Sweet, sticky, golden vegan caramel is simple treat with incredible complex flavors. Whether it’s a rich and gooey sauce used to drench an ice cream sundae, or a chewy confection wrapped up in shiny foil, the lure of that burnt sugar taste is irresistible.
With notes of buttered toast, hazelnuts, vanilla beans, molasses, bourbon, and so much more, caramel pairs beautifully with pretty much any ingredient you can imagine—even savory ones!
Not long ago, vegan caramel was very hard to find, and the most devout caramel lovers learned how to make their own at home. But times are changing. Now you can find vegan caramel candies, dairy-free caramel sauces, and beyond.
Popular chocolate candy company OCHO is just one brand bringing plant-based caramel options to life. They made a splash with their recent launch of four chocolate-covered caramels, which might just be the most ooey-gooey vegan caramel to date.
However, if you’re struggling to find options in stores or just love trying new recipes at home, we have a luscious vegan caramel sauce recipe from Zacchary Bird’s new cookbook The Vegan Baker to share with you! It only requires 3 ingredients and is mostly hands-off!
The only consistent, mandatory ingredient in caramel is sugar. That sugar is cooked over high heat until it dissolves and browns when it reaches 340 degrees Fahrenheit. Things start to get interesting when other components come into play.
Most caramel recipes also include a liquid sweetener to prevent crystallization while cooking, in addition to vanilla and salt to accentuate the natural flavors.
Caramel can be vegan, but it’s usually not. Beneath those amber brown waves, a lot goes into making this sweet treat. So, how can you tell if caramel is vegan?
Traditional caramel is not vegan, since it’s made with a ton of dairy; conventional butter and heavy cream, which are animal products.
However, more fine confectioners and candy companies are making conscious, compassionate choices to source plant-based alternatives instead. Full-fat coconut milk is a natural substitute for cream and there are numerous vegan butters now available too.
A good rule of thumb that unless it clearly says “vegan” on the label, it’s safe to assume that it isn’t. One notable exception is at Starbucks, where the caramel syrup is accidentally vegan, so you can still get your fix by swapping it for the non-vegan caramel sauce.
Read on to see a wide array of vegan caramel brands!
When sugar cravings hit, don’t worry, you have plenty of ways to satisfy your sweet tooth! A wide range of plant-based caramel treats can be found online, and increasingly at both natural and high-end grocery stores. These are the decadent vegan caramel candy brands you want to add to your cart ASAP!
One of the first mainstream vegan caramel candies, this humble coconut milk-based confection is now available in many flavors, such as espresso, pumpkin spice, and maple, plus chocolate-covered squares, bites, and even sugar-free options.
If you’re looking for a low-sugar caramel option, Smart Sweets makes one that’s fully plant-based! We’re talking just 1 gram of sugar for the entire bag. Instead of sugar, these golden nuggets are sweetened with allulose and stevia. They’re also gluten-free!
Though primarily a chocolate company, they offer a few classic candy bar look-alikes that include caramel fillings enrobed in a chocolate-y coating. The “No Tricks” bar is like a Twix, with a crisp cookie, while the “PeaNOT” includes nougat and velvety, vegan caramel.
The new line of vegan caramels from the Oakland-based company OCHO has generated lots of buzz—and for good reason. They are a must try for caramel lovers. The OCHO plant-based caramel line includes four flavors: Classic, Cinnamon, Chocolate, and Coffee, which all come wrapped in a chocolate shell.
Each caramel square is individually wrapped so they’re perfect for sharing, adding to Easter baskets, and giving away for Halloween. Just be sure to look for the plant-based label, as they do also carry dairy-based products!
Made the old-fashioned way in giant copper kettles, these caramels are the real deal. Their plant-based options are the best sellers by far, for good reason! There are 16 different flavors to choose from so you can always snack happy.
Good caramel sauce is like the little black dress of the dessert world; it works for every occasion and never goes out of style. Here are the best brands to stock your pantry with to be always party-ready.
Hey Boo – Billed as an artisan product, this is the good stuff you’ll want to hide from the kids. It fully embraces its coconut base with a fragrant tropical aroma.
Date Lady – Coconut Date Sauce may not sound like much, but it’s truly greater than the sum of its parts. Each thick, gooey spoonful will have you coming back for more.
Bloom Caramel – Made in Oregon but turning heads across the US, these golden elixirs are award winning for a reason. Take your pick from vanilla, cardamom, or salted coconut caramel sauce… Or don’! Try one of each for the full experience.
Walden Farms – Your milage may vary in terms of taste here, but if you’re trying to cut sugar, fat, or carbs, this might be the answer to your prayers. The Caramel Dessert dip is primarily made from corn fiber and erythritol.
Nature’s Charm – Whether you go with plain Coconut Caramel Sauce or Salted Coconut Caramel Sauce, your dessert will thank you. A touch of coconut sugar is added in at the end for an extra malty richness.
Vegan caramel sauce can be made exactly like the traditional version by simply swapping out the dairy with plant-based ingredients like coconut cream. It’s an easy process but may take some practice to perfect, with just four ingredients!
This easy vegan caramel is made with coconut cream, brown sugar, vegan butter, and vanilla extract. That’s it!
Here’s the quick and easy step-by-step process for making this vegan caramel sauce. In less than 15 minutes you can have a dreamy, creamy, and rich sauce to drizzle over your favorite vegan treats!
Step 1: In a saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, butter, and vanilla (if desired) over medium heat, whisking until well blended. Tilt the pan occasionally to help the ingredients dissolve, but refrain from stirring once the mixture starts boiling.
Step 2: Allow it to simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, ensuring it bubbles lightly. Watch closely as the caramel transforms from a pale blonde to a light brown color, being cautious not to let it darken too much. You’ll notice it beginning to thicken as it cooks.
Step 3: When it becomes a light brown color and has sufficiently thickened, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the vegan caramel sauce to a sealable container like a glass jar. Store it in the refrigerator for up to a month and enjoy!
This article was written with support from OCHO, a phenomenally vegan-friendly candy company that makes some of the best vegan caramel candies on the planet. We only feature brands we sincerely adore, and we very much hope you have a chance to try them.
Vegan Caramel Sauce recipe shared with permission from The Vegan Baker by Zacchary Bird, published by Smith Street Books, October 3 2023.