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For many people worldwide, love for desserts with maple extract started when they were kids and has continued to adulthood. Often, when we cook our cookies and pancakes, we anxiously wait to top them off with a sweet helping of maple extract for that additional kick of flavor. But what happens when we can’t find this pantry staple in our kitchens? There’s no need to panic — there are plenty of options when you need to look for a substitute for maple extract.
The best maple extract substitutes are all-natural maple syrup, vanilla extract, almond extract, and rum extract. Unfortunately, there’s no exact substitute for maple extract, but you can create an imitation of the maple flavor. While you can’t expect that it will taste exactly like maple extract, you will still get a rich taste out of it. When using a different extract, always use a one-to-one measurement. This means that if the recipe asks for 1 teaspoon of maple extract, stick to using 1 teaspoon of your chosen substitute.
In this article, we’ll cover the various food items that you can use instead of maple extract to get a similar bold flavor every time, even if this essential ingredient is missing from your kitchen.
The Origins of Maple Products
The first groups to have produced maple sugar and maple syrup were the indigenous people that lived in northeastern North America. According to archaeological evidence and aboriginal oral traditions, sap from the maple tree was processed into syrup much earlier than the arrival of Europeans in the region. While there isn’t one account that authenticates how the production of maple syrup began, there are various legends associated with it.
The most popular legend behind maple sap was when it was used to cook venison instead of water and was then served to the chief of the aboriginal tribe. The practice of using maple syrup in dishes was then adopted by European settlers, who, in turn, refined its production methods. French explorer André Thévet first reported about maple sugaring in North America in 1557. Today, a majority of all the world’s maple syrup is produced in the United States and Canada.
The Best Maple Extract Substitutes
While nothing can truly duplicate the dynamic and strong punch that real maple extracts can produce, here are a few things you can use to get a similar sweet taste.
1) Natural Maple Syrup
This is probably the most obvious choice. Try to procure all-natural maple syrup instead of its artificial reproductions. It may be pricier, as creating a single gallon of maple syrup requires 40 gallons of maple sap, but doing so will help you stick true to a maple extract’s depth of flavor. It won’t give a flavor that’s as strong as maple extract, but it’s the closest thing you’ll find anywhere as it also comes from maple tree sap.
Due to differences in consistency, be prepared to readjust your dry to wet ingredient ratio when baking using syrup instead of an extract. Trial and error may be necessary, but not doing so will produce strange results as using maple syrup will increase the amount of liquid in your mixture.
2) Vanilla Extract
While vanilla extract isn’t maple-related, it still shares the same subtle, warm characteristic as maple extract. Many people recommend using maple flavorings as an alternative to vanilla extract, so it should only make sense it will work when reversed.
Maple extract produces a more potent flavor so, when substituting with vanilla extract, it is recommended to use more than a recipe asks for. Fortunately, it’s hard to use too much vanilla extract, so you can be generous with amounts when creating desserts. To add a little of the nutty flavor maple has, try adding nuts to your recipe when using vanilla extract.
3) Almond Extract
While it is also not maple-related, almond extract makes for a good alternative. Almond extract is also recommended as a good vanilla extract substitute along with maple, so they can be used interchangeably in a pinch. That said, while almond extract produces a delicate flavor in controlled amounts, it requires careful moderation as going heavy-handed can quickly produce an overwhelming, heady flavor.
4) Rum Extract
The idea may sound strange but rum is actually a common alternative for maple extract. Both rum and maple are extracted from plant sugars, with rum being fermented with sugarcane or molasses, and share some similarities in flavor, especially when used in small amounts. To achieve a more robust, maple-like flavor, try mixing rum extract with a little vanilla.
Unfortunately, masking rum’s alcohol flavor will be harder when used in bigger quantities.
Is Maple Extract the Same As Maple Flavoring?
The short answer is no. Imitation maple flavors may taste somewhat similar but they may come from various sources. For instance, one common process requires manipulating the amino acid in sugar to produce a flavor that’s maple-like. This is the same process that creates the
“artificial flavor” that manufacturers list on their products.
Another source is a seed called fenugreek, which is widely used in Indian cuisine. It contains a flavoring agent that, when used in small amounts, produces a flavor profile that closely matches maple. Because fenugreek is easy to grow, it’s become a cost-effective and safe ingredient to use.
What Are the Best Maple Extract Substitutes?
The sweet and warm taste of maple extract can add a delightful and satisfying touch to many desserts. But, if you do find yourself out of that sweet and tasty liquid, there are plenty of other ingredients that are a passable substitute. No matter what you’re cooking up in the kitchen, all of the items listed above are great alternatives for maple extract in baking or cooking in general.