Salted Caramel Sauce (Vegan, Dairy-Free, Paleo)
Vegan caramel sauce that’s made from coconut milk and coconut sugar – so it’s also dairy-free and paleo. It’s sweet, golden, gooey and you’ll want to drizzle it on everything!
I’m sitting here trying to come up with a justification of how this salted caramel sauce is secretly healthy for you. And from a nutrient-dense standpoint, I have to admit it’s with deep regret that I’m at a loss.
But I can tell you with full health coach integrity that it truly is good for you. How? Because it will make you extraordinarily happy!
Watch My Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe Video
It’s easy to make this recipe, but it always helps to watch a quick tutorial video. Then you can see the perfect texture and color of the sauce before you chill it. Give it a watch below!
A Delicious Vegan Caramel Sauce
This salted caramel sauce is not your mother’s or grandmother’s caramel recipe, made from refined sugar, butter and heavy cream. This dairy-free, paleo and vegan salted caramel sauce leverages the wonderful coconut palm tree in all it’s glory, with three coconut products: coconut milk, coconut sugar and coconut oil.
And before you ask the question – “Does it taste like coconut?” – let me assure you it doesn’t. It tastes like honest to goodness, sinfully good, caramel sauce.
How to Make Vegan Caramel Sauce
If you’ve ever made traditional caramel sauce you probably remember watching it carefully – with one eye on the sauce (to prevent burning) and one eye on a candy thermometer (to ensure the appropriate temperature).
Well, good news. This version is far easier. Just mix the coconut milk, coconut sugar and salt and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will have to watch it more closely towards the end, but that’s it. Then, remove from the heat, add the vanilla and coconut oil and there you have it….the most divine salted caramel sauce.
Caramel Sauce Tips
- The first time I made this caramel sauce I got a little concerned at the dark color – so take note, it will turn a dark amber. But the next day after it’s been chilled, it will lighten up a bit.
- Another hint – judge the “doneness” of the sauce by texture, smell and taste. Cook until it coats the back of a spoon and tastes caramel-y. It will still be fairly liquid on the stove, but will thicken slightly as it cools. The cooking times will vary widely based on the brand of coconut milk used as well as stove temperature and climate. So for your first time making this recipe, just cook it slowly on a simmer and let it do it’s thing (on it’s own time). No need to rush this gorgeous sauce. The reward is worth the wait.
So what do you do with this sauce once you’re done? Oh, just drizzle it on absolutely everything. That’s what I’ve been doing.
This salted caramel sauce is also used in these other recipes: Vegan Caramel Cheesecake, Salted Caramel Apple Pie Ice Cream (Vegan) and Iced Matcha and Salted Caramel Latte. Enjoy!
Salted Caramel Sauce (Vegan, Dairy-Free, Paleo)
- 13.5 oz coconut milk, full fat
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Combine the coconut milk, coconut sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Bring to a boil (keeping a close eye on it, as it can quickly boil over), then immediately lower the temperature, keeping the sauce at a light simmer.
- Simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. As the sauce reaches the last 5-8 minutes of cooking time, stir more frequently to incorporate the darker caramel bits from the bottom into the sauce.
- Once the sauce has turned a dark amber and has thickened to coat the back of a spoon, remove from the heat and stir in the coconut oil and vanilla extract.
- Serve the sauce warm or refrigerate in a sealed glass jar.
- This recipe makes approximately 1 cup caramel sauce.
- The caramel sauce will stay good for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
- I receive a lot of questions on the coconut milk I use. I use this brand of coconut milk for all my recipes.
Recipe originally posted July 2015, but updated to include new photos and video.
I made it, but subbed almond milk, it turned out just as expected! Drizzled it on my iced almond milk latte !
Wonderful! I’m happy you loved it Jennifer. And sounds delicious in your iced almond milk latte. Yum!!
Jennifer, did you use almond milk in place of the coconut milk, or in place of something else?
I love this caramel! I use it to make non dairy caramel Frappuccino at home. Took me a few tries but I think I’ve perfected it. It says a slow simmer but that didn’t work for me. Keeping it in between medium and medium low works best. Steady simmer. I hope that makes sense. ? trust me once you have it down you will LOOOOVE This recipe. Thanks for making something so delicious for us who can’t have dairy but love our caramel!
