Need a substitute for vanilla extract? Check your liquor cabinet

You’re in the middle of whipping up some delectable cookies, or some other baked treat, when you realize there’s not a drop of vanilla extract to be found in your kitchen … we’ve all been there before. Short of skipping the ingredient altogether, what can you do to save you recipe?

It turns out there’s a suitable substitute for vanilla extract—but you might have to check the liquor cabinet to find it. When in a pinch to substitute for vanilla extract, a brown liquor like bourbon or dark rum can do the trick, according to Food 52.

bourbon photo
Flickr | djLicious

If a recipe is vanilla-heavy and calls for a significant amount, this swap may not pan out as well. However, many recipes call for just a teaspoon or so, which means the booze will work just perfectly. But make sure to replace the extracts with one to two times that amount in alcohol. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of extract, swap it with 1 to 2 teaspoons of liquor.

If you’re worried about feeding desserts made with alcohol to people under 21 years old, keep in mind that cooking does burn off some of the alcohol content. Still, it might be best to avoid using high-proof liquor (100 and above) as a substitute in baked goods for kids because as this chart shows, 25 percent of the alcohol content is retained even after baking something for an hour. But, when you consider the tiny amount of alcohol you’re using in the first place, it’s unlikely anyone will catch a buzz from a baked good prepared with alcohol.

cookies photo
Getty Images | Astrid Stawiarz

Of course even if you use good old vanilla extract, you’re still cooking with something that contains a fair amount of alcohol. In fact, most varieties of vanilla extract contain about 35 to 40 percent alcohol. That mean some vanilla extract has as much alcohol as 80-proof Absolut vodka! Many people are unaware of this because the alcohol becomes majorly diluted when used in a recipe.

“Extracts contain a very high percentage of alcohol, but the total dose of alcohol is low, so that the amount of alcohol actually consumed is very low. If one mixed 30 drops of a common extract into 2 ounces of water, the resulting alcohol content would be 0.59% which is the equivalent of consuming 1/65th of a bottle of beer or 1/85th of a glass of wine,” according to the Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

vanilla extract bottle photo
Flickr | randomcreative

So next time you’re in the middle of a cookie recipe and you realize you’re out of vanilla extract, you might try spiking the batter instead. But if you want to make your own vanilla extract, we’ve got an easy recipe for you!

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About the Author
Kate Streit
Kate Streit lives in Chicago. She enjoys stand-up comedy, mystery novels, memoirs, summer and pumpkin spice anything. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kate's work.

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