7 Best Vanilla Bean Substitutes

Whether you are an expert chef or a diehard foodie, the flavor and essence of vanilla are known to all. The sweet smell of vanilla is enough to make our taste buds crave some delicious desserts. 

Authentic vanilla beans can make your food uniquely tasteful. Although it’s not always easily available and the cost is too high for regular baking and cooking. So I will spill the beans on 7 vanilla bean substitutes that can give you similar results.

7 Best Vanilla Bean Substitutes

The best substitutes for vanilla bean are vanilla extract and vanilla sugar. You can also use bourbon, almond extract, and maple syrup as vanilla bean substitute in most recipes.

To get in-depth details about vanilla beans, continue reading. 

1. Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract

It is probably the most used vanilla bean substitute. Vanilla extract has almost the same smell and flavor as vanilla beans. The beans are processed in alcohol and water to make vanilla extract, which extorts the required oil from those beans. 

The concentration sold in the market has a slightly bitter tone because of the alcohol substance. Although if you add it to your dish in a small amount, you will only get the sense of vanilla and not the bitter taste.

To replace one vanilla bean, you don’t need more than one tablespoon of vanilla extract.

2. Vanilla Sugar 

Vanilla Sugar

Using vanilla sugar is not as popular as vanilla extract. It is a mixture of dark vanilla bean and white refined sugar.

Vanilla sugar is primarily used in dessert recipes. Add a full two tablespoons of vanilla sugar to your recipes to substitute vanilla beans. It will replicate the flavor of vanilla beans.

While adding this to your dish, you have to remember that it is a refined sugar-based substitute. So you will have to put less regular sugar than the original recipe instruction to keep the taste intact.

3. Vanilla Powder

Vanilla Powder

Vanilla pods are dried and crushed into a fine texture to make vanilla powder. It is generally not mixed with any other substance like alcohol or sugar, so the taste is more authentic. 

Although few brands put added sweeteners in vanilla bean powder, read the tag to know the components before you buy to balance out the sweetness in the recipe accordingly.

You can find it in most baking stores and online pantries. 

To replace vanilla beans, add two tablespoons of Vanilla powder. You can use it in your pudding, cupcake, and custard recipes.

There are many vanilla-based substitutes available for vanilla beans, But if you have allergies related to vanilla, those are not going to help. Below are some of the non-vanilla substitutes to make unique dishes without getting allergies.

4. Almond Extracts 

Almond Extract

Almond extracts are a trendy non-vanilla substitute for vanilla beans. Almonds and vanilla both have somewhat similar nutty, woody tastes and sweet fragrances. 

If you use it to do baking, it gives the same result as vanilla beans. So now your favorite cupcakes won’t give you rashes. 

It’s compressed like vanilla extract, so one tablespoon is enough to replace a pod of vanilla. You can use it in any recipe that requires vanilla. 

5. Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is a substance that can be used as substitute for vanilla extract in dishes that require a small number of vanilla beans or extract. It does share the nutty flavor with vanilla, but the sweetness is milder than vanilla beans.

To match the flavor, use one and ½ tablespoons of maple syrup in place of 1 vanilla bean. If you add this syrup to the recipe, check the taste and adjust sugar quantity accordingly.

Using Maple syrup in a dish that needs a larger quantity of vanilla won’t give the desired texture and flavor, as it is a syrupy and mild sweet solution.

6. Honey


Honey is nature’s answer to a lot of our problems. As one of the natural vanilla bean substitutes, honey can replace vanilla in some dishes as it’s naturally sweet and has a mild flowery fragrance. 

If you plan to use it in a dish, you need to reduce the sugar to avoid adding extra sweetness. Also, honey is sticky in texture, so using too much honey in a dessert can change the expected appearance.

By using honey, you can add some health benefits to the recipes. 

7. Bourbon 


The process of making bourbon includes aging it in oak. This process gives it a smoky, woody flavor like vanilla beans. 

Bourbon can enhance the moisture levels and consistency in specific recipes. So as a vanilla bean substitute, many bakers prefer bourbon.

You can add it to dishes like cake, gingerbread, pie, etc.

What is Vanilla Bean?

Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans are long and skinny pods that grow from vanilla orchids only in tropical weather. When the beans are fresh and green, the flavors are very mild. However, ripe vanilla beans become dark brown and taste woody, flowery, and sweet.

In addition, it has a prominent calming fragrance. Vanilla bean paste and other vanilla products are the rulers of the baked and sweet cuisine industry. However, because it’s costly and not easily available, several substitutes are available in the stores.

Vanilla Beans Uses

Usage In Food-Beverage

  • To make cakes, buns, cookies, and other baked delights.
  • To make whipped cream, frosting, etc.
  • To produce cheaper vanilla-based substitutes like vanilla extract and powder, vanilla sugar, and salt.
  • To make ice creams, pudding syrups, and other desserts
  • To make vanilla-infused coffee, tea, and smoothies

Non-food Usage

  • To produce Vanilla shampoo for healthy hair.
  • To make bath salts and sugar-vanilla body scrub.
  • To produce vanilla essential body oils.
  • To make deodorants and room fresheners etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does vanilla bean taste like?

The flavor of vanilla is nutty, smokey, and also has flowery tints. The pods have a sweet essence.

A green fresh vanilla pod does not have much flavor; only when it starts to ripe into a dark brown pod is the taste enhanced.

Unlike vanilla extract, vanilla beans do not have a bitter feeling. The presence of alcohol makes the extract mildly bitter.

How to make vanilla bean paste at home?

To make vanilla bean paste at home, you will need some vanilla extract, Agave Nectar or vegetable glycerine, and of course, good quality ripe vanilla beans.

  1. For around 30 pods of vanilla, take 6 tablespoons of vanilla extract and 1 and ½ cups of vegetable glycerine or Agave Nectar.
  2. Grind them together till you get a smooth consistency.
  3. Strain the mixture in a bowl to get the liquid out as much as possible. 
  4. Now take the paste and keep it in an airtight jar in the fridge. Also, you can store the liquid and use it as vanilla extract.

How to store vanilla beans?

Wrap the ripe bean pods in plastic or wax foil. You can also use a zip bag. Again, leave no space for air. Then put these in an airtight container.

72 F is the right temperature for vanilla bean storing. Please keep it away from sunlight. Never refrigerate vanilla beans. This will result in dry and moldy beans.

Good quality vanilla beans can be stored for 5-6 months if you follow the correct procedure.

Vanilla extract vs. Vanilla bean paste 

Vanilla paste has more flavor than vanilla extract. So in ice creams, milkshakes, vanilla cakes, etc. If you use the paste, it will give you a more enhanced taste.

Vanilla paste is one of the most expensive products of vanilla for baking. However, homemade vanilla paste is the best way to go, as many brands put extra sugar components in their product.

The taste of vanilla extract is not as prominent as the vanilla paste as it’s mixed with alcohol and water while processing. While making cookies, pie, chocolate cake, etc., you don’t need a strong flavor of vanilla. So for these dishes, Vanilla extract is the right choice. 

While vanilla extract is not as expensive as the paste; and it is the most used vanilla substitute.

Why are vanilla beans expensive?

The pure vanilla bean price at this time is around $20 per four ounces. Thus, using natural vanilla for regular baking is tough. And there comes the cheaper substitutes and synthetic vanilla flavors. 

There are 4 main reasons behind this sky-high flight of natural vanilla prices.

  • Almost 80 % of the total vanilla production happens in Madagascar. And the rest come from different tropical regions like Mexico, Uganda, and Comoro.
  • It’s almost impossible to grow vanilla without tropical weather. So when you buy vanilla, you pay for the transport expenses too.  
  • There is a global demand for vanilla, as it is an essential part of baking traditions. But the supply is not as high as the demand. 
  • Vanilla orchids are tricky plants. Sometimes even if you have the right conditions to grow, the orchid does not stay alive. Also, it’s easily damageable in rain or storms.

What vanilla bean substitute you will use completely depends upon your preferences. But one thing is for sure; you are going to make some delicious desserts.

So tell me in the comments which recipe you will recreate by using one of these vanilla bean substitutes. You can also suggest to me what food mysteries you want me to write about.

I’m a passionate food blogger on a journey to become a go-to person who can help others prepare delicious foods. I share recipes, food substitutes, and other cooking tips. Read more about my journey...

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