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Coconut Caramel

Did you know that you can make thick and completely vegan coconut caramel sauce from a can of coconut milk?

coconut caramel

1 can coconut milk

Pure vanilla extract

Sweetener of choice

Pinch of salt

Just four or five ingredients, and you’re on your way to the perfect coconut caramel sauce, good for serving with fruit, pancakes, or over my Banana Ice Cream Recipes.

And the best part is that there’s NO heavy cream and NO high fructose corn syrup required for this recipe!

Above – Watch the video how to make coconut caramel!

Step One:

Combine all ingredients except vanilla extract in a medium saucepan, and whisk everything together.

Bring to a boil, then let it boil for around 3-4 minutes.

caramel recipe

Step Two:

Turn to a simmer, and let the mixture cook down to about half its original volume, stirring as needed.

Turn off the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and let the vegan caramel cool. Then refrigerate.

vegan caramel

The homemade coconut caramel sauce will continue to thicken overnight.

Use it as you’d use caramel sauce.

It tastes absolutely amazing over homemade Coconut Ice Cream.

coconut milk caramel

Or try it on top of this Frappuccino Recipe!

Stored in the refrigerator, the jar of vegan caramel sauce will last for at least a week.

I don’t know if it lasts longer or if it can be frozen, because I’ve never been able to keep a batch around long enough to find out!

How To Make Homemade Caramel From A Can Of Coconut Milk (Easy Recipe)
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Coconut Caramel Sauce

How to make easy vegan coconut caramel sauce from a can of coconut milk!
4.9/5 (20)
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Yield 2 /3 cup

Ingredients

  • 13.5 oz coconut milk (Coconut-free recipe here)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup, honey, or agave
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar OR simply increase the above liquid sweetener to 2/3 cup
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • optional 1 tbsp butter-type spread or coconut oil, for richer flavor

Instructions

  • *Use the brown sugar (or coconut sugar) if you want more of a caramel flavor; however using all liquid sweetener still yields delicious results. Make sure to buy full-fat canned coconut milk, not lite or coconutmilk beverage.
    Combine all ingredients except the vanilla extract in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Let it boil for around 3-4 minutes, stirring continuously, then lower to a simmer. Let it simmer—stirring as needed—until it cooks down to about half its volume and thickens. This usually takes around 50-60 minutes, depending on your climate, stove, and the fat content in your particular can of coconut milk. Turn off the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let it sit for about an hour. Cover and refrigerate overnight – it continues to thicken as it sits.
    Instant Pot Version: Combine all ingredients except vanilla in the instant pot, and use the sauté setting. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and let cook down until thick, about 20 minutes. Turn off, and stir in the vanilla. Thanks to reader Jaclyn for creating this version and commenting to let us know it can be made in an instant pot!
    View Nutrition Facts

Notes

Also be sure to try this recipe for Coconut Whipped Cream.
 

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Published on March 2, 2017

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117 Comments

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    • Rachel Sandler says

      Quoted from the text:

      13.5 oz coconut milk (Coconut-free recipe here)
      1/3 cup pure maple syrup, honey, or agave (vegans use the maple or agave)
      1/4 cup brown sugar OR simply increase the above liquid sweetener to 2/3 cup
      1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
      1/4 tsp salt
      optional 1 tbsp butter-type spread or coconut oil, for richer flavor

    • Julie Dove says

      I did a quick google search, and it seems like many people say the two are interchangeable (taste-wise). Traditionally, they (caramel and dulce de leche) are made with different ingredients, but of course this recipe is made with different ingredients from both of them. Especially considering dulce de leche is made with sweetened milk, I’d think this recipe would be pretty similar!

    • Deb says

      Under instructions it says… “Make sure to buy full-fat canned coconut milk, not lite or coconutmilk beverage.”

  1. jordan @ dancing for donuts says

    whaaaaaat i had no idea you could do this!!!! what a delicious and (fairly) healthy sauce to keep on hand. it’s always pumpkin season to me, so i think i’ll take your suggestion and use it to top pumpkin pancakes 🙂 thanks for sharing!!

  2. Beth says

    there are two different recipes here…..and quite different from one another. I’m confused. What is the difference between the two and why do you have two recipes for the same caramel sauce? Or are they for different things?

    • Julie Dove says

      Hi, can you explain what you mean by two recipes? I only see one recipe on this post.

