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Vegan Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce with Coconut Milk

5 from 3 votes

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Rich and smooth, this vegan homemade salted caramel sauce is everything that caramel should be! Made without dairy; this recipe uses coconut milk and vegan butter. You won’t find an easier more delicious vegan caramel sauce!

small jar of caramel sauce with spoon dipping in to scoop some out

This caramel sauce was created specifically for my Sweet Cream Ice Cream. True story.

My #1 best taste-tester (i.e. husband) had just consumed a generous sample of the new vegan ice cream I was working on and exclaimed that it was so delicious he’d even give up being vegan just to get some caramel sauce on top!

Well of course he wasn’t serious…

It was just his way of saying to “get back in the kitchen and create me some vegan caramel sauce!” And so I did!

glass gravy boat filled with caramel sauce with spoon dipping some out
(Spoon it out or pour it on. This caramel sauce is rich, smooth, and delicious!)

There is a handy printable recipe card near the bottom of this post. Please read through the following sections to learn a few tips and tricks so that your recipe will turn out as fabulous as mine!

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small jar of caramel sauce with spoon dipping in to scoop some out with pinterest text overlay

Ingredients needed to make this recipe for vegan salted caramel sauce:

Ingredients:

  • melted vegan butter – tub or stick is fine
  • room temperature coconut milk – you will skim the cream from the top of the can
  • white granulated sugar
  • water
  • corn syrup
  • vanilla
  • salt
ingredients needed for vegan caramel sauce including: water, coconut milk, sugar, melted vegan butter, salt, corn syrup, and vanilla

Equipment:

  • heavy bottomed medium-sized saucepan
  • 2 wooden spoons (one will be fine if you promise to rinse it off after initially stirring the sugar/water mixture
  • pastry brush and bowl of water for brushing down the sides of the pan when sugar crystals are present

All about caramel sauce:

Caramel sauce can be tricky! I tried and failed many times before getting it right. I am not a professional vegan chef or baker but a home cook like you. You can learn from my struggles:)

If you are already a pro at caramel sauce, you might want to just scroll to the recipe. If not, please read through the following section to learn more about how to make the best vegan caramel sauce around!

Jump to Recipe
an overstuffed fridge showing at least five attempts of vegan caramel sauce
(These are some of the many attempts I made to get this vegan caramel sauce just right for you!)

Why is caramel sauce so challenging?

I learned lot from reading about making regular (not vegan) caramel from this post at The Tough Cookie Baking Blog. She has lots of (non-vegan) awesome baking recipes and lots of cooking/baking wisdom.

Before you start:

Really, read through the directions on the recipe card – especially if you’ve never made caramel sauce before.

Measure out all of your ingredients. When you are cooking caramel sauce, things can move quickly and you don’t want to be pausing to measure ingredients.

Melt the butter and skim the cream from the top layer of the canned coconut milk. You do not need to refrigerate the can of coconut milk as you do when making coconut milk whipped topping.

In fact your butter and coconut milk need to be room temperature before using.

the cream from canned coconut milk being carefully spooned into a measuring cup

So what could go wrong?

Please read through the following suggestions. I want your caramel sauce to turn out as rich and smooth and delicious as mine!

You need to time melting and cooking the sugar just right!

Caramel sauce is made from melting sugar just to the point that it almost starts to burn. If it is melted and cooked for too long, it does start to burn and will taste bitter – not sweet like you would expect caramel sauce to taste.

If you do not allow the caramel sauce to cook long enough, the sugar will never caramelize and while the sauce will taste sweet, it won’t have that depth of flavor that true caramel has.

Make sure to watch the boiling caramel carefully. It takes just seconds to go from a lovely caramel color to a too dark color and then burnt. In the photo below I was able to capture the perfect color JUST before it turned too dark.

amber colored sugar boiling

Adding water and corn syrup to the sugar before cooking:

This will help the sugar to melt more evenly and prevent part of the sugar from burning while the other part is still not even melted yet. Stir together well to make sure the sugar is fully moistened before turning on the heat.

stirring together the sugar, water, and cornstarch
(The sugar is fully moistened. Now we can start the melting process.)

Melted caramel can suddenly seize up and revert back to sugar!

