9 Best Caramel Extract Substitutes

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Whether you have run out of caramel extract or never buy it, there may be times when you need a substitute to complete your recipe.

What are the best caramel extract substitutes? The best caramel extract substitutes include such caramel products as caramel syrup, caramel sauce, caramel liqueur, and caramel candy. You can also replace caramel extract with vanilla, almond, butter extract, golden syrup, and fudge. 

This article is for you if have ever turned down a recipe because it called for caramel extract. Continue reading to learn about the best caramel extract substitutes, as well as how to make caramel extract yourself. 

What Is Caramel Extract?

If you have already discovered the magic of cooking with extracts, you can’t stop using them anymore. The deep flavor of only a few drops of a specific extract eliminates a lot of work you would need to do to achieve such a rich flavor. 

And if you don’t use extracts and omit them whenever you see them in recipes, you are surely missing out. These concentrated solutions are packed with a lot of flavor. 

Once you start using extracts you will understand what you have been sleeping on. It’s hard to not notice the absence of extracts when you get used to using them. 

Caramel extract is one of the most used extracts in baking. You can use it to bake different types of cookies, cinnamon rolls, frostings, toppings, puddings, and anything you want to have a hint of caramel flavor. 

But what is caramel extract, really? Caramel extract is an extract made by steeping caramel in alcohol. And caramel, as you surely know, is a product made by heating sugar. Caramel extract has a thin consistency and yellow color. 

If you avoid extracts due to alcohol, you can try finding alcohol-free versions of caramel extract. These can be made with water, oil, or other liquids other than alcohol. 

Is There A Substitute For Caramel Extract?

Caramel extract may not be as popular as the famous vanilla extract. But there are many pastry and no-bake dessert recipes that call for it. 

And while caramel extract adds unique sweet burnt sugar and fruity notes to baked goods, sauces, and other sweet treats, you can surely substitute it with other products. These can be different by-products of caramel or other extracts. 

9 Best Caramel Extract Substitutes 

Here are 9 caramel extract substitutes you can choose from. 

1. Caramel Syrup

Caramel syrup is a great addition to pancakes and coffee. But it works great as a caramel extract substitute too. 

What makes caramel syrup the best substitute for the extract is that its flavor profile is almost identical to that of the extract. But the consistencies of the two products are very different with the syrup being much thicker. 

As the caramel flavor is more intense in the extract, you may need to use twice as much caramel syrup as the recipe calls for caramel extract.

With this said, adding too much of the syrup in baking recipes may thin out the dough. So, make sure you keep the balance. 

2. Caramel Sauce

Caramel sauce is a caramel product that contains sugar, butter, and cream. It is used in baking recipes, as a topping for ice cream, coffee, etc. 

Caramel sauce is quite sweet and packed with caramel flavor. It is also much thicker than caramel extract. So, make sure you don’t overuse it. Mix it with some water to be able to use it instead of caramel extract in baking recipes. 

You can buy a jar of pre-made caramel sauce or make some yourself. 

3. Caramel Liqueur 

If you are okay with using alcohol products in a particular recipe you need the caramel extract for, go with caramel liqueur if you happen to have some at home. In fact, caramel liqueur is very similar to alcohol-based caramel extract. 

The good thing about caramel liqueur is that it has the same consistency as the extract. It works well for all kinds of baked goods as well as frostings and no-bake desserts. 

Choose caramel liqueur as a substitute for caramel extract if you are looking for an option that has the caramel flavor but is not overly sweet. 

4. Vanilla Extract 

Even if you are not much of a baker, you may still have vanilla extract in your pantry. Substituting caramel extract with vanilla extract is easy as their uses and consistency are the same. The only thing is, you won’t be getting the fruity and sugary flavor of caramel with vanilla extract. 

When using vanilla extract instead of caramel extract keep in mind that vanilla extract is a lot more intense. So, use it sparingly. 

5. Almond Extract 

Almond extract is another substitute for caramel extract. If you can get away without the burnt sugar flavor that caramel extract provides, then the almond extract is a great option. 

It will give your baked goods and desserts the sweetness of caramel extract but with the added flavor of almonds. And if you like the flavor of almonds, you will surely love changing up your caramel recipes from time to time and making them almond-flavored 

6. Caramel Candy

If you have a sweet tooth, you will most likely have a few caramel candies around the house.

To substitute caramel extract with candies, you will first need to melt them. Do this by placing the candies in a non-stick pan over medium heat and adding some water. Keep stirring until the candies melt. 

The melted caramel mixture can be used for baked goods and various desserts. And while the consistency of the melted caramel mixture is thicker than the consistency of the extract, the flavor is quite intense. 

7. Golden Syrup 

Golden syrup is a simple sugar syrup made with granulated sugar, water, and citric acid or lemon juice. You can make this thick amber-colored syrup yourself as a quick substitute for caramel extract or buy a bottle from the nearby supermarket. 

The golden syrup will provide the sweetness of the caramel extract. But the toasty notes of caramel will be missing. You will get the mild and buttery flavor of golden syrup. 

8. Fudge 

If you don’t have caramel extract but have leftover fudge, go ahead and use it for baking recipes. 

This sugar candy made of sugar, butter, and milk can be melted in a pot with a small amount of water.

Use caramel fudge for the best results. It will best mimic the taste of caramel extract. Although, any kind of fudge will add a rich sweetness to baked goods and desserts. 

9. Butter Extract 

Butter extract is a good substitute for caramel extract if the burnt sugar flavor is not essential for the particular dessert you are making. 

It may seem to be a weird ingredient for people who don’t know what it is. Made from butter (or butter and vanilla), this extract deepens the flavor of baked goods. You can use it in icings too for a richer flavor. 

DIY Caramel Extract 

Making caramel extract yourself is not a quick solution if you don’t have caramel extract at home at the moment. But you can make a batch of caramel extract from time to time to always have it at hand. 

Here are step-by-step instructions for making caramel extract at home:

  1. Put 8-10 caramel candies into a glass jar. 
  2. Take a towel and dip it in warm water. 
  3. Place the towel under the jar. The warmth of the towel will warm up the caramel candies but won’t cause them to melt. Leave the towel under the jar with candies for around two minutes. 
  4. Remove the towel and pour vodka over the caramel candies. Fill the jar with vodka up to the top. To make caramel extract, you will need at least 80 proof vodka. This is 40% ABV.
  5. Close the jar tightly and allow the mixture to stand for at least 14 days at room temperature. Keep the jar away from direct sunlight. 
  6. Make sure to open the lid of the jar every few days. 
  7. After 14 days, strain the mixture and transfer it into an airtight container. Choose a darker container if you want the extract to last long. 

How To Choose A Substitute For Caramel Extract

Now you know that there are multiple caramel extract substitutes you can choose from. So, which one to choose if you have access to more than one of these options?

If the caramel flavor is central to the pastry or dessert you are making, use a caramel-based substitute, such as caramel syrup, sauce, or candy.

If the caramel flavor is something you can and wish to replace with another flavor, you can use other extracts too, such as almond extract or vanilla extract. 

Additionally, consider what you are making and if the substitute you are thinking of using will work for your recipe.

Some substitutes may impact the consistency of the dough, frosting, or whatever it is that you are making. In some cases, you will need to balance everything out by reducing or increasing the ampunt of other ingredients in the recipe. 

Up Next: Caramel Ganache – Recipe

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