CakeCookies!How to CookDessertIce Cream & Frozen Desserts

Out of Vanilla Extract? This Substitute is Probably in Your Kitchen

9 Save

If you like it, save it!

Save and organize all of the stuff you love in one place.

Got it!

If you like something…

Click the heart, it's called favoriting. Favorite the stuff you like.

Got it!

By now, you’ve probably been told once or twice to make your own vanilla extract. (One of those times may or may not have been by us.) Recipes tell you how easy-breezy it is to DIY—buy vanilla beans, split down the center, stuff in a jar, drown in booze (most people use vodka; bourbon is fair game, too). But what if I told you that I have an even easier method for homemade extract: You just, well, skip the vanilla beans.

Hear me out. American baking has its chosen ingredients: There’s cinnamon, which shows up everywhere (even when it’s not invited). And vanilla, which is so overworked and ubiquitous that many equate it with “plain”—the absence, versus the addition, of a flavor (so unfair to vanilla). Often, it shines on its own accord (these recipes will convince you!). Other times, it's there by default—a wee teaspoon, just because. That's when bourbon sneaks in. Maybe you don't even notice. Maybe you like it even more!

Advertisement
Double Vanilla Butter Cake with Chantilly Cream
Double Vanilla Butter Cake with Chantilly Cream

What’s more: Most vanilla extract is pricey. (Eater did a great deep dive on the beans’ price spike last year following a cyclone in Madagascar, the world’s leading producer of the ingredient.) You know how buying in bulk saves you money? Go into your kitchen and find the vanilla extract. Now find the bourbon. Which bottle is bigger? Seems silly, right? The price difference does, too: Most vanilla extract you’ll find in a supermarket costs between $2.50 and $6 per ounce. A mid-shelf bourbon, on the other hand, would cost less than a $1 per ounce.

Here are the rules:

  • Use a dark alcohol with a distinct personality. My go-to's are dark rum and bourbon.
  • Simply swap out the vanilla extract and replace with 1 to 2 times that amount in alcohol. (Example: If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, replace with 1 to 2 teaspoons dark rum.)

And that's it! Now give it a whirl. Here are some recipes and the alcohols you can sub in for vanilla extract. Even better than the original? You tell me.

Advertisement

DARK RUM

Alice Medrich's New Classic Coconut Macaroons

Alice Medrich's New Classic Coconut Macaroons by Genius Recipes

Mango-Lime Trifle with Brown Butter Cake

Mango-Lime Trifle with Brown Butter Cake by JessicaBakes

Padma Lakshmi's Clouds of Cardamom & Cashew Cookies

Padma Lakshmi's Clouds of Cardamom & Cashew Cookies by Food52

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Citrus and Ginger

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Citrus and Ginger by Gena Hamshaw

BOURBON

Brown Butter Blondies

Brown Butter Blondies by Phyllis Grant

Malted Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

Malted Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate-Covered Pretzels by fiveandspice

Teddie's Apple Cake

Teddie's Apple Cake by Genius Recipes

Real Caramel Sauce

Real Caramel Sauce by Alice Medrich

Have you ever tried this trick before? Let us know in the comments below!

Tags: Bourbon, Rum, Desserts, Vanilla