vegan caramel sauce

Vegan Caramel Sauce

This Vegan Caramel Sauce recipe is incredibly decadent and also easy to make. All it requires is 4 ingredients and 15 minutes of your time. Made with coconut milk, coconut sugar, coconut nectar, and vegan shortening, your friends will be so busy gobbling it up that they won’t ever guess it’s made with healthy ingredients.

My Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream is incredible smothered in this Vegan Caramel Sauce. This pairing is the perfect dairy-free dessert. I developed this rich caramel sauce recipe, as well as my vegan Chocolate Ganache for my world famous Paleo Caramel Brownies recipe.

Both of these toppings are also delicious when drizzled on the dairy-free ice cream recipes in my third book, Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry. Those ice cream recipes include Coffee, “Peanut” Butter, Cookie Dough, and more, and are amazing topped with dairy-free Caramel Sauce.

Print Recipe
Vegan Caramel Sauce
  1. Place coconut milk fat, coconut sugar, and honey in a saucepan
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer
  3. Continue simmering for 10 minutes
  4. Allow caramel sauce to cool for 5 minutes
  5. Stir in shortening until completely dissolved
  6. Serve

In order to obtain coconut milk fat for this recipe, refrigerate two cans of coconut milk for 24 hours, then open the cans and scoop the rich creamy fat off of the top, measuring out 3/4 cup for this recipe. You can use the water that has separated for smoothies or discard it.

If you would like to substitute various ingredients in this Vegan Caramel Sauce recipe, feel free. Please note that unless I test a substitution I have no way of knowing how or if it will work –that’s why I tested this recipe more than 15 times. I wish I had a crystal ball that would write recipes and test substitutions for me, however, I do everything the old fashioned way by working hard and using loads of ingredients to perfect each and every recipe for you until I get it just right!

Drizzle Vegan Caramel Sauce over these dairy-free ice cream recipes:


  1. Annika says

    I am having a difficult time finding canned coconut milk. I found condensed coconut milk, can I use that in replacement of the coconut milk fat? Or is there another alternative to use instead of the coconut milk fat? Thanks!

    • Elana says

      Hi Annika, canned coconut milk is available at health food stores, and you can also get it online by clicking the green text in the ingredients portion of this recipe. I haven’t tried making this recipe with a substitute for canned coconut milk so not sure if that would work. If you do experiment please let us know how it goes.

  2. Joni says

    Does anyone have a great recipe for caramel with out using any of those sugars. I can only have stevia or xylitol or I get very sick. I miss not having caramel.

  3. says

    Oh my goodness!! How DO you manage to stay so slim while making (and testing) recipes like this?!?! It’s crazy delicious and super easy! I may (or may not) have eaten a spoonful or two of this on top of homemade ice cream….

  4. Cathy Brak says

    I substituted butter for the vegan shortening, and it turned out well. I know it’s not vegan or dairy-free, but I find that I can use butter and full-fat non-homogenized cream. It’s the fine fat particles in homogenized milk that seem to permeate my leaky gut.

  5. shirley says

    this sounds amazing. Sometimes I have a craving for caramel and this sounds like it will fit the bill! One question, do you think I can use coconut oil instead of the shortening? Has anyone done that? I have never seen the shortening, will have to look for it. thanks!

    • Gaby says

      Scroll up through the comments and you’ll see someone used coconut oil instead of shortening and liked how it turned out. I just made it using coconut oil, but am waiting for it to thicken up. I added a little bit of arrowroot powder also hoping to give it a little of the texture that’s there when you use powdered sugar. Also, I substituted maple syrup, and while it turned out delicious I’ll probably go with the other commenter and skip it next time since I think the coconut sugar makes it sweet enough.

  6. Naomi Hatkin says

    Maybe I’m nitpicking but I want to be sure I make this right. The first ingredient is “coconut milk fat.” The link to this ingredient is for coconut milk. Are we to use full fat coconut milk or to somehow separate the fat out of the milk and just use that? I apologize if I’m being dim-witted about this. I’ve been thinking about how to make a sugar-free and paleo-friendly caramel sauce. My own experients have not been fully successful. Thank you so much for your hard work and your blog. I love it!

    • Patricia R. says

      As she states in her instructions, put the can of milk in the fridge at least overnight. I used a pointy can opener to poke holes in the bottom and drained off the liquid. I opened the top and scooped out the thick “cream”. That is what you measure. I only needed one can and had more than the 3/4 cup needed. I made this for a gathering for ice cream and everyone said they liked it. I know I did. I used honey and palm shortening. I am having some right now. Yum!

        • Patricia R. says

          Neither am I. She states very clearly in the recipe that you can use coconut nectar instead of honey. That makes it vegan. I don’t care so I used honey. Perhaps if people would actually read the recipe . . .

  7. Robin says

    Delicious caramel. Just a few issues: the oil never did stay mixed in (I used Earth Balance in place of the coconut cream). I poured off the oil. When refrigerated it turned hard as a rock, but was fine when warmed. It stuck in our teeth just like a caramel apple. Despite those warnings, everyone loved it! I used brown rice syrup, so it was lower glycemic.

  8. Grace says

    Hi guys, some of you were wondering about coconut oil, and I tried it since I love coconut oil and I didn’t want to go get shortening. Plus, it’s super healthy for you! :)

    It worked out really well actually. It thickened up nicely and made it more caramel-y (like in color and texture) after it was refrigerated overnight and stirred thoroughly. While it’s heated, it’ll look like a weird liquify maple syrup, but don’t worry. Just refrigerate and it’ll be thick!

