Like many sweet and savory dishes, French toast also requires vanilla in its ingredients.
Although vanilla is a pantry staple, you might not have it on hand. Such a situation begs the question: Can you make French toast without vanilla?
The short answer is yes! Continue reading this article to learn about seven substitutes for vanilla that still give you delicious results.
Typically, most French toast recipes use vanilla extracts to add flavor richness. Plus, the liquid extract gives the French toast a pleasant aroma.
That vanilla smell is especially handy for masking fishy eggs.
Sure, fresh eggs can come off as odorless. However, once cooked—especially at high temperatures—your French toast can smell a bit.
That’s because egg whites contain sulfur-containing proteins. As you cook eggs, the high temperature breaks the bond between the proteins and sulfur.
As a result, the released sulfur forms hydrogen sulfide gas, which smells unpleasant. Unless eggy-smelling French toast is your jam, adding vanilla extract can cover the overwhelming fishy taste and smell that eggs naturally have.
That said, your French toast recipe would do just fine without the extract. All you need to do is know which eggs to buy.
Here are a few egg tips to help you get away with making French toast without vanilla:
- Always use fresh, organic, grade-A eggs for any egg-containing recipe.
- Avoid omega-3-enriched eggs. Those types of eggs come from canola meal-fed chickens, which gives the eggs a fishy odor.
- You can use only egg yolks to avoid the distinctive sulfur smell.
- Bring the eggs to room temperature. That’ll help blend the eggs evenly with the batter, avoiding a scrambled texture.
- Add around a quarter cup of milk per egg to perfect the egg-to-milk ratio. That’s because too little milk will also cause the batter eggs to become scrambled.
Picking the freshest eggs will help you avoid fishy French toast, even without vanilla. Still, it won’t give you the rounded flavor vanilla extract provides.
One way to tackle that issue is to use vanilla-flavored milk. Just add around one tablespoon of the flavored milk or the same amount of vanilla extract you’d put in the recipe.
Alternatively, you can replace regular milk with vanilla-flavored milk for a more seasoned French toast.
However, if you don’t want vanilla-tasting French toast, you can still use other vanilla alternatives with similar effects.
Here are seven substitutes:
Most French toast batters contain a mix of vanilla and cinnamon. So, it’s no surprise that cinnamon is your second-best option when replacing vanilla extract.
Not only will the aromatic spice cover the eggy smell, but it’ll also add a wintery flavor to the French toast. That could be an excellent vanilla alternative for people who love the spicy kick of cinnamon.
Not to mention the many health benefits you can get when including cinnamon in your diet. This winter spice contains antioxidants, which protect your body from inflammation.
Plus, it has antimicrobial properties and might help lower blood sugar in diabetic people.
To replace vanilla with cinnamon, you need to increase the spice in the recipe. For instance, if the recipe instructs you to add one teaspoon of cinnamon, you can make it one and a half or two teaspoons.
Orange, lime, lemon, clementine, or grapefruit are all great options to replace vanilla in French toast. The best part is that you probably have them on hand.
Now, you can add those tropical fruits to the French toast batter as juice or zest.
Using citrus fruit juice adds a bit of tartness to the batter. All you need to do is substitute the same vanilla extract ratio with the citrusy juice.
Alternatively, you can mix in around one tablespoon of zest for a milder flavor. Plus, the fruit zest is a better option if you’re worried about the batter liquefying from the juice.
You’d want to avoid going overboard with the liquid ingredient, as it might result in a wet, soggy toast.
You can top the toast with Greek yogurt, drizzles of maple syrup, and citrus fruit salad. Vanilla ice cream and mint also pair well with citrus French toast.
Thanks to its sweet, yet delicate taste, natural maple extract makes an excellent substitute for vanilla extract.
If you don’t have maple extract, no worries. You can use maple syrup or even honey to get a hint of sweetness that vanilla extract adds.
The good news is that you don’t have to figure out the ratio. You can add the above replacements in the same amount you’d add vanilla extract.
That said, reduce the sugar in the recipe when adding maple syrup or honey. After all, both options are sweeter than vanilla extract.
Like maple syrup and honey, you can use caramel sauce in French toast batter. It’ll add a rich, caramelized sweetness to the toast.
Just mix a tablespoon of the sticky sauce with the liquid batter instead of vanilla extract.
Even if you don’t have store-bought caramel sauce, you can make it with the simplest ingredients.
Start by melting sugar over medium heat until golden brown.
Then, gradually pour room-temperature heavy cream and whisk until you reach a sticky consistency.
If you’re a fan of apple pies, you can top the French toast with applesauce and drizzle your homemade caramel.
Why settle for vanilla extract when several other options are out there? All you have to do is replace vanilla with other flavor extracts at a 1:1 ratio.
Here are a few stand-in vanilla extract options you might like:
- Almonds extract
- Peppermint extract
- Hazelnut extract
- Cashew extract
- Coffee extract (replace with instant coffee or regal coffee)
In addition, you can substitute nutty extracts with artificial ones if you have nut allergies. However, synthetic flavors can be purer than their natural counterparts.
As a result, those artificial additives may have a more intense flavor. So, be careful not to go overboard with synthetic flavorings.
Alternatively, you can use almond, cashew, or other nut milk; instead of their extracts.
While nutty oils won’t replace vanilla extract in the batter, they can still mask the eggy taste and smell. You can fry the French toast only in oil or use an equal mix of oil and butter.
Aside from the nutty taste, you want to opt for oils with a high smoking point. That way, you ensure the fat won’t burn before your toast reaches the desired crispy golden brown outside.
Refined sesame, peanut, and macadamia oils are among the nut oils that withstand high temperatures.
Coconut oil is another excellent fat option that can substitute for vanilla extract. Sure, it’s not as nutty as the mentioned oils.
However, coconut oil adds a rich, creamy tropical flavor, making it a good companion for French toast.
Who says French toast should only be sweet? You can revamp classic French toast into a savory dish with herbs like thyme, chives, oregano, coriander, and other leafy spices.
Just throw a handful of freshly chopped herbs into the egg batter. Alternatively, you can use dried herbs if you don’t have any fresh spices on hand.
Making French toast without vanilla is an achievable task. You just need to find alternatives that add a subtle taste and a pleasant aroma to mask the eggy smell.
Cinnamon is an excellent vanilla substitute, especially if you’re craving warming spices. Conversely, citrus fruits can turn your French toast into a tropical-tasting dish perfect for hot climates.
Instead of replacing vanilla extract, you can omit it and sizzle the French toast in nutty oil. Alternatively, you can use other flavored extracts or add herbs to make savory French toast.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard.