This dairy-free caramel recipe is one you’ll come back to again and again! It’s rich, smooth and creamy!

Plus, you only need 5 ingredients and 5 minutes to make it!

A spoonful of caramel drizzling in a jar


Caramel sauce is a treat I love to make during the holidays. Or anytime, really. When put into small jars with cute labels, it makes for a great food gift.

I love it folded into banana cream pie, baked into carmelitas, poured over fresh apple pie, or just for dipping caramel apples! 

Caramel sauce is also another thing I wanted to recreate to be dairy-free and refined-sugar-free. People with food allergies should be able to enjoy the good stuff, too!

Fortunately, this dairy-free caramel sauce is as delicious as any traditional caramel sauce I’ve ever had. Trust me — you would never guess it’s dairy-free. It is smooth, rich, and creamy liquid gold! Not to mention, it is a cinch to make.

I love the taste of salted caramel, so I always put a good pinch of salt in it.

Caramel and apple just go together! This sauce was so delicious over a flat apple pie I made this weekend.

Since it is a necessary ingredient for so many of my favorite things, I’m happy to the best caramel sauce in my life! Your taste buds will be happy once you try this caramel syrup!

Table of Contents

For more dairy-free treats, try this dairy-free coconut cream pie, dairy-free banana cream pie, dairy-free eggnog, dairy-free rice pudding and dairy-free fudge.

You also might like this dairy-free crème brûlée, dairy-free potato soup, dairy-free lasagna and dairy-free mashed potatoes.

Dairy-free caramel in a jar with a spoon in it

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • Smooth, creamy, and rich
  • Easy to make with simple ingredients
  • Tons of uses
  • Vegan caramel sauce recipe

You also might like this family-favorite caramel recipe.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to make this dairy-free homemade caramel sauce:

Caramel ingredients on a counter top
  • Coconut milk: It’s best to use the solid, thick coconut cream that separates in the can of coconut milk. This creates a creamier, thicker consistency that is similar to the results you get with heavy cream! Use canned full-fat coconut milk, not boxed refrigerated coconut milk.
  • Vegan butter: Any vegan butter will work for this recipe. I like to use Kite Hill brand and set it out at room temperature before using.
  • Brown sugar: Regular brown sugar adds the deep, natural caramel flavor you know and love! Use dark brown sugar for an even deeper molasses flavor. Do not use white sugar for this recipe.
  • Vanilla: Use real vanilla extract for best results in this dairy-free caramel sauce.
  • Salt: Kosher sea salt takes this sauce to the next level! Salted caramel sauce has a more complex flavor and balances the sweetness perfectly.

How to Make Dairy-Free Caramel Sauce

Caramel ingredients combined in a sauce pan
  • In a medium heavy bottomed pan, combine the brown sugar, dairy free butter, salt and coconut milk.
Simmering caramel in a sauce pan
  • Bring to a simmer over low heat, whisking constantly.
A whisk in a sauce pan of caramel sauce
  • Once the dairy-free caramel is simmering, cook until slightly thickened, about 8-10 minutes. (Caramel should coat the back of a spoon when stirred, and have a light caramel color.)
Vanilla added to the sauce pan of caramel ingredients
  • Remove the hot caramel from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • The non-dairy caramel will continue to thicken as it cools. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

Storage Instructions

Refrigerate this vegan caramel recipe in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. You can re-warm it slightly if you want to drizzle it.


Is there dairy in caramel?

Yes, traditional caramel sauce is made using butter and heavy cream.

What is dairy free caramel made of?

My dairy-free caramel is made using vegan butter instead of regular butter, and full-fat coconut milk instead of heavy cream.

What can I use instead of cream in caramel?

Full-fat coconut milk is the perfect substitute for cream in dairy-free caramel sauce. It’s rich, thick, and creamy, without the need for dairy.

