Whenever you are working with a bland or flavorless recipe, the quickest way to spruce it up is with some quality extract flavors made explicitly for baking.
These products are designed to spice up (or sweeten) desserts and baked goods, giving them the specific taste without the hassle of using that specific item.
While there are tons of extracts available today, many of them are actually artificial, containing a ton of different ingredients in order to imitate the real deal.
However, the original extracts have always come from the original food item itself and mixed with an alcohol solvent to concentrate the taste and provide you with an overpowering and flavorful liquid that can flavor an entire batter with only a few tiny drops.
Flavor extracts can be used for a lot of different things and aren’t necessarily only utilized in baked goods. However, most of them do best in treats and desserts because they often pair best with a sugary counterpart.
When you are mixing up your batter, whether it is brownies, cupcakes, pies, etc., you can take whichever extract you prefer and add a few drops before baking.
Mixing it in very well will give the entire dish an even added flavor without relying on the entire food that may take away from the rest of the recipe.
For example, if you were trying to add a little lemon flavor to a loaf of bread, adding a few drops of the extract will work much easier than cutting up the whole fruit and squeezing the juices into the bowl.
Not only is this going to take much more time and energy, but it is only going to give you a subtle lemon juice flavor, nothing compared to the concentrated, robust taste provided by an extract.
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Although there are many different extracts used in the baking world, there are some that are more popular and that mix well when baking than the others.
Here is a list of our favorite 12 extracts you should always consider keeping in your kitchen cabinets.
Vanilla is hands down the most commonly used extract in baking. While this extract has a bitter taste on its own, mixed with other ingredients, it provides a deliciously floral, caramel-like flavor to many desserts.
Vanilla Recipes to try:
- Vanilla homemade cake
- Sugar Cream Pie
- Vanilla frosting
Our favorite product: McCormick All Natural Pure Vanilla Extract
When baking with almond extract, you will quickly notice that it tastes very little like almonds and is oddly sweet. That is because this oil isn’t actually created directly from almonds but bitter almond oils.
Eating a whole bitter almond is actually toxic to humans. However, the extraction of the oil is safe to consume.
Almond recipes to try:
- Italian Wedding Cookies
- Candied Almonds
- Almond Ricotta Cake
Our favorite product: Watkins Pure Almond Extract
A cherry extract is great in all sorts of baked goods giving each product a tangy yet sweet taste. This delicious syrup can be a little sour, depending on the types of cherries used when making the extract.
Cherry recipes to try:
- Sour Cherry Sorbet
- Cherry Crunch
- Cherry Cobbler
Our favorite product: Watkins Cherry Extract
Coconut extract is alcohol-based with tropical flavor, giving all recipes the mixture of sweetness with tiny hints of caramel and butterscotch.
Coconut extract is very close in popularity amongst bakers to vanilla, making it a go-to in many dishes.
Coconut recipes to try:
- Pina Colada Zucchini Bread
- Coconut Clouds
- Chocolate-Glazed Coconut Almond Cheesecake
Our favorite product: OliveNation Premium Coconut Extract
Coffee extract isn’t as well-known or commonly used, but it is a great option for those who enjoy the full-bodied, rich yet bitter taste of coffee to enhance the flavor of foods like ice cream, cakes, and other baked goods.
This extract is made by adding alcohol to crushed-up coffee beans, creating a dark roast flavor that is strong and rich.
Coffee recipes to try:
- Blueberry lemon coffee cake
- Coffee smoothie
- Coffee crumb cake
Our favorite product: Watkins Coffee Extract
Rum Extract is made from actual rum, giving all of your recipes a nice kick. The extracting process gives this flavoring a sweet side, making it taste great in things like eggnog, banana foster, rum cakes, and snickerdoodles.
Rum recipes to try:
- Coconut rum cake-pops
- Eggnog mini loafs
- Frosted Butter Rum Brickle Bites
Our favorite product: Cooks Choice Pure Rum Extract
Hazelnut, commonly known as the main ingredient, makes an excellent extract to add to any sweet treat. You can add it to your pancakes, cupcakes, even hot chocolate, giving your dessert an earthy, nutty, chocolatey flavor.
Hazelnut recipes to try:
- Hazelnut chocolate pound cake
- Chewy hazelnut brownies
- Soft hazelnut cookies
Our favorite product: Olive Nation Pure Hazelnut Extract
An orange extract provides a nice strong citrus flavor made from real oranges and is one extract that can be used not only when baking but also when cooking for things like sauces, marinades, and dressing.
Orange recipes to try:
- Orange and lemon wafer cookies
- Cranberry orange walnut fudge
- Chocolate orange passion cake
Our favorite product: Watkins Pure Orange Extract
Lemon extract is created when lemon peels are soaked in alcohol, providing a liquid with a lot of the lemony flavor without the overwhelming tartness.
Lemon extract is commonly used when baking loaves of bread, making popsicles, and lemon cakes or pies.
