How to Substitute Vanilla Extract

Here's a sneaky ingredient to use in a pinch.

Have you ever started a dessert recipe only to find that you’ve run out of vanilla extract? We wondered if there was a solution that would let us avoid a trip to the supermarket. We tried liquor cabinet alternatives—straight bourbon and rum, both of which feature vanilla-like favors—for the extract in pound cake, vanilla cookies, and vanilla pudding. Rum’s favor was too distinctive, but the bourbon was promising, though it was both too mild and too boozy.

The solution: We reduced 1⁄4 cup of bourbon to 2 tablespoons in the microwave, which intensified its favors and drove off some of its alcohol. While the concentrated bourbon didn’t taste exactly like vanilla, it brought a pleasing complexity to all three recipes. (Note: We also found that for cake and cookies, simply omitting the vanilla led to acceptable results. But the additional favor was essential to the pudding, which tasted too eggy without it.)

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