Expert Tips & Tricks

  • Don’t shake your coconut milk. If you’re used to shaking up a can of coconut milk before using, refrain from doing so with this dairy-free caramel recipe! You want the coconut milk to stay separated so you can use the thick cream.
  • Use a candy thermometer. A candy thermometer really isn’t necessary for this recipe, but if you’re doubting yourself, feel free to use it! Caramel should reach about 230 degrees to reach a syrup consistency. Higher temperatures will make a thicker, more firm caramel.
Caramel in a jar with a spoon in it

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you try this dairy-free caramel recipe, be sure to leave me a comment/rating below. I’d love to hear from you!

A spoonful of caramel touching a jar
4.94 from 16 votes

Easy, Dairy-Free Caramel

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 8 servings (2 cups)
This dairy-free caramel recipe is one you'll come back to again and again! It's rich, smooth and creamy!
Plus, you only need 5 ingredients and 5 minutes to make it!


  • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 4 tablespoons vegan butter I recommend Earth Balance or Kite Hill
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup full-fat coconut milk the thick solid part
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


  • In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, vegan butter, salt and coconut milk.
  • Bring to a simmer over low heat, whisking constantly.
  • Once the caramel is simmering, cook until slightly thickened, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • The caramel will continue to thicken as it cools. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
  • Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. You can re-warm it slightly if you want to drizzle it.


Coconut milk: Use canned, full-fat coconut milk. NOT boxed coconut milk. Try to use the solid part of the coconut milk.
STORAGE: Refrigerate this caramel in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Re-warm it slightly in the microwave if you want to drizzle it.


Calories: 137kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.03g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 155mg | Potassium: 70mg | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 1mg

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Hi, I’m Erin!

BS Food Science,

MS Nutrition

I believe you can make amazing, gluten-free food with everyday ingredients that everyone will enjoy. I’m here to share my tried-and-true recipes with you!

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  1. I made this recipe and it was super easy. It tasted phenomenal while it was cooking but now it’s suuuper gritty. What did I do wrong?

    1. Sorry the caramel is giving you trouble! Graininess can occur when the sugar in caramel sauce hasn’t completely dissolved or there are sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Luckily, you can bring grainy caramel sauce back to a smooth consistency by reheating it. You can add a little more coconut milk once it’s reheated if needed.

  2. 5 stars
    It tasted so good but I couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t stay on apples? I was trying to dip them in caramel but wasn’t successful. I know I did not miss anything. So we are going to use it as dip. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Unfortunately this caramel can’t be used to coat apples! It doesn’t come up to a high enough temperature to do so. We usually enjoy it as dip like you said! I’m glad you thought it tasted good!

    1. Unfortunately this caramel won’t work for coating apples! The temperature doesn’t come up to the soft ball stage. It does make a delicious dip for apples though! 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    I am so happy to find this recipe. My son is dairy free and loves caramel and he went crazy for this! Easy to make too!

    1. Hi Erin thank you for the recipe. I was curious about using it in other recipes that call for caramel like oatmeal caramelitas or turtle cake. You say to only heat it a little these two you have to bake it into the rest like a cake. Any thoughts?

  4. 5 stars
    Love this caramel!! I know so many that need dairy-free options & caramel is one of those toppings that so many love!! Now, we can all enjoy it!!

  5. 5 stars
    I had no idea you could make dairy-free caramel sauce! And it’s so delicious…what a treat for my DF little guy. I’m going to make some for my neighbor who is dairy-free as well!

  6. 4 stars
    I tried this using maple syrup instead of honey. After 24 hours of chilling the coconut milk, only half of the 3/4 cup coconut milk solidified. The flavor is nice, but didn’t thicken up. Will try again with coconut cream & honey.
    Thanks for the great recipes!

  7. 5 stars
    Thought I’d let you know I’ve been using this recipe for years. I’ve tried many different paleo caramel sauces and yours is my favorite. I love the buttery flavor the ghee adds. Every other recipe just isn’t quiet there.

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