This dairy-free caramel sauce is so easy to make and uses just four simple ingredients (not including the salt).
It's naturally sweetened and has only a handful of easy to pronounce ingredients, which already means it's much healthier than any store-bought caramel sauce you'd buy.
A Dairy-Free Caramel Sauce That Doesn't Disappoint
This caramel sauce is velvety, not overly sweet, slightly salty, and the kind of sauce that you'll want to pour on everything.
If you once thought that you’d never enjoy caramel sauce again because you’re dairy-free, well, I'm here to be the bearer of good news.
Caramel sauce is great any time of the year, but it's especially popular in the fall. And while it's great with just about anything, one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is drizzled on warm baked apples.
Salted Caramel Sauce Ingredients
Traditional caramel is made using heavy cream, butter, and sugar. Although it sounds like it would be hard to replicate a dairy-free version, it's actually quite easy.
- coconut milk - make sure it's the full-fat variety and from a can, the boxed coconut milk won't work here
- maple syrup - for its flavor notes of caramel and vanilla and to lend natural sweetness
- coconut oil - adds a buttery, neutral flavor (make sure to use refined to avoid it having a coconut flavor)
- vanilla extract - to add dimension and give it a sweeter, more rounded flavor
- sea salt - helps cut the sweetness and rounds out the flavor
How to Make Dairy-Free Caramel Sauce
- Add these ingredients to a saucepan: coconut milk (if it's hardened, the cream and water will separate, so make sure to scrape it all out), maple syrup, and coconut oil.
- Bring to a boil. As the pot heats up, the coconut cream and oil will start to melt (if they aren't liquid already). Whisk everything together until combined.
- Simmer to thicken. Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer (stirring occasionally) until your sauce has reduced.
- Add flavor. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and sea salt.
Make It Your Way: Ingredient Substitutions
Please remember that recipes are meant to be used as guides.
How can you make this dairy-free caramel sauce using what you already have? Here are some ideas…
- No canned coconut milk? ➝ Try using oat milk. Oatly has full-fat oat milk available in some stores, so you could give that a try if you don't want to do coconut milk. I haven't personally tried making this sauce, but it may work. Avoid almond milk since it has a watery consistency, and therefore isn't a good fit for dairy-free caramel sauce.
- No maple syrup? ➝ Substitute coconut sugar (which has a nice caramel flavor), brown sugar, raw honey, or a mix of raw honey and coconut sugar or brown sugar.
- No refined coconut oil? ➝ Substitute dairy-free butter (I love Miyoko's, but any brand will do).
Dairy-Free Caramel Sauce Tips
- To add depth of flavor, I highly recommend adding both the vanilla extract and sea salt. Otherwise, this dairy-free caramel sauce will taste very one-dimensional. You want layers of flavor to hit you in the face, er..tastebuds all at once.
- Don't over stir the caramel sauce. Let it work its magic.
- Depending on the type of sweetener you use, keep a close eye on it near the end of the cooking time so it doesn't burn.
- You'll know it's done when the sauce has coated the back of a spoon.
- Even if it doesn't look super thick once you remove it from the stove, know that the caramel sauce will slightly thicken in the fridge.
- Because this recipe doesn't have much sugar and the coconut oil is light in color, the caramel sauce is also much lighter in color than traditional caramel.
What Can You Use This Dairy-free Caramel Sauce With?
- Simple Baked Apples
- 3 Ingredient Snickers Candy Bites
- Oat Flour Dairy-Free Crepes
- Use as a dip for raw apples
Dairy-Free Salted Caramel Sauce (Vegan)
- Add the coconut milk, maple syrup, and coconut oil to a saucepan and bring to a boil. As the pot heats up, the coconut milk and oil will start to melt (if they were solid). Whisk everything together until combined.
- Once boiling, quickly turn down the heat to a gentle simmer (medium-low), stirring occasionally until your sauce has reduced by about half.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and sea salt.
- Serve warm or store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- After removing the caramel sauce from the heat, it's okay if it doesn't look super thick, it'll slightly thicken as it cools.
- If not using the sauce right away, let cool for about 10-15 minutes before putting in the refrigerator.
- This recipe makes about 1 cup of dairy-free salted caramel sauce and lasts for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.