Vanilla extract is the simple, everyday kitchen something that you should have on hand for adding flavor to baked goods and desserts. There certainly is nothing simpler that you are likely to have on hand to take its place. Almond extract, rum, amaretto, Grand Marnier, framboise, or any of dozens of other extracts, essences, brandies, or liqueurs could stand in for vanilla in certain recipes – accentuating and blending flavors. But whereas vanilla is neutral and works in almost any sweet recipe, most of the other possible flavorings have a signature flavor of their own, and you’ll want to be sure the one you choose is compatible with what you’re cooking.
Another choice is a product called Fiori di Sicilia, literally, the essence of Sicilian flowers. We know people who use it as a change of pace from vanilla, as it has the same neutral character that works well in most sweet dishes. But, of course, it is much less common than vanilla, and we’re guessing that if you don’t have vanilla cluttering up your pantry, the chances of stumbling across a bottle of Fiori di Sicilia are pretty remote.