If you are a coffee, baking, or ice cream lover you may have curiosity about vanilla syrup. Places like Starbucks use vanilla syrup in what seems like everything. These days you may be looking to save a few dollars. You can easily make a homemade vanilla coffee syrup or find a great vanilla syrup substitute.
To find the best substitute, you first need to understand what vanilla syrup is.
What is Vanilla Syrup?
Vanilla syrup is a simple syrup made of sugar, water, and vanilla extract. There are many different brands and ways to make vanilla syrup but each call for those three basic ingredients.
Vanilla syrup is most commonly used in baking or as an additive to a cup of coffee or other beverage. This sweet syrup is a great way to add a vanilla taste to instant coffee, cakes, or even banana bread.
How Vanilla Syrup Is Made
The vanilla flavor comes from vanilla beans. Special orchid plants produce pods that contain vanilla beans. Each vanilla pod is picked and cured for several weeks to allow the flavor and scent to develop. The flavor is then extracted from the vanilla seeds to what we know to be vanilla extract.
Vanilla extract, sugar, and water are then combined over heat to create a simple syrup.
Where To Buy Vanilla Syrup
It is available at almost any grocery store. You can also purchase vanilla syrup from Starbucks if they have it available.
The Best Substitutes for Vanilla Syrup
Purchasing Vanilla syrup can get a bit pricey. One bottle can cost over $30. If you are looking for a great way to save a little or eliminate some preservatives, here are the best substitutes you can use.
Vanilla sugar is a granulated sugar that has been infused with vanilla over a long period of time. Alternatively, it is vanilla powder mixed with sugar. It is commonly used for baking in European countries. But, you may have some on hand from previous recipes.
Even though vanilla syrup is a liquified version of sugar, vanilla sugar can still make a great substitute for vanilla syrup. Use it as a replacement for vanilla syrup in any baking recipe. You can use the substitution in equal amounts, but be sure to consider the consistency differences.
Vanilla Powder + Sugar
Vanilla powder is made from vanilla beans. It is essentially dried vanilla extract mixed with a bit of cornstarch. It makes a great alternative to vanilla syrup as it has an intense vanilla flavor. What’s better is that the stronger flavor comes without any artificial ingredients or flavorings.
Vanilla powder has a sweet flavor and excellent aroma. It can be used as a substitute in baked goods or your coffee recipe.
To substitute vanilla powder for vanilla syrup, use only a small amount of vanilla powder with an amount of sugar (depending on desired sweetness) for vanilla syrup.
Vanilla Bean Paste + Sugar
If you're looking for a strong vanilla flavor, vanilla bean paste is made by mixing seeds from the beans with a bit of vanilla extract. Binders like xantham gum are often added to help stabilize and suspend the seeds in the liquid.
Vanilla bean paste sweetened with some sugar is an excellent replacement for vanilla syrup in recipes and drinks. Use an equal amount of vanilla paste mixed with sugar to vanilla syrup in your substitution.
Vanilla Extract + Sugar
If you're looking to give your beverage or baked good some great vanilla flavor, vanilla extract combined with some sugar is one of the easiest and best substitutes for vanilla syrup.
Blend a few drops of vanilla extract with the desired amount of sugar and mix into your beverage or baked good.
Almond Extract + Sugar
Similarly, if you're looking for a slightly different flavor, almond extract combined with some sugar makes an interesting substitute for vanilla syrup. Almond extract is similar to pure vanilla extract in that is made from water, alcohol, and almond oil.
Almond extract has a strong sweet flavor and pairs well with almost any other flavor. In place of vanilla extract, blend a few drops of almond extract with the desired amount of sugar to add amazing flavor to whatever you're making.
Pure Maple Syrup
Pure maple syrup can be used for so much more than just topping French toast or pancakes. It is made from maple tree sap and is a natural sweetener.
Pure maple syrup is comparable in sweetness to vanilla syrup. Thus, you will still want to use an equal amount of maple syrup as vanilla syrup. It is an all-around great substitute.
