You’re making a delicious batch of cookies and go to put the next ingredient in, only to realize…you’re out of vanilla extract!
Can you even make cookies without vanilla extract?
What would happen?
Are there any substitutions for vanilla extract?
In this guide, we’re talking all about this tiny ingredient that packs a huge punch in cookies, and whether you’re in for a baking disaster if you leave vanilla extract out or whether your cookies will be fine.
For more information on other cookie baking troubleshooting and substitutions, check out our guide on how to fix every cookie problem here.
Before we dive in too deep with the reasoning and possible substitutions for vanilla extract, in case you are in a time crunch and just need to know:
Yes, you can make cookies without vanilla extract without changing any of the other ingredients, but your cookies will have a more flat and less enhanced taste.
If you want to find out exactly why this is, how much it really makes a difference, and what you can use instead, read on!
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Is it Possible to Make Cookies without Vanilla Extract?
So let’s first talk about if it’s technically possible to make cookies without vanilla extract.
And the answer is yes!
It is entirely possible to make cookies without vanilla extract.
Plenty of cookie recipes don’t even call for vanilla extract, but also, you can leave it out of your cookie recipe even if it asks for it and still come out with decent cookies.
Must-Have Baking Tools (seriously)
- Silicone baking mats – I use this brand and my cookies slide right off without burning!
- a cookie scoop – get this one. It makes the perfect rounded cookies every time!
- silicone spatula – try this set. It’s the best way to get the most out of your dough and batters
- rolling pin guides – I use this one. Genius way to roll your dough out evenly!
What Does Vanilla Extract Do in Cookies?
Vanilla extract is simply a flavoring in cookies, rather than a structural element.
It is used to give a cookie a much richer taste that also enhances the flavor of the other ingredients.
It will obviously add a little hint of vanilla taste, but it’s not necessarily just used in cookies that are “vanilla flavored.”
Because you only have to add about 1/2 a teaspoon or teaspoon per recipe, it is not going to change much in your dough but it will give you a tiny extra bit of moisture.
What Happens to a Cookie without Vanilla Extract?
What happens if you leave vanilla extract out of a cookie?
Does the world end?
Does it taste horrible?
Usually, your cookie will just taste a bit more flat if you forget the vanilla extract.
Vanilla extra can have a pretty huge impact for such a tiny amount that you’re supposed to add, but if you don’t add it in, you’ll still be left with an edible cookie (it just might not win baking awards or be scoffed down by the family, but it’ll still be a serviceable cookie).
Nothing else should change about the cookie besides the flavor.
Also note that there are plenty of cookie recipes that don’t require vanilla extract!
Instead of worrying about leaving out vanilla extract from a recipe that wants it, simply find a cookie recipe that doesn’t use vanilla extract and then you can make the whole cookie exactly as intended with no negative effects.
Vanilla Extract Substitutions
If you don’t have vanilla extract on hand, but still want a bit of a flavor to your cookie and a richness, there are some things you can try!
Try these vanilla extract substitutions to get some of that depth back in the cookie.
Peppermint Extract or Crushed Up Candy Canes
If you have a cookie that you’re making around the holidays (or you just really like peppermint), try adding peppermint extract instead of vanilla extract.
Obviously this isn’t going to work for every cookie, but sugar cookies with peppermint extract and chocolate chip cookies with peppermint extract sound delicious!
If you don’t have peppermint extract, you can also use finely ground up candy canes or even roughly crushed up candy canes!
Almond extract is a really popular substitution for vanilla extract, and many cookies actually ask for almond extract rather than vanilla extract to start with.
You’re going to get a bit more of a nuttier taste in almond extract as opposed to the vanilla (duh), but it’s not overpowering and tastes really, really good.
If you are substituting, use about half of the almond extract than what you would have used if it were vanilla as almond extract is even more overpowering.
Rum Extract (or rum)
If you’re over 21 (or 18 in some countries), you can try something like rum extract or even use just a splash of something like rum or brandy to give your cookies some flavor.
This is going to change the flavor quite substantially, but it’s worth it if you want a bit more flavor in your cookies and don’t have vanilla extract to add.
A little known vanilla extract substitute that we really love is honey!
We often use honey instead of vanilla extract in recipes that ask for vanilla extract and it is simply amazing, sweet, and delicious.
Simply substitute the same amount of honey for the amount of vanilla extract that you are supposed to add, and enjoy!
How would you feel about a cinnamon cookie?
You can add a pinch of cinnamon instead of vanilla extract to give your cookies some flavoring.
This is a really great idea if you’re making something like sugar cookies, which will easily take on the flavor of the cinnamon in a delicious way.