This Dairy Free Salted Caramel Sauce taste as good as traditional Salted Caramel Sauce but is 100% better in terms of ingredients. It may not be 100% guilt free after all it is still Caramel Sauce but you can definitely have few more spoonful and still enjoy every bit of it. This is a dairy free caramel sauce, thick and creamy.
What is Salted Caramel Sauce
Salted Caramel Sauce is a thick sweet sauce made with mostly heavy whipping cream and sugar. It is made by caramelizing the sugar until golden brown and then the whipping cream is added to it. Some recipes for addition of butter to extra rich taste. It is super rich, thick and creamy and are great for topping cakes, pancakes, sundae and ice cream.
Traditional Caramel Sauce vs Dairy Free Caramel Sauce
The main difference between these two are in the ingredients and a slight difference in the process itself.
Traditional Caramel Sauce uses whipping cream and sugar as base. The more fat in the cream, the richer and creamier the caramel sauce. A lot of recipe also calls for addition of butter, dash of salt and some vanilla extract. I have a full recipe HERE, check it out.
Non-Dairy Salted Caramel Sauce uses coconut cream and sugar as base. Although coconut cream has less fat compared to whipping cream, the consistency of this salted caramel is as thick, smooth and creamy as the regular salted caramel.
Traditional Caramel Sauce starts by caramelizing the sugar in the pan, once it reach a golden brown color, the whipping cream is added in the sugar. The mixture will then be cooked in low heat until it reach a thick consistency. Butter, salt and vanilla extract is added to enhance the taste and flavor.
Non-Dairy Salted Caramel Sauce do not require caramelization of sugar. Coconut cream and sugar is immediately mix together and simmer in low controlled heat for a long time. This is basically a 3 ingredients recipe.
Traditional Salted Caramel Sauce takes only 10 – 15 minutes to make (excluding cooling time)
Non-Dairy Caramel Sauces takes almost an hour to make, about 45 minutes and even longer if the entire process is finish on stove top. This recipe uses stove top for the first 40 minutes and about few seconds in microwave to extract the oil from the sauce
The Traditional Caramel Sauce has a lighter brown color, a thicker consistency, a creamy and smooth texture, but a lot more sweeter in taste.
Non-Dairy Salted Caramel Sauce has a darker deep brown color, it has a creamy and smooth texture, it doesn’t get hard as much when stored in the fridge, and it has a slightly salty and not too sweet in taste because it uses Coconut Cane Sugar as opposed to Brown or white sugar that are sweeter
Coconut Cream vs. Coconut Milk
Let’s talk about coconut cream and milk, what is the difference. First, there is drinking coconut milk, and cooking coconut milk or cream. For this recipe, we are using coconut cream for a thicker and creamier texture and more coconut flavor.
Coconut cream usually comes in can, I haven’t seen anything sold in cartons or glass jar so far. They have less water inside, about 1/8 – 1/4 of the can and the rest is coconut cream. The thick solid white thing that you see when you open the can. You get a lot more cream than water so you end up with a thicker consistency when used in sweet or savory dishes. You can buy it at most Asian stores, or in grocery in Asian or international section.
Coconut milk on the other can be use for drinking or for cooking. The drinking coconut milk usually comes in carton containers. You can use it for baking, for smoothie, oatmeal and for coffee, tea or just to drink it on its own. Then there’s cooking coconut milk which is similar to coconut cream, but it contains more water than coconut solid. Probably only 1/3 of the can is coconut cream once you scoop it out. This will work too for this recipe, but you may need more because you only get small amount of coconut solid. I would estimate about 2 cans as oppose to 1 can using coconut cream. In terms of taste, they taste the same. You can also buy them in the same section as coconut cream. Most of the time, canned coconut milk is easier to find than coconut cream. So if you cannot find coconut cream, you can substitute it with coconut milk but make sure to scoop out only the coconut solid, do not include the water. You can easily do this if you leave the can in the refrigerator overnight, or 1-2 hrs in the freezer. When you open it, the coconut cream will be solid which makes it easier to scoop out.
Tips in Making Smooth, Creamy and NOT Oily Salted Caramel Sauce
- Slow cooking. Taking your time to make sure that the sauce is reduce is key to getting a thick an creamy sauce. Since the main ingredient is coconut cream, you cannot rush the process by cooking it in high heat. You have to cook it in medium heat while stirring continuously to avoid forming lumps. It may look watery, but after 30 minutes you will notice that it is getting thick. The consistency will thicken even more as it cools.
