Vanilla extract is a staple in most kitchens. Bakers rely upon the sweet elixir to make cakes, cookies and much more. What can you do when you are baking a cake and find that you are out of vanilla? Is there a substitute for vanilla extract in a recipe? The answer is a hearty "yes," but with caution.
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Vanilla offers a simplicity and purity of flavor that other extracts do not have. You can turn to other pantry staples in a pinch. Consider the dish you are baking. Ask yourself if the substitute works with the other ingredients. For example, if you are baking a lemon cake, almond extract is a suitable substitute. It is not neutral like vanilla, and the flavor will be slightly different, but the substitution will succeed. On the other hand, Grand Marnier's flavor is too competitive for chocolate cookies.
Other than vanilla bean and Fiori di Sicilia, any substitutions will alter the recipe and the final product. Adequate substitutions for vanilla extract include maple syrup, vanilla bean and brandy. Another interesting substitute is Fiori di Sicilia, which translates to "essence of Sicilian flower." Fiori di Sicilia is neutral, and has no alcohol. Cooks often use Fiori di Sicilia as a change of pace from vanilla.
Substitute maple syrup for vanilla extract. Use the same amount of maple syrup as vanilla extract. If you use vanilla bean, scrape half of a vanilla bean for every tablespoon of vanilla extract. When you substitute liquor, such as brandy or a liqueur, be sure that the flavor of the substitute does not compete with the rest of the recipe ingredients. Do not use more alcohol than you would have used vanilla extract. Consider keeping Fiori di Sicilia in your pantry. Try using it to replace vanilla in any recipe. Fiori di Sicilia tastes like vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet. Use about 1/2 tsp. in a recipe.