15 Best Vanilla Substitutes For Baking You Must Try Today

Vanilla has a delicate sweet unique aroma, but a bitter taste. Vanilla is mainly used for making desserts like cakes, pastries, cookies, waffles, vanilla ice cream, jams, jellies, creams, puddings, sweets, chocolate, cocoa, biscuits, but it can also be added to smoothies, tea, coffee, and sauces.

If you were planning to bake something but ran out of vanilla, no need to worry – we have prepared an ultimate guide on vanilla extract substitute in baking that will make your dishes awesome.

What can I substitute for vanilla in baking? If you ran out of vanilla extract but want to add creamy, warm, and slightly exotic scent to your desserts, here is a list of the 15 best vanilla substitutes in baking:

  1. Vanilla sugar
  2. Vanilla almond milk
  3. Vanilla coconut milk
  4. Maple syrup
  5. Honey
  6. Almond extract
  7. Cinnamon
  8. Nutmeg
  9. Brandy or rum
  10. Chocolate
  11. Vanilla ice cream
  12. Bourbon
  13. Vanilla liqueur
  14. Lemon/lime/orange/grapefruit zest

Let’s dive right into each vanilla substitute in baking for you to decide which one is the best for your dessert.

See also: Why Is Vanilla So Expensive? Learn The Truth!

15 Best Vanilla Substitutes For Baking You Must Try Today

Vanilla Sugar

Since vanilla sugar is flavored sugar made by mixing crushed vanilla pods with powdered sugar, it can be easily used as a vanilla extract substitute in baking. Vanilla sugar can be added to muffins, cakes, cookies, biscuits, creams, sauces, cocktails, cereals, yogurts, smoothies, bread, pancakes, etc. It has a delicate, subtle vanilla flavor and is the number one vanilla substitute in baking.

Vanilla sugar, which has absorbed the essential oils that the vanilla pod secrets, not only makes baked food more flavorful but is also a good antidepressant. Vanilla sugar can add extraordinary aroma and a deliciously rich taste to any sweet dish. It is a good remedy for fighting anxiety and insomnia, as well as helping to normalize digestion. Vanilla sugar is ideal for baking as it does not lose its qualities when exposed to high temperatures.

Vanilla Almond Milk

Even though vanilla almond milk is an excellent standalone drink, it can also be a great vanilla extract substitute in baking. It has a nutty flavor and creamy texture, and a comforting, cozy, warm aroma. You can replace vanilla almond milk for vanilla measure for measure. 

It will give a pleasant nutty, sweet flavor to cakes, muffins, cookies, and buns, and will make the dish more delicate and gentle. Since vanilla almond milk has a strong vanilla aroma, you probably will not even notice the difference. Vanilla almond milk can also be used to make smoothies and cocktails.

Almond milk is rich in antioxidants, calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and vitamins A and B2. Thanks to such a composition rich in useful substances, almond milk allows you to maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails, it has a rejuvenating and immunity-stimulating effect.

See also: 9 Best Substitutes for Mozzarella In Pizza

Vanilla Coconut Milk

Vanilla coconut milk, just like almond milk, has a rich taste due to the high oil content of the coconut meat. It adds sweetness to pastries, cookies, cakes, muffins, and pancakes as well as to smoothies, tea, coffee, some cold drinks, cereals, cottage cheese, soups, sauces, etc. Vanilla coconut milk is a great vanilla substitute in baking thanks to its delicate nutty flavor and unique coconut aroma. Thick coconut milk is used to make fatty sauces and desserts. Liquidy milk is suitable for soups and main courses. Coconut milk is prized for its sweet taste in desserts and for its ability to soften spicy dishes. In French cuisine, coconut milk is often used in place of cream.

Coconut milk contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, K, folic acid, ascorbic acid, tocopherol, as well as calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, copper, zinc, manganese, selenium. Coarse fiber has a beneficial effect on digestion processes, promotes the elimination of waste products, and is included in the processes of metabolic regulation. The absence of cholesterol makes the drink completely harmless for people with cardiovascular diseases. For people suffering from animal protein intolerance, coconut milk will be a wonderful substitute for cow milk.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is another great vanilla extract substitute in baking as it adds complex maple flavor with hints of caramel, vanilla, and prune to pancakes, muffins, cookies, cakes, pies, buns, bread, waffles, and biscuits. But it can also be used in ice creams, yogurt, cottage cheese, cereal, baked beans, etc. Maple syrup is widely used as a filling for pancakes, waffles, and biscuits, for adding flavor to ice cream, muesli, applesauce, candied fruits, bread, pies, cakes, tea, and coffee.

