Dairy Free Caramel Sauce (Gluten Free, Paleo, Vegan)

October 27, 2019
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Dairy free caramel sauce is a cinch to make.  You’re going to love this easy dairy free caramel recipe!

In addition to being dairy free, this caramel sauce is also gluten free, paleo, refined sugar free, can be made vegan, and is a whole heck of a lot healthier than store bought caramel!  It’s just delicious!

dairy free caramel

What Is Caramel Made Of?

Traditional caramel is made from heavy cream or milk, and sugar. But this recipe uses coconut milk to keep it non dairy. And let me tell you, it can definitely compete with it’s dairy milk caramel opponent.

Along with using coconut milk, this dairy free caramel recipe uses honey as the sweetener, instead of refined table sugar. But you could use coconut sugar for a coconut sugar caramel, or maple syrup to keep this caramel vegan.

I like to sweeten my dairy free caramel sauce with honey.  However, like mentioned above, you can also sweeten it with maple syrup or coconut palm sugar for a vegan caramel sauce.

Coconut palm sugar will give this non dairy caramel a deep, rich caramel flavor, and a darker color.  I personally prefer a lighter flavor and that’s one of the reasons why I opted for honey.

dairy free caramel

What Makes This Caramel Dairy Free?

The answer is coconut milk!  It’s such an amazing and magical thing.  And of course – dairy free.

Coconut milk caramel sauce is a great alternative to traditional caramel that uses milk or cream.

And best of all, you only need a few ingredients, one pot, and a little bit of time.

dairy free caramel

Dairy Free Caramel Ingredients

The ingredients for this coconut caramel are affordable and easy to find.  If you don’t already have them on hand, you can easily find them at any major grocery store.  Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Full fat coconut milk (canned)
  • Honey (maple syrup and coconut palm sugar also work)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Sea salt

dairy free caramel

How Do You Make Dairy Free Caramel?

Step 1

First, open the canned coconut milk and pour it into a small sauce pan.  Depending on the brand, and how much coconut cream is on top, you may need to use a spoon to scoop out all the contents from the can. It can harden up like coconut oil and be difficult to get out without help from a utensil.

Step 2

Add the sweetener to the pan (I used honey) and warm it up over medium heat.  Whisk the coconut milk and honey mixture until it’s smooth and uniform, and the honey has dissolved.

Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 1 to 2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium low, or until the mixture is at a gentle simmer.  It will be simmering for 45-55 minutes, so it doesn’t need to be an aggressive simmer.

Step 3

Remove from the heat once the timer has gone off and the mixture has reduced by half.  Stir in the vanilla extract and sea salt and let it cool.  The dairy free caramel will continue to set up as it cools.

Once it cools, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the fridge.  The coconut caramel will continue to thicken as it sits in the cold fridge, so I recommend refrigerating it overnight before using.

dairy free caramel

Tips For Making Dairy Free Caramel Sauce

Tip 1:  You’ll want the coconut/honey mixture to reduce by half.  That’s how you’ll know it’s done.

Tip 2:  There’s no need to stir it more than a few times while it’s simmering.  Just let it do it’s thing.

Tip 3:  You may need to adjust the heat up or down throughout the cooking time.  Keep an eye on it and make sure to always keep it at a gentle simmer.

Tip 4:  If you use coconut sugar as the sweetener for this dairy free caramel, you’ll want to watch it towards the end, because it can burn easy.  You will probably need to lower the temperature as it gets closer to being done.

dairy free caramel

How Do You Use Dairy Free Caramel?

Use it however you’d like!  Get creative!

You could:

Slice up some apples and use it as a dip for dairy free caramel apples

Drizzle it over ice cream

Add some extra salt for a dairy free salted caramel (make sure to use coconut sugar or maple syrup for a vegan salted caramel)

Slather it on your favorite cookie or cake recipes

Notes For Coconut Milk Caramel Recipe

While I haven’t made it myself, I would guess that this recipe would work with brown sugar or cane sugar as the sweetener – if you prefer to cook with those. I prefer healthier non refined sweeteners like honey and maple syrup, but to each his own!

