A delightful addition to any pantry, caramel extract lets you whip up chocolate chips, butterscotch cookies, sweet puddings, cinnamon rolls, and many other delectable baked goods and desserts.
Suffice it to say, having caramel extract on stock in the kitchen is a good idea. However, there may be times when it is not available in your local grocery store. This is when knowing the ideal substitutes for caramel extract can come in handy.
Having said that, here are 14 of the top substitutes that you can use in lieu of caramel extract:
- Caramel Syrup
- Caramel Candy
- Caramel Liqueur
- Caramel Sauce
- Caramel Flavoring
- Pure Caramel
- Butter Extract
- Vanilla Extract
- Vanilla Beans
Read on if you are keen to understand more about the alternatives available for your baking needs.
14 Best Substitutes for Caramel Extract
Food extracts are important ingredients in a wide variety of desserts and baked goods. Food extracts may be pure, naturally occurring, or artificial. Regardless of its nature, caramel is among the most popular flavors.
Food extracts usually come with deep-rooted flavors and taste that people have come to love.
Let’s now discuss the caramel extract alternatives in more detail to help you decide which one is suitable for your particular needs.
Caramel syrup is the first on the list. It is the best substitute for caramel extract because of its similar flavor profile, although the consistency of the syrup might be thicker. Thus, when substituting, you need to tweak the amount of syrup to substitute for caramel extract.
The substitution also allows you to enjoy the same caramel-like buttery flavor. Because caramel syrup is sweetened, you need not add sugar in your recipes.
To substitute for caramel extract for dipping fruits, use ¼ tsp. of caramel syrup for every tsp. of the extract. For dishes that need a thicker caramel extract layer, double the required amount of caramel syrup in the recipe.
If you’re aiming for the closest possible caramel flavor, then using caramel candy as a caramel extract substitute may be perfect for the job. With the strong caramel flavor, the candies will provide an amazing taste when melted into baked goods and desserts.
To melt caramel candies, heat a non-stick pan over low heat setting. Mix 8 to 10 pieces of candy with ½ cup of water and put into the heated pan. If you prefer a thicker or thinner consistency, adjust the amount of water.
Simmer as you constantly mix to melt the candies evenly. At first, the mixture may look soft or watery, but the consistency will improve once cooled. Use a wooden spatula to stir and press down the candies to make breaking and melting them easier.
Once the candies completely melt into a dense liquid, turn the heat off, and allow the mixture to cool down before using it in your desserts.
Another tasty caramel-based substitute that will work as an alternative to caramel extract is caramel sauce. It is the perfect ingredient once watered down to make its texture thinner, similar to caramel extract.
It may require a bit of trial and error to get the right balance of the sauce to water. Pouring too little or too much might affect the sweetness of your recipe.
Bear in mind that caramel sauce might be excessively sweet, so watch the amount of sauce you add.
Since caramel extract is steeped in strong solvents like alcohol, you can find caramel liqueur with similar characteristics to caramel extract. The liqueur has a bit of caramel flavor with a strong and sweet alcohol taste.
Alcohol notes fade away during baking. What would be left is a flavor similar to caramel extract.
Caramel liqueur is preferable over caramel syrup if you are not fond of sweets. To use as a caramel extract substitute, use the 1:1 substitution ratio.
A wide variety of flavoring agents may come with caramel flavor. These flavoring agents use natural ingredients like sugar, water, salt and natural flavors. The caramel flavor is concentrated, probably more than pure caramel.
To reduce the sweetness level, lessen the amount of caramel flavoring to use in your recipes. This way, you can have a good alternative to caramel extract.
However, you need to be careful in choosing the caramel flavoring to use. To get the best possible caramel flavor, always go for flavorings that have no preservatives, sweeteners, or artificial coloring.
Pure caramel is always an option if you are looking for a replacement for caramel extract. For one, it is widely available, and you can always prepare it at home if you have the time and patience.
All you have to do is boil sugar on a medium heat setting. You can add butter if you are going for a creamier texture. Then, add whipping cream or water to the melted sugar. Mix well. If preferred, you can add kosher salt, vanilla extract, or rum.
Your DIY caramel is ready for use after a few minutes. To use as a substitute for caramel extract, adjust the amount of caramel based on your intended flavor.