Maple syrup tastes as sweet as sugar. It has a unique aroma, pleasant aftertaste, and beautiful color – from light golden to rich amber. Maple syrup is slightly less viscous than honey. Keep in mind that maple syrup has more sugar than vanilla extract, so if you want to cut your sugar consumption, opt for another vanilla alternative on this list.


Honey, with its floral, grassy, fruity, and woody flavor notes, is a perfect vanilla extract alternative in baking as it adds additional moisture to the recipe and makes the desserts more flavorful and sweet. Honey can be used for pastries, for example, honey cakes, strudels, cookies, gingerbread, salads, meat and fish dishes, sauces, desserts, and drinks.

Since honey is very sweet, you can use very little of it and still give unique floral notes to your desserts without adding normal sugar. Honey can give any dish a delicate sweet aroma, piquant taste, and noble golden hue. It can be used for caramelizing, making various toppings and mousses, etc. Honey goes well with spices, so it is often used together with ginger, coriander, orange or lemon zest, mustard, etc., which will reveal a wonderfully fragrant bouquet.

Honey is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. It contains all vitamins of group B, K, E, C, provitamin A. Since vitamins are combined with natural mineral salts and biogenic amines, their benefits are much higher than in synthetic substitutes. Since it is a natural mixture of sugars, honey can be used to quickly saturate the body and get a quick boost of vivacity.

Honey contains phenolic acids and flavonoids that effectively fight free radicals. If you regularly consume high-quality honey, you can reduce the risk of diseases of the cardiovascular system, cancer, as well as improve the condition of the eyes and skin.

See also: What Does Vanilla Extract Taste Like? Check Out Vanilla Extract Tasting Notes!

Almond Extract

Almond extract has a rich, floral, nutty flavor and a deep sweet aroma and is often used as a vanilla extract substitute in baking. Almond extract has a rich scent, so you will only need 1/2 of the amount of vanilla. Use almond extract in muffins, cookies, pies, French toasts, cakes, biscuits, and other baked food to add a nutty flavor and a sweet, delicate scent to your meals.  

Almond extract is used in baked goods, chocolate, various desserts, and drinks. It will perfectly complement many confectionery products and dessert dishes, give them an amazing taste and aroma, fill them with vitamins and oils and benefit overall health.


Cinnamon has an aromatic sweet taste with a hint of bitterness. It is added to baked goods at the stage of preparing the dough, and it is also sprinkled on finished products. Cinnamon is also added to coffee and teas. Cinnamon is often used as a vanilla extract substitute in baking cookies, muffins, cakes, gingerbread, fruit pies, puddings, and sweet pilaf as well as in jams, mousses, jellies, and curd spreads. Cinnamon has a pleasant, sweet, and rich, spicy scent, so it goes especially well with those dishes that include apples.


Nutmeg has an earthy, nutty sweetness and spicy-sweet scent, so it is often used as a vanilla extract alternative in baking. Traditionally, nutmeg is added to gingerbread, cookies, muffins, puddings, apple pies, cherries, desserts with cream, fruits, and berries.

Nutmeg goes well with apple, orange, and tangerine. It improves the taste of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and is often added to mulled wine, hot milk drinks, cocoa, and coffee. This fragrant seasoning is indispensable for flavoring curds, puddings, cakes, cookies, pastries, muffins, pretzels, rolls, and sweets. Homemade jams with the addition of nutmeg acquire an original sweet taste and delicate nutty aroma.


If you want to get creative, you can substitute brandy or rum for vanilla extract in baking. These drinks taste like flowers, fresh and dried fruit, and citrus zest, so your dishes will become more flavorful. The alcohol contained in the beverage begins to evaporate during the baking process, so the dough is saturated with air and becomes fluffy. In addition, a spoonful of rum or brandy improves the taste of the dough, makes the goods bake better, and become more crunchy. Dark rum and spiced rum give a better flavor to baked goods and give them an attractive golden hue.


