Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (paleo, dairy-free)


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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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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

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!

Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (dairy-free, paleo)

4.90 from 46 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan


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. Watch the video above!




  • 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.

Lisa's Tips

  • 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.


Calories: 366.1kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 13.6g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 6.6mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 58.8g
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Paleo Frosting, Vegan Buttercream, Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, Vegan Chocolate Frosting, Vegan Frosting
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Something seemed off with this recipe: the frosting was VERY thick and sweet, even cutting the sugar back. I added the powdered sugar in increments to the rest of the ingredients, and I ended up leaving out 1.5 cups of sugar, and it was still too thick and sweet. I had to add much more vegan milk than was called for just to make it workable.

  2. I used half powered coconut sugar and half confectioners. For the shortening I used half palm and half butter. I also halved the recipe because it was too much frosting for my needs. My family loved the flavor!5 stars

  3. This frosting is sooooo easy and turns out great every time I make it!  I have added mint to it for a holiday brownie and that was superb. Thanks for providing such a great resource (Downshiftology) for those of us with dietary restrictions. Totally appreciate you!5 stars

  4. Hey! I just made your paleo gf/df cake with vegan buttercream. Tasty delicious. I started to notice a whitish film begin to show as I was spreading the frosting? Why would the coconut oil separate out like that? I was just about finished and stuck it in the fridge to set. Should I leave it out or keep it in fridge? 

  5. Hi,
    can I use cocoa butter instead of vegan butter / palm shortening? And if piped onto a cake, will it hold its shape and stay soft like whipped cream frosting?

    1. Hi Sarah – no, unfortunately you can’t swap cocoa butter for vegan butter or palm shortening. Cocoa butter solidifies hard, whereas the others stay soft.

  6. Hey! I am a pastry chef but I am not very skilled with vegan items yet but this frosting turned out great! I did tinker with it though- I used oat milk, and added a little more vegan butter, added more cocoa and added a shot of espresso to bring out the chocolate flavor. After tinkering the texture wasn’t as pretty as how your recipe is- but I used an immersion blender (food processor broke) and was able to make it shiny smooth like almost brownie batter and used that to top my vegan cupcakes! Thank you for your recipe!! 

  7. I am very hesitant to make this.  I have an older heavy duty workhorse Kitchenaid stand mixer that I think it is so obsolete that the flex beater blades are not compatible with.  Can I still make the frosting without the beater blades?  Thanks.

  8. I made this cake for my father-in-law’s birthday, and it was a hit! Thank you for the work you put in to make this easy for me! I did mess up the frosting by not pulverizing the sugar enough, but it still tasted amazing!5 stars

  9. I made this amazing cake for  my son. he is dairy free glten free and vegetarian, his partner is Vegan and occasionally will have cake with eggs… WOW what a HIT, the whole family loved it, I have never made a chocolate cake gluten free dairy Free before, only an orange and mandarine…and I have made cakes all my life, being from a German back ground. This cake and frosting was absolutley delicious,
    I used Nutalex Buttery and I used more Coconut powder sugar that I made as in your directions instead of powdered sugar but I still used some powdered sugar for fluffiness I guess but only 4 cups of sugar all up and there was plenty of frosting a little more nutalex…I am in Melbourne Australia and I don’t think we have the palm shortneing.
     My son said it was the most delicous cake I have ever made. and I used to sell years ago huge German Black forest cakes to large companies for special occasions.
    So that was a huge compliment for your yummy cake
    Thank you again for this Keeper recipe.     5 stars

    1. Thrilled to hear your first ever gluten free and dairy free cake turned out to be a success Dorine! Definitely keep this one on hand for any special events.

  10. Hi Lisa! How could I make a vanilla frosting like this? To make up for the cacao powder not being used? Want to make a colored frosting for my sons birthday🤗TIA!

  11. This was so bitter I couldn’t even eat it! How could you put out a recipe that tastes like this?!?

    1. Hi Corey – It sounds like you may have done something wrong, as this recipe (with 8 cups of powdered sugar), is definitely not bitter. I’d recommend re-reading the instructions.

  12. Thank you for the awesome chocolate cake recipe and a great frosting to go with it! Is the frosting recipe correct in calling for 8 cups of powdered coconut sugar? That’s a lot!

    1. Hi Melrose – I actually use 50/50 coconut sugar and organic powdered sugar. It gives the chocolate buttercream this richer, slightly caramel flavor without going over the top.

  13. Pretty good, basic buttercream frosting. Not much different than the normal dairy frostings I’ve made before which is nice to get the same result but with dairy free options. I’m not much of a frosting fan anyway but it did turn out great!5 stars

  14. This is a super tasty icing!!! I have made this cake and icing multiple times. Question? The last few times making the icing it has come out very thick and gummy. I have tried saving it by adding extra almond milk, this helped but made it heavier. Ive tried it using coconut sugar powdered sugar, i have changed to using half of the coconut p.s. with half  regular P.S. I’ve tried it with just powdered sugar… I have switched my cacao brands and powder sugar brands. I use the palm shortening as suggested above… I changed it this time to vegan butter and still the same issue. What am I doing wrong? This icing is soo yummy I would really like to use it. But icing cakes are no good with the way it’s been turning out, it just peels right off the cake when I am icing it. Any suggestions? Thanks soo much! 