While caramel extract adds a lot of flavor to dishes, it is not a good ingredient for you if you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Thus, if you are avoiding caramel extract for health reasons, butter extract may be a good substitute. For one, butter extract has healthier ingredients.
Butter extract has no sugar, dairy or gluten content. It is a completely vegan product that mimics the flavor of butter. You will not find hints of added sweetness or sugar in it.
Its creaminess and buttery flavor, however, can significantly improve your caramel-based cinnamon rolls, ice cream, and chocolate chip cookies.
Aside from caramel, vanilla is also among the most frequently used flavors in dessert recipes. Vanilla’s popularity makes it a convenient substitute for caramel that you can easily find in your local stores.
When you compare caramel to vanilla beans, you can find a number of similar characteristics. Vanilla extract has a certain sweetness that is like caramel extract.
The difference is that vanilla extract has a much stronger intensity. This is why you need to reduce the amount required in the recipe when using it as a substitute for caramel extract.
Vanilla extract is nevertheless a great alternative to caramel with a familiar flavor even to picky eaters. It can be used in a wide range of recipes – from bread puddings to coffee.
Almond extract is another extract that you can use as a replacement for caramel extract. If you want to infuse a natural nutty flavor into your dish, then this is an excellent option.
While it may have a different taste from caramel extract, the versatile flavor of almond extract can work well in sweet recipes. With its sweetness, nutty taste, and distinctive notes of almonds, you can achieve the same sweetness level of caramel extract easily with only a few almond drops.
Because of its prominent almond taste, you need to use only a moderate amount in dessert recipes that require caramel extract. As a caramel extract substitute, almond extract is best used in vegan-keto friendly, caramel-based desserts.
Aside from vanilla extract, you can also use vanilla bean seeds to replace caramel extract in any recipe. A single vanilla bean can stand in for around 3 tsps. of caramel extract.
If the dish you are preparing only needs a tsp. of caramel extract, slice the vanilla bean into 3 parts. Split and scrap only 1/3 of the bean, and store the remaining 2/3 for later use.
If you love the natural sweetness of caramel extract, but you need a more affordable alternative, then golden syrup is your best option.
The intense, toast-like sweetness of caramel is present in golden syrup. It has a thin consistency that is perfect to provide the sweetness you are looking for in any dessert recipe you are preparing.
Take note, however, that golden syrup comes with extreme sweetness. Thus, you need to be careful in the amount to add to your recipe. Adding an excess amount can ruin the texture of dishes like puddings or French toasts.
If you can use melted caramel candy as a caramel extract substitute, then you can also use fudge for the same purpose. It would be a pity to leave out fudge in this substitute list. For one, it has a deliciously irresistible sweetness.
If you run out of caramel extract and you need an immediate substitute, then having a left-over batch of fudge will come in handy. Fudge will work well as a caramel extract alternative in many recipes.
Because fudge is a bit hard, you can crush it into a powder, then sprinkle it on desserts to add some extra sweet flavors. If preferred, you can also melt fudge into a yellow-orange colored liquid.
By adding a little more water, you can have your perfect caramel extract substitute. It can also act as a close replacement for caramel sauce, but with a bit thicker consistency.
Widely known for being a delicious treat, butterscotch cookies come with a strong, sweet, and toasty flavor. This is a good enough reason to use it as a replacement for caramel extract.
Butterscotch cookies can be easily reused simply by melting them in a pan with a cup of hot water over low heat. Adjust the amount of water to achieve a thicker or thinner consistency. Constantly mix as you simmer to melt evenly.
DIY Caramel Extract
If you do not want other alternatives, you can make your own caramel extract. That is, if you have enough time and patience. Here’s the recipe.
What you will need:
- 10 pcs. of caramel candies
- A bottle of vodka
- 1 glass jar
- Put the caramel candies into the glass jar. Dip the towel in warm water, then place it underneath the glass jar for 2 minutes. This will help slightly warm the candies.
- Remove the towel. Full the jar with vodka. Once it reaches the top, tightly close the lid. Put the jar on the shelf. Leave it at room temperature for around 6 weeks to make sure the mixture is completely steeped.
- After 6 weeks, strain and place the extract in a new jar, leaving the candies. Expect to have around 20ml of caramel extract.