I’m constantly amazed by the things we can make allergy-free. Pizza? Biscuits? Crepes? Cake? Brownies? Fascinating that foods that normally contain a variety of allergens can be made free of gluten, dairy, grains, legumes, and refined sugar.
If you had told me three years ago that I could still enjoy salted caramel without the dairy and sugar, I would have asked you to prove it. When I began eating paleo on a strict basis, I cut sweets out of my diet almost entirely. Not because I didn’t crave them, but because I didn’t know how to make them without wheat and sugar and spice and everything nice. I thought “eating clean” meant trading in all my fun and decadent foods for…well…boring ones. I now know that is not the case, and am happy to announce not only can we enjoy grain-free, refined sugar-free desserts, but they can also taste so close to the real thing, you’d hardly be able to tell the difference.
Typically, caramel (or dulce de leche) is made by slow cooking heavy cream or condensed milk with cane sugar until it thickens up. While delicious, many people have a difficult time processing high (or even small) amounts of dairy and refined sugar. This paleo salted caramel is made with just a few simple ingredients – coconut milk and coconut sugar are what replace heavy cream/milk and refined cane sugar.
You can easily be made vegan by omitting the butter (or using vegan “butter” spread), and you can also substitute a portion of the coconut sugar for pure maple syrup if you enjoy a nice maple flavor to your caramel. I like using all coconut sugar for sweetening the caramel because coconut sugar itself has a natural caramel-y flavor. I based this recipe on Faith Gorsky’s Salted Coconut Caramel Sauce, so be sure to check out her version as well.
Without further adieu, here is how to make paleo salted caramel:
Whisk together the coconut milk and coconut sugar in a large saucepan. I find using a large pan/skillet versus a pot works really well because the surface area allows the moisture to evaporate easier for optimal caramel thickening.
Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a full boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat slightly so that the caramel mixture continue to cook at a full, but mananged, boil. Whisk frequently to avoid the coconut milk from clumping up (while coconut milk doesn’t burn as easily as heavy cream, it does clump and separate if you allow it to boil at too high a temperature without whisking).
Continue cooking and whisking until caramel is deep brown and has thickened quite a bit, about 10 to 15 minutes. Whisk in the butter, vanilla extract, and salt. Remove caramel from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. It will become even thicker as it cools.
Transfer to a sealable container and refrigerate until ready to use (or use immediately). You can store the caramel in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
- Use quality full-fat coconut milk from a reputable brand. I like using Thai Kitchen, Native Forest, or Trader Joes’s coconut milk.
- Be sure to use sea salt, rather than regular iodized table salt, or the caramel will turn out much saltier. If using iodized salt, start with 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon and add more to taste.
- You can add a small amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves to the saucepan at the same time you add the coconut milk and coconut sugar in order to make a chai/pumpkin spice flavored caramel. Also add a small amount of apple cider at the beginning of cooking for a cider-flavored caramel.
- Replace up to half of the coconut sugar with pure maple syrup or agave nectar if desired.
- Omit the butter or replace it with vegan “butter” spread in order to keep this recipe vegan. You can also use unsalted butter and add a small amount more sea salt.
- Use your paleo salted caramel for drizzling on ice cream, crepes, cakes, or other desserts, for caramel macchiatos (or lattes), as a dip for apples, etc.
Get that caramel!
How to Make Paleo Salted Caramel
Add the coconut milk and coconut sugar to a large saucepan and whisk over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a full boil, then reduce the heat slightly to allow the mixture to continue to cook at a managed boil. Be sure to whisk frequently (or constantly) to avoid the coconut milk from separating or clumping up.
Cook and whisk until caramel has thickened and is one half to one third of its original volume, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and whisk in the salt, butter, and pure vanilla extract. Allow caramel to cool to room temperature. Note that the caramel will continue to thicken as it cools off. Transfer to glass jar, seal, and refrigerate until ready to use. Caramel can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.