This year, I've had the opportunity to work part-time with SLU's pastry chef in Fresh Gatherings Cafe. Thanks to Chef Todd, I've gotten to experience the world of baking at a whole other level. My early-morning shift at the bakery starts promptly with a batch of baguette dough from scratch. While every shift is different, a typical day usually includes melting some chocolate to dip a variety of biscotti and even brownies in, as well as rolling out croissant dough.

But if there's one thing that I've learned from my culinary experiences is that cooking is all about problem solving. The beauty of it lies in making something, screwing up, and finding a way to fix it. For example, what do you do if you don't have vanilla extract, a key ingredient in baking? I've put my problem-solving practices to good work by finding a good substitute for vanilla extract for any situation.

1. Maple Syrup

french toast, sweet, pancake, pastry, toast, syrup, cake, honey
Christin Urso

Seems like maple syrup isn't only meant for pancakes, waffles, and French toast! If your recipe calls for some vanilla extract that you don't have, substitute an equal amount of maple syrup in it and you won't be able to tell the difference. 

2. Almond Extract

nut, walnut, almond, meat, apricot pits
Torey Walsh

Almond extract is sometimes a little cheaper than vanilla extract (depends on what brand you buy, of course), and is also a great substitute for it. They both have an aromatic nutty flavor, producing similar results in baking. 

3. Vanilla Almond Milk

Vanilla almond milk is something I always have in my fridge, and it happens to also make a great substitute for vanilla extract. You can also use any other plant-based milk like soy milk, as long as it's vanilla flavored. 

4. Vanilla Powder

wine, alcohol, liquor, beer
Kirsten Andersen

Starbucks always has a wide variety of powders to add to your drinks, and vanilla powder is one of them. I typically add a hint of vanilla powder and a hint of cinnamon to my almond milk cappuccinos when I'm at Starbucks, but it never crossed my mind before that it could be used as a substitute for vanilla extract in baking until now. Vanilla powder is made by crushing vanilla beans until it's powder-like. Substitute the same amount of vanilla powder for vanilla extract in a recipe to get the same effect. 

5. Honey

syrup, sweet, honey, honey dipper
Sam Jesner

Honey is a great substitute for a lot of things. In this case, vanilla extract. If you add honey instead of vanilla extract, make sure to reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe. This is due to the fact that honey is already very sweet and can also impact how sticky your dessert turns out. 

6. Spices

spices, chili powder, cumin, oregano
Victoria Hoang

I'm a huge fan of cinnamon. I add cinnamon to nearly everything that I bake, sometimes even drinks such as cappuccinos or chai tea lattes, sweet potatoes, and even yogurt. Other spices such as nutmeg and cloves can have the same effect as vanilla. Vanilla extract is commonly used to enhance other flavors in baking, but spices can do the same too. Plus, they're cheaper and last a lot longer. You also don't have to add a lot of it to make your mark, you know? 

7. Vanilla Ice Cream

cream, ice, sweet, dairy product, goody, chocolate, sorbet, wafer, waffle, relish
Emily Genzer

In the case of making milkshakes, floats, and other frozen desserts, you don't even need to use vanilla extract. Instead, use vanilla ice cream to get that vanilla essence into your dish. 

8. Bourbon 

beer, liquor, shots, Whiskey, alcohol
Sam Jesner

Bourbon is used in baking more than you would think. It's known to improve the moisture and texture of certain foods. Because bourbon is aged in oak, it has a slight smoked vanilla-y flavor.  We can use that to our advantage and enhance the flavor in baking, such as in a pecan pie, a rich chocolate cake, or gingerbread. 

9. Brandy

cream, chocolate
Lexi Nickens

If you don't have vanilla extract hanging around in your house, whip out the brandy, and make a brandy and banana bread or a brandy buttercream frosting. Use the same amount of brandy as the amount of vanilla the recipe calls for. 

10. Chocolate

sweet, candy, chocolate, chips, chocolate chips, cocoa
Caroline Ingalls

If you've tried all of the above substitutes for vanilla extract and none of them work for you, forget about the vanilla altogether and go for chocolate. You can never go wrong with a little chocolate in your baking. 

If you're ever in need of some vanilla extract, I think your best bet is to just make your own using vanilla beans and alcohol to extract (hence the name "vanilla extract") all its goodness.