    1. Hi Christa – that’s really strange. I’ve never heard of this recipe coming out gummy before. It should be really spreadable. The only thing I can think of it peeling off the cake is if the cake is still slightly warm and it’s melting the buttercream, even if barely noticeable.

    1. Hi Joe – oh no, sorry to hear that! That usually happens if your butter is too warm or too cold (or the bowl has become too warm or too cold). Ideally, all ingredients should be at a cool room temp. Buttercream is actually an emulsion, like hollandaise sauce or mayonnaise. But you can fix it! Next time feel the outside of the bowl. If it feels warm, place it over a bowl of ice and try adding a little more cold butter. If the bowl feels cold, wrap a warm towel around it to warm it up, and try blending again. :)

  15. Could I replace the vegan butter with peanut butter. I have made this several times and it’s always great. Just wanted to have a little different frosting.

    1. Hi Shelly – that’s an interesting question, and unfortunately I haven’t tried it so not sure how it would turn out. If you try it, let us know!

      1. I ended up using 1/3 cup Earth Balance stick butter and 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter. No shortening. It came out really good and everyone loved the peanut butter taste. Thanks for all your great recipes. Your website is always my first go to for recipes.5 stars

      2. Glad this frosting turned out perfectly Shelly! I’m glad I can be your go-to inspiration :)

  16. Wow! Perfection and so easy! GF cupcakes for football today, with vegan chocolate buttercream frosting, yum! I put it in a sandwich baggie, cut off a corner and piped it on in a spiral. Looks so professional, and I got to snack on all the goodness that leaked out–and the taste is indistinguishable from full dairy. Thank you, and GO SEAHAWKS!!!5 stars

  17. Oh my goodness I cannot wait to try this!! I have recently gotten dairy free for my son who is nursing, and now I feel incredible. I think I have lactose intolerance, I thought it was just IBS over all these years!! Your website is my new go-to for any substitutions and healthier treats! Thank you for working hard and creating all these wonderful recipes. I appreciate you so much! 

    1. Thanks so much Lindsey! I’m glad you discovered my site as well and can’t wait for you and your son to try this cake :)

  18. What is your source for Palm shortening? Brand? I tried to buy it through Amazon but there were really bad reviews for the two products I found there.

  19. Just made this frosting using coconut sugar and vegan bitter and its deliciousssss, thank you so much Lisa. Btw, I didn’t use all of it and i was wondering what is the best way to storage this frosting?

      1. Would love to have a vanilla version for my friends who don’t like chocolate!! Loving downshiftology!! <3

  20. Hello Lisa—I’ve started using applesauce for butter and it has worked wonders. I wonder if I can use it instead of shortening for the buttercream? Thank you. Your write up on this is so good I want to make it.😍😅

    1. Interesting! I haven’t tried this using applesauce, but if you do try it let me know how it goes!

  21. If I don’t have a kitchen aid, will a regular blender work just as well and get the same results? 

    1. Unfortunately, you no. You can’t make that substitution in this recipe as the coconut oil has a lower melting point.

    1. The whole family enjoyed this lovely gf/df cake for my husbands birthday 🎂.I used just under a cup of coconut sap sugar and 2/3 cup erythritol/monk fruit sweetener for the cake. It was plenty sweet with the icing of which I made a 1/2 recipe and still had some left over. Nice soft, moist texture to the cake. For the icing I ground the cane sugar in my Vitamix to make confectioners sugar. Super easy. Great chocolate cake. 5 stars

  22. HI Lisa, not understanding the 8 C powdered sugar. In your video it looks like you’re using 1 C reg powdered sugar and 1 C powdered coconut sugar for a total of 2 C.

    1. Hi Kim- You will need 8 cups total for this recipe of powdered sugar. In the video I just sped up the process a bit :)

  23. Hello! I’m making this for my birthday. Which milk do you most suggest? 
    Also, is the recipe saying 1/2 and 3/4 or 1/2 or 3/4 of the milk? Thanks! 

    1. Hi Dominique- For this recipe, you can use any milk! I used my almond milk as that was what I had – but anything works. And the measurement is 1/2-3/4, depending how creamy it gets.

  24. Hi There,

    We don’t have any powdered sugar on hand but do have corn syrup and regular cane sugar. Also we don’t have cacao powder but do have cocoa powder? Also, we have oat milk (should be fine) Any thoughts?



    1. Hi Chris – you do need powdered sugar for this recipe. If you’d like to powder your can sugar, you can do that. And I have a separate recipe on how to make your own powdered sugar. The other substitutions should be fine.

