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Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (paleo, dairy-free)

This vegan chocolate buttercream frosting is dairy-free and can be modified into a paleo buttercream frosting as well. It’s luxuriously rich, creamy and decadent. The perfect frosting for a chocolate cake or cupcakes.

This vegan chocolate buttercream frosting is dairy-free and can be modified into a paleo buttercream frosting as well. It's rich, decadent and delicious!

Sometimes I have the hardest time figuring out what to title my recipes. For instance, take this chocolate buttercream frosting. Which, by the way, is ridiculously amazing. It can be either vegan, paleo or dairy-free depending on how you make it. And it’s a buttercream frosting without any butter (again, depending on which version you go with). Confusing, eh? Do you see my dilemma?

Well, I’ve decided to call it a vegan chocolate buttercream frosting. And you’ve likely seen it piled on top of my Amazing Paleo Chocolate Cake recipe. For a decadent, triple layer cake of rich, chocolatey goodness.

Watch this quick video of my Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting recipe:

And subscribe to my YouTube Channel to never miss a video!

Most traditional buttercream frostings consist of powdered sugar, butter (or butter and shortening), milk and vanilla extract. Chocolate versions of course have cocoa powder.

But today, we’re gonna switch things up – with several different variations that you can make depending on your dietary preferences. Yep, it’s a chocolate buttercream frosting for everyone.

I’ve included the basic recipe below, but let’s walk through the changes for each option:

Dairy-Free or Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: Use organic palm shortening or vegan butter (or 50/50 palm shortening and vegan butter), plus any non-dairy milk.

Paleo Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: Use powdered coconut sugar (or powdered succanat). You can also use regular butter or 50/50 palm shortening and butter if you do dairy.

This vegan chocolate buttercream frosting is dairy-free and can be modified into a paleo buttercream frosting as well. It's rich, decadent and delicious!

I’ve talked in detail about palm shortening before on my molten chocolate cake recipe. So if you’d like to understand how it’s not like Crisco, make sure to read that. But let’s talk about why I love organic palm shortening for frosting, especially over other alternatives like coconut oil.

First, organic palm shortening is highly shelf stable. Coconut oil becomes liquid at 76 degrees fahrenheit. That means that if you use it for a frosting and it’s warmer than 76 degrees, your frosting will soon turn into a liquidy mess and your cake or cupcakes will be ruined.

Second, organic palm shortening is flavorless. Again, unlike coconut oil which has a distinct flavor, palm shortening is neutral in flavor which creates the perfect base for any flavorings you’d like to add. That includes vanilla extract or raw cacao.

But what about the powdered sugar? Okay, I know this is going to be a big question, especially for my paleo readers. As most of you know, I’m label-free (except for gluten-free, as a celiac). I do my darnedest to eat from whole food sources and limit refined sugars as much as possible. But I also believe that a splurge every once in a while is 100% okay.

This vegan chocolate buttercream frosting is dairy-free and can be modified into a paleo buttercream frosting as well. It's rich, decadent and delicious!

If you’ve watched my How to Make Powdered Sugar video than you know that you can make homemade powdered sugar from virtually any granulated sugar – including coconut sugar. Awesome, right? I know my paleo peeps are rejoicing. And the darker color of coconut sugar doesn’t matter when you’re adding cacao powder to make a chocolate buttercream.

Now, I will say that coconut sugar has a very caramel flavor. So that is one consideration. But if you’re okay with that, then fab. Coconut sugar is less refined and has a lower glycemic index, but in my humble opinion, sugar is sugar and the effects on your body are the same. As always, moderation is key.

This vegan chocolate buttercream frosting is dairy-free and can be modified into a paleo buttercream frosting as well. It's rich, decadent and delicious!

Want to know what I do when I make this recipe? I use 50/50 coconut sugar and organic powdered sugar. It gives the chocolate buttercream this richer, slightly caramel flavor without going over the top. I also use 100% organic palm shortening (as pictured). But if you’d like to sub 50% butter (for a true buttercream) or 50% vegan butter, have at it.

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s highly adaptable to your dietary preferences. The only thing it isn’t is sugar-free (obviously). But sometimes you’ve just gotta have cake, right?

For other desserts that are both vegan and paleo-friendly, check out The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Avocado Pudding, Pear Pomegranate and Maple Crumble, Affogato with Cacao Nib Ice Cream, Salted Caramel Apple Pie Ice CreamRaw Mixed Berry and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake and Raw Coconut Macadamia Mango Cheesecake.

And for a chocolate ganache, check out my Chocolate Truffle Tart.

Enjoy! 

This vegan chocolate buttercream frosting is dairy-free and can be modified into a paleo buttercream frosting as well. It's rich, decadent and delicious!

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Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (dairy-free, paleo)

This vegan chocolate buttercream frosting is dairy-free and can be modified into a paleo buttercream frosting as well. Feel free to tweak the recipe to your specific dietary needs.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups organic powdered sugar (or powdered coconut sugar, powdered succanat, etc)
  • 1 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 cup organic palm shortening (or vegan butter or a combination of both)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup almond milk, cashew milk or coconut milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a stand mixer and blend on low for 30 seconds. Once the ingredients have started to combine, slowly increase the speed to high and blend for one minute.
  2. To thin the consistency (if needed) add more milk, or to thicken add more powdered sugar.

Lisa's Tips

I highly recommend the beater blade if you have a KitchenAid stand mixer. It scrapes the sides and beats at the same time, which is awesome.

It’s really easy to make cashew milk, for use in this recipe and others. Make sure to check out my recipe and video on homemade cashew milk.

Nutrition Information

Yield: Approx 3 cups frosting, Serving Size: 1/16 of recipe (approx 3 tbsp)

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 366.1
  • Total Fat: 13.6g
  • Saturated Fat: 6g
  • Sodium: 6.6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 63g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugar: 58.8g
  • Protein: 1g
All images and text ©Lisa Bryan for Downshiftology

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54 comments on “Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (paleo, dairy-free)”

  1. Hi! I cannot find palm shortening nor vegan butter where I live. What do you recommend to use instead? Coconut oil or ghee? 

    Thank you :) 

  2. Would this frosting be best same day it’s made, or would making it the day before be ok? 

  3. Does this really make 3 cups? 8 cups sugar, 1 cup cacao powder, 1 cup vegan butter … that’s 10 cups. Or am I missing something?

  4. I am so excited to make this and the chocolate cake for my husband!! Instead of vegan butter or palm shortening, could I replace it with ghee instead?

    Rating: 5
  5. Hi! So I just finished making this recipe, but made cupcakes instead of a layered cake. I followed the recipe exactly (with the exception of making my own espresso powder) and portioned the batter out with a 1/4c measuring cup. It yielded exactly 32 gorgeous cupcakes!I also iced them using the vegan chocolate buttercream recipe and filled them with raspberry filling. I used Emeril’s raspberry filling recipe but substituted the cornstarch with organic tapioca flour. They are beautiful. I’m so excited to serve these at my baby shower tomorrow and am sure they will be a huge hit! Thank you so much for this amazing recipe :-D

    Rating: 5
  6. I just made this and it is beautiful and delicious! Enough to generously frost a 9″ two layered cake with left-overs for licking! I will be making this again. I used organic palm shortening, cacao powder, powdered sugar, vanilla and almond milk and beat it all with an electric hand mixer. I just have one question: how should I store this cake now that it’s frosted?

    Rating: 5
    • If you’re just storing it for a day, you could store it in the fridge frosted. If you want to store it longer (like, for weeks) you could place it in the freezer, wait until the frosting is frozen, then wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Hi Lisa, I’m all out of coconut sugar and only have rapadura sugar, do you think that would be okay?

    Rating: 5
  8. This frosting whips up easily. I would say that a 3/4 recipe (6 cups sugar, 3/4 c shortening – 1 cup cocoa still works OK) makes plenty of frosting – 8 cups of sugar is overkill. Both times I have made it, there was frosting to spare… Also – to cut the sweetness a bit, I used a packet of Starbucks decaf Italian roast instant coffee (same as I used in the cake). Wonderful, idiot-proof recipe. Thanks!

    Rating: 5
  9. In the video you use what looks like 2 cups cacao powder.. but then in ingredients say 1 .. am I super analytical or do you use 2 cups?

  10. This looks decadent and delicious. I’ve been wanting to learn how to make a vegan frosting and this looks like the perfect recipe to try! I think the coconut milk would be a great compliment to the chocolate

  11. This looks amazing! How could i tweak it to make it peanut butter flavored?

  12. I really love the consistency of this frosting.  However, OMG….sugar rush!  ;).  I would really like to use this receipe for my daughters 4th birthday next month.   Has anyone tried to tweek the receipe with less sugar, maple sugar or another sugar sub and still had the same consistency this one gives.  It didn’t melt off the cake and I found that a great plus!  THanks for your help.  

    Rating: 4
    • Oh!  And to make it a white frosting we would eliminate the cocoa powder, right? 

    • Yes, this is a traditional buttercream recipe which means it’s quite sweet. But I find that when I use powdered coconut sugar for 50% of the sugar in this recipe that the frosting is not only richer, but tastes less sweet (in terms of that sugar rush). Sugar is still sugar of course, but I much prefer half powdered coconut sugar (and you can see how I make that in the link in the post). Hope that helps! :)

  13. Omg this Frosting is so sweet!!! I made it for my 1yo birthday (amazing chocolate) cake and we thought we’ll die from too much sugar! It’s crazy and certainly not a paleo cake. Please put a warning out there for your paleo readers to see! I read the comments afterwards and was like darn why didn’t I tweak the recipe :D 

    Rating: 4
    • Yes, it’s a traditional buttercream frosting made from lots of powdered sugar. :) As I mention on the paleo cake recipe, just because something has the “paleo” label (meaning, it’s free from gluten, dairy and grains)….that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. This recipe is still 100% a dessert and should be considered a splurge. But it’s a delicious one at that! ;)

  14. I’m just wondering if rice milk would work with this frosting ?

  15. Hi Lisa 8 cups seems like a lot of sugar, can this be reduced or replaced with something like xylitol or stevia ?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Brittany – yes, it’s a traditional buttercream which means it has quite a bit of sugar. You could probably reduce the powdered sugar by a cup or so, but as I haven’t yet tried it with xylitol or stevia, I’m not sure how that would turn out. If you try it, let me know! :)

  16. I have recently learned that cacao powders contain heavy metals. I would opt for bittersweet chocolate in the recipe instead.

  17. I am a paleo label:). Question… Which of the milk options do you prefer to use. All work fine with Paleo, but wondered which you use. THANK YOU!

  18. Oh boy, if I could lick that beater all the buttercream frosting would be gone! Thanks for sharing so many options. I’m always switching things up depending on the dietary needs of guests.

  19. Yes! This is what I need. It looks so light and fluffy. Pinning!

  20. Definitely saving this one for my vegan friends. YUM!

  21. This frosting looks amazing and I must try soon!

  22. Wow – I love this frosting! Must try this soon.

  23. So many awesome ways to make the frosting that works best for you. Fabulous frosting indeed!

  24. Can i use a blender to grind down the sucanat to make it ‘powdered’? Also, can I use a small blender to get the same consistency for the frosting?

  25. Frosting fabulousness. That should be the title ;)