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.
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.
Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Recipe Video
Want to see how easy it is to make the best vegan chocolate buttercream recipe? Watch the video below!
The Best Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
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.
Using Palm Shortening Instead of Butter
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.
What Type of Powdered Sugar to Use?
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.
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.
How I Make This Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Recipe
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?
More Vegan and Paleo Desserts
- The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Chocolate Avocado Pudding
- Pear Pomegranate and Maple Crumble
- Affogato with Cacao Nib Ice Cream
- Salted Caramel Apple Pie Ice Cream
- Raw Mixed Berry and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
- Chocolate Covered Bananas
And for a chocolate ganache, check out my Chocolate Truffle Tart. Enjoy!
Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (dairy-free, paleo)
- 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
- 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.
- To thin the consistency (if needed) add more milk, or to thicken add more powdered sugar.
- This recipe makes approximately 3 cups of frosting.
- 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.
I made the frosting for my daughter and friends who have gluten and dairy intolerance. My blender couldn’t grind the coconut sugar fine enough so I used 1 cup of the powdered coconut sugar I made, and 7 cups of regular powdered sugar. To offset the sweetness, I added an extra 1/3 cup cacao and 1 teaspoon espresso powder. This required additional almond milk, added gradually, to get the right consistency. The kids still thought it was on the sweet side but the consistency was perfect. Definitely a keeper recipe.
I’m happy you loved the frosting Sarah! And that the girls loved it as well. Thanks for sharing your tweaks!
How does 8 cups of icing sugar end up making 3 cups of icing? Must be a typo?
Not a typo. The icing sugar dissolves into the liquid ingredients. :)
Made this tonight for cupcakes – excellent! It is creamy and rich!
Wonderful! I’m glad you loved the buttercream Janet. Enjoy your cupcakes!
Will this be enough to frost the whole cake & do some decorations with the frosting on top of the cake or do I have to double the frosting recipe?
Hi Cheryl – it should be plenty for some decorations on top. You could always thin out the layers a little to save more for the top as well.
hi, do you think cacao butter would work in place of the palm shortening? i’m in australia and we don’t have access to the same ingredients as in the us.
Unfortunately, no that won’t work because cacao butter hardens at cooler temperatures. You could use any vegetable shortening or butter in the recipe though.
I made this recipe making my own coconut icing sugar in the blender and I didn’t use any icing sugar but it came out quite grainy, it was delicious but the texture was not right… any idea how to adjust that next time? Thanks
I think that might be due to how well your blender grinded the coconut icing sugar. High-powered blenders can grind really fine, but standard blenders may not grind as fine. Otherwise, you probably did everything right. :)
Hey your cake looks amazing. I can’t wait to try it. I want to use this recipe for my sons 3rd bday but i would like to make the buttercream blue. How would you suggest i do that?
Thank you. :)
I know there are some makers of natural food dyes. And many times you can use certain foods to dye frosting, but you’d have to Google that. :)
I was wondering if you could substitute peanut butter in place of vegan butter? I had a peanut butter melt-a-way cake a very long time ago, (before I stopped eating wheat) and I always remember that cake fondly. I will be making your amazing chocolate cake (which a friend made me for my birthday) and it was fabulous!
Hi Shelly – Unfortunately, I have no idea how substituting the palm shortening for peanut butter would turn out. But you can definitely try it and let me know how it will go!
3 and a half stars tasted good but was watery and lumpy also it slid right of the cupcakes
It definitely shouldn’t be water or lumpy. Did you watch the video? And if it slid right off the cupcakes that means you frosted them while they were still warm. They may have been cool to the touch, but if there’s any heat at all inside the cupcake that happens. They need to be 100% cooled.
Has anyone tried using any of these Erythritol, Monk Fruit Sweetener, Xylitol? If so, what ratio? My mom is a diabetic and my FIL. Would like to make a cake that would be delicious for them. Any suggestions are appreciated!
Allulose is probably your best choice of non glycemic load naturally occurring sugars. Doesnt casue gastric upset as much as many of the alcohol sugars do and doesnt impart negative baking qualities such as mintiness or a tongue cooling effect that can come with erythritol and yields a more tender crumb.
Its much more expensive than
Cane sugar as are all alternatives but at least you get a product that you can share with anyone without warnings of possible gastric distress or strange unpleasant qualities.
The cake itself was wonderful. Moist and delicious! But for me, the frosting was so sweet. I couldn’t make it through a full piece- and I had run out of sugar for the frosting. I only added 7 cups. I also had a hard time frosting the cake as the frosting was soupy, but wouldn’t have wanted to keep adding more powdered sugar even if I had had it. Nonetheless, I was thrilled to have a paleo alternative for the whole family to enjoy.
Hi Caitlin – glad you loved the cake recipe! That’s strange the frosting was soupy though. Did you watch the video above to see where things might have gone wrong? But yes, it is a traditional buttercream frosting and quite sweet. :)
Is it possible to use cocoa powder instead of cacao powder and if so how much less of the cocoa powder should i put in?
Yes, no problem! You can easily swap it 1:1.
Has anybody made this then piped it for decorating (e.g. using piping tips)? I’m wondering if the consistency will hold up for this kind of decorating.
Yes, this is a traditional buttercream recipe. It will definitely hold up piped. :)
Can you use swerve powdered sugar?
