It’s a drizzle. It’s a dip. It’s a spread. There are so many uses you can make of it and from it. How do you like your caramel?
But before you answer that, here’s a more pressing question:
Is caramel vegan?
If you’ve been indulging in caramel thinking it’s vegan, well you’re right — partly. Because some caramels are vegan, but some are NOT.
The caramel flavor is known for its distinct toasty but sweet taste. It’s a signature flavor you’ll find anywhere these days, mostly in sweet food and beverages.
Now, which caramel is vegan?
What Is Caramel Made Of?
Food evolves too just like anything else. Originally, caramel is made by simply heating up sugar until it melts. Hence the term “caramelize”. Its texture and color can vary depending on the length of cooking time. The longer you heat it, the darker and harder it gets.
However, as food composition is something that people can easily change, recipes for caramel can be different. Especially with the hundreds of brands using caramel, each one has its very own recipe. Here are some of the most common additional ingredients in caramel these days:
Ingredients: Milk/milk solids/cream
Ingredients: Corn syrup
Vegan? Not all
vegan: rock/limestone sources;
non-vegan: oyster and/or mussel shells
Vegan? Not all
vegan: nuts, fruits
non-vegan: milk chocolate, cream
Those are the ingredients to watch out for when you shop for anything with caramel. Also note that its main ingredient, SUGAR, may also be NOT vegan. Check this article for a complete guide on vegan sugar.
Now you might think of a problem when it comes to food labels. If you often buy from coffee shops or restaurants, there will be no label to look at. Sure you can always ask the staff what exactly goes in their caramel, but unfortunately, sometimes they have no idea.
Here’s a tip:
Among all these additional ingredients, milk and butter are the most common you’ll see. Depending on the amount, it’s usually noticeable as it makes caramel creamier and a bit lighter in color.
Plain caramel with only sugar in it is darker in color and has a syrup-like consistency. So when it looks milky and a bit oily, it’s best to avoid it! Chances are it has milk and butter in it!
This is of course not a guarantee. There can be dark caramels with other non-vegan ingredients (check the table above). However, it’s the best you can do if you can’t resist the sweet (literally!) temptation.
1. Does caramel have dairy in it?
Some caramel contains dairy products such as milk and butter.
2. Does caramel have gelatin?
Plain caramel does not require gelatin. However, caramel candies, especially the soft and chewy ones, may have gelatin in it.
3. Is Starbucks caramel vegan?
Starbucks Coffee uses 2 types of caramel. Their caramel syrup is vegan, but their caramel drizzle is not as it contains butter and milk. For a complete guide to Starbucks Coffee’s vegan products, check here.
4. Is Dunkin Donuts caramel vegan?
No. Dunkin Donuts’ caramel base contains milk.
5. Is caramel color vegan?
The caramel color that manufacturers use as a browning agent for food is mostly vegan. Some may use lactose in its production, but the label must indicate that.
6. Is caramel popcorn vegan?
It depends on the brand. If there’s no label to tell you this, it’s best to ask, like in the case of theater popcorn. If you can’t get answers and the syrup looks milky, just skip it.
7. Is there a healthy vegan caramel?
Caramel is made from lots of sugar, so it can’t be healthy really. Vegan versions are often thought to be healthier but to be more specific, they’re only less unhealthy. That’s because most vegan items are often made with nutrition in mind.
Since caramel is still high in sugar even if it’s made vegan, you still shouldn’t have too much of it.
Vegan Caramel Brands
I bet this is the list you’ve been waiting for! If you think about it, it’s easy to get a caramel that’s creamy but still vegan. All you need is vegan milk! Okay, and maybe some vegan butter too. They’re easier to find these days!
Anyway, here are the brands that have made it easier for us:
Vegan Caramel Candy Brands
Most of these candies are organic, with better-for-you ingredients!
Brand: Amella Caramels
Ingredients: Organic tapioca syrup, raw blue weber agave nectar, organic dark chocolate, organic habanero peppers, dark chocolate, Himalayan pink salt.
Ingredients: Organic coconut milk, organic brown rice syrup, organic cane sugar, organic bittersweet chocolate (organic cocoa butter, soy lecithin, organic vanilla. extract), sea salt, organic vanilla extract (water, organic ethyl alcohol, organic vanilla bean extractives), xanthan gum.
