Vegan caramel apples without dairy or coconut milk! Some caramel sauce will just side off your apple or others will be so tough that it hurts your teeth. This vegan caramel recipe is thick and sticky enough to coat your apples yet still soft and chewy. Best of all, since it’s not made with coconut milk like many vegan caramels, it has the classic taste that you expect from a traditional caramel apple.
Caramel is something I thought I may never be able to eat again after going vegan. I wasn’t sure how to make caramel or if it was even possible without dairy, but I was determined to try!
After years of living without caramel, I came across a vegan caramel recipe in a magazine. It called for coconut milk instead of dairy. I was so excited that I made it that same day. I thought it was delicious, but it definitely had a coconut flavor and not the normal caramel flavor that I remembered. My son who hates coconut wouldn’t touch it. It seemed like there had to be another way to get the right consistency and flavor.
What do you use instead of dairy?
After much trial and error, I discovered that refined coconut oil and soy milk work great as a replacement for dairy or coconut milk. If you use refined coconut oil, it doesn’t have the flavor of coconut, and the soy milk gives it the right consistency. I use this basic caramel recipe for my vegan salted caramel sauce too.
How do I make vegan caramel apples?
Start with a clean medium-sized saucepan and add the sugar and water and cream of tartar.
Heat on medium bringing the sugar water will start to boil. (Don’t stir. Just pick up the saucepan and swish around the sugar if needed).
Watch the sugar mixture closely! After it boils for about 6-8 minutes, it will start to get slightly darker and smell like caramel.
Boil for about 10-20 more seconds to let it turn a medium brown color (this color change will be slight when using vegan unbleached sugar).
Remove from heat and immediately add coconut oil and stir with a metal whisk for a few seconds.
Add the soy milk and continue to stir until smooth and everything is well mixed. (It will bubble up and may spatter, so be careful)!
Allow cooling to room temperature.
- While it’s cooling, prepare your apples by washing and drying them. Then remove the stems and insert a stick into the top.
- Line a tray with parchment paper to set the apples on after they have been dipped.
- Reheat the caramel sauce until it is the right consistency for dipping apples. (If your caramel is thin, let it boil again for about 30 seconds. If it is too thick add a teaspoon or two of soy milk and reheat and stir until it’s a sticky sauce.
- Dip the apples in the caramel. Let the excess drip off and place on the parchment-lined tray.
- Allow cooling in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. They will come off the paper easily once they have cooled completely.
- I have found that if you let the caramel sauce cool slightly and then heat on low again and let it bubble for about 30 seconds, it makes it stickier and a just the right consistency for making caramel apples.
- Caramel is tricky! Nearly every recipe on my blog is easy and can be done by someone relatively inexperienced in the kitchen, however, caramel is more of an exact science.
- You must watch it carefully. It goes from sugar to caramel to a burnt mess in a matter of about 30 seconds. Just know that you may have to throw out your first attempt, but once you get it right, it becomes easy.
Tips to making perfect vegan caramel:
- Every time I made vegan caramel it would come out differently and many times it would seem perfect while still warm, but then get gritty and start to crystallize when it cooled. So, I learned to add a pinch of cream of tartar to keep the sugar smooth.
- I also learned the hard way to have the coconut oil and soy milk measured and waiting to pour into the sugar mixture the second it caramelizes. Adding oil and milk reduces the temperature and keeps it from burning. It the few seconds that it would take you to find and measure the oil and soy milk, your sugar will burn!
- When using vegan sugar, it is already slightly brown, so you will not see a big color change. Go by smell more than color. ( It will start to smell like caramel or even slightly burnt sugar).
- Add the oil first, give it a little stir with a whisk and then add the milk. This will cool it down a little and it won’t spatter as much once you add the soy milk. When you do add the milk, it will still bubble up and may spatter a little, so use a long-handled whisk to stir and stand back. (Make sure children are back and out of your way)!
- If your sauce is too runny you can heat it again on low for about 30-60 seconds to evaporate some liquid out of it and firm it up. (But don’t let it burn)!
Want some great vegan recipes for fall?
These are some of my family’s favorites:
- Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Vegan Salted Caramel Frosting.
- Pumpkin Bean Soup – A delicious creamy soup made with pumpkin, beans, and tomatoes all pureed into a flavorful broth.
- Vegan Pumpkin Bread with homemade Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting!
- Red Lentil Soup with Pumpkin and Kale
- Gluten-Free Vegan Apple Pie
- Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Vegan caramel apple recipe that tastes like the real deal!
- 4 apples
- 4 popsicle sticks
Start with a clean medium-sized saucepan and add the sugar, water and cream of tartar.
Turn the heat on to medium. The sugar water will start to boil. Don’t stir, just pick up the saucepan and swish around the sugar if needed.
Watch the sugar mixture closely! After it boils for about 6-8 minutes, it will start to get slightly darker and smell like caramel. At this point let it boil for about 10-20 more seconds to let it turn a medium brown color (this color change will be slight when using vegan unbleached sugar).
Remove from heat and immediately add coconut oil and stir with a long-handled metal whisk for a few seconds.
Add the soy milk (It will bubble up and may spatter, so be careful)! Continue to stir until smooth and everything is well mixed. Then allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
Reheat the caramel sauce until it begins to bubble and allow it to bubble on low heat for 45 seconds.
Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes until it starts to slightly firm up and get sticky.
While your caramel is cooling, take out the apple stem, then wash and dry the apples well. Place a popsicle stick in the top of each apple.
Cover a tray or cookie sheet with parchment paper to put the apples on after they are dipped in caramel.
Once your caramel is a thick, sticky consistency, roll the apples in the caramel, coating the whole apple. (You can use a spoon to help you coat the apple completely).
Allow to drip for a few seconds and then place it on the parchment paper.
Put the tray of apples in the fridge to cool completely. (They will easily come off of the parchment paper once cool).
- Watch the caramel closely as it's cooking, don't walk away from it!
- You will know your caramel is done cooking when it smells like caramel. The smell is as important as the color change in determining when to remove it from the stove.
- Make sure to remove it from the burner completely before adding the oil and soy milk. Don't just turn off the heat.