Thank you for the kind comment, JP! I’m so glad you loved the caramel recipe. Yes it takes a try or two to get it right but its perfect when it comes out! :)
Unfortunately this did not work for me…:( Twice I tried, two different cans of milk with different results but still unsuccessful. The first batch separated and possibly curdled(?!). After sitting in the fridge >6hrs it has thickened slightly and the taste is ok (though rather coconuty..) but not usable in my cake. The second batch completely separated and is a runny mess. I followed instructions as set out. Unfortunately this was a big fail :(
Hi Heather – I’m sorry it didn’t work for you. Did you watch the video? Maybe you can see where things might have differed or gone wrong. :)
Could we freeze this in ice cream or would it be too hard?
Absolutely! I use it in my Vegan Apple Pie Ice Cream recipe on my website. :)
The sauce turned out delicious! I used regular sugar and added 1 tbsp cornstarch in the last few minutes to thicken it. It turned out to the right thickness with a subtle brown color. 10/10 will make again! Thank you!
Thanks for your kind words, Tyler. I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! :)
Can I skip skip coconut oil and at least add another oil or it will change the consistancy completely?
Thank you in advance :)
Yes, you can skip the coconut oil. It just helps to make it a little smoother.
OMG this is literally heaven ?the only problem was when I put it in the fridge the coconut oil formed a hard layer on the top. Is that supposed to happen?
So glad you loved the recipe! It sounds like it needed to be cooled and stirred a little bit more before going in the fridge, as I don’t normally have that separation.
This was a disaster. Took a longlonglong time to get to an amber color. Toward the end of the simmering, the whole thing separated into oil and solid. I had to pour off the oily part and then dab the last of the oil with a paper towel to get to the solid. The solid tasted really delicious, but was hard as a rock, so I chipped off pieces and really did enjoy the flavor. But, as a pourable caramel sauce….No way.
Hi Gill – its sounds like you overcooked the caramel sauce to the “hard ball” stage, which is why it went hard once it cooled. Next time try cooking for less time and it will stay soft and pourable. You can watch my video above to see how pourable it is the next day after it cools. :)
I’ve made this sauce and it is absolutely AMAZING!!
Would you know how I can thicken it so that I can use it as a drizzle over cakes or brownies etc? As right now mine is very runny.
Awesome! I’m happy you love the recipe! Usually if you cook it a bit longer it will get thicker. And it also thickens up a smidge once it’s cooled. You could always try adding a very very tiny amount of gelatin if you’d like it thicker though.
I have an update :). I let it cool a bit then whisked in 1/2 cup water and it came together perfectly and it is now so delicious with just the right consistency! Thank you.
Oh yay! Happy to hear that! :)
What in the world went wrong? I followed this recipe exactly and ended up with clumpy sludge separated with oil. I used regular sugar and a can of organic coconut milk.
Hi Lisa! First I want to say thank you for this recipe. It turned out delicious!
The only problem I had is that my caramel didn’t thicken very much after cooling it. At least, it doesn’t look as thick as yours does in the photo. Should I have cooked it more before taking it off the stove? I took it off when it coated the back of the spoon like the directions said. Is there an any way for me to thicken it more? I want to use it in a cheesecake to flavor it and I don’t want it to be too runny. Thank you!
Hi Hima – I’m happy you loved the recipe! Yes, to have it thicken a bit more it probably needed to cook it just a little longer. This doesn’t go super firm, but it shouldn’t be super runny either. It’s sort of like a warm honey consistency.
I would love to know if i could use regular sugar for this? Would it achieve the same dark color?
Yes, you could use regular sugar. Though it likely won’t be quite as dark.
Loved this. Addicitingly good. It did grading as it cooled in the fridge, is that normal?
Glad you enjoyed the caramel sauce Nicolette! And not sure what your question is?
I am making this, and by mistake I added the coconut oil & Vanilla in the beginning! Will it turn out Ok? Do you know what may be different? Thank you!
Yes, it should be fine. You may just want to add a smidge more vanilla at the end as much of the vanilla flavor would likely dissipate.
