The 5 Best Substitutes For Orange Extract

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Orange extract is the concentrated flavor of orange, extracted from the fruit itself and added to alcohol for preservation. It’s used mainly in cooking to give a lovely burst of orange flavor without using actual oranges. The alcohol burns off in the cooking process, so it’s safe and tasty even for children. 

It’s not the most common ingredient to have stocked in your pantry, however, so if you find yourself desperate to try a new recipe that calls for orange extract when you don’t have any, you may need to look around your kitchen for a reliable alternative.

So what can you substitute in for orange extract? The 5 best substitutes for orange extract are orange juice, orange zest, orange oil, orange liqueur or an alternative citrus extract. Each of the potential substitutions has pros and cons for their use and slightly different volumes needed to get the right balance in your recipes.

We’ll discuss all this and more in the following article. 

Cooking and Baking with Orange Extract

Orange extract is most commonly used in baking, but you may find it in a few savory meals as well.

Some of the most common recipes with orange extract include:

  • Orange extract cookies and biscotti
  • Hard candies, fudge, and chocolates
  • Cheesecakes, cupcakes, muffins and other cakes
  • Fruit scones or quick breads
  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Orange marmalade
  • Salad dressing
  • Vegetable or meat Stirfry
  • Orange chicken

Of course, these are just some of the more popular uses for orange extract. If you love the flavor of orange, you are only limited to your imagination – try it in all of your dishes. You can also use a drop or two of your extract in a cup of tea or even hot cocoa to add a delicious burst of citrus to your beverage. 

How Much Orange Extract to Use

Orange extract is a surprisingly potent flavor, so very little is needed to get the taste you’re looking for. That being said, the best advice for how much orange extract to use is to follow your recipe as closely as possible.

How much is required will vary depending on the size of the batch you’re cooking, how strong the flavor should be in the recipe, and what the other ingredients are, as different ingredients will either overpower or highlight the flavor of the orange. 

For the best flavor possible, when you’re searching for orange extract always buy a product that has the fewest ingredients listed as possible. Specifically, opt for sugar-free, as any sweetening should be done in the recipe, not in your orange extract, and added sugar could impact the taste based on how much is called for.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Orange Extract

Each of the substitutes we considered come with their own pros and cons, but most are going to work fairly seamlessly in almost all recipes. The ratio may vary, so here’s a handy reference chart for you:

To replace ½ teaspoon of Orange Extract:
Orange Juice Orange Zest Orange Oil Orange Liqueur Alt. Citrus Extract
Varies 1 teaspoon 2 drops ½ tablespoon ½ teaspoon

Orange Juice Substitute

Orange juice is commonly found in fridges or inside the oranges sitting on your counter, just waiting to be freshly squeezed. Availability is definitely the biggest benefit of this substitution.

The biggest difficulty with substituting orange juice for orange extract is the much higher liquid content that is needed to achieve the same flavor. If you’re just looking for a hint of orange, your best bet is to replace the liquid in your recipe for orange juice.

For example, in a pancake recipe that calls for ½ teaspoon of orange extract and 1 cup of water, replace the water with 1 cup of orange juice. If you want a stronger flavor, you can pair orange juice with some orange zest.

If you have frozen orange juice concentrate, this will give you more flavor without as much added liquid, but it still won’t be as strong as an extract.

If your pancake recipe calls for milk instead of water, you don’t necessarily want to swap that for juice as the consistency may not be the same. Instead, you could use 1 tablespoon of concentrated frozen orange juice and possibly some orange zest as well.

Finally, if you’re not in a rush, you can reduce your orange juice before using it to remove some of the liquid and leaving simply the flavor. To do this, add your orange juice to a pan and simmer it, stirring frequently.

There is no exact recommendation for how much to use like this, as the flavor and water content will vary depending on how much you reduce it.

You can also add some zest to your reduction to enhance the flavor more, but you’ll have to taste test to get the best results. Some trial and error may be required.

Orange Zest Substitute

Using orange zest as a substitute for orange extract is a bit simpler than orange juice: 1 teaspoon of orange zest should roughly equal the flavor of ½ teaspoon of orange extract. Each orange is going to have a different level of flavor in its peel, so it will vary slightly being fresh.

To make sure you spread out the flavor well and don’t have large chunks of rind in your baking, make sure you use very fine, chopped up shavings instead of long strips or large chunks of the orange peel.

You’ll also want to be very careful not to get any of the white pith in your baking as that is usually quite bitter.