Raw honey also makes a good substitute for vanilla syrup. It is a sweetener that doesn’t contain any artificial flavors or synthetic compounds. It is known to aid in digestion and help to relieve a sore throat.
Although honey and vanilla offer a different flavors, they are both sweet. Honey can be used as a replacement for vanilla syrup in baking or beverages.
Due to the lower moisture content in honey, use ½ cup of honey for every cup of vanilla syrup in your recipe.
Vanilla Almond Milk
Vanilla almond milk can also be used as a substitute for vanilla syrup if you're just looking to add a slight vanilla flavor without the concentrated sweetness. It contains a small amount of vanilla extract so it will provide a similar flavor.
Use vanilla almond milk in your coffee, brownies, or smoothies. It will give you a slightly sweet flavor that won’t overpower your recipe.
Vanilla Syrup vs. Vanilla Extract
Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors used in the world. There are a ton of vanilla-flavored products and many of them are often confused.
They aren’t the same thing.
Vanilla syrup is quite a bit thicker and tastes much sweeter than vanilla extract. Pure vanilla extract has a bitter taste, is liquidy, and provides bold flavor.
Vanilla extract is generally a pantry staple and comes in a few different forms. Pure vanilla extract is quite hard to make. A vanilla pod is extracted, steeped, and mixed with alcohol and water. To be considered “pure” vanilla extract the liquid must have at least 35% alcohol content and 100 grams of vanilla beans per liter. The full process for making pure vanilla extract can take years from start to finish.
On the other hand, imitation vanilla can be made much more quickly and still provides great vanilla flavoring. Imitation vanilla is often labeled vanilla essence as it contains synthetic vanillin rather than extracting vanilla bean pods.
Vanilla syrup differs from vanilla extract in consistency and flavor. Vanilla syrup is the best choice for sweeter flavors in coffee or cakes. But, if you are looking for intense vanilla flavor without the sugar, vanilla extract is the way to go.
Choosing Between Vanilla Syrup, Vanilla Extract, and Vanilla Beans
If you are looking to make homemade vanilla ice cream, you will want to use vanilla beans. Real vanilla seeds in these types of recipes are unmatched.
But, if you are making a cake or chocolate chip cookies, vanilla extract may be the way to go. Pure vanilla extract provides the strong flavor you are looking for and you only need a small amount.
Vanilla syrup is the best choice for options such as a vanilla latte. Real vanilla will not give the same flavor profile for sweet recipes like a vanilla latte.
You may decide to switch things up based on what you have on hand and the best option for each recipe.
As far as quantities are concerned, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract is equal to one 6-inch vanilla bean pod.
Homemade Vanilla Syrup
Although there are some great substitutes for vanilla syrup, it isn’t a bad idea to make your own homemade vanilla syrup. If you are a coffee lover, avid baker, or craft cocktail connoisseur, you can never have too much vanilla syrup.
To make homemade vanilla syrup you will need:
- 1 cup white sugar or cane sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or 1-2 whole vanilla beans, split
Instructions for Homemade Vanilla Syrup
- Add sugar and water over a saucepan on medium heat
- Stir the mixture slowly until the sugar is dissolved
- Let the mixture cool to room temperature
- Mix in the extract or beans
- Pour into an airtight container and store in the fridge.
Summing It Up
Vanilla syrup is one of the most versatile staple ingredients in a pantry. Vanilla syrup can be used for savory and sweet recipes or added into almost any beverage. It can be a cooking crisis when you realize you have run out.
Luckily, there are some excellent alternatives. Whether you make homemade vanilla syrup or choose a vanilla syrup substitute, you can still create something delicious. Trying out different options is a great way to experiment and let your creative juices flow. From maple syrup to vanilla almond milk, you are sure to find a vanilla syrup substitute in your home.
Do you have any other tried and true substitution recommendations? Please let me know in the comments!