Beyond Vanilla: 6 Additional Extracts and Flavorings for Desserts

published Mar 25, 2013
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(Image credit: Taste of Beirut)

Who doesn’t have vanilla extract in their pantry right now? If not the extract, then maybe vanilla paste or whole vanilla beans. But what about those other flavorings you see on the grocery shelves? Read on for six additional extracts we like to have on hand for making desserts.

It’s confusing to know the difference between flavorings and extracts as the terms can be used interchangeably. In general, an extract has been made with the natural ingredient. Vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans but vanilla flavoring is often made from artificial flavors, for example. But this is not a steadfast rule, so always check the label.

There are a few other categories of flavorings that include oils and waters. While extracts often use alcohol to draw out the flavor, a flavoring oil results when the oil is pressed from the natural ingredient, like a lemon. Flower waters, such as rose or orange blossom, are usually a distillation from the blossoms.

As Emma points out in her post on When to Use Flavoring Oils vs. Extracts, it’s best to use extracts when the flavor is playing a supporting role, such as vanilla in chocolate chip cookies. Flavoring oils are best used when you want that particular flavor to dominate and really come through. Waters are often pretty potent, but not as potent as oils, so use sparingly at first.

Vanilla extract definitely rules the pantry shelves, but here are six other flavors that we also keep on hand when it comes time to flavor cakes and cookies and other sweet stuff.

Peppermint extract. Peppermint extract goes really well with chocolate and is often used in brownies. Its also nice to have on hand for candy making, especially around the holidays.

Almond extract. Almond extract is another flavor that goes well with chocolate but can also stand alone. Use it in cakes, cookies and biscotti.

Orange and lemon oil. A few drops of orange or lemon oil will really enhance the citrus flavor of cakes and frostings. To be used when you want a concentration of flavor without adding the extra liquid from the juice.

Rose or orange blossom water. Traditionally used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern desserts such as nougat, raahat, and baklava, rose water is also used in ice cream and cookies or stirred into sweeten yogurt. Orange blossom water can be used in Madeleines in France and Pan de Muerto in Mexico as well as many milk and rice-based desserts in the Middle East. You can make your own flower extracts by following this tutorial from the blog Taste of Beirut.

What extracts do you like to keep on hand?