      Julie (media director)

      • Jessica T says

        The list of ingredients at the beginning of the blog post is slightly different than the one at the bottom of the blog. The first list has 4 ingredients, the bottom one has 6 (one is optional). I’m assuming that’s what she was talking about. 🙂

        • Julie Dove says

          Four ingredients are not optional – the two variations are optional. Hope that helps clarify! 🙂

          • Brigitte says

            Hi,
            This look super good I will be making it tomorrow . I was reading the posts to find out the comments on the taste or if someone already made it ..anyway as I am reading this so many questions about this simple recipe ! Your recipe is very explanatory , i think people are not reading the directions ……..Thanks I will write a comment when I am done making it .
            Thanks

  3. MaryJane says

    This looks great! Although, if more into a low calorie caramel, follow my recipe: 1 can light coconut milk and 1/2 cups coconut sugar (if you like sweet caramel, use 2/3 cup coconut sugar instead). Mix and bring to a boil, always mixing for about 15-20 minutes for a sauce and 25-30 for a hardening caramel. Turn off heat and add salt and vanilla to taste. It’s about 35 calorie per tablespoon.

  4. Whitney says

    I just made this. Oh my gosh, it is PERFECT! I did change it up a bit, though. I can’t have the maple syrup or coconut sugar (they all have a bad effect on my system), so instead, I used 1/4 cup of granulated xylitol, and 1/2 tsp of blackstrap molasses. Everything else, I followed to a tee, and it is SO hard to stop eating (and it hasn’t even cooled, yet)! Makes me wonder why I spend any time scouring Pinterest for a perfect, healthy, sugar-free caramel recipe, when Katie’s just going to make it better?

    • Constantina says

      Just made it with a can of coconut cream, and it thickened in about 35 minutes of shimmering… The smell and taste and texture are great, thanks so much Katie!!!!

      • Rachel R says

        Good to know it can be made with coconut cream! Exactly what I was searching the comments for ? Can’t wait to try it!

  5. Maria says

    This makes the best sauce for ice cream/nice cream!!!! And ooooh, some of your gooey brownies is a sunday with this sauce?!?!? That sounds amazing right now!

  6. Melissa says

    Wow, I had absolutely no idea this was even possible, but I will definitely be trying it! I’m a big fan of caramel sauce, but never really knew how to make it both tasty and healthy, but this sounds like the ideal option!

  7. Sara says

    Is this the consistency of sweetened condensed milk? I’ve found evaporated coconut milk, but not a sweetened condensed version, and there are some recipes that I have that I would love to adapt to dairy free.

    Any attempts I’ve made to make my own sweetened condensed coconut milk has failed.

    (so if this isn’t the same consistency and sweetness, I’d love for you to try and come up with one that works!)

  8. Tiffany says

    Would this work with a sweetener like stevia instead of the honey, maple syrup or agave? I’m on a low carb diet and don’t want to use any of those syrups or sugars.

  9. salma says

    can you please tell me if it has the taste of coconut, ’cause I don’t like it much, yet, this recipe looks really tasty
    thanks

      • Betty says

        Julie I am guessing you are the administrator of this site? I have made two comments asking questions on two different recipes but when I go back to see if there are any answers my post if gone. I entered my email , can you help?

        • Jason Sanford says

          Hi, I’m actually taking over for Julie here. Be sure to look on the correct page (often comments will be separated into multiple pages). The other thing that could be happening is your computer could be caching the page, meaning your comment wouldn’t show up for a few days. But I can see them, so rest assured they are showing up!

          • Betty says

            Thank Jason…..Good to know……so now my questions with this recipe….I did make it…..but after it simmering for only 35 mins……. the whole thing turned black…..the recipe said to simmer for 40 to 50 but after that amount of time I assumed it burnt????? Can anyway offer any tips please and thank you!!

          • Jason Sanford says

            Your “simmer” setting might be hotter than other ovens or the can of coconut milk might have had less fat. It’s a good idea to not step away from the stove and keep an eye on that pot! 🙂

  10. Samantha from YLA says

    Finally! I now have a healthy alternative for maple syrup on my gluten free pancakes. I am trying to find good alternatives for pancake drizzle and I often get frustrated with options having excess sugar, and additives on it. But it really surprising (and clever one) to find coconut milk as an ingredient for a caramel.
    I will definitely make one tonight and I’ll use honey as my sweetener of choice. By the way Katie, do you know what’s the shelf life or expiration date of this recipe? I just want to know for me to make one that is good enough before it expires. Thanks!

