Vanilla extract is one baking essential that’s really difficult to replace, since its rich flavor is so unique. Unfortunately, there’s no single ingredient that can successfully stand in every time; the best substitution depends on the recipe. If you’re making vanilla cookies, the vanilla flavor is absolutely vital, and only another vanilla product will do. In other recipes, such as pancakes or banana bread, non-vanilla-flavored ingredients can work.
If the vanilla flavor is important to the recipes, sub in vanilla sugar. Use 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar for each 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. For example, if a recipe calls for 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, use 3 tablespoons vanilla sugar. If possible, reduce the amount of granulated sugar in the recipe accordingly—in this example, you would cut the sugar in the recipe by 3 tablespoons. Add vanilla sugar to the dry ingredients, rather than mixing it with the wet ingredients as you would vanilla extract.
If vanilla flavor isn’t essential, other liquid options include maple syrup, almond extract, triple sec, rum, and framboise. Choose the option that you think would taste best with your recipe . If you don’t think almond flavor would translate well, try rum or framboise instead. Use an equal amount as the vanilla extract in the original recipe, and add the substitution into the wet ingredients.
Maple syrup works well as a replacement for vanilla extract in many recipes and is less risky than almond extract, framboise, or other distinctly flavored ingredients—stick with maple if you’re nervous about experimenting too much with the flavor of the recipe.