Vegan Salted Caramel

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Salted caramel is one of my weaknesses, and one of the reasons I cannot claim to be 100% vegan (along with an ever-lasting love for cheese).  I never really knew what went into making it, and after doing some research, it turns out it’s loaded with cream and butter. While doing that research, I also found that a lot of people are making vegan versions using coconut milk. This discovery was all it took – I ran out to the store the following day and bought a bunch of coconut milk to try it out.

While I did find a good amount of recipes for vegan salted caramel online, in the comments section there was differing information.  Some said the sauce didn’t thicken enough, others said it did, some said you needed to use coconut milk with guar gum, others said it didn’t matter, some said to just use the cream and discard the water (which I tried and it came out the same), and so on. So, I decided to get a few different brands, some with guar gum, some 100% pure coconut milk, and try them all out at the same time, using my husband as my guinea pig for taste tests (pooooor him).

This sauce consists of just four ingredients – coconut milk, coconut sugar, salt and vanilla. That’s it!  And while I would not say this is exactly healthy, I feel a lot better about putting these ingredients in my body than the alternatives.  And in case you’re wondering, the coconut taste is very subtle, if noticeable at all.  I’m not sure why this is but possibly the flavor gets outmatched by the burnt sugar as the sauce condenses.

I tried out three brands: Trader Joe’s, Arroy-d, and Thai Kitchen.  My husband’s (and my) favorite was Arroy-d, and our least favorite was Thai Kitchen.  They both thickened equally (Thai Kitchen has guar gum, but Arroy-d has no guar gum), but Arroy-d came out smoother and creamier and overall just tasted better.  That said, they were all amazing and I would happily devour any of them if given a spoon. Online I read that Native Forest brand works well too, so I may try that one next time.

The possibilities of how to serve this are endless…over ice cream, with apple slices, swirled into a vegan cheesecake (recipe coming soon!), as a frosting, etc.  I recently used it as a filling to apple spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (think salted caramel hostess-style cupcakes) for my daughter’s birthday, and they were a-maze-ing.  Try it out and let me know what you think, and how you decide to use it!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
  • ½ cup coconut sugar (available at Trader Joe’s)*
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp sea salt **
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine the coconut milk, coconut sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium low so you get a gentle simmer.
  3. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the sauce seems almost done (about five minutes cooking time remaining) and it is getting thick , stir more frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot with the spoon so that the mixture does not burn.
  4. Once the sauce easily coats the back of a spoon and is a dark brown color, remove from the heat.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.
  6. Serve warm or refrigerate and use within a couple weeks.

NOTES:

*I assume any sugar would work, but I have not tested others.  If you do, please let me know how it turns out!
**Start with 1/4 tsp salt and add more to taste.  I used 1/2 tsp in the sauces I tested, and while they were great and my husband thought they had just the right amount of salt, I think they could have been a pinch less salty.

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