Do you use the entire can of coconut milk, solids and liquid? Most other recipes use only the solid part. Thanks.
Yes, I use the entire can. Make sure to watch the video for more details. :)
Lisa, just tried this recipe last night (as a healthier alternative to one’s typical ‘wrapped’ Halloween candy!). Even as a cooking novice, the instructions were perfect and my guest was completely wowed! I served with fresh, crisp, sliced gala apples and add a little extra grated sea salt on top of the caramel for presentation (and to bump up the ‘salty’ taste – we’re salt lovers!).
Thank you for this incredible recipe – can’t wait to try many more of yours!
Yay, so happy you enjoyed the recipe! Hope you enjoy more as well. :) x
Would this work to make caramel pretzel snaps? It would have to probably be a thicker caramel sauce- would I just need to cook it for a little longer if a time?
Unfortunately this caramel sauce doesn’t get super thick like store-bought caramels.
Thank you so much for this recipe! It is amazing! I made baked apples and drizzled it on top. A perfect fall dessert!
Wonderful! Glad you enjoyed it Catrina. :) x
Could I use silk almond milk instead of coconut milk I I have never used coconut milk before and I only have almond milk
No, you need to use full fat coconut milk for this recipe.
first of all, Thank you for this great recipe. It seems like the tablespoon measurement has not worked really well here in my case and my sauce turned out a bit too salty. Is there any way I can fix that post making?
Hi Laura – the recipe calls for a 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, not a tablespoon. Unfortunately, there’s really no way to fix that if you’ve already made it. Sorry!
First, do you think I could sub in ordinary sugar for this? I’m looking for a dairy free recipe but don’t have coconut sugar. Would it be a 1-to-1 sub? (I realise this is going backwards from the healthy direction you’re aiming for!) Second, do you have any idea if this would whip? I love whipped caramel as I find it’s very stable as a cake filling!
I haven’t tried it with regular sugar, but I think that would work. And as for whipping, I think you’d likely have to add some sort of stabilizer to help thicken it up. I’m not sure if it would be enough on it’s own. But if you whipped it with a buttercream frosting, I think that would work!
I made this and I am wondering if I scorched it? It got into little gobs and the oil was separated from them making it unstickable.
It sounds like it. Bummer!
Could I use this caramel sauce recipe in a chocolate fountain?
I don’t see why not. :)
Just made this to add to my brownies! AMAZING! Thank you so much,
Awesome! Caramel sauce and brownies sounds like the perfect pair! :) x
Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Delicious, modish and terrible! Have had salted caramel sandwich when I craved something sugary and it hits the spot. Very easy to make, nothing to it, a child can make it. Absolutely delicious. Came here for the recipe as I’m making it for the second time.
Haha, a child sure can make this and my niece makes it frequently as well. ;) Glad you loved it enough to come back!
Worked great! Omitted the coconut oil, though.
Wonderful! Happy you enjoyed the recipe!
This looks super delicious!
Can I use mink fruit or Puyre instead of coconut sugar. That’s what I have in hand right now.
Unfortunately, I haven’t tried this recipe with sugar alternatives, so I’m not sure how it would turn out. You’d have to give it a try. :)
ive just made this and added some cinnamon and mixed spice. omg its delicious. this will be a regular, thank you
Yay! Glad you enjoyed it Sheila and that sounds awesome with the spices. :) x
Just made it – and mixed a small amount into my hot chocolate – yummy! Thank you for sharing this Lisa!
Oooh, that sounds so good in hot chocolate. Yum!! So glad you enjoyed it Helen. :) x
So soo tasty! Best vegan one ive tried for sure! Thanks!
Yay! So happy you liked it Ally! It’s definitely a sauce you’ll want to drizzle on everything. ;) x
I just placed your/my beautiful (hopefully!) Vegan Caramel Cheesecake into the freezer. I made the caramel sauce last night. It did darken, and the texture seems ok, but even after sitting overnight in the fridge, it’s still not as thick as yours appears to be in your video. It did thicken some, but I’m concerned it will just run right off of the cake. I was concerned with having it ball up as some commenters stated, so once it darkened, I took it off the heat. I also noticed I never got the “dark bits” on the bottom that you mention. I have an induction range, which normally works perfectly, but I had a hard time keeping this from boiling. It was either too low to simmer, or would go quickly to a low boil.
