Almond extract is a widely used flavoring, second in popularity only to vanilla extract. Its rich nutty flavor makes it suitable for a variety of desserts. If you run out of almond extract and can’t get some more right away, what are your best options? Here are some of the best almond extract substitutes around:
Your best bet: Imitation almond extract
Pure almond extract is made from a combination of bitter almond oil, alcohol and water. The almond oil supplies a chemical called benzaldehyde, which is responsible for the almond extract flavor. Benzaldehyde can be synthesized in a laboratory, and that’s exactly where imitation vanilla extract comes from. It is flavored by synthetic benzaldehyde that is diluted with water and alcohol.
Imitation almond extract offers a more concentrated flavor than natural almond extract. Many consider it to be an example of an artificial flavoring being a superior product to the natural one.
A decent second choice: Vanilla extract
The sweet richness of vanilla extract will work in most of the recipes that call for almond extract. It won’t provide the strong nuttiness but it will be similarly sweet and will work with most of the ingredients that usually go along with almond extract.
When using vanilla extract in place of almond extract you will need to keep a few things in mind such as the difference in intensity between the two. Almond extract is considerably more flavorful and aromatic than vanilla extract so you will need to use more of the vanilla to compensate. Ideally, you will use a vanilla extract made with real vanilla beans rather than an imitation vanilla extract made with vanillin.
In a pinch: Amaretto
One way to get the almond flavor is with amaretto, which is an almond-flavored liqueur. The name amaretto is an Italian term that means a little bitter. It is known for providing a strong sweet almond flavor with subtle bitter notes.
Despite its reputation for delivering an intense flavor, amaretto is a beverage and will not be as concentrated as an extract that is meant to flavor pastries and other desserts. You won’t get a significant almond flavor by using it as a 1:1 almond extract substitute. Instead, you will need to use it to replace all or some of the liquid ingredients in your recipe.
Note that replacing almond extract with amaretto will increase the volume of alcohol in your recipe significantly.
Despite not having an edible seed like the almond fruit, cherries do have a lot in common with almonds and the similarities are striking when it comes to flavor. Cherry flavoring contains the same benzaldehyde compound that gives almond extract its flavor and which is synthesized to give imitation almond extract its flavor.
Almond essential oil is most often sold for cosmetic applications like soap-making but it can be used in culinary applications if you dilute it sufficiently. It is important to remember that this oil is highly concentrated and must be used in tiny quantities to avoid ruining a recipe.
It is possible to make a kind of almond extract by soaking chopped or slivered sweet almonds in a strong alcohol like vodka. To maximize the flavor, you will need the almonds to soak for at least two months but longer is better. At the end of that period, you should wind up with a weak but usable almond extract.