  11. Marie-Eve says

    Made this recipe last weekend. I don’t know what happened, but when stored in the fridge the caramel separated into three phases. The oil came at the surface and formed a thick layer like coconut oil… I decided to melt it in the microwave and stir it but I had the same problem. Did you experienced something like this? Does the brand of the coconut milk used could have an influence? Thank you 🙂

    • Rita says

      I have had this happen to me with regular caramel sauce when I overheated it. I fixed it by gently reheating it and whisking in a little extra cream till it reemulsified. You could try doing this with a bit of extra coconut milk, or just gently reheating and whisking vigorously.

  12. Rita says

    Does this have a coconut flavour? I make caramel sauce quite often but quite like the idea of a coconuty caramel sauce.

  13. Betty says

    Hi, I am not much of a cook but thought this sounded so simple…..sadly not for me…..I was doing great with it and it smelled so wonderful. I boiled it for 4 min. Then turned down the flame and set the timer for 40 mins. I stirred it several times. There was about 11 min. left and it still looked great. I came back just a few minutes later and it was all black and syrupy….That was only about 35 mins. of simmering……did I have the flame to high maybe????

    • Jason Sanford says

      Hmm maybe… I didn’t have that problem, but it’s definitely a better idea to not go away from it at all during the final minutes.

  14. Whitney says

    This stuff is incredible. I’ve been making it since this recipe was first published (I alter it a bit, though, to cut the sugar), but I just now used it to make healthy Brigadeiro! Took this recipe (instead of sweetened condensed milk), added 1 Tbsp of the fat from a can of coconut milk (instead of butter), and 1/4 cup of cocoa powder (mixed with a little water to make a paste), cooked it down nice and thick, and now waiting for it to chill so I can form it into balls. Ten times healthier, magically delicious, and highly recommended! Thank you, Katie!!!

  15. Karen says

    Can this be made in the crockpot? (Like making caramel sauce from sweetened condensed milk by putting the can/jar in water in the crockpot for several hours…. then add in your sweetener, etc.) The crock pot saves the boiling/reducing time.

  16. santa says

    Thank you for this recipy. Excited to try I did this yesterday. I added cane sugar and some mapple syrup. The color of mine was somewhat pale grey-brown (nothing like that sunny color in the photo) and the consistency was more like a pudding, than actual caramel sauce, which is sticky, isn’t it? Is it supposed to get sticky?

  17. Becky says

    Oh my goodness…you are so “evil” 😀 I just made this tonight and it is so DELICIOUS!!! Can’t wait to make this again when my vegan son comes to visit. Do you have a chocolate sauce I’m unaware of too?

  18. Aimee says

    Wanting to make this tomorrow, but only have lite coconut milk. Anyone used this instead of full fat? Wondering if it would still work?

  19. Selah says

    Takes such a long time for such a small amount. Could use two cans of coconut milk – and use just the solid part of it -you would have more and not have to boil so long to reduce the liquid ?

  20. Kora says

    I made this today. Whoa! The only problem will be refraining from eating all of it before it cools in the pan! Bravo on this. I added Earth Balance spread, and used the coconut sugar maple syrup combo. it is so amazing. You’re a sorceress.

  21. Lauryn says

    Would this work to do dairy free caramel apples? We have a tot that can’t do any dairy.. caramel apples are a must! Lol

  22. A. says

    If you don’t want to use that much sugar, use starch instead. I’ve used 1 teaspoon of honey boiled with a little bit of water, it was basically my sugar syrup. Then added full fat coconut milk (85% coconut) and 1 tablespoon sago pearls.
    It thickened up beautifully and tasted like proper caramel without any more additional sweetener.

  23. Lara says

    I just made this following the recipe exactly as described (except I added a tbsp of coconut butter instead of coconut oil at the end). Wow, this tastes amazing! I’m a fan of caramel and dulce de leche, and while the flavors are similar this is a little different–lighter in consistency and (at least to me) with a noticeable coconut taste. I love coconut so that is a plus. I simmered for 60 minutes and had no issues with burning or separation–it all turned out exactly as the recipe described. Now I’m planning on making this with variations by adding cinnamon, cardamom, cocoa powder… I might try this as a filling for cakes and cookies.

