28 July 2022

12 Best Caramel Extract Substitutes for Your Recipes

By Killian

The nutty, yet sweet, flavor of caramel, as well as its roasted aroma, make it an irreplaceable element in all kinds of desserts, including sweets, cakes, and ice cream.

Adding caramel extract to your desserts, whether in the form of a filling, icing or delicious decoration, is a great way to achieve that unique, rich and smoky aroma.

However, what if you run out of caramel extract in the middle of the dessert-making process and need a quick replacement?

You don’t have to worry about substituting caramel extract, as we’ve discovered the best alternatives to replace caramel extract in all your favorite recipes.

The best substitutes for caramel extract are caramel syrup, caramel liqueur, plain caramel, sugar caramel, caramel flavoring, caramel sauce, dulce de leche, vanilla extract, almond, golden syrup and butter extract.

The best substitutes for caramel extract

Caramel extract is a highly concentrated source of caramel flavor and aroma, and as with any other extract, it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way.

With just a few drops of caramel extract, you can add a strong dose of sweetness to your dessert, as well as improve its overall flavor profile and aroma.

Many desserts, such as ice cream, pudding, and cupcakes, call for that burnt sugar flavor, often with a subtle hint of vanilla.

Caramel extract is extremely versatile as it can be easily mixed into any dough or filling.

The recognizable sweetness of caramel comes from its main ingredient: sugar. The essential process to obtain caramel is to heat the sugar to the point of 340°F.

It is in this process that the caramel develops that characteristic dark brown, golden color, as well as the irresistible toasted, nutty, almost burnt aroma.

Today, there are many variations on the original recipe, as many people like to add flavors like vanilla, chocolate, or salt to further enhance these complex flavors.

Caramel extract can also come in different flavor combinations, especially mixed with vanilla extract, to accentuate its sweetness and aroma.

Although caramel can be quite difficult to work with, as it is very dense and sticky, caramel extract allows you to add the flavor and aroma of caramel to any pastry or dessert with just a few drops.

This type of formula also allows you to control the dosage. Caramel extract is not as intense and sweet as light caramel or caramel sauce, so you can easily adjust the sweetness level.

This caramel extract is a great choice for sweet pastries like cinnamon buns, cookies like chocolate chunks, but also for adding this unique flavor to drinks like coffee.

In case you are looking for the best way to substitute caramel extract in your recipes, here are some of the best solutions that can still provide amazing results.

1. Caramel syrup

The number one substitute for caramel extract is caramel syrup, as it provides almost the same level of convenience and versatility as caramel extract.

Although they provide an identical flavor and aroma, it is important to note some differences between these two options.

The syrup is much thicker than the caramel extract, so you will definitely need to adjust the amount. The same goes for intensity and sweetness, but again, it all depends on the dosage you use, as a little goes a long way.

Caramel syrup is also a much better option for enhancing the flavor of your drinks, as it is much thicker and can also add to the texture.

It is also an amazing substitute for caramel extract if you want to use it to garnish your desserts and drinks, while caramel extract is just an addition to filling or icing.

2. Caramel liqueur

If you don’t mind the alcoholic base of caramel extract, you’ll certainly enjoy using caramel liqueur as a substitute for caramel extract.

The process for making caramel extract is almost identical to that for making caramel liqueur, as both products are made when pure caramel is added to the alcohol base.

Given the similarities between the two, it can be said that you can easily substitute caramel extract for caramel liqueur in a 1:1 ratio in all your recipes.

Keep in mind, however, that caramel liqueur is not as widespread as caramel extract, and you may not find it in every store.

3. Pure caramel

If you don’t have any of the candy products mentioned, you can always go back to basics and use store-bought plain caramel, or just make your own.

Keep in mind that the caramel you make at home will not maintain its liquid consistency, but you can easily heat it in a pan or in the microwave and consume it in 10-14 days.

For him homemade caramelyou’ll need granulated sugar, water or whipping cream (depending on the flavor profile you want), and butter if you want to enhance the richness of the flavor and create a smoother structure.

Follow these steps:

  1. Add the sugar to a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  2. When the sugar has completely melted and turned a golden hue, lower the heat.
  3. Carefully add the desired amount of butter to the mixture, continuing to stir to achieve a coherent mixture.
  4. Finally, add the liquid of your choice (water or whipping cream).
  5. At this point, you can also add other ingredients of your choice, such as kosher salt (for the salted caramel), vanilla, or rum extract.
  6. Keep stirring until the mixture starts to bubble.

After a couple of minutes your homemade caramel will be ready.

4. Milk caramel

Depending on the dessert you’re making, caramel can be useful as a substitute for caramel extract.

It can be melted into any type of icing and filling, or simply used as a garnish on top of dessert.