    I used agave and I can honestly say that next time I make this, I’m just going to omit, since the coconut sugar is plenty sweet. I found enough coconut cream in 1 can, so that was nice. And it is sort of coconut-y, but I found that after a couple days of refrigeration, the coconut flavor kind of went away.

    I made the paleo caramel brownies with this and the chocolate ganache and it’s amazing. When you refrigerate it, its texture becomes sort of fudge like after a few days! Super yummy. I’d definitely recommend making that with this caramel. Anyways, hope that helps somewhat.

    Thanks for the awesome recipe Elana! I’m a caramel fanatic but I won’t eat it anymore since it’s so bad for you! Glad to have a healthy alternative!

    -Grace :)

    • Mary says

      Thank you so much Grace, I was wondering if I could use coconut oil to make this, and now I can. These looks so delicious, and I know my family will go crazy for them.

  9. Erika says

    For those who are not vegan, I made this with butter instead of shortening and it came out just lovely, though it took several hours in the fridge to cool and set up completely.

  10. Anna says

    Hello! I am going to the Fair pretty soon and I was looking for a “Healthy” Carmel Apple Recipe, Do you know if this would work for apples? Or does the sauce stay soft? :)

    Thank you!


  11. Brandon K says

    This looks awesome! Any tips on where to look for a vegan caramel recipe that would work in making home made baby ruth bars? Something thicker that will hold together with peanuts basically. I plan to dip in chocolate when done :-D

  12. melanie says

    Has anyone tried to use this for dipping apples? I have to find a dairy free caramel dip before 10/18 so my little girl can have a caramel apple at a party and am hoping this will be it. It looks soft but I wonder if I put it in the fridge if it will set. Any feedback anyone can give me is much appreciated!


  13. Michelle says

    WOW very good. I served the sauce with your cinnamon apple cake. I did not found coconut sugar i used brown instead. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Patricia says

    While this caramel sauce may be good it is not vegan – honey is an animal product and vegans do not eat it.

  15. Barb Patchin says

    Looks delicious! Can’t wait to make it. Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful creations! I will be using all of the original ingredients you’ve listed. I get disgruntled at everyone who always wants to change everything up after all your hard work.

  16. Deb M says

    I’d like to use coconut oil instead of the vegan shortening. If anyone tries this substitution, please post about your results and any modification on the amount.


    • Joelle says

      I’d like to know this too. I have palm shortening, but I would also like to be considerate of what Hollis was talking about in the future. THAT and I love knowing alternatives because I live in a rural area, and I do not always have the luxury of running out to get an ingredient. =)

  17. yvette jarvis says

    Love this!! Thanks so much for all the time and effort you put into these posts and wow…amazing food. I appreciate so much that you share them.
    You Rock !!

  18. Hollis Zelinsky says


    The sauce looks yummy, but I really wish that, just as you’ve managed quite successfully to move away from your regular use of agave syrup in your recipes (good move. . .), you’d similarly consider doing so with palm oil. The severe environmental devastation, including the absolutely appalling effects on the now-seriously endangered and increasingly abused oranatangs of Indonesia is so horrible, I don’t see how anyone who’s aware of the consequences of the slash and burn monoculture involved with palm oil production can touch the stuff. And it’s not as if there aren’t alternatives: I notice that the caramel recipes you used for inspiration used coconut oil, which is my oil of choice. Even if it results in a slightly less gooey confection, I think that’s more than worth it, if it means not supporting such terrible practices.

    For anyone who’s not aware of what palm oil production is all about,
    here’s some information for you:



    • Hollis says

      As Sara mentioned above (and I should have included in my comment),
      Tropical Traditions is a company that you can feel confident produces
      a palm oil that doesn’t contribute to the environmental, social, and
      every other way devastation of the Indonesian rain forests, being
      produced in South America under strict guidelines. And their products are great! Here’s the pertinent information about this
      from their website:

      Tropical Traditions Organic Palm Shortening – Sourced from Eco-friendly Sustainable Farms

      Tropical Traditions Organic Palm Shortening comes from small scale family farms in South America. These farmers are certified by ProForest, which ensures that they meet strict social, environmental and technical criteria. With regard to environmental criteria, the assessments are carried out at the landscape and operational level at both the farms and processing facilities. These assessments cover environmental impact on the soil, water, air, biodiversity and local communities. The lands the farmers use are not lands that were deforested. The lands used to grow the palm fruit are lands previously used for agricultural purposes (cattle, rice, banana).

  19. Jenny says

    Just as a heads up, many vegans do not eat honey (animals are used to produce the honey) so this would be inappropriate to label as a vegan caramel sauce. I am hoping that a substitution with maple syrup will give similar results. Thanks for the recipe :)

    • Jennifer L. says

      And good grief folks, how many times in the comments section do vegans need to point out that honey comes from a living insect and is not considered vegan? The vegans need to learn to read more carefully, evidently. I am simply floored at how many times that statement was made by different people. Wow.

  20. Mary says

    That looks so good, and so much better for you than the store-bought version. I would love to make this for my Niece, but I cannot get the vegetable shortening anywhere in Canada, nor do they ship it. Is there a substitute I could use in place of it, such as grass-fed butter or coconut oil? Thanks.

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