This homemade vegan caramel sauce with coconut milk is surprisingly easy, and trust me you’ll want to pour it on top of everything. Rich, silky-smooth, and perfectly balanced in flavor, this dairy-free caramel sauce tastes just as indulgent as the traditional version. This sauce is absolutely delicious, so go ahead… drizzle it over coffee, dairy free ice cream, fresh fruit, and all your favorite desserts.
Originally Published: April 2021 | Updated: February 5, 2024
Why You’ll Love this Vegan Caramel Sauce Recipe
While there are many caramel recipes out there, really, a good vegan caramel sauce comes down to not just the ingredients but also the technique. After much testing, I’ve found a technique and recipe that are both relatively easy. This recipe doesn’t require a candy thermometer and is pretty fool-proof! Here are a few more reasons we love this recipe and you will too:
- Minimal Ingredients: Only 4 ingredients needed to make it!
- Classic Caramel Sauce Flavor: Full fat coconut milk really helps give this sauce a rich texture and flavor just like traditional caramel sauce. If you’d like, you can also add in 1-2 tbsp of vegan butter like Earth Balance. This will make the sauce even richer!
- Rich, Smooth & Creamy: This silky caramel has the BEST texture. The method used in the easy instructions below helps prevent clumps or lumps.
- The Perfect Vegan Caramel Sauce: This recipe is amazing poured on top of your favorite vegan dessert recipes like ice cream, cookies or cakes.
This sauce can be made in under 20 minutes and you only need 4 simple ingredients! They are:
- Granulated Sugar: Simple cane sugar acts as the base for the sauce. It’s melted and caramelized.
- Coconut Milk or Coconut Cream: This is our vegan substitute for heavy cream!
- Pure Vanilla Extract: A little vanilla really helps enhance the overall flavor.
- Flaky Salt or Sea Salt: A pinch of salt helps balance out the sweetness of the sauce.
- Sugar: The granulated sugar is used to create that golden brown, sweet, nutty taste that caramel is known for.
- Coconut Cream: To add more richness, this recipe uses coconut cream. I used a can of full-fat coconut cream from Whole Foods (365 Brand). This brand had a looser texture than other coconut creams I’ve tried (like the Trader Joe’s Brand). If your coconut cream is thicker, this is okay! Your caramel sauce will be just a touch thicker once completely cool.
- Coconut Milk: You can also use full-fat coconut milk. Place the can of coconut milk in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, and don’t stir the can when you open it! The cream in the can will solidify when cold and rise to the top, and you can scoop the cream out of the can without watering it down too much. If using this method, please let the coconut cream come to room temperature before adding it to the melted sugar. Adding cold coconut cream will cause the sugar to seize up and solidify.
- Heavy Bottomed Pot or a Deep Skillet: I prefer using a large, deep skillet, because there is more surface area for the sugar to melt evenly. Sugar melting unevenly is one of the reasons that caramel sauces fail! So be sure to use a large pot to help prevent this.
- Silicone Spatula: This is perfect for stirring the caramel.
- Airtight Jar: This is for storage.
Step By Step Instructions
*Video Tutorial for How to Make this Vegan Caramel Sauce is in the Recipe Card Down Below!*
TIP: If this is your first time making caramel, before beginning, I recommend heating the coconut cream in the microwave for about 1 minute.
STEP 1: Add the granulated sugar to a medium heavy-bottom pot or large, deep skillet. Give the pan a shake to make sure the sugar is in an even layer and heat over medium heat for 2-5 minutes until the edges begin to caramelize and the sugar melts.
TIP: Do not stir while the sugar is heating. Turn the heat to medium-low once the edges begin to caramelize and melt.
STEP 2: Gently push the sugar from the edges toward the center of the pot with a spatula to help melt the rest of the sugar. Avoid splashing sugar onto the sides of the pan or pot as this can cause crystallization. The sugar should melt and start to turn a nice amber color. This will take another 3-5 minutes.
STEP 3: Temporarily remove from the heat. Add the room temperature coconut cream. The mixture will bubble up for about 20-30 seconds. Once it calms down, stir the mixture and return to low heat.
STEP 4: Simmer for 1-2 more minutes stirring occasionally. The mixture should look nice and smooth. If any pieces of sugar solidified when adding the coconut cream, continue to heat the mixture over low heat until they are melted.
STEP 5: Remove from heat and add in the vanilla extract and the salt.
STEP 6: Transfer the vegan caramel sauce into a heat-proof container and let cool at room temperature. Once cool, store in an airtight container in the fridge. The sauce will become very thick once cool.
This caramel is fantastic paired with apples, fruit, as a perfect topping for ice cream, drizzled on coffee drinks or mixed into hot chocolate. This sauce is also great in other recipes that call for regular caramel sauce like cookies or cakes!
I personally love using this dairy-free caramel sauce in my Vegan Caramel Delites and in my coffee. It’s perfect for anyone who has a sweet tooth or anyone who wants to add a bit of richness to their favorite desserts.
Like traditional caramel sauce, this vegan version thickens as it cools. The sauce should cool at room temperature.
Then, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
- Heat the Coconut Milk Before Beginning or Use Room Temperature Coconut Milk/Cream: If this is your first time making caramel sauce, I highly recommend heating the coconut cream or milk up in the microwave for about 1 minute. This will help prevent the sugar from solidifying when you add it.
- Do Not Stir the Sugar while Melting: Through my own testing of this recipe, I found the most common pitfall was stirring the sugar as it melted. This agitation causes the sugar granules to clump together and melt unevenly. The jostling motion binds some granules to the sides of the pot, where they can seed crystallization and result in a lumpy caramel.
Why this happens: The science behind this is that sucrose molecules want to bond with other sucrose molecules as the crystals dissolve. If there are whole granules of sugar on the side of the pot, the melted sucrose molecule will want to bind to them. For smooth, lump-free caramel, it’s best to let the sugar liquefy undisturbed. So for best results, do not stir the melting sugar!
- Temporarily Remove the Pot from The Heat Before Adding the Coconut Milk: If you add the coconut milk while the pan is still on the heat, it may bubble up too much.
- Let the Sauce Cool at Room Temperature: This will make sure your sauce keeps it’s silky smooth texture, even once cool! After cooling in the fridge, this sauce retains a thick yet pourable consistency.
I don’t recommend substituting another type of dairy-free milk. Coconut milk is very thick and helps create that creamy consistency and a rich caramel sauce. Other non-dairy milks won’t provide the same results.
You can add in a few tablespoons of vegan butter to this vegan caramel. The butter adds another layer of flavor and richness to the sauce. It will make the sauce ever so slightly thinner.
This vegan caramel sauce is made of sugar, coconut cream, and vanilla. I added salt to make this salted caramel.
I recommend storing this sauce in a clean, glass jar with a lid.
This sauce has a slight coconut flavor, however the rich, caramel flavor of the sugar is much more prominent.
Looking for more delicious vegan desserts or sauces?
- Easy Vegan Chocolate Lava Cake
- Almond Blueberry Biscotti
- White Chocolate Covered Pretzels with Caramel
- Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
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