that’s also why they are very expensive.
Vanilla beans are waxy, brown pod filled with little brown specks. The smoother and softer the bean, the more fragrant they are, especially those little specks inside that are added to the batter in the baking process.
On the other hand, vanilla extract is the most common and easier choice to find for baking. This extract is made from macerating vanilla beans in a mix of alcohol and water.
The flavor is intense and so is the aroma, but since it doesn’t have the actual bean part, it is just an essence. You can use it by adding a bit to your batter, usually, around one teaspoon will do.
3 Alternatives to Vanilla Bean
#1. Vanilla Extract
This may sound redundant and obvious, but if you can’t buy or find vanilla beans, the best option is vanilla extract. This extract brings the aroma and flavor of vanilla without being too strong or thick. You can add about 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract in place of the vanilla beans.
Vanilla extract is not hard to find at all, you can always buy it at your local grocery store, surely by the baking section. This extract is common in cakes, muffins, and even ice cream.
#2. Vanilla Powder
This option, unlike the extract, doesn’t have any alcohol in it. Vanilla powder is instead made by drying the vanilla beans, grinding them, and then pulverizing them. Some brands will have added sugar, which could alter your product, so take a careful look at the ingredients label before you pick one.
You can add 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons of vanilla powder instead of the vanilla beans. To make cake, simply add 1 teaspoon of vanilla powder with your cake mix and egg as well as some milk or water and you’re ready to go.
You can find vanilla powder in most grocery stores, either at the baking section or at the spice rack.
#3. Vanilla Sugar
This choice isn’t ideal because it adds more sugar to your recipe, but in a pinch, you can use it instead of vanilla beans. Vanilla sugar is just white sugar that is made using vanilla flavor, which is why you will notice some dark specks in it coming from the vanilla.
You can usually find vanilla sugar in the baking section of grocery stores, or specialty baking stores. Since this is already sugar, make sure you adjust the sugar, especially if using powdered sugar, you add on top of your recipe, but you can pretty much replace vanilla bean by adding 1-2 teaspoons of this substitute.
3 Alternatives to Vanilla Extract
#1. Almond Extract
This essence is common in the baking section of local stores, which is why it’s an easy swap for vanilla extract.
Almond extract is made from almond oil, alcohol, and water, but because almonds aren’t as sweet as vanilla, this choice may be a bit bitter. You can fix the flavor by adding more sugar to your baking process.
Because it is an extract as well, you can substitute it for the same amount without any problems. Make sure you taste it though, as some pure almond extracts can be too bitter and you may want to steer away from those.
#2. Maple Syrup
With a very sweet and somewhat similar aroma, maple syrup is a very good alternative to vanilla extract.
Because maple syrup is made from the nectar of maple trees, it has a smoky taste to it, which goes great since vanilla extract has a smokiness to it too. Maple syrup is a staple breakfast ingredient, so you can buy it almost everywhere.
You can add the same amount called for, but consider that this is, after all, a sweetener, so you may want to alter the amount of total sugar used.
#3. Bourbon, Brandy or Rum
These choices may have surprised you, but there is some alcohol in vanilla extract anyway, so one of these could be a good alternative.
These spirits work great if you don’t mind adding a bit of more alcohol, especially because bourbon, brandy, or rum are made with vanilla essence in most cases.
Try swapping vanilla extract for a splash of either of these. Picking one depends on your taste, but they are all sweet and somewhat smoky like vanilla extract.
When In Doubt, Go With Spices
If you are either trying to replace vanilla bean or vanilla extract and can’t seem to find any of the choices mentioned, then you can try adding other spices instead.
Baking is all about balance, so why not experiment with some sweet and smoky flavors? You could try adding a teaspoon of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, or cocoa, instead.
While they are often confused, these two are not the same. Vanilla bean paste is a thick extract made from the vanilla bean itself, so it is much more condensed and concentrated. Vanilla extract, instead, is an essence made from the vanilla beans and alcohol, so it is liquid and much more aromatic.
In some cases when you forget to add vanilla extract, your product will taste more of batter or butter, and sometimes of simply sweetened eggs. Vanilla extract is a powerful aroma and flavor that masks the flavor of the other dry ingredients in your baking process.
Honey is known to be a versatile ingredient, so using it as an alternative to vanilla extract is possible too. Consider though that honey is sweet, so try reducing the amount of sugar needed in your recipe.
Whether you want vanilla bean or vanilla extract, sometimes neither is to be found anywhere. You can try these choices instead of vanilla bean or vanilla extract, just make sure you taste them and adjust the amount of sugar you use if needed. Now, let’s start baking!
*Photo by dianazh/depositphotos