I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of coconut extract substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.
The best coconut extract substitutes are coconut liqueur and unsweetened coconut milk. You can also go with shredded coconut or coconut flakes, unrefined coconut oil, or coconut simple syrup. Other similar extracts include vanilla extract or almond extract.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made basic sugar cookies to put 14 coconut extract substitutes to the test.
Coconut extract is a flavoring product that’ll add a pop of coconut flavor to your dishes, baked goods, and drinks. A small amount brings a rich, sweet flavor that’ll remind you of a tropical island.
I was looking for something that would bring a similar warm but summery vibe.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Coconut liqueur||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Unsweetened Coconut Milk||Replace milk or water in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Vanilla Extract||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Shredded Coconut/Coconut Flakes||1 tbsp coconut extract = 1 cup shredded coconut/coconut flakes||9/10|
|Unrefined Coconut Oil||Replace butter or fat in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Coconut Simple Syrup||Replace in a 1:1 ratio with reduced sugar||8/10|
|Coconut Water||Add a splash to drinks and smoothies||7/10|
Common uses for coconut extract and the best substitutes
Here are some common use cases for coconut extract and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For baked goods and desserts: Try coconut liqueur, unsweetened coconut milk, or shredded coconut. If you use shredded coconut, you might need to add extra moisture.
- For cocktails, smoothies, and shakes: try coconut liqueur, unsweetened coconut milk, coconut simple syrup, or coconut water. Coconut water if great if you want to hydrate.
- For marinades and dressings: Try virgin coconut oil, or coconut liquor. Don’t mistakenly use refined coconut oil (it has no flavor!).
Coconut liqueur or rum is a fabulous substitute for coconut extract that packs a punch with its creamy, nutty flavor.
It’s slightly sweeter than the extract, but not so much that it’s a problem. My cookies tasted amazing!
And don’t worry about the alcohol content if you’re baking. You only need a small amount so it will cook off in the oven.
Psst… I used Malibu Coconut Rum.
How to substitute: Replace coconut extract in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with coconut liqueur.
Unsweetened coconut milk
Swap out the milk or water in your recipe (if there is any) with an equal part of unsweetened coconut milk.
Go for the full-fat variety if your recipe calls for whole milk or the low-fat option if it asks for reduced fat. And if you want a really decadent flavor, consider coconut cream.
Pro-tip: add a few drop of vanilla extract to the coconut milk to really amplify the nutty flavors.
If there isn’t any moisture to swap the coconut milk for in the recipe, unfortunately this substitute isn’t going to work! Luckily we have plenty more options.
How to substitute: Replace the milk or water in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with unsweetened coconut milk.
Vanilla isn’t a direct flavor match for coconut extract, but it’s got similar warm vibes.
And it’s versatile and readily available option that you might already have in your cupboard.
Think of it as the salt of the baking world – it works behind the scenes to elevate the existing flavors in your dish.
Just be careful not to go overboard, especially if your dish already calls for vanilla extract.
Too much of a good thing can bring bitterness and spoil masterpiece.
How to substitute: Replace coconut extract in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with vanilla extract.
Shredded coconut/coconut flakes
To get some coconut flavor into a batter you can mix in shredded coconut or coconut flakes instead of using the extract.
I found a new recipe for sugar cookies that already had desiccated coconut in it and followed that – they turned out SO good and I loved the texture they added.
But you need to be careful of simply adding the shredded coconut to baking mixes, because the extra dry ingredients could make the final result dry.
I would add a small amount of extra moisture to account for this.
Pro-tip: toast your shredded coconut before using it to enhance its nutty goodness.
How to substitute: 1 tbsp coconut extract = 1 cup shredded coconut/coconut flakes
Unrefined or virgin coconut oil
Want to avoid adding extra sugar or texture to your recipes? Swap the butter or fat in your recipes for unrefined coconut oil.
This versatile substitute works well in desserts, smoothies, and marinades. The only time it might not be suitable is in cocktails.
You just need to make sure you’re not buying refined coconut oil because this has no flavor!
How to substitute: Replace coconut extract in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with virgin coconut oil.
Coconut simple syrup
I’d never heard of coconut simple syrup until I was researching for this article, but it’s a game-changing substitute for coconut extract.
I got the recipe from Tiktok, and you only need three ingredients – coconut flakes, sugar, and water.
Boil everything together, then strain, and you’ll have a tasty syrup that you can use to add a tropical, nutty twist to your favorite drinks and treats.
It’s also DELICIOUS brushed over cakes for a pop of coconut.
How to substitute: Replace coconut extract in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with coconut simple syrup and reduce the same amount of sugar
Coconut water isn’t the best substitute for coconut extract, but it will work in a pinch for some dishes.
It has a much milder flavor than coconut extract, so don’t expect a potent punch. Because of the small amount I could add to my cookies, I could actually barely taste it!
But I can see this substitute working much better in smoothies and shakes, with the added bonus of getting some extra electrolytes in there.
How to substitute: Add a few splashes of coconut water to your drinks to replace coconut extract.
Other substitutes to consider
The ingredients I’ve mentioned above are my top substitutes for coconut extract, but here are some other options you can use if you already have them on hand:
- Almond extract – this doesn’t taste like coconut extract but has a fruity flavor that can jazz up your dishes in the same way. I highly recommend using this for desserts with stone fruits.
- Hazelnut extract – this extract has a sweet, nutty flavor that goes especially well with chocolate-based desserts.
- Homemade coconut extract – Flippin’ Delicious has an easy recipe for homemade coconut extract, which only involves two ingredients: coconut flakes and rum. The only catch is you’ll need to let the mixture sit for several days to two weeks before using it, so you need to plan ahead with this substitute!
- Leave it out – if your recipe already calls for coconut milk, coconut oil, or flaked coconut, you can skip the coconut extract. The flavors will be less intense, but your dish will still turn out tasty.
Substitutes to avoid
I tried all of the the substitutes that I came across in my research, but not all of them worked out.
Here are a few I’d skip.
- Anise extract – this has a strong, liquorice-like flavor. It strayed too far from coconut extract’s rich, nutty notes for me.
- Butter flavoring – true to its name, this tastes a lot like butter! It can easily overpower your baked goods, especially when you’re already using butter. And I don’t think butter would taste great in smoothies or drinks.
11 BEST substitutes for coconut extract + 2 To Avoid
- ¾ to 1 cup shredded coconut
- ¾ cup rum
- Fill any airtight container with your shredded coconut. Pour in the rum until all the shredded coconut are fully submerged.
- Leave the mixture in a cool, dark area for several days up to 2 weeks (recommended). Give the jar a shake daily.
- After steeping, strain the shredded coconut and store the extract in a jar.