Ingredients: Organic Almonds, organic blue agave, organic cacao, organic cashew butter, organic coconut sugar, organic lucuma, organic yacon syrup, Himalayan crystal salt, organic maca and organic vanilla bean.
Brand: Eli’s Earth Dream Big Bar
Ingredients: Dairy-free milk chocolate (evaporated cane juice, rice milk powder, cocoa butter, cocoa paste, almond milk, whole vanilla bean), brown rice syrup, peanuts, evaporated cane juice, peanut oil, sea salt.
Ingredients: Raw Peruvian cacao nibs, coconut sugar, raw coconut butter, raw cashews, Celtic sea salt, vanilla bean powder, raw cacao butter, coconut sugar-sweetened cacao nibs.
Vegan Caramel Sauce Brands
If you’re looking for vegan caramel dip, these sauces can do the job too!
Brand:Avenue Sweets Dairy-Free Vegan Caramel Sauce Flavors: Classic, Sea Salt, Chocolate
Ingredients: Organic vegan cane sugar, tapioca syrup, coconut milk, organic coconut oil, organic agave nectar (flavors: vanilla, sea salt, cocoa)
Brand: Date Lady Caramel Sauce
Ingredients: Date syrup, coconut cream, coconut oil, vanilla extract, sea salt.
Ingredients: Organic evaporated cane sugar, organic coconut milk (coconut, water, guar gum), brown rice syrup, sea salt.
Ingredients: Coconut milk (coconut cream, filtered water), non-bone char cane sugar, coconut sugar, sea salt, natural vegan flavor, calcium carbonate
Brand: Organic Hum Yum Chocolate Caramel Sauce Flavors: Classic, Chocolate
Ingredients: Organic cane sugar, organic coconut milk, Murray river sea salt, cream of tartar, organic vanilla extract (flavors: vanilla beans, organic cocoa powder)
Vegan Caramel Recipes
If you’re yet to notice, there aren’t many caramel brands out there. Finding one may be impossible depending on your location. But like I said earlier, it’s easy to make vegan caramel. Don’t believe me? Try out these quick and easy recipes!
5-minute Vegan Caramel
from Pinch of Yum
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 cup real maple syrup
- 2 tbsps almond butter
- sea salt, vanilla, or cinnamon for flavor (adjust to taste)
- Combine maple syrup and coconut oil. Let stand for 1 minute. Add the almond butter and whisk for about 30 seconds until the mixture is even and smooth.
- Microwave for 1 minute before use.
Vegan Dairy-Free Caramel
From The Spruce Eats
- 3/4 cup + 2 tbsps unsweetened almond milk (or soy milk)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 tbsp margarine (dairy-free)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Pour ice water on a large pan that will fit your small saucepan and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, maple syrup, margarine, vanilla, and salt. Set on medium heat and bring to a boil. Continue cooking for 10 more minutes, or until the color turns into medium amber.
- Immediately transfer the saucepan in the large pan with ice water. This will prevent the caramel from cooking further.
- While still warm, pour the sauce in a heat-proof container. Refrigerate to cool.
Vegan Salted Caramel
From Cupful of Kale
- 1 can coconut milk (400ml)
- 150g light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
- 1-2 tsp sea salt
- In a pan, combine coconut milk, sugar and vanilla, then bring to a boil.
- Stir continuously for 20-25 minutes. The sauce should be thick and dark brown but still runny.
- Remove from heat and add the salt. Start with small amounts first and adjust to taste. Mix evenly.
- Don’t worry about the sauce being runny as it will get thicker once it cools. You can use it straight away or transfer to a container and refrigerate. Just pop in the microwave or reheat for a few minutes before use.
One of the many things I love about caramel syrup is its versatility. You can call it a dip, sauce, drizzle, or spread, but they can all work the same! One may be thicker (or thinner) than the other but you can easily switch them with the others!
Although caramel is normally just made of sugar, most caramel flavors you’ll find today contains milk and butter. That’s NOT vegan. However, milky versions can be easily made vegan using any plant-based milk.
Vegan caramel is also usually made with healthier ingredients, but since it’s still sugary, remember to avoid overindulging!
Which vegan caramel brands have you tried so far? Have you also tried to make your own vegan caramel? Let me know in the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article on your favorite social media platform.