Substitute for Maple Syrup and Vanilla Extract: A Guide

We’ve all been there: You’re in the mood to whip up a delightful baked good, and you know you’ve got the flour, the sugar, the baking soda, the eggs, and the dairy. Everything seems to be falling into place perfectly, except you open the pantry and … no vanilla. Enter maple syrup, the vanilla stand-in you’ve been searching for. Along with almond extract, bourbon, spiced rum, and instant coffee, maple syrup is a top choice when it comes to vanilla extract substitutes that taste like the real thing.

Why does it work so well? For one, maple syrup and vanilla extract have similarly sweet and rich flavor profiles that serve to enhance the other flavors in a dish. And like vanilla, it’s a liquid ingredient that can help bind baked goods and keep them moist. Thanks to its similar consistency, you can simply use a one-to-one substitution of maple syrup for vanilla in your recipes. 

However, because maple syrup is significantly sweeter than vanilla extract, you may want to decrease the sugar accordingly. For example, if you’re swapping in 1 teaspoon of maple syrup, you can decrease the amount of sugar by 1 teaspoon. Maple syrup also has more calories, so that’s something to keep in mind as well. And one very important note: This substitution only works with real maple syrup. Imitation (aka “pancake syrup”) has a very different, more watered-down flavor that won’t achieve the best results.

Recipes that take well to maple syrup

Woman's hands making chocolate baked goods

Once you’ve got that real maple syrup in hand, you can use it as a substitute in nearly any type of baked good you can think of. In particular, maple syrup pairs well with chocolate and warming spices, so give it a try with salted chocolate-rye cookies or cinnamon roll bread pudding. Another good rule of thumb is that any recipe that calls for brown sugar will work great with a maple syrup swap, since they have similar caramel undertones. For that same reason, treats that use browned butter such as brown butter chocolate chip cookies also taste delicious with maple syrup subbed in. 

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But even something with more subtle flavors, like strawberry cobbler, can take surprisingly well to the maple undertones. There are relatively few instances where you cannot substitute vanilla extract with maple syrup, such as where vanilla is meant to be the dominant flavor. A couple of examples include vanilla almond milk (though maple almond milk is delicious in its own right) and classic white cake. But for recipes where many other ingredients or flavors take center stage, enjoy the freedom to swap in maple syrup with aplomb.

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