I started keeping some of my caramel sauce fails. Do you see the top layer that looks like a giant spiky snowball? That my friends is what happens when your caramel sauce turns to sugar.

container of failed caramel sauce layers including the top two layers which were abysmal failures during which the sugar in the caramel seized up

To avoid having your lovely melted caramel turn into an unusable chunk of sugar, you need to avoid getting even one sugar crystal into your melted sugar mixture.

Add water and corn syrup to the sugar:

Adding water and sugar to the caramel sauce allows your carmel sauce to melt better and more evenly. This not only keeps the sugar from burning before it fully melts, but helps keep the unmelted sugar crystals out of your melted mixture.

stirring together the sugar, water, and cornstarch
(Make sure your sugar is fully moistened with the water and corn syrup before turning on the heat.)

Use a wet pastry brush on the sides of the pan:

You can keep any unmelted sugar crystals from invading your caramel sauce by brushing down the sides of your pan with a wet pastry brush any time you see a sugar crystal while the sugar is melting.

watering down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush and water where a sugar crystal has formed
(I am brushing down some rogue sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. My sugar is not quite melted so this is the perfect time to do it.)

Fully melt the sugar before boiling:

You need to make sure the sugar is melted and clear before it starts to boil. You can stir a little bit during this time. This will help the sugar melt evenly and keep the mixture from boiling. If it starts to boil too soon then take it off the heat for a second or two to slow it down.

clear melted sugar
(The mixture is just starting to come to a simmer even though I can still see some unmelted sugar ot the bottom of the pan. Take it off the stove for a few seconds to slow it down.)

Don’t stir the mixture while it is boiling and caramelizing:

Once the sugar water is melted and it starts to boil, get rid of the spoon! I can not urge you enough to STOP STIRRING! This is the quickest way to ruin your caramel sauce.

Use a fresh wooden spoon when it is time to stir again.

I don’t even try to rinse my wooden spoon. I just use a fresh spoon. Even one tiny sugar crystal can start the chain reaction, causing your caramel sauce to seize up before turning to sugar.

(This is what happened when I reused a wooden spoon that had some unmelted sugar crystals left on it.)

Do I have to use a wooden spoon?

Well…once you add the vegan butter and coconut cream, you will need to use a spoon and stir stir stir! It’s really very hot and if you use a metal handled spoon, you will get burned!

How long will the vegan caramel sauce keep?

I’m saying two weeks in a tightly sealed jar in your fridge. It might keep longer, I wouldn’t know. It was a challenge to keep it for that long in my house without eating it!

jar of caramel sauce ready to to stored in the fridge

When the caramel sauce has been stored in the refrigerator it will thicken up and be too solid to drizzle. Just warm it in the microwave or set the jar in a bowl of hot water. Caramel is best served warm anyway. Am I right?

Speaking of drizzle….

What can we use this caramel sauce on?

The obvious answer is on ice cream! Warm it up slightly and drizzle on top!

two glass ice cream dishes filled with sweet cream ice cream with caramel sauce being poured on top

My daughter drizzled some caramel sauce on top of Apple Cider Donuts. You can try this recipe from Veggie Inspired!

apple cider donut on plate with vegan caramel sauce drizzled on top

It would even be tasty drizzled on top of a thick slice of banana bread. Or used as a syrup for banana nut pancakes.

And now for the Recipe:

I hope you enjoy the recipe, but don’t say good-bye! Sign-up here for recipe tips and kitchen wisdom. I also invite you to email me with any questions you have. When you become a part of the Veggie Fun Kitchen Community, you’ll learn to cook great tasting recipes the whole family will enjoy! (No spam here! I will never share your email, and you can unsubscribe whenever you want!)

small jar of caramel sauce with spoon dipping in to scoop some out

Vegan Homemade Salted Caramel with Coconut Milk

Rich and smooth, this vegan homemade salted caramel is everything that caramel should be! Made without the dairy; this recipe uses coconut milk and vegan butter. You won't find an easier more delicious vegan salted caramel!
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert, Topping
Cuisine: American
Keyword: homemade caramel, salted caramel, vegan caramel
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 23 minutes
cooling time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 48 minutes
Servings: 10
Calories: 151kcal
Author: Cindy Rainey

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed medium-sized saucepan
  • 2 wooden spoons (or 1 if you rinse it off when prompted below)
  • pastry brush for brushing down the sides of the pan with water