    • Andrea says

      Sandy,how did you cook the caramel in the instant pot? Would love to get the directions, since I just got an IP.
      Thanks,
      Andrea

  24. Jen H says

    I made this today, but I don’t think it worked. The color is very grey-brown and it didn’t thicken. It reduced but it’s very runny/watery. I seemed it for well over an hour. I let it cool on the countertop for awhile, and just put it in the fridge-hopefully that will thicken it. Not sure what went wrong. The caramel in Katie’s pictures is such a beautiful color and consistency – mine is nothing like that. I’ll try again sometime and hopefully have success.

    • Jason Sanford says

      Hmmm what did your can of coconut milk look like before starting? Just like how some cans don’t have enough fat to work for coconut whipped cream, maybe this is the same and you got a bad can because it was too watery?

      • Jen H says

        I was thinking to try it with a different brand of coconut milk. Maybe that will yield more pleasing results. Crossing my fingers for the next attempt. Thanks for the reply!

  25. lizzie says

    Hi Katie I love your recipies. I’m just wondering if I were to add agar agar into the caramel sauce if it would set so I could use it in a banoffee pie? thanks

  26. Rachel says

    Hi. Thanks for the recipe. I tried it out but with coconut cream and a white sweetener and now it looks as if it’s less than half reduced. Now cooled down it’s thicker but WHITE! Shouldn’t it be brown? Please reply.

  27. Mary says

    I love all things coconut, but I do not care for this coconut caramel sauce. I made it last night and included the butter and brown sugar. The color is caramel and the taste is coconut and sugar. I’m not sure if I will make this sauce again or what I might use it for. I was looking for something to dip apple slices in.

      • Michaela says

        Soooo I tried it with iced coffee, but it didn’t mix in very well. It pretty much just solidified in the bottom of the cup.

        I made another batch but only let it simmer for 20 minutes this time (I did 40 minutes before). Going to try it with my coffee again this afternoon/tomorrow morning! ?

  28. Kate says

    Thank you so much for this recipe! In my quest to go without refined sugars and to be mostly dairy-free, I assumed that caramel was out of the question. But this was a great substitute! I do allow myself to have butter, so my added fat at the end was browned butter, which helped with the caramel flavor.

    This also worked really well to make an easy strawberry topping by mixing about equal amounts of the caramel and Strawberry Simply Fruit (fruit juice sweetened jam). Other flavors would be good too!

    Thanks again!

  29. Anita says

    Please could anyone tell me if this would be thick enough to use in Banofee Pie as the caramel needs to be quite thick.
    Many thanks
    Anita

  30. Suvone says

    THIS.IS.AMAZING.
    I found a recipe for coconut ice cream and then found this recipe for coconut caramel… it’s obvious where this is going.
    So I made this for my coconut ice cream which I still needed to chill over night, but we had friends over and half a tub of vanilla ice cream leftovers so naturally we had to test it! (The only reason to have store bought vanilla ice cream is to smother it in sauce). These friends aren’t the “strange food” type of people so I made loads of excuses as to why I have caramel made out of coconut milk and why they should test it first. Anyway, we all ended up using almost everything on our cheap ice cream and I had to put it away before I have to make another batch for my expensive ice cream. My friend even asked for the recipe.
    The next day I finished the coconut ice cream and added the caramel. During the last seconds of churning I added the last two tablespoons and it made lovely caramel swirls. The ice cream came out amazing!!
    I used half agave and half honey because I wouldn’t have had enough agave for my ice cream. It turned out perfect!! However, Ionly simmered the caramel for 45 minutes because I was afraid it would burn or be bitter. But I will definitely go for the full 50-60 minutes next time. Yes, there will be a next time…and a next time, and a next time…

  31. Connie Delaney says

    Katie, what sweetner did you use to get that caramel color. I’m making it now but it’s still a white color, I used E.D. Smith no sugar added syrup. Thanks

  32. Emily says

    This tasted good, but I was wondering if you have any tips for making the caramel thicker/stickier? That’s how I prefer my caramel sauce. 🙂

    • Jason Sanford says

      Keep cooking longer and more of the moisture will evaporate and it gets thicker as it sits overnight as well for the same reason, if you leave it uncovered so the moisture has a place to escape.