Lemon recipes to try:
- Angel food cake push pops with pink lemonade frosting
- Overnight lemon blueberry casserole
- Lemon-shaved iced
Our favorite product: McCormick Culinary Pure Lemon Extract
Peppermint is a powerful extract often used during the holiday season to create some of the best cookies and cakes you can think of, giving your taste buds that well-known, minty tingle.
This extract is an herbal product taken from the leaves of peppermint plants and used in teas, desserts, and more.
This extract goes really well in fudge, brownies, candy cane bark, and peppermint shakes.
Peppermint recipes to try:
- Easy mint chocolate chip ice cream
- Peppermint patties
- Peppermint bark
Our favorite product: McCormick Pure Peppermint Extract
Maple extract is used in many baked goods recipes and is often used as a substitute for vanilla. For obvious reasons, the extract gives recipes a maple syrup taste with smooth butter and caramel undertones.
For great results, add some maple extract to your frosting, baked goods, or pancake batter. You won’t be disappointed.
Maple recipes to try:
- Maple pecan butter cookies
- Maple cream cookie
- Sweet pancake drizzle
Our favorite product: Cooks Pure Maple Extract
Like all the others, the banana extract is made by extracting the banana flavors and mixing them with alcohol. This extract gives your desserts a strong, sweet, tropical flavor that will please the pallet when eating things like banana bread, nut muffins, and cookies.
Banana recipes to try:
- Double banana creme pie
- Banana chocolate chip pancakes
- Cannoli shells
Our favorite product: Native Vanilla – Pure Banana Extract
As previously mentioned, these extracts are pulled from the actual fruit, nut, or bean and mixed with alcohol to get a pure, intense flavor. However, these are not the only options out there to add a little oomph to your desserts.
You also have the option of artificial baking extracts that provide a unique flavor, but it is made of different ingredients.
Some of the more popular options include:
- Cotton Candy
- Butter Pecan
These little bottles of liquid are how many bakeries get their unique flavors, creating delicious cakes and frostings.
You can typically find baking extracts in just about any department store or grocery shop in the baking aisle. However, you must read each label carefully, as many stores will commonly sell artificial flavoring or extract in place of natural extracts.
You want to steer clear of imitation extracts if at all possible. Although they are definitely more budget-friendly, they will change the taste of your baked goods, and not for the better.
While you may be able to get away with some artificial extracts, others are simply a no-go. One flavor you should never settle for anything but legit is vanilla.
When shopping, you will notice a whole slew of options when it comes to vanilla flavoring and extracts. But always find the option that says pure vanilla right on the label.
The same advice goes for almond extract. Taking the cheaper route on these two options will really ruin the recipe you are attempting to make, giving it a more bitter and less flavorful taste.
You can usually find these two options on store shelves, but they will cost quite a bit more than the other options. You can also find baking extracts in specialty baking stores and online. Places like Amazon offer a wide variety of common and not-so-common extract options.
After doing a lot of research, it turns out the generic brands actually use most of the same products to make their extracts as the name brand companies do; even more surprising, there can also be generic brands on the shelves that have been made by the name brands themselves and sold to companies that slap their store’s label on them.
As long as you purchase real extracts and not imitation, the generic version is mostly a safe and more budget-friendly option.
You can quickly identify what the products include just by looking at the back of the bottle or reading the label on the package. This will show you where the ingredients came from and what company produced them.
Many people wonder if they are missing out when using extracts instead of real fruit juices. While you may be missing out in terms of acidity or a more natural subtle taste, you won’t get the same strong flavors from juice that you do extracts.
Juices are a great option when you are looking to create something with a citrusy flavor that requires that acidic boost. However, if you really want a lemon zing, using real lemon juice just won’t compare.
How to Make Your Own Extract
If you are really looking to save money on baking extracts or just prefer to know that all the ingredients used are fresh and safe, you can make them yourselves following just a few simple steps.
All you need to make your own baking extract is amber bottles (that you can find online or at a baking store), a bottle of vodka (any kind will work), and the original form of the product you are making into an extract.
- Add 1 part raw ingredient to 2 parts vodka.
- Place the mixture into an amber container.
- Allow the mixture to sit for about six weeks for full flavor.
- Drain the raw ingredients from the extract.
- Store your final product on your shelf in a clean container (the alcohol level will keep your extract from going bad).
Guide for popular homemade extracts:
- Vanilla Extract: 4 bean pods to 8-ounces of vodka
- Almond Extract: 1/2 cup almonds to 8-ounces of vodka
- Coconut Extract: 1/2 cup fresh chopped coconut to 8-ounces of vodka
- Cinnamon Extract: 4 whole sticks cinnamon to 8-ounces of vodka
- Lemon Extract: 4 lemon rind halves + 8-ounces of vodka
Baking extracts are a great way to introduce a bold taste to any recipe. Using this product can help you incorporate many flavors into one delish dish, creating an edible masterpiece without the effort that goes into using the whole raw item.
If you are new to using baking extracts, take some time to experiment with all the great options and come up with a truly unique dessert.
Read Also: Is Mint Tea the Same as Peppermint Tea?