Yes, no problem. :)
I just made this and it was delicious!!!! Loved the consistency! Instead of using powdered sugar, I added a little bit of honey and maple syrup. Not a lot as I didn’t want it very sweet. It was perfect and didn’t need to change anything.
Wonderful! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe Lauren and were able to tweak it to your liking. :)
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the buttercream frosting. :)
THE FROSTING LOOKED EXACTLY AS ON PICTURE. FURTHERMORE, IT WAS REALLY DELICIOUS.
Wonderful! I’m happy you loved the recipe Daria!
This recipe was my first exposure to palm shortening. I was a little hesitant to try it but so glad I did. It is rich, creamy and intensely chocolate-y! I know it’s a splurge but man is it worth it! I couldn’t tell the difference between regular buttercream. Thanks for another great recipe!!
It’s rich and splurge-worthy for sure! Happy you enjoyed the recipe Sarah! :) x
this is great
Glad you love it!
For the purposes of decorating, I’m hoping to do a vanilla frosting. Is this possible to do without adding the cocoa powder?
Oops! I used regular sugar and the frosting came out closer to dough than actual frosting! What should I do??
Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much you can do. Sorry!
I’ve read your responses and just want to make sure I got this right, in order to cut down on the sweetness I need to use 4 cups of powdered coconut sugar and 4 cups organic icing sugar?
How far in advance can I make the buttercream? I’m intending on using dairy butter.
The powdered coconut sugar just has a richer flavor, so for some it doesn’t taste quite as sweet. This is a true buttercream recipe (which always has a lot of sugar), but at the end of the day it’s all personal preference. I’d recommend making the buttercream the same day as it’s much easier to spread freshly whipped. But you could make it ahead of time and store it in an air-tight container in the fridge for a day or two.
My nephew said ‘delicious!’ five times while eating this. Thanks so much for the recipe! Made for my Mum’s 68th birthday cake & it was an absolute winner with all the family. Didn’t mention it was gf, df, pales! Ha!
Yay – so happy that your nephew and entire family loved it! :) x
oh gosh, this is what i need to hear, haha!! thanks!
Hi Lisa, I really want to make this but would like to know if powdered white sugar is it the same as icing sugar? As I have icing sugar already. Also, if I were to leave the Copha (as replacement to the organic palm shortening because I can only order OPS online) out in room temperature assuming it isn’t soft would you think it’ll be a similar outcome?
Yes, powdered white sugar is the same as icing sugar. And I think that will work. :)
Hi Lisa can l use copha instead of the palm shortening? If l can would l have to melt it before mixing it.
Hi – I’ve actually never heard of copha (I just Googled it). But it sounds similar to the palm shortening. I’d keep it solid (assuming it’s soft) as I show in the video. :)
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 :)
Hi Patricia – between the two, I’d probably opt for ghee. :)
Would this frosting be best same day it’s made, or would making it the day before be ok?
Either would be fine. :)
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?
Yes, 3 cups. The powdered sugar dissolves into the liquids, so you can’t simply add the cups together. :)
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?
Yes, that will work fine. :)
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
Just realized I posted this to the wrong recipe..haha
Haha. No worries! ;)
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?
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!
Hi Lisa, I’m all out of coconut sugar and only have rapadura sugar, do you think that would be okay?
Yes, I think a powdered rapadura sugar would work just fine. :)
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!
You’re welcome – glad you enjoyed it! And love that you added coffee into the frosting as well. Yum!
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?
Hi Nina – in the video that’s a 1/2 cup scoop, so one cup total. :)
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
It’s sweet and decadent for sure! And surprisingly, you actually don’t taste the coconut, so you could use any non-dairy (or dairy) milk. It’s up to you! :) x
This looks amazing! How could i tweak it to make it peanut butter flavored?
I’d just add peanut butter in small amounts until you get the flavor you desire.
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.
Oh! And to make it a white frosting we would eliminate the cocoa powder, right?
Yes, and reduce a bit of the liquid as you’re removing some dry ingredients. :)
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! :)
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
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! ;)
I’m just wondering if rice milk would work with this frosting ?
Yes, that should work perfectly!
Hi Lisa 8 cups seems like a lot of sugar, can this be reduced or replaced with something like xylitol or stevia ?
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! :)
I have recently learned that cacao powders contain heavy metals. I would opt for bittersweet chocolate in the recipe instead.
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!
I use my homemade cashew milk most of the time. :) https://downshiftology.com/how-to-make-cashew-milk/
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.
Yes – it’s always nice to have options! I can also confirm that licking the bowl is the right thing to do. ;) x
Yes! This is what I need. It looks so light and fluffy. Pinning!
It is – and it tastes amazing! Thanks! :) x
Definitely saving this one for my vegan friends. YUM!
It’ll be a hit for sure! :)
This frosting looks amazing and I must try soon!
Hope you enjoy it Christine!
Wow – I love this frosting! Must try this soon.
It’s delish, hope you do!
So many awesome ways to make the frosting that works best for you. Fabulous frosting indeed!
Yes, so many options for deliciousness! :)
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?
Yes, absolutely! I have a video to show you how to do that here: https://downshiftology.com/how-to-make-powdered-sugar/ And by small blender do you mean a hand blender? Yes, that should work as well. :)
Thanks for the video and response. I’ll be making this for my bday this coming week. I’m so excited!!!
Enjoy! And happy early birthday! :) x
Frosting fabulousness. That should be the title ;)
That’s for sure. ;) x