Could I just try heating the sauce in the microwave or on the stovetop to thicken in further? I wasn’t sure if it should be cooked after the addition of the vanilla and coconut oil. I’ve got it stored in a mason jar.
I also have arrowroot powder, xanthan gum, and I think agar agar. I considered making a thin paste with one of those, adding it to the sauce and heating it for a short time. What do you think?
I am serving the cake tonight to a party of six and I’d hate to have it fail. I may have enough ingredients to try another batch of sauce, but I’m not sure. I live rurally and it’s not feasible to run to the market. ;)
Hi Shelly – It sounds like your caramel sauce is probably fine. Variations can sometimes be due to the brand of canned coconut milk used (and I’ve even had batches turn out slightly different with the same brand). I don’t think heating in the microwave or on the stovetop (if it’s already that dark) or using a thickener will likely make much difference. As long as it tastes like caramel, that’s all that matters! :) Do let me know how it turns out and if you post a pic on Instagram make sure to tag it #Downshiftology as I’d love to see!
What did I do wrong?! I followed it in order, and the coconut milk I used is Thai Kitchen coconut cream. There is a thick layer of oil on the top!!! :-( Other than that it tastes great, but it does not look like your image.
Bummer! But it sounds like you used coconut cream rather than coconut milk. That could be the culprit.
This sauce tastes amazing! I have one issue though- I can’t get the sauce to thicken. I chilled it in the fridge overnight to see if it would thicken and it did a little bit maybe I’m expecting it to be really really thick. How can i get it to thicken more? I’m currently reheating it to see if that helps. TIA!
Hi Liz – after you’ve chilled it, is it the same thickness as mine when I pour it on the cheesecake in the video here: https://downshiftology.com/recipes/vegan-caramel-cheesecake/ – or is it thinner?
What brand of coconut milk do you use? I know you said so up above but for some reason I can’t see which brand it is. Thanks!
Hi Bre – sorry about that. I’ve fixed the link. :) But here is the coconut milk I use: http://amzn.to/2AHbm3Q
That link is of coconut oil that you posted, not coconut milk. Are we supposed to be using that where you call for “coconut milk”? Maybe that’s why mine turned out like the other commenters..something went wrong.
Hi Michelle – I just checked all the links in the recipe section and they’re correct. The coconut milk links to Native Forest full-fat coconut milk. You use a full can of coconut milk to make this caramel, but you finish it off (after it’s already caramelized) with a tsp of coconut oil. One reader accidentally used coconut cream (rather than coconut milk), which is why hers didn’t turn out. But otherwise the recipe should work perfectly. Make sure to watch the video. :)
What could I use for the coconut sugar as I am following ket but I need dairy free as well.
Hi Sharon – keto usually uses stevia and sugar alcohols as sweeteners. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried this recipe with any of those.
Just made this, OMG I love it!!!
Yay! Happy to hear that. Now it’s time to drizzle it on everything. ;) x
Over walnuts and soy icecream!!
Great colour and taste, I was worried it would taste to much like coconut.
It’s a balanced indulgence! People need to take a chill pill – stress will kill all of us before a drizzle of salted caramel sauce ever will. Glad to know the coconut flavor doesn’t shine through, since I despise coconut – sounds like a worthy, decadent sauce! :)
Yes, it’s far better to ditch the stress and embrace caramel sauce. Haha. ;) x
I made this this weekend to stir into my coconut ice cream recipe and therefore make Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream. This is hands down the best recipe I’ve tried! SO yummy! Thank you so much for sharing!!
So happy you liked it Alix!
Can I use fresh coconut milk? I usually make it myself with local coconuts because I live in the tropics.
Oh wow – I’m jealous! I haven’t tried making it with fresh coconut milk, so don’t know if it will work. But might as well give it a try!
Mine tastes great but I can’t get the color to darken up much… to get it caramel color I’m ending up with a hardball caramel. Tastes great, just wish I was having better luck getting it to darken.
