This 4-ingredient vegan caramel sauce is rich, flavorful, and healthier than traditional caramel. It consists of unrefined coconut sugar and coconut milk, which makes the salted caramel sauce dairy-free, paleo-friendly, and refined sugar-free. Plus, it can be made low and slow for sweet and decadent results or even in just 5 minutes with a quick ‘hack’!
Just like how people crave chocolate (I do that too – why else would I keep a constant supply of treats like chocolate truffles and chocolate fudge cookies in my fridge!), I also crave creamy, sweet, silky caramel.
When I say this dairy-free caramel sauce is good enough to eat with a spoon straight from the jar, I mean it (believe me, I speak from experience). However, just a tiny drizzle of it over almost anything (list of suggestions below) is perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth too. I always have a small bowl of it when I get out the apple slices, since it works as a delicious vegan caramel dip, too!
I’ve also included two methods below; a longer simmer and reduce method for a thicker, darker, sweeter coconut caramel sauce. Alternatively, for those of you who want something in a pinch, you can follow my ‘cheat’ method for vegan caramel sauce in 5 minutes! Though I really prefer the longer method because the caramel flavor is more intense and the texture is so much better!
The Ingredients and Substitutions
- Coconut Milk: I use full-fat canned coconut milk as it’s thick and creamy – don’t use a Tetra Pak version (carton). Tinned coconut cream may work, too, though I haven’t tried it.
- Coconut sugar: I love to use coconut sugar as the flavor is delicious, and it’s less processed, too – perfect for a healthy caramel sauce. However, you could also use brown sugar or even ground date sugar.
- Vanilla Extract: Use natural vanilla extract for the best flavor.
- Sea salt: Whether or not you want vegan salted caramel, adding even just a pinch of salt is important to enhance the flavors of this caramel sauce. I use sea salt- however, you could also use salt flakes (Fleur de Sel).
- Cornstarch: OPTIONAL – This is only needed if you use the ‘quick method’. For paleo caramel sauce, try arrowroot starch instead.
For the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information, please read the recipe card below.
How to Make Salted Caramel Sauce
The Full Method:
- First, combine the coconut milk and coconut sugar in a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil while stirring or whisking to allow the sugar to melt.
- Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-low to simmer for around 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. During this time, the sauce will thicken slightly – it’s ready when it begins to cling to the back of a spoon.
Don’t reduce it too much, as the sauce will continue to thicken up as it cools.
- Add the salt and vanilla extract and stir it in. Then allow the sauce to cool at room temperature for 15 minutes before using it as-is or transferring it to a clean glass jar (preferable with a lid). Transfer the jar to the fridge, where it will thicken up further.
The 5-minute version:
This method cuts down on the simmering/reducing time for a coconut caramel sauce that is ready in just minutes!
- Add the coconut milk, sugar, and cornstarch to the pan and mix well to dissolve the cornstarch, then bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once it boils, allow it to simmer for 3-5 minutes over medium-low heat, occasionally stirring, while the sauce thickens. Then add the salt and vanilla, allow it to cool, and transfer to a jar.
The quick caramel is not as sweet because the liquid isn’t being reduced, so you might need to add more coconut sugar. The sauce is lighter, and it doesn’t thicken as much. Adding a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter during simmering does help to make the sauce a bit thicker and improves the texture.
How to Use Vegan Caramel Sauce?
You can serve this as a vegan caramel dip or drizzle with
- Pancakes, crepes, and waffles
- Oatmeal and baked oatmeal
- Brownies and cakes
- Apple crisp and plum and apple crumble
- Dip for apple slices and fruits
- Stirred into hot drinks like coffee, tea, and hot cocoa
How to Store?
To Store: Store the reduced caramel sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The “quick” caramel should be consumed within a couple of days.
To Freeze: Allow to cool, then store in a freezer-safe container with ½-inch headspace (for expansion) for up to 2 months.
The vegan caramel sauce will get thicker in the refrigerator, so you may need to heat it slightly before using, to bring it back to a pourable consistency. You can do this in the microwave or place the entire jar in a bowl/ pan of hot water until warmed through.
Is caramel vegan?
Traditionally caramel contains dairy (often in the form of cream) and sometimes even butter. However, this recipe substitutes those ingredients for a delicious dairy-free caramel sauce.
Can I flavor the sauce?
You sure can. Add in melted chocolate, a few spoonfuls of booze, instant coffee, fruit purée, and various spices to easily adjust the flavor. If you prefer a saltier vegan caramel sauce, just increase the salt. Add any flavorings right at the end, before allowing the caramel to cool.
Does this coconut caramel sauce taste like coconut?
The coconut flavor is very slight. Personally, I don’t think it tastes very coconutty at all.
- For even richer results: You can add in a little dairy-free butter while the sauce reduces. This will create a silkier, richer mouthfeel- just make sure to use vegan butter you like the taste of! Or, as mentioned above, use a little peanut butter!
- To adjust the consistency: The time you spend simmering the mixture will change how thin/thick the sauce is. For the cheat method, you can adjust the amount of cornstarch added.
- Be careful not to burn the sugar: It takes just seconds to turn from caramelized to burnt – which is why cooking the dairy-free caramel sauce over a low simmer is necessary!
More Vegan Caramel Recipes
- Caramel Apple Cheesecake
- Easy Crème Caramel
- Caramel Chocolate Brownies
- Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Pancakes
If you try this vegan salted caramel sauce recipe, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan and #elavegan – I love seeing them.
Vegan Salted Caramel Sauce
- Watch the video in the post for visual instructions.Add the coconut milk and coconut sugar to a medium-sized saucepan, mix with a whisk or spoon, and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-low to simmer for around 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. During this time, the sauce will thicken slightly - it's ready when it begins to cling to the back of a spoon (see step-by-step photos in the post).
- Add the salt and vanilla extract. Stir again and allow the sauce to cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes before using it as-is. Or transfer it to a clean glass jar (preferable with a lid). Place the jar in the fridge where the sauce will thicken up further.
- Drizzle over pancakes, waffles, ice cream, cakes, etc. Enjoy! Stir in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Add the coconut milk, coconut sugar, and cornstarch to a medium-sized saucepan. Mix thoroughly with a whisk or spoon until the cornstarch has dissolved, then bring the mixture to a boil.
- Let simmer for about 3-5 minutes at low-medium heat, stirring occasionally until the caramel sauce has thickened. Adding a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter during simmering does help to make the sauce a bit thicker and improves the texture.
- Follow the remaining instructions as written above.
- Please note the quick method is not paleo-friendly due to the cornstarch. For a paleo version, you can try using arrowroot flour instead.
- The quick caramel is not as sweet, because the liquid isn't being reduced, so you might need to add more coconut sugar. The sauce is lighter, and it doesn't thicken as much.
- Coconut sugar: Brown sugar should work fine too (for both methods).
- Coconut milk: Please make sure to use canned coconut milk, not a Tetra Pak.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically