This vegan caramel is thick, sweet, and so easy to make. Also known as condensed milk caramel, it needs just one ingredient to make!
Perfect drizzled over ice cream, stuffed into brownies, and used in homemade Twix bars, you won’t believe how easy this vegan caramel sauce is to make!
Seriously, I DARE you to find an easier caramel sauce recipe out there. It’s seriously like magic!
Table of Contents
Condensed milk caramel
Many vegan caramel recipes call for nut butter, syrups, and oil, but not this one.
It was inspired by the classic condensed milk caramel trick, involving simmering a can of condensed milk for several hours. Once the lid is removed, you are left with delicious and thick caramel.
Unfortunately, using condensed milk has dairy, so isn’t vegan-friendly.
Instead, I used my vegan substitute for condensed milk- Coconut Condensed milk!
- It’s thick and sweet just like traditional condensed milk.
- You can either use the stovetop or microwave method for it.
- The caramel is thick, rich, and creamy.
How to make vegan caramel
Making this caramel can be made in three ways- Stovetop, slow cooker, and in the microwave. Regardless of which method you choose, the longer you ‘cook’ it, the darker and thicker the caramel will be.
This is my preferred method of making condensed milk caramel.
Place the cans in a small saucepan and cover them with water, about 1-2 inches above the cans. On medium heat, heat up the saucepan until it just begins to simmer. Reduce to low and cover, letting the condensed milk simmer for around 2 hours.
Slow Cooker method
Making caramel in the slow cooker is the easiest method, but also the most time-consuming.
Place the cans of condensed coconut milk in the slow cooker and fill them with warm water, until it is about 1-2 inches above the cans. Set on slow for 8 hours. Using metal tongs, remove the cans from the slow cooker and let them cool for 5 minutes, before placing the cans in a bowl of cold water, to cool down. Open the cans and transfer them to a sealable container or jar.
You can microwave the condensed milk to produce a gooey caramel or dulce de leche. However, I do not recommend this method if you are after a really sticky and dark caramel.
To microwave, you will need to pour the condensed milk into a deep bowl and cover it completely. On 40-50% power, microwave the mixture for 5 minutes, before removing and whisking it together. Next, you’ll need to reduce the power further, to prevent overspilling. Microwave in 2-3 minute increments, until the desired texture is achieved.
Can I make this without heating up the cans?
If you’d prefer not to slow cook or simmer the coconut condensed milk in their cans, you can transfer the milk to a sealable jar, and heat it up in jars instead. Simply follow the same process as using the cans. Just be sure your jars are sealed very tightly!
- Whether you use the slow cooker or stovetop method, you must submerge the cans in them both. If they are not covered in water, there is the potential for the cans to explode- something we do NOT want.
- Do NOT open the cans while they are still hot/warm- Submerge them in water to cool down.
- For a darker, thicker caramel, continue cooking/simmering the cans for an extra 1-2 hours (as pictured).
- For salted caramel, add 1/2-1 teaspoon of salt.
- Over cake– Drizzle over some vanilla cake, chocolate cake, or a slice of strawberry cake.
- With ice cream– Who doesn’t love some caramel sauce over ice cream? This would be great with some oat, coconut, or almond milk ice cream.
- Sandwich cookies– Why not spread a thick layer between two chocolate chip or flourless chocolate cookies?
- In drinks– Take your caramel cream cold brew to the next level or sweeten an almond milk latte with it.
To store: Caramel would store best at room temperature, in a sealable container. You can refrigerate it, especially if you’d prefer a thicker caramel. It will keep well for up to 1 week, longer refrigerated.
To freeze: If you’d like to freeze caramel, store in a jar and keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Yes, this works with standard condensed milk, however, the recipe will no longer be vegan.
Cocomels and Sweet William are two prominent brands that feature vegan caramels and caramel-flavored candy.
There are several brands of coconut condensed milk on the market right now. I’ve tried two different brands and there was quite a stark difference. If your condensed milk is thick, you will have a thick and smooth caramel. If your condensed milk is thin and weak, you’ll find the caramel very difficult to thicken up nicely. As pictured, I used Nature’s Charm brand.
Vegan Caramel (One Ingredient!)
- 1 can coconut condensed milk Traditional condensed milk works too
- In a small saucepan, add your can of coconut condensed milk and cover with warm water, about 1-2 inches above the can.
