4 Vanilla Extract Substitutes for Cookies

When making a batch of cookies, one ingredient likely on the recipe list is vanilla extract. Vanilla extract doesn’t do much for the structure of your cookies, but it does impact the flavor. That said, you shouldn’t leave out vanilla extract entirely. So what happens when you’re completely out of this typical cookie ingredient?

If you don’t have any vanilla extract, there are many suitable substitutions for your cookies. Fresh vanilla bean pods are a wonderful swap and will enhance the flavor. You can also opt for pure maple syrup, certain types of alcohol, and vanilla-flavored milk.

Hey! My name’s Michelle, and my family and I love cookies. We always have vanilla extract hanging around in our kitchen. However, there was a time when I don’t have vanilla extract for baking cookies. I had to get creative with substitutions!

If you want to know what to substitute vanilla extract for baking cookies, keep reading!

4 Best Vanilla Extract Substitutes for Cookies

Vanilla extract is one of those common baking ingredients most people have in their kitchen, but it’s not as typical as other items, like flour and sugar. That said, it’s easy to overlook it and forget to buy more when you run out.

Luckily, you’re not entirely out of luck if you want to bake cookies but don’t have any vanilla extract on hand.

There are many top-notch vanilla extract substitutes that will work fabulously in your cookies.

1. Fresh Vanilla Bean Pods

Some people scrunch their noses at the thought of using vanilla extract.

Are you one of those people?

Then you’ll be happy to know that you can use those fresh vanilla bean pods instead.

To use fresh vanilla bean pods in your cookie recipe, use the seeds from half of a pod per every teaspoon of vanilla extract. 

This substitution is super easy and won’t affect the texture of your cookies. The best part is that you’ll have a noticeable flavor enhancement when using fresh vanilla bean pods, a definite plus for your baked goodies.

2. Pure Maple Syrup

I’m someone who loves the flavor of maple, so I always have pure maple syrup sitting in my kitchen pantry – like many other individuals across the globe.

Although you might use pure maple syrup as a pancake or waffle topping, you can also use it in place of vanilla extract.

No, the flavors are identical, but it gets the job done.

Just keep in mind that pure maple syrup is far sweeter than vanilla extract. Personally, I don’t mind the extra splash of sweetness. But if you don’t want to be overwhelmed with sweetness, cut down on the sugar content by about ¼ cup.

3. Alcohol (Rum, Brandy, Bourbon, Vanilla Liqueur)

You might think your liquor cabinet is reserved for a Friday night after a long hard week of working. 

But think again.

There are many different kinds of spirits that can be used in place of vanilla extract. When swapping for alcohol – whether it’s rum, brandy, bourbon, or vanilla liqueur – you’ll use double the amount. So, every teaspoon of vanilla extract is replaced with two teaspoons of alcohol.

Keep in mind that this substitution contains alcohol, so it’s not the best option for those who shouldn’t consume alcohol, like pregnant individuals.

4. Vanilla-Flavored Milk

Regular milk has taken the backseat in recent years. Nowadays, it’s all about plant-based wonders, like oat, soy, and coconut milk. 

Many of these non-dairy milk products are made with flavors, and one of the most popular flavors is vanilla.

If you have vanilla-flavored milk in your refrigerator, use it instead of the vanilla extract in a 1:1 ratio.

The flavor won’t be as intense as if you’d used vanilla extract, but it’s still better than nothing.

Do You Have to Use Vanilla Extract in Cookies?

Honestly, if you don’t have any vanilla extract or suitable swaps in your kitchen, don’t worry – you can leave the vanilla extract out of your cookie dough. 

Doing so will result in slightly less flavor, but it won’t harm the overall structure of your baked goods. You may not even be able to tell the difference.

That said, no, you don’t have to use vanilla extract, but it is highly recommended to make the yummiest cookies. At the very least, you should use a substitution, like fresh vanilla bean pods or vanilla-flavored milk.


Well, as you can see, your cookies aren’t destined for disaster just because you don’t have any vanilla extract on hand. There are many great substitutions! To help you understand this topic further, I have included a couple of frequently asked questions below.

What does vanilla extract do in baking cookies?

Vanilla extract is responsible for enhancing the overall flavor of your baked goods, such as cookies. It will not impact the structure or success of your cookies. That said, you can make cookies without it, but the flavor will be slightly less enjoyable.

Can I use maple extract instead of vanilla?

You can use maple extract instead of vanilla. However, it’s ideal to cut down the amount by half. So, if your recipe calls for two teaspoons of vanilla extract, you’ll use just one maple extract. This will ensure that your baked goods don’t come out overly sweet.

Can you use vanilla sugar instead of vanilla extract for cookies?

You can use vanilla sugar instead of vanilla extract for cookies. To use vanilla sugar, omit the vanilla extract entirely. Replace all of the sugar with the vanilla sugar. (You can also do half and half if you’re concerned about the vanilla flavor being too intense.)

Vanilla Extract Isn’t Necessary for Perfect Cookies!

No vanilla extract? No prob. There are plenty of great substitutions, including fresh vanilla bean ponds, pure maple syrup, certain kinds of alcohol, and vanilla-flavored milk. Just make sure you use the correct ratios to get the best results.

Do you use vanilla extract in your cookies? Do you have a different substitution to share?

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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