  25. Lisa, I am pretty good at math, so can you explain how 8 (EIGHT) cups of sugar, a cup of butter, and a cup of cocoa powder yield 3 (THREE) cups of frosting?
    I cut it in half for a two nine inch pan cake, and still had a LOT left over.
    Just wondering if I missed something?

    The cake and frosting were outstanding.

    Bill5 stars

    1. Hi Bill – you can’t simply add up the ingredients as the powdered sugar dissolves into the more liquid ingredients. Just google cotton candy in water to see what I mean. The large volume of cotton candy disappears. ;) But I’m happy you loved the cake and frosting recipes!

  26. Hi. I’m planning to make this tomorrow for my husband’s birthday. The coconut milk is canned coconut milk or the regular ( the one that comes in a box?)

  27. Lisa, this is truly amazing! You’ve brought this to perfection, and we watched you 😉Were trying to make healthier options for food and desserts. My 11 year old made this cake and tweeked the frosting. I wish I could post the photo. Your a blessing to us all. God bless you abundantly!5 stars

    1. Hi Nicky – I can’t believe you’re 11 year old made this! Next time, I would love for you to share a photo in the Facebook Group if you are a part of it :) But, I’m glad I can inspire your family with healthy recipes and choices. Can’t wait to see what you create next!

  28. I just wanted to say thank you so much, you saved my bacon. My son is dairy intolerant and we have no bakeries around us that make dairy-free cakes or frosting. I just made a test cake and your frosting recipe and it’s perfect. My mom is a professional cake decorator so I’m sure it will come out perfect on his birthday.5 stars

    1. Hi Shannon – I’m so glad you found a recipe that works with your son’s dairy intolerance! Can’t wait to see how the final cake turns out :)

  29. This cake looks like a DREAM!!!
    I know you’re so environmentally aware, can I ask a question?  I thought palm oil/organic palm shortening wasn’t good to use as it contributes to the rainforest destruction… is that not right? I just tried to research it just now and didn’t find anything conclusive.  
    Do you have an alternative to the organic palm shortening?  
    thanks so much!!!! 
    I made your roasted Cauliflower soup tonight, it was a hit! 

    1. Hi Cari – you can use regular butter or a vegan butter as an alternative to the palm shortening. Happy to hear you loved my roasted cauliflower soup as well!

  30. Did it chocolate and skipped the cacao and did it vanilla for the same cake. Worked really well, tasted great and piped and kept it shape well. Only issue I had was there was still a few lumps of shortening left even after mixing for much longer then it stated so made piping difficult at times as would clog up the tip. I just picked those bits out, maybe next time if just be more aware of that and mix for longer. Keeping this as my go to recipe. Thank you so much! 4 stars

    1. Hi Ginette – So glad you loved this buttercream! Yes, sometimes if it’s not mixed all the way through, it can clump up. But definitely keep this recipe on hand :) It’s a cake essential!

  31. Holy cow! This frosting is amazing! Lemme say this, I cup the powdered sugar in half (4 cups) and it came out awesome. This is a keeper5 stars

  32. I made this but with 3 cups of coconut sugar (palm). It was delicious, and it was sweet enough for us. 
    Will definitely make again. 5 stars

  33. This was a great vegan alternative to a traditional buttercream. It was very sweet and chocolatey, but delicious. It actually reminded me of Nutella in a way. yum!5 stars

    1. Hi! I just frosted some cupcakes with your frosting recipe. How should I store the frosted cupcakes? Is the fridge ok until I serve? I don’t want the shortening to harden. 


      1. It depends when you’re planning to serve them. If it’s within a few hours you can just leave them out. Anything past that, I would store them in the fridge!

  34. I used 5 cups of sugar with a little almond milk and a cup of vegan butter. So yummy! Definitely very sweet. However, I omitted the cocoa because I felt it was too much chocolate on a chocolate cake. Making it for my anniversary. Thank you for this recipe and the chocolate cake.

    1. Added some instant coffee (mixed with a teeny bit of hot water first) to cut the sugar and add some more flavour. I will for sure make this recipe as chocolate next time I make a vanilla cake

    2. Hi Chelsey – No problem! You can always change the recipe ingredients to your liking :) Glad it came out great and Happy Anniversary!

  35. Hello Lisa, thank you for interesting recipe. 04 august birthday of my sister and I will make this cake. Please tell me 8 cups of sugar is not too much? How this cream for you ? Not too sweet?

    1. Hi Julia – there is quite a bit of sugar in this recipe as it is a dessert, but you can always use less sugar and tailor it to your liking :)

  36. I’m looking forward to making this for my daughters first birthday! I don’t have a lot of time spare the day before – could I make this in advance and freeze it? Then would I just re-whip before icing?

  37. I used this for a sheet cake so I halved the recipe. I also used less powdered sugar than called for (3 cups for half the recipe, rather than 4). The taste was very chocolatey and not overly sweet, and it spread very easily. Perfect for my son’s birthday cake! 5 stars

    1. I made this today. a very good cream, but don’t understand the 8 cups of sugar, half is enough, I think. anyway, thank you.