Orange Oil vs Orange Extract

Orange oil makes a great substitute for orange extract because it is also highly concentrated, giving you the impact of the extract.

The downside is that it also adds oil to your recipe, but it is such a small amount that it shouldn’t impact the outcome of your recipe. Orange oil isn’t as pure as an extract, but it’s generally less expensive per quantity required.

The biggest benefit is that you need only 2 drops of orange oil to equal the flavor of orange extract.

Orange Liqueur Substitute

Orange liqueur is another great substitute for orange extract and the alcohol will still burn off during the baking process. 

Triple Sec and Curacao are both types of orange-flavored liqueurs, usually made with a neutral spirit as the alcohol. These are going to give you a flavor most similar to orange extract. Grand Marnier is perhaps the most popular orange-flavored liqueur, but it is made using brandy, which will give a very distinctive flavor to your recipe.

The expense of orange liqueurs is without a doubt the biggest drawback of using them as a substitution in your recipes, but for a one-off emergency, they’ll do the trick without breaking the bank if any orange liqueur happens to be a staple in your own personal mini-bar.

Alternative Citrus Extracts

Using an alternative citrus extract is probably the easiest if you have some variety in your cupboards already. You can use any extract you’d like in the same amount as your recipe calls for, and the flavor will alter accordingly.

If you use lemon, your baking will have a more lemon flavor instead of orange (which can be a good thing if you want to make these delicious lemon bars).

If you use vanilla, you’ll have a vanilla treat instead of an orange-flavored treat. If you want to purchase the best vanilla extract, read this article.

How to Make Orange Extract

To make extracts, most home-brewers will use a cheap vodka as their alcohol base. It’s relatively inexpensive, safe and the taste doesn’t have to be anything special because it burns off during your cooking regardless. 

You’ll need the zest of one orange. Try to avoid retaining any of the white zest, as that has a bitter flavor that you don’t want in your extract. 

Place all the zest into a mason jar or Wick jar and cover it with 1 cup of alcohol. Make sure your orange is completely submerged. If you had a really large orange, don’t be shy about adding more vodka. 

Seal the lid tightly and place your jar in a cool, dry cupboard for at least 2 months. The longer the solution sits, the stronger the orange flavor will be. Once you’re happy with the flavor, carefully strain out all of the zest and transfer the liquid to an extract jar.

Extract jars are generally brown glass with special caps that ensure really tight seals. The dark glass protects your extract from sunlight.

For a visual tutorial on how to make orange extract, I highly recommend this video by The Stay At Home Chef on YouTube. She shows how to make other types of extracts, so I’ve edited it so that when you press play on the video below, it will start right when she shows how to make orange extract. Enjoy!

How to Make Orange Extract Without Alcohol

Making orange extract without alcohol is quite easy though you may have to find the ingredient online or in a specialty retailer.

You can replace the alcohol with 1 part water and 3 parts food-grade liquid glycerin. Make sure you combine the water and glycerin well before using adding to your citrus rind.

The liquid glycerin will have a more syrup-like consistency, but it’s still sugar-free and should have all the same flavor impact, so you can use it at the same ratio in your recipes. 

Related Questions

Is orange extract healthy?

Orange extract is essentially just the flavor of the fruit and doesn’t carry any positive or negative health benefits. It’s health-neutral.

If you’re looking to get the nutritional benefits of oranges, you’d be better served by eating the fruit itself, drinking the juice, using the rind or even working in orange essential oils to your life in some way. 

Does orange extract go bad?

Orange extract is mainly alcohol, which doesn’t go bad, so no, orange extract doesn’t expire, but it can be tainted if something toxic finds its way into the extract. For the best storage, keep your orange extract in a dark, glass bottle with a dropper or one-way valve.

This way you can take extract out, but nothing foreign can get back in the jar. You’ll also want to store it in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight.

While the extract won’t naturally go bad, it will eventually lose its flavor, so 3 – 4 years is generally the expected life-span.

Can you use orange extract for skin conditions?

It’s more common to use orange essential oil for topical application. Orange extract is all about the flavor of the fruit, whereas the oil, not surprisingly, extracts the oil from the skin of the fruit.

Orange oil is commonly used for skin conditions, as the nutrients are fantastic for protecting against and healing damage of all kinds, from acne to sun damage. It’s also anti-inflammatory, helping with puffiness, and anti-septic, which keeps your skin healthy and clean. 

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