Even though chocolate and vanilla are not very similar, they can still substitute for each other in baking. Depending on the type of chocolate you choose, it can have nutty, spicy, floral, and earthy notes with hints of fruit, vanilla, and caramel. Chocolate is often used in baking muffins, pancakes, cakes, cookies, pies, and biscuits, but it can also be added to meat and fish sauces, salads, etc.

If you want to substitute chocolate for vanilla, we recommend you take 55%-70% cacao dark or milk chocolate for it to fully reveal its delicate deep sweet taste with notes of cooked milk and caramelized sugar, and a vanilla aftertaste. If you want to add nuttiness or spiciness, you can choose chocolate with added hazelnuts, almonds, raisins, and even pepper.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla ice cream is a great vanilla extract substitute since it is made by mixing in vanilla essence with cream, milk, and sugar – yum! Vanilla ice cream can be used in baking muffins, cakes, cookies, pies, but it can also be added to pancakes, puddings, fruit pies, etc.

Choose high-quality vanilla ice cream with a fruity taste if you want to add hints of banana, mango, strawberry, etc. Vanilla ice cream’s creaminess will make your baked desserts more delicate and fluffy, too!


Bourbon is often used in baking as it improves the texture of the dough and makes it fluffier. Bourbon has a sweetish flavor and a heavy, pleasant aroma reminiscent of cinnamon vanilla. Due to aging in barrels, the taste of the drink is more pronounced than that of other varieties of whiskey. Finished bourbon has a deep, deep golden color that becomes amber with age.

Since bourbon has notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel, it is often used as a vanilla extract substitute to make cookies, pies, cakes, pancakes, biscuits, muffins, puddings, gingerbread, etc. 

Vanilla Liqueur

As the name suggests, vanilla liqueur has a pronounced sweet, vanilla aroma and rich floral, nutty taste with hints of creaminess. It is often added to baked goods since it makes the texture of the dough airier and gives a deep, sweet, vanilla aroma with hints of fruit and caramel.

We recommend adding vanilla liqueur measure for measure with vanilla extract. Aromatic vanilla is often used to make cakes, pastries, buns, pancakes, and cookies. Since all the alcohol evaporates under the heat treatment, the liqueur will only add a cozy and warm vanilla aroma with notes of caramel and nuttiness and make the texture of the dough fluffier and softer.

Lemon/Lime/Orange/Grapefruit Zest

You can use citrus zest to substitute vanilla in baking desserts to add a citrusy, tangy flavor and mild bitterness. It will add an interesting, vibrant, and fragrant scent and make your desserts more flavorful and fresh. Even though it is very different from vanilla’s sweet, warm aroma, citrus zest makes the dessert’s flavor more vibrant and juicy. You will only need a pinch of zest to enhance the taste and aroma of the entire dish.

Vanilla Substitute In Baking FAQ

What is the purpose of vanilla extract in baking? In baking, vanilla extract adds a strong sweet, warm, and cozy aroma with floral and honey notes. Vanilla makes baked food more gentle and aromatic. Sometimes vanilla can give its subtle flavor to baked foods, making them brighter.

Is there a substitute for vanilla in baking? The best substitutes for vanilla in baking are vanilla sugar, maple syrup, honey, and almond extract. They, like vanilla, add a sweet, warm, soft, musky aroma to any dish. Our top vanilla substitute in baking is maple syrup which adds hints of caramel, vanilla, and prune.

Can you omit vanilla extract from a recipe? Even though vanilla has a unique sweet, comforting exotic aroma, you can still omit vanilla extract from a recipe unless vanilla extract is not the key ingredient. Vanilla extract can often be replaced by maple syrup, honey, vanilla sugar, almond extract, or even citrus zest!

Can you use honey as a substitute for vanilla extract? Honey is a great substitute for vanilla extract as it goes well with baked foods and adds floral, grassy, fruity, or woody flavor notes to the dish. Honey is very sweet, so make sure you do not use too much of it to keep the taste balanced.

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