Chocolate chip cookies are a staple snack across the United States. They are simple and delicious, hitting the perfect spot every single time.
Vanilla extract is not something that you have in your home unless you bake regularly.
So what happens if the baking bug strikes you randomly and all the stores are closed? Don’t worry, because we have given you a number of substitutions to use instead of vanilla.
As it is used primarily as a flavoring, there is no reason that you cannot make chocolate chip cookies without vanilla.
They may taste slightly different, but we guarantee that the chocolate content of the cookies will balance this out and they will still be delicious.
Why do they contain vanilla?
Vanilla extract is used to enhance the flavors contained within the cookies. It provides a subtly sweet base note that complements the chocolate chips beautifully.
It is by no means an essential ingredient, and your chocolate chip cookies will come out just as well without vanilla.
It is unlikely that people will notice its absence, and so you can easily make cookies without.
Vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, vanilla essence, or vanilla powder?
Vanilla bean pods are the purest form of vanilla, and how it naturally occurs. When choosing vanilla pods, look for shiny and plump pods.
We suggest storing wrapped in aluminum foil as exposure to light can impact the taste. They tend to last a few months in the cupboard, but if they are allowed to dry out, the flavor profile will deteriorate.
Vanilla bean paste is a combination of extract and powder. It is best suited to use in cold products like ice cream and frosting. It has a much thicker consistency and requires more effort to combine.
Vanilla extract is created by soaking vanilla beans in an ethyl alcohol and water solution. The strong flavor comes from the vanillin molecule inside the beans. Over time, as it mingles with the alcohol, the liquid infuses and takes on this flavor.
Vanilla essence is produced from synthetic vanilla rather than the vanilla bean. It often has processed crude oil to imitate the vanilla flavor. This means that the flavor is more diluted and the product is cheaper.
If a recipe calls for vanilla extract but you only have essence on hand, use a 2:1 substitution ratio.
Vanilla powder is much stronger than extract. This is commonly made from dried and ground vanilla beans. It is very expensive as a result but is of incredibly high quality. You should use a 0.5:1 ratio as a substitute.
Some cheaper vanilla powders are made from maltodextrin, dextrose, or sucrose that has been finely ground and infused with vanilla. In essence, these are vanilla sugars.
What are Substitutes for Vanilla
None of these substitutes will imbue your cookies with a vanilla taste or aroma, but they will all add something to the final product.
Maple syrup can be used as a substitute for vanilla in small quantities.
This will add a mild sweetness and a similar flavor to vanilla. It should be substituted for vanilla in a 1:1 ratio.
Almond extract can be substituted for vanilla. This will not produce the same result but will give a similar aroma.
It is a stronger flavor than vanilla, so ensure you do not substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
Bourbon, Rum, or Brandy
Bourbon, rum, or brandy can be added to baked dishes in order to enhance the flavor.
Vanilla extract is mildly alcoholic and these substitutes will give a similar aftertaste. It is used in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute.
This can be used as a vanilla substitute much like maple syrup. It will not give the same flavor but will make cookies without vanilla taste sweeter.
Agave syrup would also work in the same manner. These are substitutes in a 1:1 ratio.
It is obvious that this will not produce the same result as vanilla in a chocolate chip cookie.
However, if you find the lack of vanilla makes your cookies taste bland, this is a good option.
Cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg are good spice choices for chocolate chip cookies to enhance the flavor of the chocolate.
Espresso Powder or Instant Coffee
You could substitute the vanilla in your recipe for a pinch of instant coffee powder.
This will create an entirely different result but will create a very satisfying cookie.
Citrus zest is another great way to spice up the flavor of your cookies. Finely grated zest will add a light and refreshing flavor to your cookies, without watering down the dough.
Our favorite addition to chocolate chip cookies is a little orange zest, as this makes a delicious chocolate orange cookie.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
You will need some fresh vanilla beans, a spirit (we recommend vodka), and a large airtight jar.
You will need to split your vanilla beans lengthwise in half. Add to your jar and completely cover with the vodka.
Seal the jar and gently shake to ensure the vanilla and vodka have mixed.
Place in a cool, dark place and allow to infuse for at least 1 month, but for best results we suggest 2. Shake the jar occasionally to encourage the flavors to mix.
After it has been infused for a couple of months, strain through a piece of cheesecloth and decant into bottles.
Rum, brandy, and bourbon will also work in place of vodka. You do not need to use expensive alcohol to make vanilla extract, as the flavors will come from the vanilla beans.
The alcohol you use should be around 80% proof for the best results.
This extract will last forever, as opposed to the storebought vanilla which has a shelf life of around 2 years.
How to Make Chocolate Chip Cookies Without Vanilla
This will make around 40 small cookies.
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
- ¾ cup white sugar
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 12 oz chocolate chips (semi-sweet is the most common, but any will work)
Your first step is to preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, you should grease a baking sheet and line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the baking soda, flour, and salt.
Take a separate bowl and cream together the sugars and the butter. This means that you must beat the ingredients together for a few minutes.
This step is important because the butter needs to coat the sugar grains to waterproof them. The more light and fluffy the creamed mixture is, the better your cookies will turn out.
Crack the eggs and add one at a time to the creamed butter. Mix well to combine.
Gradually pour in the dry ingredients and mix to form a dough in your bowl.
Add the chocolate chips in, along with any other flavorings you desire. We like to use a mix of chocolate chips to add variety to our cookies.
Using a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon, dollop blobs of cookie dough onto your baking sheet.
Place in the oven for around 10 to 12 minutes. The surface of the cookies should be golden brown. The cookies are not going to be firm at this point, they will still seem very soft and malleable.
Allow the cookies to cool and harden slightly on the baking sheet for around 5-10 minutes. When they are solid enough to pick up without breaking, use a fish slice to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Alternatively, you could eat them straight from the oven if warm cookies are what you are after!