- On medium heat, heat up the saucepan until it just begins to simmer. Once it begins to simmer, reduce to low and cover. Simmer for 2-3 hours. The longer you simmer, the darker the caramel.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Using tongs, remove the can from the water and submerge in a bowl of cold water. Let sit for 10 minutes, to cool down. Once cool, carefully open, and transfer to a bowl or jar.
Slow Cooker Instructions
- Place the condensed milk in a slow cooker and cover with water, leaving 1-2 inches above the can.
- Cook on slow for 8-10 hours, 10 hours if you'd like a thicker caramel.
- Turn off the slow cooker and using tongs, remove the can and submerge in a bowl of cold water for at least 10 minutes, to cool down. Open the can of coconut condensed milk and transfer to a bowl or sealable container.
- Pour the coconut condensed milk in a large, microwave safe bowl. Cover completely.
- On 50% power, heat up the condensed milk for 5 minutes, ensuring it doesn't spill over.
- Remove from the microwave and whisk together. Cover again, and reduce the power to 20-30%. Microwave in 2-3 minute increments, watching carefully to ensure it doesn't spill over. Remove from the microwave once it has reached your desired consistency.
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I cannot wait to try this!! Now I’ll have a caramel dip for apples this fall without the guilt! Thank you!! 🤗
You are so welcome!
This is so delicious. My mother did this with sweetened condensed milk. She then would make a pecan cake pour this over it, and top with chopped pecans. It was amazing. Thanks for bringing up wonderful childhood memories.
After you have submerged the cans in cold water to cool off after simmering the required time, why can’t you store the unopened cans at room temperature the same time as any other canned good? Why must you open it & store it in something else?
You can do that- You just can’t open it once it is hot 🙂
If I freeze it how do I thaw out and can I refreeze any leftovers?
Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Yes, you can refreeze leftovers.
I’m excited to try this recipe!
Hope you enjoy it 🙂
I’m confused. Where is the 30-second part of this recipe?
Putting the can in the boiling water. Enjoy
Since this is coconut milk, will it have a very strong coconut flavor when it’s caramelized? Or will it taste more like straight “caramel”? Trying to find a caramel topping that doesn’t taste like coconut!
No coconut flavor 🙂
This sounds awesome! Can I do this in an Instant Pot? Is it safe to cook in cans due to the lining? How do you seal a glass jar?
Hi Barbara, I haven’t tried in an instant pot, I’m afraid.
Does it have a coconut flavor? I love coconut, but my husband is sadly not a fan.
Not at all 🙂 If you can tolerate dairy, this works just as well with traditional condensed milk. 🙂
Sounds and looks insanely delicious. Just have a couple questions. I know you can use normal or coconut condensed milk, but would it work with homemade vegan condensed milk? Can’t eat dairy and not really a fan of coconut where it shouldn’t be (like vegan ice cream and condensed milk. It dectracts from the actual flavour imo) so I make my own condensed milk which has a little bit of coconut but is primarily cashew and agave based. Would it work with that? Also, this should work in place of caramel in millionaire’s shortbread right?
I haven’t tried so feel free to experiment and see!
I cannot wait to try this – my mum used to make this for us when we were kids. She used cows milk, so I will treat my family and mum (one day) with the vegan version! Thanks for this.
This was great! Just did a can to use in vegan dulce de leche tamales. I have one of the small slow cookers (Lil Dipper) and the water sat exactly one inch above the top of the can! I was nervous for explostions…so only did low for about ~10 hours and it was a light caramel but next time I will go longer for darker. Thanks!
I used soy condensed milk and it worked a treat. Popped it in the slow cooker on high for 7 hours then turned it off and left the tin in there until it cooled.
If I make my own coconut milk, how do I make caramel using slow cooker or stovetop. You only mention using the cans
No idea 🙂
Love, love, love this! I wasn’t sure what to do with my condensed coconut milk can. This was perfect when my 9 yr old was asking for caramel sauce for his vegan ice cream. Super easy & uncomplicated. I did the stovetop version for 2 hrs.
This is a must try for dairy-free caramel lovers! 😍
Hi! I am a Vegan Chef. This recipe sounds good. One concern about transferring cream from can to sealed jar. If using glass jar, when removing from water mixture after several hours do not submerge jar into cold water immediately! jar will shatter!! I would wait til jar cools naturally. I believe it would be helpful to include this in your post.