The Ultimate Guide to Substituting Vanilla Extract in Cookies

The best replacements for vanilla extract in cookies

Vanilla extract is a staple ingredient in many cookie recipes, adding a distinct and aromatic flavor. However, there may be times when you run out of vanilla extract or need to find a substitute due to personal preferences or dietary restrictions. Fortunately, there are several excellent alternatives that can be used to replace vanilla extract in cookies. In this article, we will explore some of the best vanilla extract substitutes, along with tips on how to use them effectively.

1. Vanilla Bean

One of the closest substitutes for vanilla extract is the use of vanilla beans themselves. Vanilla beans have a rich and intense flavor that can enhance the flavor of your cookies. To use vanilla beans as a substitute, simply cut the bean open and scrape out the sticky inside. Half a vanilla bean can be used to replace 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract in your recipe. You can also save the bean and infuse it into sugar to make vanilla-scented sugar for future baking projects.

2. Vanilla bean paste

If you can’t find vanilla beans or prefer a more convenient option, vanilla bean paste is an excellent alternative. It is made by mixing the inside of vanilla beans with vanilla extract, resulting in a thick and flavorful paste. The advantage of using vanilla bean paste is that it can be substituted for vanilla extract in exact measurements. The rich and intense flavor of the paste can enhance the flavor of your cookies and provide a similar aromatic experience.

3. Vanilla Powder

For a pure and concentrated vanilla flavor, consider using vanilla powder as a substitute for vanilla extract. Vanilla powder is made by drying and grinding vanilla beans into a fine powder. It has a long shelf life and a little goes a long way, so you’ll only need half the amount of vanilla extract called for in your recipe. Keep in mind that vanilla powder doesn’t contain any liquid, so you may need to adjust the recipe accordingly.

4. Vanilla essence

If you’re looking for a readily available option that closely resembles the taste of vanilla extract, vanilla essence may be a suitable substitute. Vanilla essence is a synthetic flavoring that mimics the taste of vanilla. While it may not provide the same depth of flavor as pure vanilla extract, it can still add a similar vanilla flavor to your cookies. Use 2 teaspoons vanilla essence to replace 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. It’s worth noting that some people find vanilla extract to have a slightly bitter or chemical aftertaste, so adjust the amount to your preference.

5. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is a versatile and natural sweetener that can be used to replace vanilla extract in cookies. It adds a subtle yet distinct flavor that complements many types of cookies. Use 1 teaspoon of maple syrup to replace 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Choose 100% pure maple syrup for best results. Keep in mind that maple syrup has a slightly different flavor profile than vanilla, so your cookies may taste slightly different.

6. Honey

Honey is another excellent alternative to vanilla extract, adding a unique flavor and sweetness to your cookies. When using honey as a substitute, add 1 teaspoon of honey for every 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Note, however, that honey is sweeter than vanilla extract, so you may want to reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe to balance the sweetness. Experiment with different types of honey, such as wildflower or clover honey, to add interesting flavor nuances to your cookies.

7. Alternative Flavor Extracts

If you’re open to exploring different flavors in your cookies, alternative flavor extracts can be a creative substitute for vanilla extract. Almond, berry, butterscotch, or citrus extracts can add unique aromas and flavors to your cookies. Your choice of alternative flavored extract will depend on the type of cookies you’re making and the other ingredients involved. Use ½ to 1 teaspoon of the desired flavor extract to replace 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Experiment with different combinations to find your favorite flavor combination.

8. Liqueur

Adding a splash of alcohol can be a delightful way to replace vanilla extract in cookies. Rum, brandy, bourbon, or any dark liquor can bring out certain flavors and add complexity to your cookies. The alcohol in the liquor evaporates during baking, leaving behind the unique flavors. Use 2 teaspoons of your favorite liquor to replace 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Keep in mind that your choice of liqueur should complement the flavors of your cookies, not overpower them.

9. Spices

If you prefer a different flavor profile in your cookies, spices can be a wonderful substitute for vanilla extract. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, or even a blend of spices can add warmth and depth to your cookies. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of your favorite spice(s) to replace 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Adjust the amount according to your taste preferences and the flavor intensity of the spice(s) you choose. Spices can add a unique twist to your cookies and create a memorable taste experience.


If you find yourself without vanilla extract or simply want to explore different flavor options, there are several substitutes that can enhance the taste of your cookies. Whether you use vanilla beans, vanilla bean paste, vanilla powder, vanilla essence, maple syrup, honey, alternative flavor extracts, liqueurs, or spices, each substitute offers its own unique characteristics and can contribute to delicious and aromatic cookies. Experiment with different combinations and amounts to find the perfect substitute for your specific cookie recipe. Remember, baking is a creative process, and exploring substitutes can lead to delightful culinary discoveries. Happy baking!
Note: This article is for informational purposes only. Please consider personal preferences, allergies, and dietary restrictions when choosing substitutes for vanilla extract in cookies.


Can I replace vanilla extract with vanilla bean paste in the same amount?

Yes, vanilla bean paste can be substituted for vanilla extract in equal amounts. It provides a rich and intense vanilla flavour that can enhance your cookies.

How much vanilla powder should I use to replace vanilla extract?

Use half the amount of vanilla powder compared to the amount of vanilla extract called for in your recipe. Vanilla powder is highly concentrated and a little goes a long way.

Can vanilla essence be used as a substitute for vanilla extract?

Vanilla essence can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract. However, bear in mind that it is a synthetic flavour and may have a slightly different taste to pure vanilla extract.

Can I use maple syrup instead of vanilla extract?

Yes, maple syrup can be used to replace vanilla extract in cookies. Use the same amount of maple syrup to replace the vanilla extract and enjoy a subtle maple flavour in your cookies.

Are there alcohol-free alternatives to vanilla extract?

Yes, there are several non-alcoholic alternatives to vanilla extract. Vanilla bean paste, vanilla powder and alternative flavoured extracts are great non-alcoholic options.

Can I replace vanilla extract in cookies with spices?

Absolutely! Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom can be used to replace vanilla extract and give your cookies a unique flavour profile. Experiment with different spices to find your favourite combination.