You can even crumble it to add some texture and flavor to your desserts. It is a convenient alternative to caramel extract, and it is widely available.

Candy comes in countless variations, so you can experiment with different flavors and aromas to get just the right effect.

5. Caramel scent

Caramel flavoring is typically even more concentrated than pure caramel extract, and is bursting with that toasty and burnt caramel flavor and aroma.

Since it is highly concentrated, it is best to start with a small amount and add more if necessary.

It is advisable to start with just one drop of the flavoring, especially if you don’t want the flavor to be too overpowering.

Caramel flavoring is used primarily in the food industry as a quick but effective way to develop sweetness and brownness in caramel.

When shopping for caramel flavoring, be sure to choose high-quality brands with no added sweeteners, colors, or preservatives.

6. Caramel sauce

Caramel sauce is quite similar to caramel syrup, the only difference is in consistency. You will see that the caramel sauce is usually a little thicker than the syrup.

However, if the consistency of the sauce makes it difficult to work, you can always thin it out with water until you get the desired texture.

This step will also tone down the sweetness of the sauce, which is a perfect trick if you don’t want the caramel flavors to overpower your dessert.

Making caramel sauce at home requires pretty much the same ingredients that you would use for a batch of homemade plain caramel.

In this case, since you are looking for a finer texture, you just have to add a little more water to the mixture until you get the desired consistency.

As always, you can experiment with the flavors and aromas and make your own caramel variations by adding kosher salt, vanilla extract, or any flavoring you like to combine with the caramel.

7. Candy

If you had to choose a sweet that is most similar to caramel, we are sure that you would choose fudge. Not surprising, as the fudge-making process is quite similar to that of caramel.

The main ingredient of caramel is sugar that is dissolved in water and butter. However, the main difference between caramel and fudge is that milk is an irreplaceable ingredient in fudge.

As we have mentioned in the homemade pure caramel recipe, an alternative to water is whipped cream, but the original recipe does not call for it.

Fudge has a similar predominantly sweet flavor, with a hint of toasty and caramelized sugar, which is precisely why it can be used as a substitute for caramel extract in your recipe.

8. Caramel Candy

Speaking of candies that can double as a caramel substitute, caramel toffee has certainly earned its place on this list.

When it comes to using caramel instead of caramel extract, there is the obvious challenge of adjusting the amount, since we are talking about two completely different textures.

However, the flavor profiles are quite similar, as butterscotch is a mix of brown sugar and butter, so we’d say that butterscotch can have a richer, milkier flavor.

Many brands and recipes of caramels combine butterscotch caramel and caramel due to the similarity of both flavor and aroma.

9. Vanilla extract

This extract may not be the caramel extract substitute you’re looking for, but it’s a pretty good solution if you’re looking for a fruity dose of sweetness.

Vanilla is often an ingredient that is often paired with caramel, and you will even find caramel extracts with a hint of vanilla as they are so complementary.

If you want to add a subtle note of sweetness to your dessert, with an intense and milky aroma of vanilla, vanilla extract is a perfect choice.

Keep in mind that the extracts are very concentrated and it is always best to start with a single drop.

10. Almond extract

If you’re more interested in getting that toasty, nutty flavor, and aren’t as concerned with sweetness, almond extract may be the answer.

Since almond extract is usually made from roasted almonds, it offers a very intense burnt aroma and a subtle dose of sweetness.

After all, you can always add more sugar or honey to your dessert to achieve the desired sweetness level.

11. Golden syrup

Golden syrup is a popular sweetener that resembles honey in both consistency and color. However, it is essentially a mixture of sugar, water, and citric acid.

This syrup is an excellent option if you want to enhance the sweetness of your dessert, with a subtle dose of acidity that will add a distinctive fruity note.

12. Butter extract

Butter extract is an alternative to caramel extract that can not only enhance the flavor and aroma of your desserts, but also contributes to the texture.

This creamy extract is a popular ingredient in baking, providing the smoothest texture while adding a hint of vanilla to your baked goods and other desserts.

How to Choose a Caramel Extract Substitute

Finding the right caramel extract substitute for your recipe shouldn’t be too difficult, as there are plenty of noteworthy options to consider.

In case you don’t want to experiment with other ingredients and want to stick to caramel-based products, we suggest going for caramel syrup, caramel liqueur, straight caramel, sugar caramel, caramel flavoring or the caramel sauce.

The biggest advantage of the aforementioned alternatives is that you can make most of them at home, using simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.

Dulce de leche and butterscotch can substitute for caramel extract in almost any dessert, as they share a similar sugary base.

Vanilla extract, almond extract and butter extract do not rely on sugar, but can still provide the desired sweetness and a unique, commanding aroma.