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup vegan butter melted
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk Room temperature – see notes
  • 1 cup sugar white granulated and organic for vegan
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon corn syrup
  • teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Before you get started, I strongly urge you to read through the directions. Caramel sauce can be tricky.
  • Melt vegan butter and set aside. Carefully spoon out 1/2 cup from the top creamy layer of coconut milk, trying to not get any of the coconut water in with the coconut cream. Set aside. Get your other ingredients ready.
    the cream from canned coconut milk being carefully spooned into a measuring cup
  • Add sugar, water, and corn syrup to a heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan. Stir together to moisten the sugar.
  • Melt the sugar: (Please see step below about using the pastry brush.) Turn your stove on low to med/low heat. Stir occasionally as the sugar starts to melt to ensure even quick melting.
    DO NOT allow this mixture to boil yet. The sugar must be fully melted and be clear before boiling.
    The sugar will be fully melted in 10-11 minutes. (Rinse your wooden spoon or use a fresh one. You will be using it later when you add the butter and coconut milk.)
  • While the sugar is melting, check the sides of the pan for any rogue sugar crystals that didn't melt. With a wet pastry brush, wet the sides of the pan where you see sugar crystals so that it is all melted into the mixture and it won't later seize up and revert back to sugar.
    watering down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush and water where a sugar crystal has formed
  • Turn up the stove to med/high and let the sugar boil. DO NOT STIR! Continue WATCHING CAREFULLY without stirring for about 7-10 minutes more. The color of the liquid will start to change to a light amber color. You can start to smell the caramel. REMOVE FROM HEAT!
    You don't want the mixture to get too dark or it will taste burnt. If you start to smell burned sugar or if it gets starts to turn too dark take it off of the heat immediately. If it is already too dark and burned smelling then toss it and start fresh. Adding in the other ingredients is not going to improve it at this point.
    amber colored sugar boiling
  • While still removed from heat, drizzle in the melted vegan butter, stirring briskly so that it mostly mixes in.
  • Slowly add in the room temperature coconut cream, stirring briskly.
  • Turn stove back on to medium and continue to cook and stir so that the butter and coconut cream are incorporated. It will come to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  • Add the vanilla and salt. Stir and allow to cool. If you have any bits of hard caramel on your spoon or on the sides of the pan, just throw it out. don't try to incorporate.
    The caramel sauce will thicken on cooling.

Notes

  • The full-fat coconut cream must be room temperature or warmed. You will need to skim 1/2 cup from the top of the can. Do not refrigerate the can of coconut milk as you would when making whipped coconut cream topping.  Do NOT shake the can but carefully spoon the “cream” from the top of the can. You will have quite a bit leftover. You can freeze in an ice cube tray and add to smoothies and such.
  • I really emphasize that you must read through the directions and understand them before you get started. There is a lot of stirring and NOT stirring with this recipe and a great amount of attentiveness needed. Do not walk away from it. Put the dogs outside and the babies to bed before trying this recipe!
  • This caramel sauce should keep in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks if it is in a tightly sealed container. 
Three things that might go wrong:
  1. The mixture might have a random sugar crystal that was left on the sides of the pan fall in. It will seize up right in front of your eyes and there is absolutely nothing you can do to save it at that point. Melting the sugar first before boiling will help. Making sure there aren’t any sugar crystals left on the side of the pan will help. Letting it come to a boil without stirring will help.
  2. You let it boil just a little too long and the sugar starts to burn causing the finished caramel to taste bitter. Watching attentively will help. Removing from heat as soon as it starts to turn colors will help.
  3. You get scared and don’t let the sugar start to carmelize before removing from heat. (This is often my error).  The result will be a caramel that is too light and while it is sweet and yummy, doesn’t really taste like caramel. It’s the lesser of two evils in my opinion… 
If the kitchen goddess has graced your cooking today and it’s all worked out,  this caramel sauce will be the best you’ve ever eaten – vegan or non-vegan. Resist the temptation to stick a straw in and just gulp it up. It really rich and you might be sorry…

Nutrition

Calories: 151kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 168mg | Potassium: 25mg | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 288IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 2mg | Iron: 1mg
By on September 29th, 2020

About Cindy Rainey

Veggie Fun Kitchen by Cindy Rainey
Welcome to Veggie Fun Kitchen where you will learn to recreate family favorites the plant-based/vegan way! Let me know if I can help. I'm here for you.

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