Even if you chose to use refined processed sugar, I’d still venture to say this recipe is healthier than store bought.  There’d be no preservatives or junky ingredients.  So it’s still a win in my book!

I hope you love this non dairy caramel sauce as much as we do!

Follow me on Instagram and use the tag #simplyjillicious if you make this dairy free caramel sauce!  I’d love to see it!

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dairy free caramel

If you enjoy this dairy free caramel, or any of my other recipes, please leave a review and star rating – thank you!

dairy free caramel

Dairy Free Caramel Sauce (Gluten Free, Paleo, Vegan)

Dairy free caramel sauce is a super simple treat to make at home. Use it for a dipping sauce, or drizzle over your favorite desserts!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes



  • Combine the canned coconut milk and honey (or whatever sweetener you're using) into a small sauce pan.
  • Whisk the milk and honey mixture over medium heat until the honey has dissolved.
  • Bring to a boil and boil for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium low, or until the mixture is at a gentle simmer. Simmer for 45-55 minutes until the dairy free caramel has reduced by half, and darkened in color.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and sea salt.
  • The caramel will continue to set up and thicken as it cools. So I highly recommend storing it in an airtight container in the fridge overnight before using.
Author: Jill from Simply Jillicious
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: caramel, dairy free, paleo
Diet: dairy free, gluten free, paleo, refined sugar free, vegan

Hungry for more?  Try some of my favorite recipes!

Sautéed Asparagus with Ghee and Garlic
Paleo Spice Cake with Cinnamon Maple Glaze
Gluten Free Pancakes
Crunchy Almond Butter Cups
Coconut Lime Date Balls
Pineapple Chicken Fajitas
Paleo Whoopie Pies

Join the Conversation

  1. Looks delicious. Thank you for sharing! Would this work for making caramel apples?? Would I make the caramel sauce, cool over night and then reheat the next day to make the caramel apples? Also, which sugar alternative that you suggested do you prefer the most?

    1. Great question, Damiel! I hesitate to answer this though, because I haven’t tried it. I have a feeling that this caramel recipe wouldn’t work for caramel apples. I don’t think it would harden up and stick to the apple. I think it’d slip off. But again I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for sure. My favorite sugar to use is honey! We use clover honey and it has a light mild taste. If you have a strong tasting honey I’d recommend you go with the coconut sugar or maple syrup.

  2. What size can of coconut milk? How many ml or oz?

    1. Hi Katie! Just a standard size 13.5 oz can. I’ll add that to the recipe – thanks!

  3. Would this work using canned coconut cream instead of coconut milk? If so, are there any alterations to make to the process? Thanks!

    1. Hi Elisa! I haven’t tried it with coconut cream but I do think it would work – just can’t guarantee it 🙂 I think it would need less cooking time, I’d keep an eye on it and check it around 15 minutes or so. Good luck!

  4. This looks great!! just wondering how much one recipe makes. I am thinking supercalifragilisticexpialidocious putting this into a vegan dessert lasagna.

    1. Hi Magy! This recipe yields about 1 cup to 1 1/4 cup of caramel sauce. Enjoy your vegan dessert lasagna!

  5. Hey Jill,
    I tried out this recipe but for some reason while it was setting in the refrigerator, the mix separated. Do you know what may have gone wrong?

    1. Hi Jennifer! I’ve honestly never had that happen before so I’m not 100% sure. My guess is the mixture didn’t quite get cooked long enough and so the fat separated from the rest of the milk. What sweetener did you use?

      1. I used maple syrup… should I make a new batch or just heat this one up on the stove again?

  6. Would this work for caramel apples?? If so how would you approach it?

    1. Hey Candice! I actually haven’t tried it on caramel apples. It may not stick. I’d have to experiment. Let me know if you try it!

      1. I’d like to pour this into a fondue pot for dipping fruit…will that work.

        1. Hi Komala, I don’t see why not! 🙂

  7. Do you know how long this would keep in the refrigerator?

    1. About a week!

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