  33. Sabrina Juggernauth says

    Thanks for the genius idea, Katie! I wanted to make a caramel sauce to go with apple bars, but my grocery store ran out of whipping cream, but I always have coconut milk in the pantry 🙂
    For those of you who are having problems with the color, I used a half a cup of sugar (omitted the agave or honey) and cooked that over medium heat first, stirring constantly. Then I added a spoon of butter (but you can use coconut oil instead), followed by the coconut milk, and proceeded with the recipe. I only cooked mine for about 25 minutes or so, but it was on medium heat, and I constantly stirred. Absolutely divine! Thank you!

  34. Anne says

    Is there any way to modify this recipe so that it solidifies into a soft caramel versus a drippy sauce? For example, to put on cookies?

  35. Marielle says

    I had a can of coconut cream that needed to be used, so luckily, I came across this recipe. It turned out great!!! It didn’t take nearly as long–more like 15-20 minutes, perhaps since the coconut cream has a more solid consistency. I have it sitting in my fridge now and am doing my best NOT to eat it all. Thank you so much for this amazing recipe!

  36. Jo Zimny says

    I’ve made this a few times now and it turns out perfect each time. I love that you used coconut milk instead of dairy. I did use maple syrup and coconut palm sugar in mine. I put it on some warm apple crisp. Can’t get much better than that! I’m going to double the recipe next time. Thanks for the amazing recipes, Katie!!!

  37. Elle says

    Wow! I had quite the experience with this caramel sauce! I was making it for a coconut ice cream, and decided to use coconut milk becuase we had so much of it. Origionally, I only saw the list of ingrediants at the top (without the quantities) and put everything in according to taste. After I followed the directions and the sauce was done, I noticed it was very thin. Looking to the bottom of the recipe, I saw the amounts listed and almost slapped my forehead! I then proceded to add the brown sugar (as listed), boiled and simmered it. It was still very thin and I was confused. I went onto google andlooked up how to thicken caramel. It said to put in cornstarch and water and stir. Well, to my surprise, that didn’t work! I decided that nothing could thicken this sauce, and I should just try boiling it again as a last attempt. After about 2 minutes, it was a thick, caramel-y consistency and I was ecstatic! If you had the same issue as me, try what I did and it might just work! Thanks for this recipe!

  38. Colleen says

    I have a true milk allergy (not lactose intol) by blood test. I love this alternative for caramel sauce.
    I followed to the T. I was skeptical at the 25 min mark it would ever thicken up. However by 35 it deepened in color and began to thicken. It does take the full hour to come to desired consistency.
    I also have a simmer burner on my stove which may have helped and I never left the stove by itself. I have great heavy pans but I ensured stirring every few mins to avoid burning/sticking.
    Only problem is I wished I’d doubled the recipe!

  39. Denise Corklin says

    PEANUT BUTTER CARAMEL SAUCE!!

    I made the recipe (again for the umpteenth time)……to pour over ice cream for my husband’s birthday….and then decided I needed more toppings.

    I made one with molasses which was wonderful . Dark and rich and velvety with the addition of a little butter.

    And then I made a third batch and after adding double the vanilla I stirred in peanut butter powder for a rich Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sauce. I probably added almost half a cup of the PB2 powder because I wanted it to be really nutty……and now I need to do it all over again since my dad and I have almost polished off this sauce eating it with Fuji Apple Slices. Seriously yummy.

    Thank-you for the fabulous recipe. I’m envisioning several new variations!!

  40. Millie says

    MMMMMM. 🤤
    That looks sooooooo good! Can you replace the coconut milk with cow/goat milk? And the butter type spread with cow butter? I’m going to try this for on top of a frapicchino.
    Please get back to me ASAP!
    Millie.

  41. Sophie says

    This caramel is INSANE!!! It takes me back to the last time I had non-vegan caramel sauce, I am seriously in love. It took the full hour to thicken up, but the taste was well worth the wait. It doesn’t taste like coconut in the slightest!!! I used regular coconut milk and was afraid it wouldn’t turn out the same but it ended up working great. I also used coconut sugar and maple syurp and the taste is just incredible. Thank you sooo much Katie, I’ll be eating this up before the day ends 💛

  42. Shez s says

    I just made this and waited the full hour for it to thicken up. After letting it cool and giving it a mix, I see that the oil (possibly from the coconut milk can or the butter) seperated on top. Do you think I cooked it for too long? Not sure what I did wrong.

  43. mobasir hassan says

    A love treat like this always inspire and i truly appreciate the way you made this caramel. Looking forward for more such informative and yummy recipes in future too.

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