Why Maple Syrup Is The Perfect Cheap Vanilla Substitute

Say you're baking a cake (or cookies, or a fresh batch of muffins). And say, also, that you go to your pantry only to find that you forgot to buy vanilla extract. It's a small ingredient, usually found in a container consisting of a few ounces, and yet it is essential to most baking recipes — and it's expensive. Though vanilla isn't essential to the structure or consistency of baked goods, it certainly adds to their flavor. Vanilla gives any baked good a sweet, aromatic note that can help bring together disparate flavors and make even the simplest recipe shine. But what if you're fresh out of vanilla, or don't want to spend the cash on it? Well, there's no need to grab your keys and make a mad dash to the grocery store, spend more than you'd like on vanilla, or call off your baking endeavor entirely. So long as you have a trusty bottle of your go-to maple syrup brand, you've got yourself an affordable replacement for your baking project.


For this swap out, you simply need to use the same amount of maple syrup as you would vanilla extract in your given recipe. Maple syrup works as a substitute because it has a similar aromatic quality, giving a warm and sweet taste that helps to round out other flavors in your recipes. Maple syrup has a similar flavor profile to vanilla but is also sweeter with a slightly stronger taste, so be careful which baking projects you use maple syrup in, as it can overpower other flavors. However, it can also help to bring out warmer flavors in your baked goods.

Why it works, and when to swap out

Because maple syrup has such a warm taste and aromatic nature, maple syrup can prove to be an overwhelming substitute for some baked goods. Using it in a delicate whipped cream or meringue can overwhelm their simple, sweet flavors. However, it can also, like vanilla extract, bring out the best in your baked good. Foods such as chocolate chip cookies, which have plenty of brown sugar, are good candidates for a maple syrup substitute — it can add to the cookies' warm, almost caramel-like taste. Banana bread can also benefit from the use of maple syrup instead of vanilla extract, as it complements the taste of banana and walnuts (which are an optional but delicious addition to the banana-flavored, loaf-style cake).


And in these cases, you might also try using your maple syrup not just as a swap out for vanilla extract, but for sugar as well. However, if you do so, you should be mindful not to use too much maple syrup. It's not a matter of simply swapping out the same amount of sugar for maple syrup. Instead, you'll want to use ¾ cup of maple syrup for every cup of sugar. Similarly, you'll want to be mindful of liquid content when replacing your sugar with maple syrup. You will want to reduce the overall liquid in your recipe by 3 tablespoons for every cup of maple syrup added.