The Unexpected Alternative For Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract can add a new depth of flavor to your baked goods. Since its invention in 1847, it has been used to flavor desserts like cakes, cookies, and pies (via Cook's Info). It can also be used to make ice cream, flavor your cocktails, sweeten up your pancakes, caramelize fruits, or rescue your smelly refrigerator, according to Honest Food Talks. Plus, WebMD reports that the extract contains some antioxidants which could be used as a pain reliever for toothaches. It even reportedly has a calming effect on those who smell it.

When you're in the mood to bake up some treats, it can be frustrating to find that you're out of a particular ingredient that a recipe calls for. Thankfully, it can be easy to substitute another ingredient to fill in for the one you need. If you find yourself baking and realize you're out of vanilla extract, don't panic — there might be an easy substitution already in your liquor cabinet.

You might have this in your liquor cabinet

If you don't mind adding a little bit of a boozy twist to your baked goods, The Pioneer Woman suggests substituting bourbon for the flavoring. The site states that bourbon is often used to make vanilla extract — and you can even make your own with the liquor and some vanilla beans, as per Liquor Laboratory. The Pioneer Woman blog notes that most bourbon already has a warm, vanilla flavor. (Ree Drummond even reportedly uses bourbon in every step of her pecan pie!)

To make the substitution, swap the ingredients out at an even ratio. If your recipe calls for a tablespoon of vanilla extract, you can use a tablespoon of bourbon in its place. If you don't have any bourbon on hand, you could also try brandy, which The Kitchen Community states has a similar flavor profile. The site states that the alcohol could even work as a flavor enhancer for your already-sweet desserts.

The liquor could alter your baking

Though the substitution may not change the flavor of your baked goods too much, Betty Crocker does note that the addition of alcohol to your sweet treats could alter the taste, texture, and consistency, if only just a little. The site states that bourbon is a great way to add a slightly nutty, vanilla flavor to your treats — perfect for pie filling, cakes, and cookies.

While you might be concerned about the alcohol baking out of your treats — especially if you are baking for a crowd — Our Everyday Life notes that the amount of alcohol that's present in your food dissipates the longer it bakes. Smaller amounts will hardly be noticeable in the final product.

While it may be tempting to use your cheaper liquor when you aren't drinking it, Betty Crocker suggests using a better-quality alcohol. If you don't enjoy drinking it on its own, you probably won't enjoy eating it in your desserts.