This 1 ingredient vegan caramel is thick, sweet, and ridiculously easy to make- Just 30 seconds to prepare! All you need is condensed coconut milk, and it has no dairy or refined sugar! Gluten free.
Seriously, I DARE you to find an easier caramel sauce recipe out there. It’s seriously like magic!
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!
I was curious to see if this method could work for a dairy free version, and was pleasantly surprised- A gooey caramel made with no dairy or refined sugar. In fact, it’s healthier than traditional caramel!
Caramel or Dulce De Leche?
Now there are some debates as to whether this is caramel or Dulce De Leche.
Dulce De Leche is the heating up of sweetened milk slowly until it becomes thick and dark. Caramel, on the other hand, is made by heating up a variety of sugar.
Honestly, I use them interchangeably, and if a recipe calls for caramel or Dulce De Leche, I’ll use this very recipe.
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 the condensed milk caramel.
Place the cans in a small saucepan and cover 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.
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 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 cool for 5 minutes, before placing the cans in a bowl of cold water, to cool down. Open the cans and transfer 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!
Can I use any brand of coconut condensed milk?
There are several brands of coconut condensed milk in 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.
Tips to make the best vegan caramel
- 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 a vegan salted caramel sauce, add 1/2-1 teaspoon of salt.
Storing and Freezing Tips
- 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.
Serving vegan caramel sauce
- 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 vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream.
- Sandwich cookies– Spread caramel between some epic chocolate chip cookies or oatmeal cookies!
1 Ingredient Vegan Caramel
- 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.