vanilla bean paste substitute

7 Vanilla Bean Paste Substitutes You Can Use in Baking

Cakes, ice cream, cookies — regardless of what dessert you’re making, vanilla bean paste is a popular ingredient that can elevate a dish. It’s a delightful compromise between pure vanilla extract and vanilla pods. Vanilla bean paste has a sweet taste with a viscous consistency of thick syrup. It imparts a deep vanilla smell and flavor to anything it is added to.

Since vanilla bean paste is such a must-have ingredient, it also tends to sell out quickly. So, if you’re making a recipe that calls for this wonderful ingredient but can’t find it at the store, try these vanilla bean paste substitutes for a comparable result.

1. Almond Extract

Almond Extract

Almond extract is a concentrated liquid made from almond oil, alcohol, and water. It has a strong nutty aroma and a consistency that’s similar to vanilla extract, making it an excellent alternative to vanilla paste in various dishes.

You can use almond extract in any baking and cooking recipe that calls for vanilla bean paste. Bear in mind that it will bring in a subtly sweet taste with hints of bitterness. But, don’t worry, it won’t detract from your recipe’s unique flavors.

Use almond extract as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla bean paste.

2. Honey


Honey is a thick, syrupy liquid with a sweet taste and a mellow aroma. It is packed with various vitamins and essential minerals and is considered a healthy alternative to table sugar and other sweeteners.

Honey and vanilla bean paste share the same consistency and have similar flavor notes. So, you can use honey to replace the original ingredient in cookies and cakes or any other sweet delights. However, bear in mind that honey can be a touch too sweet. It’s better to dilute it with equal amounts of water to reduce its sweetness and avoid overpowering the delicate flavors of lighter desserts.

Use honey as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla bean paste. (You might need to add more to get your desired vanilla flavor.)

3. Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is made from the sap of sugar maple trees. It has a clean, rich flavor with a distinct aroma along with notes of caramel and prune combined with our hero ingredient — vanilla. Commonly used as a sweetener, maple syrup can be a wonderful addition to vanilla-based dishes.

Maple syrup may present a different consistency than vanilla bean paste, but it will bring in a similar vanilla flavor along with a sweet aroma. This makes it work really well in baked goods like cookies, cakes, and pastries. Maple syrup comes in different grades and is distinguished by its color. So, use the darker-colored maple syrups for the best results.

Use maple syrup as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla bean paste.

4. Vanilla Beans

Vanilla Beans

This substitute is expensive but an easy and near-perfect substitute as vanilla bean paste is made with vanilla beans. Vanilla beans have a sweet aroma with a woody or smoky flavor. Plump, fresh beans will give you the best vanilla flavor, appearance, and essence and will make a fine addition to just about any baked goods. Before using it, make sure to check for molds as vanilla beans tend to go bad when kept in humid conditions.

You can either use the beans as is or scrape them to use in recipes that call for the original ingredient. You can even ground the beans into a fine powder and mix in a small amount of vanilla extract to produce a honey-like sticky consistency. It will give your dishes a similar color and flavor to the paste.

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste = 1 whole vanilla bean or

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste = 2 inches of vanilla bean.

5. Vanilla Essence

Vanilla Essence

Vanilla essence is a more processed form of vanilla extract, which is why it’s also known as imitation vanilla extract. It is made using artificial flavors and colors and is a cheaper, more widely used alternative to pure vanilla extract. However, as it gets its flavor from vanillin, a synthetic ingredient, and not from vanilla beans, it will not have a rich vanilla taste.

You can use vanilla essence in the same way as vanilla bean extract or vanilla bean paste in a range of dishes. It will lend a lovely flavor and aroma of vanilla, although at a much subtler scale. It’s recommended you use vanilla essence in dishes where vanilla essence is not the primary ingredient, such as cakes and cookies. Even then, it’s better to use it only when other alternatives aren’t available.

Use vanilla essence as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla bean paste.

6. Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is a product made by soaking whole vanilla beans in a water and ethanol mixture and then filtering it to produce a brown-colored liquid. This extract is used to add the signature complex vanilla flavor to a range of dishes. It has a more concentrated flavor and is an affordable, easily available ingredient.

Vanilla extract is wonderful in baked goods, but you can also use it in other types of dishes. However, because it contains alcohol, it adds hints of bitter flavors. Using vanilla extract will also not give you the same seed speckles of vanilla bean paste, so bear that in mind.

Use vanilla extract as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla bean paste. (Add more if needed.)

7. Vanilla Powder

Vanilla Powder

Vanilla powder is made with vanilla beans, so it’s essentially vanilla in its purest form. It has a rich, strong flavor, and because it does not contain any liquid or alcohol, it also brings in a much thicker consistency. There are slight differences in texture and aroma, but vanilla powder can work as a great alternative.

Vanilla powder will add a wonderful vanilla taste to just about every baking recipe, without any moisture or alcohol notes. However, a lot of vanilla powder manufacturers tend to infuse the fine powder with confectioner sugar, producing a product called vanilla sugar that is much sweeter. It will work in place of vanilla bean paste as well, but it will not give your baked goods the pure vanilla flavor you desire.

Use vanilla powder as a 1:1 substitute for vanilla bean paste.

AboutRibana Hategan

Ribana is a certified pastry chef and passionate home cook who curates and develops recipes that are high on nutrition. She develops and tests cost effective, nutritious meals using quality ingredients to help people better their everyday eating experiences.