Almond extract is used in baked goodies and desserts but doesn’t taste much like the almond nut. Almond extract is made of bitter almond, which is inedible. However, the extract can be a great flavor and aroma enhancer that brings out other tastes in your dishes.
If you’re allergic to nuts, not fond of the taste of almond extract, or just can’t find it readily in your pantry, knowing a good almond extract substitute will help you improve your recipes and enhance their flavors.
The best substitutes for almond extract
Almond extract is a natural flavor enhancer that can be incorporated into multiple dishes. There are actually two types of almond extracts that you can add to your recipes; natural and pure almond extract.
Natural almond extract is made of cassia bark, which is also used to make cinnamon bark extract, which is different from true cinnamon. It’s quite aromatic with a sweet yet pungent flavor.
This type of extract is usually used as a remedy but can also be incorporated into several recipes. However, if you use it in a dessert, you need to add just a few drops because it has an overpowering flavor and aroma.
Pure almond extract is the most common type that we use in several dishes. For example, it can be mixed with your pancake batter or whipped into cake fillings and toppings, as its sweet fruity aroma brings out the taste of fresh stone fruits.
This enhancer is made of almonds, water, and alcohol. It contains a chemical compound called benzaldehyde, which gives it its distinctive aroma. It can also be extracted from the pits of peaches, cherries, apricots, or plums.
It also pairs with other strong flavors like coffee and cinnamon. It can be mixed with maple or chocolate when you’re preparing a sweet sauce or a smoothie.
Just like natural almond extract, the pure one should be used sparingly. When used in large amounts, the strong taste of almond extract overpowers other ingredients in your recipe.
We use the pure almond extract to enhance the flavor of almonds or to replace them. It can also be incorporated into savory dishes that contain almonds when used in a tiny amount.
If you can’t find enough almond extract for your recipe or don’t fancy its aroma, there are several alternatives that you can try instead. Some of these options will also come in handy if you’re allergic to almonds.
1. Imitation Almond Extract
Imitation almond extract is a synthetic version of the pure one, delivering the exact flavor and aroma without having any traces of almonds. This is the perfect almond substitute if you don’t want to skip almond extract in a recipe for someone who is allergic to almonds.
Synthetic almond extract is made of synthetic benzaldehyde. It can be used in any recipe that calls for natural or pure almond extract. However, it may not be easy to find in the average store.
Amaretto is a sweet Italian liqueur that can be made of bitter almonds, cherry pits, or peach stones. Amaretto has a distinctive almond flavor with cherry or peachy undertones, depending on its origin.
Although it’s a liqueur, Amaretto is rarely drunk straight from the bottle because it’s too sweet and thick. However, it’s usually incorporated into several hot and cold drinks, including smoothies and frappes.
It contains alcohol but the alcohol evaporates when cooked. So, you can add Amaretto in a dessert that you’re preparing for your children because it’s perfectly safe.
Amaretto should be used sparingly because it has an overpowering taste and aroma. It blends well with coffee and chocolate and is usually used in cake frostings and fillings to give them a little kick. Adding a small amount of Amaretto to your cookies or other baked goodies will them taste delicious.
3. Homemade Almond Extract
Your homemade version can be a good almond extract alternative if you can’t find the extract at the grocery store and if you have enough time to prepare this recipe.
You only need two ingredients, whole raw almonds, and a clear liqueur, preferably vodka. All you have to do is add the almonds to a glass jar and cover them with the vodka, making sure that they’re entirely submerged to extract the almond flavor.
After keeping the jar in a cool, dry place for two months, your homemade almond extract will be ready. Just add a teaspoon of this homemade extract to your baked dessert recipes, and you will enjoy the subtle yet unique aroma of almonds. It works better if your recipe contains whole or crushed almonds.
4. Cherry Pit Syrup
Cherry pit syrup has a mild almond flavor and aroma with some fruity undertones and can be used in several desserts without being too overpowering. It’s an excellent choice if you don’t want almond extract to dominate your recipe, as this syrup is so much more subtle.
You can either make this syrup at home or buy it from a store. It pairs well with other stone-fruit desserts, so it will be an excellent addition to a cherry cheesecake, an apricot tart, or a plum cobbler.
Because almond extract has a stronger and aroma, you need to add more cherry pit syrup to deliver the same taste in your recipe. It’s recommended to replace one part of almond extract with four parts of cherry pit syrup to enhance the flavors in your dessert.
5. Vanilla Extract
You can safely substitute almond extract for vanilla extract if you’re allergic to nuts or don’t like the flavor of almond extract.
Vanilla extract has a sweet, slightly caramel-ish taste with a light floral aroma. Because of its pleasant taste, vanilla extract can be used to enhance the flavor of yogurt, smoothies, coffee-based drinks, chocolate desserts, and nut butter.
In savory dishes, vanilla extract can be a flavor enhancer when mixed with spice rubs, marinades, glazes, sauces, stews, or vinaigrette dressings.
Compared to almond extract, vanilla extract is slightly more subtle, so it will be an excellent almond extract replacement if you’re not fond of the strong aroma. You can replace three drops of almond extract with one teaspoon of vanilla extract to enjoy the same flavor.
At first glance, cinnamon might not offer the same flavor as almond extract. But when mixed with other ingredients, cinnamon provides a spicy, nutty aroma, which resembles the pleasant aroma of natural almond extract.
Cinnamon is a good substitute for almond extract if you have a nut allergy. It pairs well with different flavors, especially in chocolate-based desserts. It can also be incorporated into nut-based recipes because it enhances these flavors.
For a pleasant aroma, cinnamon can be mixed with vanilla extract to give it a little kick. It can be a perfect addition to a spice mix made of nutmeg, ginger, cloves, or turmeric in your savory dishes.
7. Orange Zest
If you’re not fond of the flavor of almonds or are allergic to them, orange zest will be a perfect replacement for almond extract in cakes, cookies, pies, muffins, and icings. The fruity aroma and taste of the orange zest complement the other flavors in fruit-based pastries and desserts.
This is a great option if you’re looking for a flavor enhancer but find almond extract to be too strong. You can also add two teaspoons of orange juice to your recipes.
Orange zest goes well with different flavors like different fruits, ginger, nutmeg, and vanilla. It can also be used in savory dishes to give them a little edge.
8. Chocolate Extract
If you’re preparing a chocolate-based dessert, adding chocolate extract can be a good choice if you don’t have almond extract within reach. Chocolate extract tastes great in cakes, muffins, cookies, and ice cream and is a safe choice if you’re allergic to almonds.
The chocolate extract also pairs well with tart fruits and citrus fruits. You can also find mint chocolate extract to add a little kick to your recipes.
How to choose an almond extract substitute
If you’re looking for an ingredient that can substitute almond extract while delivering the same taste and aroma, your best bet would be to buy imitation almond extract.
Amaretto is another good option to replace in your baked dishes or drinks. If you have enough time, you can prepare almond extract at home. However, this is a lengthy process that might not work for you if you’re in a hurry.
Cherry pit syrup is a good substitution for almond extract if you need a slightly more subtle flavor with some fruity undertones.
Vanilla extract is a suitable almond substitute in drinks and desserts, as it adds some sweetness with a light floral aroma.
Cinnamon has a stronger taste and can be incorporated into multiple sweet and savory dishes. If you need a different flavor to bring out other flavors in your recipe, you can use orange zest or chocolate extract.
If you’re allergic to almonds, you can use cherry pit syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, orange zest, or chocolate extract in your recipes.