- Extract as much of the coconut oil as possible. Coconut milk has so much coconut oil in it which can make the sauce oily and lumpy. The key is to cook the sauce as long as it takes until you see the oil separating from the sauce. This could take probably 1 hour on stove top. What I like to do is to cook the sauce on stove top for 40 minutes and finish it off in the microwave for few seconds. The few seconds of heat from the microwave will extract the oil from the sauce. Don’t be surprise if you see a lot of coconut oil separating from the sauce. This is exactly what you want to happen. Extract the coconut oil will leave you with a super smooth and creamy Caramel Sauce. This will also prevent frozen oil on top when you refrigerate the Caramel Sauce. If you fail to extract the oil, what will happen is that caramel Sauce will be too oily and greasy, imagine it looking like some homemade or store-bought peanut butter that have almost 1/4 cup of oil on top. This is a key step to achieving a smooth, creamy and not oily caramel sauce.
- Use Coconut or Palm Sugar – Although brown sugar will work, using coconut or Palm sugar provides a deeper coconut flavor and taste to the sauce. I also noticed that coconut sugar is not as sweet as brown or white sugar, and it seems to have a slight saltiness in it which makes it perfect for this Salted Caramel Coconut Sauce. I used unrefined coconut sugar which turned out to be just perfect.
Where to Use This Dairy Free Salted Caramel Sauce
Use it as you would use a regular Salted Caramel Sauce. I like to use it for topping on sundae and ice cream, to decorate cake and cupcakes, and I even use this as spread for my dinner rolls and sandwich bread. Because it is so thick, it is almost like a coconut jam.
Ingredients for Dairy Free Salted Caramel Sauce
- Coconut Cream – Canned Coconut Cream are thicker with less water so the cooking time is faster. If you cannot find coconut cream, use the canned coconut milk instead. You can either skim the coconut cream on top or use the entire can with the coconut water. The cooking time will be longer but at least you are able to use up everything. If you don’t like to use the coconut water, you may need to use 2 and of coconut milk. I will leave instruction below when using coconut milk.
- Sugar – I used coconut or palm sugar. It adds more coconut flavor to the sauce, plus it is not as sweet as white or brown sugar. It also has a slight saltiness in it that balances the sweetness of the sauce. The close substitute that you can use is light or dark brown sugar. If using granulated white sugar, you many need to add an extra step of caramelizing it (like when making regular caramel sauce) to get a deep brown color before adding the coconut cream or milk.
- Salt – if you are using Coconut Sugar, you don’t have to add the salt. I noticed that even without adding salt, the caramel came out slightly salty already. If using other type of sugar, add a bit of a salt. Add gradually so you can adjust it to your preference
How to Make Dairy Free Salted Caramel Sauce
As I mentioned earlier, the process of making this is a lot longer than traditional caramel sauce. The most that you will do is to wait for the mixture to get reduced. Simmer all ingredients in medium heat and stir from time to time to avoid burning and forming lumps. The mixture will get thick the longer you cook it, and the color will also change from a light brown to a deep dark caramel brown color. You will also notice that at the end of cooking time, the coconut oil will start to separate from the mixture. Skim the coconut oil so you end up with a thick, creamy not oily Salted Caramel Sauce. I actually microwave the mixture at 40 minutes to speed up the process of extracting the coconut oil. You can of course do the full process on stove top
The sauce will be fluid and runny while it is hot, and will thicken and become more solid as is cools. If you want to restore it to a runny consistency, warm it up in the microwave for 8 – 10 seconds then stir.
- 13.5 oz (1 can) Coconut Cream
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon Coconut Sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt – optional (add salt if using brown sugar)
- 1 teaspoon pure Vanilla Extract – optional
- In the pan, pour the coconut cream and add the coconut/palm sugar.
- Simmer in medium heat, for about 30 -40 minutes. Constantly stir and pay close attention to the consistency and color change. The mixture will start as runny at first. After 30 minutes of cooking, the color will be darker and the mixture will be reduced. Add the salt and continue cooking until the sauce is thick and the oil starts to come out of the mixture.
- If you have time to cook it longer to fully extract all the oil, do so. This will probably take 1 hour.
- To speed up the process, after 40 minutes remove the sauce and transfer in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave the sauce about 8 seconds then stir. Then another 8 seconds and stir. Let sit for awhile, you will notice that the oil will start to separate from the sauce. Skim the oil, do not throw it. You can use it for baking or cooking. Do not skip this step, as it is very important to extract the oil from the sauce. This will prevent solid oil forming on top when it cools down. Extracting the oil will also result to a smooth and creamy Salted Caramel Sauce.
- The sauce will thicken as it cools, so if you want to use it for drizzling on top of pastry use it while slightly warm. You can also restore the runny consistency, simply microwave for 8 – 10 seconds or until soft.
- If you use coconut milk instead of cream, it could take a bit longer to get into a thick consistency
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This looks tasty and what nice swaps! I’ve found that coconut milk and cream are really good ingredients for ganache and truffles as well. So versatile, and the diary-free folks can indulge.
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I love using coconut products for baking 🙂
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