Ohh vegan caramel sauce! The ultimate topping for creamy vanilla ice cream, coffee cakes, fluffy chocolate cupcakes, and everything else in between. I wanted to finally conquer the perfect salted vegan caramel sauce recipe for you because, well who DOESN’T need that recipe in their life?!
Drizzle some in your coffee, drip some onto your cookies, this is the salted vegan caramel sauce you NEED!
How to make vegan caramel
Here’s the thing: making vegan caramel sauce is both hard and easy at the same time. Hard because you need to watch it, it isn’t a set it and forget it type deal. But easy because it comes together in no time and can be used in SO many great ways!
There are two types of methods used for making caramel sauce: wet and dry. Dry caramel sauce involves heating the sugar until it starts to melt, then add the additional ingredients like butter, coconut milk, and salt. Wet caramel sauce starts off with sugar and water, bringing the mixture to a boil and then cooking for an extended period of time until most of the water has evaporated.
For this recipe, we’re using a dry caramel sauce method. I find I like the result a little bit better with a dry caramel sauce and it tends to turn out more consistently, especially when you’re making a vegan version of a caramel sauce and the properties of butter and coconut milk are a little bit different.
To start, you’re going to heat the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Make sure you’re not using a higher heat, as the sugar will crystalize and burn and totally ruin the sauce before you’re even done!
Tips for making vegan caramel
Do I need to use vegan butter?
Yes! You absolutely need to use vegan butter in this recipe. I usually try to avoid excessively using vegan butter since it can be expensive and isn’t easy to find for everyone, but in this case it’s the only way the recipe will work.
I tried making salted vegan caramel sauce with olive oil, coconut oil, and coconut cream, but the results never turned out. I would say if you’re ready to make vegan caramel sauce without dates, you need to seek out vegan butter. I like Miyoko’s Kitchen and Earth Balance, but there are a lot of brands out there. I would recommend sticking with the vegan butters that are made with oils and not using ones that use oat milk, since I can’t speak to if those work in this recipe.
Do I have to use coconut milk?
Another yes! I tried making this recipe with almond milk and cashew milk and neither worked very well. In order for this recipe to work, make sure you’re using full-fat coconut milk, NOT light coconut milk.
You need fat content in order for the caramel sauce to come together properly, so this isn’t a place to skimp out or use low fat varieties. If you do, the sauce will not thicken properly and will remain watery.
What if the caramel sauce separates?
Whisk, whisk, whisk! This is really common for caramel sauce to separate, especially when you’re making a vegan version that relies on vegan butter and coconut milk to come together.
If your vegan caramel sauce starts to separate, remove the saucepan from heat and vigorously (but carefully), whisk it while holding the saucepan in place. Remember that this is a HOT pan of melted sugar, so you’re going to need to watch for splashes and make sure your pan is big enough for this.
The sauce should start to come back together within a minute or two and it can be returned to heat when it does.
How to store caramel sauce
Store caramel sauce in a covered jar or container for up to a month in the refrigerator. You can also store it in the freezer for up to 2-3 months, thawing in the fridge or at room temperature when you’re ready to use.
If you freeze caramel sauce, keep in mind that it may separate when brought back to room temperature. If this happens, transfer the thawed caramel sauce to a saucepan and heat over medium heat while whisking until the sauce comes back together.
What to eat with vegan caramel sauce:
- Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie
- Vegan Pound Cake
- Vegan Apple Crisp
- Vanilla Ice Cream
- Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons vegan butter (see notes)
- 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the granulated sugar while stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula. Continue stirring frequently, until the sugar is melted and amber colored. Sugar will start to melt, turn chunky, and then melt again into a smooth sauce. Getting to this point took me about 10 minutes total.
- Once the sugar has melted, add butter and whisk in for about 2 minutes. this will ensure the butter is melted properly and the sauce comes together.
- Add coconut milk and continue to cook the caramel while whisking for another 2 minutes.
- Once thickened, remove from heat and whisk in salt. Allow to cool before storing or serving!
- My favorite vegan butter for making caramel is Miyoko’s Cultured Butter. It has less of an oily taste and more of the ‘real butter’ taste. My other favorite is Earth Balance, which is easier to find! Do not substitute coconut or olive oil here, it will not work!
- Make sure you have all your ingredients on hand and ready to add. the sauce can be really finicky and needs a close eye kept on it as you add ingredients!