Hmm, could be the brand of coconut milk. If it tastes great though, I’d say you did it right! :)
This is the first dairy free caramel I’ve made that has thickened! It’s wonderful! I think the difference is that the brand of coconut milk recommended has guar gum in it.
Yay – I’m so happy to hear that! :) And yes, different brands of coconut milk can definitely make a difference. Thanks Joyce!
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Made this sauce last week to use in a granola recipe – OMG, it’s amazing. Luckily I had some left over after using it in the granola… since then I have been using it to top ice cream and as a graham cracker dip. LOVE the ideas in comments below – can’t wait to make it again!
Hi Ari – I’m so happy you love it and using it as a graham cracker dip sounds delicious. Thanks so much for your comment! :) x
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OK. This is good enough to just drink the whole lot, once cooled of course, through a straw. The 1st time I made it was 08Aug15 & I made it again today, 24Jan16. Today’s is a much deeper amber color, probably because I didn’t stir it too much & let more of it brown on the bottom. I guess the 1st time I was afraid it would burn. So far, I’ve used this sauce to make your Iced Matcha & Salted Caramel Latte + your Salted Caramel Apple Pie Ice cream. Both of those recipes are stellar, BTW. I use the exact same ingredients as you do in this recipe, follow your instructions to a T, & haven’t had any issues whatsoever. I just ate a giant spoonful of today’s batch & it is DIVINE. Thanks so much for a fabulous recipe w/ so many uses! <3
Oh, these photos are amazing!! Thanks so much for sharing all your salted caramel success – and I’m thrilled you love those other recipes. They’re some of my faves as well! ;) xo
It’s a pleasure & an honor to cook all the wonderful recipes you develop. Thanks so so so much for all the work you put into helping us by creating delicious & varied food choices. xo
Aww, thank YOU so much for trying out my recipes and being all around awesome!! :) xo
Aww, thanks! :-)
After spending the night in the fridge, the salted caramel sauce I made is nearer to the color in your photos (as was my first batch) as opposed to the blackstrap molasses color mine was when I took it off the stove to cool yesterday. I’m s’posed to keep coffee to a dull roar, so 1/2 the glass is almond milk. I used the salted caramel sauce as a sweetener (instead of the usual Stevia droplets) & it imparts a subtle, not-too-sweet flavor. Teeny-tiny beads of coconut oil surface on the coffee / almond milk mixture, but who cares?! It’s good for you! xo
Yes, the color definitely lightens after being refrigerated.
!YaY! I’m not crazy!
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I used a coconut milk that has no guar gum. Just coconut and some water. It’s been cooking for an hour, still no thickening… :-/ Does it need the guar gum to work ?
It doesn’t need the guar gum (I’ve made it with cans that don’t have guar gum) – but are you using full fat canned coconut milk? Refrigerated coconut milk in a carton and “light” canned coconut milk won’t work.
It’s canned and full fat. I’m French. I don’t do anything *light* :-)
It never even managed to “catch” at the bottom to add colour, even on high. I cooked it for 90 minutes. It reduced a lot, so, is now super sweet of course, it’s still very light in colour. So I put it in a jar and will now see what it looks like in the morning.
Ha – I love that you don’t do “light.” ;) Perhaps it’s just the brand. Coconut whipped cream can be temperamental based on the brand, so this might be the same. Out of curiosity, what brand is it?
I’ve never used that brand. Next time I make a batch I’ll test it with Aroy-D though! Thanks for the feedback and happy holidays! :) x
Went really well right up until the end. As I removed it from the heat, it separated, and became a thicker, gloopy sauce + oil. What did I do wrong?
Oh no! I’ve never had that happen. The only thing I can think of is maybe if you cooked it a bit too long (or too hot) before removing from the heat and/or didn’t stir enough towards the end. It sounds like it seized up, similar to how chocolate can. And that’s almost always a heat/overcook issue. Hope your next batch goes better! :)
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No justification needed – I would just refer to this caramel sauce as a “healthier indulgent treat.” Sounds better than the overly-processed caramel-like sauces on the market, right? ;) Can’t wait for the recipes using this marvelous caramel sauce recipe!
So glad you like it! :) x