Pure vanilla extract adds flavor to baked goods such as cookies and cakes, but can get expensive especially when use it often. Luckily there are several alternatives to using vanilla extract which cost only a fraction of the price and taste nearly identical to the pure extract.
Imitation Vanilla Flavoring
One of the most common alternatives to using pure vanilla extract is imitation vanilla flavoring. This provides the same sweet flavor of vanilla extract for about half the cost. As with vanilla extract, a small amount goes a long way. The typical recipe requires about 1 tsp. vanilla flavoring. Imitation vanilla flavoring is found in the grocery store in the baking aisle near the vanilla extract.
Using diluted brandy is another option when you do not have any vanilla extract on hand. While it may seem odd to use brandy as a vanilla alternative, the taste is not noticeably different in your baked goods or pastry dishes. Either dilute the brandy for the recipe or use just a fraction of the amount the recipe asks for.
Maple syrup is a vanilla extract alternative which most people have available in their kitchen. It is much less expensive and is easy to find in any grocery store. The taste is very similar to vanilla extract for your pastry dishes, and the consistency is similar to pure vanilla extract. Use the same amount as you would vanilla extract for your recipe.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
A homemade alternative to purcashing pure vanilla extract is to make your own. While this is a long process, it is beneficial to save money and have a vanilla extract you made from scratch. You need vanilla beans, which are sold at health food stores and farmers markets. Split the vanilla beans lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces. Store them in 3/4 cup rum or vodka and let sit for six weeks. The longer the beans marinate in the liquor, the stronger the vanilla extract flavor.