Do you know that I actually had no idea what was in caramel until shortly after making the switch from vegetarian to vegan and getting serious about reading ingredient labels? Vegan caramel was not something I had ever made at home, since chocolate almost always trumps every other kind of candy in my book. Of course, once I decided not to eat dairy anymore, salted caramel became a thing. And then I wanted caramel too.
I’ve experimented with different vegan caramels over the years—some from medjool dates, others from brown sugar and full-fat coconut milk—and for sure there have been a couple that mimic a similar caramel-like flavor, but when I eat caramel, I want the chew. The messy, hard-not-to-have-caramel-on-your-chin sort of deal. My attempts at homemade caramel sauce never accomplished this, with one particularly bad batch ending up so gelatinous, it went straight into the trash. Until a few months ago.
I was making a recipe that called for coconut nectar as a caramel substitute and I thought it was so completely genius. What makes it even better though, is combining coconut nectar with a little neutral-flavored nut butter. Cashew butter is my current top pick, and I bet a rich macadamia butter would be really delicious too. I also add a generous pinch of sea salt to mine because I’m still riding the salted caramel trend.
The chew that was missing from vegan caramel? Not anymore. The texture and flavor are so spot-on…this is one of my most favorite types of recipes. Three ingredients (two if you don’t count salt), one bowl, and so many potential uses. I’ll be sharing a couple of my favorites next week, but for now, I’d say cool it on the mediocre Halloween candy and make a super quick batch of this low-glycemic vegan caramel instead. I’ve been eating it as my afternoon snack with apple or pear slices for dipping. It hits. the. spot.
- ⅔ cup coconut nectar
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons creamy cashew butter*
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt (less if you use salted cashew butter)
- Mix together the coconut nectar, cashew butter, and salt in a small bowl until well combined. That's it! The caramel will be thinner at room temperature (perfect for topping sweet breads, cupcakes and cakes) and thicker once refrigerated (ideal for dipping sliced fruit or slathering on toast).
Photography by Aaron Scott
I hope you have a wonderful Halloween! Happy weekend!
P.S. I am so grateful for your comments and emails offering support after Wednesday’s post. In addition to drowning my worries in a big bowl of that butternut squash mac and cheese, you all really brightened my week. Thank you. <3