Is Caramel Vegan? Uncovering the Sweet Treat’s Ingredients

Caramel is a sweet treat made by heating sugar and found in several candies and desserts. However, is caramel vegan? Uncovering the sweet treat’s ingredients proves that the answer is not straightforward because some caramel is vegan and some are not.

Known Caramel Facts:

  • Not all sugar used to make caramel is vegan.
  • Sometimes dairy ingredients are added to caramel to give it a creamier flavor.
  • Sometimes the labeling on a caramel product won’t indicate if it’s vegan.

Is Caramel Vegan?

It’s effortless to make caramel. You only need to heat granulated white sugar to about 340 degrees F until it’s browned or caramelized. The sugar heating process removes any hydration in the sugar molecules, creating golden-colored syrup for sweet and dessert making.

Commercial producers often add other ingredients to the sugar during the caramel-making process. Some of these, like salt and vanilla extract, are vegan. Others, like butter, cream, and milk, aren’t. The addition of dairy helps a richer flavor and smoother texture.

Dairy-based caramel is used in several products, including candy, frozen desserts, puddings, sauces, and baking chips. Another form of caramel often used for creating hard candy is butterscotch. Butterscotch is also not vegan since it contains dairy. The only difference between it and most caramel is that it has brown sugar.

Therefore, some caramel is vegan, but it’s challenging to tell with commercial caramel.

How to Know Which Caramel is Vegan?

Traditionally, clear caramel and caramel color contain no animal products, meaning they are vegan. They have caramelized sugar and water only.

Clear caramel has a glossier brown color, and since it’s used in desserts like flan or crème caramel, no dairy is included to maintain its clear color.

Caramel color’s mainly used as a food coloring, often found in colas. Its longer cooking process gives it a dark color and bittersweet flavor. It contains no non-vegan ingredients.

Manufacturers use plant-based ingredients, especially coconut milk, to get a creamier caramel for vegan products. They have also started including vegan versions of desserts that classically contain caramel and milk, like ice cream, pralines, caramel apples, and crème Brulé. They use dairy substitutes to achieve the desired textures and flavors.

Make your vegan caramel at home by slowly boiling sugar, vanilla extract, and coconut milk until you get the desired texture. Try this recipe from TofuBud; it takes less than 20 minutes to make one and a half cups of plant-based caramel sauce.

Potential Non-Vegan Ingredients in Caramel

The two ingredients used in manufacturing caramel that can make it non-vegan are sugar and dairy.


Many vegans will eat white granulated sugar, but others won’t touch it because they find the refining process problematic. The problem with refined white sugar is that it’s filtered with animal bone char (mostly from cows). Therefore, they feel that they are still contributing to the unfair treatment of animals if they eat products containing white sugar.

Manufacturers also use other sugars, including brown sugar and corn syrup, to make caramel.


Milk and butter are the two dairy ingredients mostly used to create a creamier caramel sauce. Since vegans don’t consume any animal products, they cannot eat any foods containing dairy-based caramel sauces.

It’s also never safe for a vegan to assume that a product containing caramel is vegan unless it expressly says so on the packaging.

Caramel in the Vegan Diet

Unless you make a vegan caramel sauce at home to add to your treats, always check that commercially made caramel states that it’s vegan on the label. If it doesn’t, it’s most likely got dairy.

You can use your caramel on vegan ice cream, as a topping for desserts, on cookies and brownies, to create shakes and coffees, and to coat popcorn.

However, increased demand for vegan products has ensured you can find several shop-bought vegan caramel sauces and caramel-flavored treats to appease your cravings.

1.     Berkeley Bar by Coracao Confections

The cashew butter in the center has a nougat-like texture that resembles a Snicker bar covered in a generous layer of dark chocolate.  

2.     AvenueSweets Dairy-Free Nut Brittle

Choose one of their three vegan varieties of nut brittle made with organic and vegan cane sugar, coconut oil, and tapioca syrup. Besides cashew, pecan, and peanut nut bars, AvenueSweets also has a vegan caramel sauce and vegan caramel candies. Always ensure you buy the vegan varieties because the company also makes non-vegan treats.

3.     Dream Big Bar by Eli’s Earth

The Big Dream Bar consists of layered caramel, peanuts, and peanut butter, finished with creamy chocolate made with rice milk.  

4.     Bloom Hand Crafted Coconut Milk Caramel Sauce

Try all four delicious caramel sauce flavors: salted caramel, cardamom, ancho chili, and vanilla. These caramel sauces are animal and allergy friendly.

5.     Rawmio’s Salted Coconut Caramel & Crushed Cashew Raw Chocolate Bark

Here’s a raw chocolate bar that’s both healthy and delicious. Besides the ground dark chocolate, it contains cashews coated in caramel and vanilla beans.

6.     Daffy Farms Wicked Dark Non-Dairy Caramel Syrup

If you want coconut-free caramel syrup, then this one is for you! The sauce contains tapioca and GMO-free cane sugar.

7.     Totally Vegan Caramel Sauce by Hot Cakes

Another delicious golden caramel sauce, Totally’s version, contains coconut and hemp milk for its buttery flavor.

8.     King David Vegan Caramel Chips

Try the vegan caramel or butterscotch chips from King David for a vegan caramel treat made with cocoa butter, soy flour, palm oil, and sugar. They are dairy- and lactose-free and kosher-certified.

9.     Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Ice Cream by So Delicious

During the summer months, a frozen dessert is ideal for cooling off. You won’t be disappointed by the abundance of chocolate-covered cashews and gooey caramel in this frozen vegan treat by So Delicious.

10.  Caramel Apple Red Tea by The Republic of Tea

Whether you like your tea iced or warm, this caffeine-free blend of rooibos, caramel, and apple is just perfect!

11.  Califia Farms Salted Caramel Iced Coffee

Coffee lovers looking to grab a quick pick-me-up are not disappointed after trying this coffee-flavored beverage with salty caramel and almond milk. The Cold Brew is 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified.

Find out more about vegan caramel treats in this article by VegNews.

Tips for Making Vegan Caramel at Home

– Start with one cup of granulated sugar and add two tablespoons to a saucepan.

– Add 1/3 cup of water, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and some coconut milk into the pan, or use vegan butter if you don’t want the coconut flavor.

– Heat slowly until the sugar dissolves completely, then turn up the heat. Keep stirring so you don’t get burnt patches on the caramel.

– Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium and leave it boiling for about 15 minutes until it turns brown. The color should be consistent throughout your caramel sauce mix.

– Strain out any lumps by passing through a sieve and then cooling it down.

– That’s it! You now have a delicious vegan caramel sauce mix that you can use for all your baking needs or to pour over ice cream. Enjoy!

This article answers “Is Caramel Vegan?” with an emphatic yes! With so many vegan options for store-bought and homemade caramels, there’s something to satisfy every sweet tooth. Check labels carefully when buying pre-made caramel sauces and other treats, as some may contain non-vegan ingredients like dairy or bone char. Making your own is also easy and affordable if you’d rather be sure of the ingredients’ origin, whether store-bought or homemade, vegans can enjoy a guilt-free indulgence of caramel treats!


Can vegans eat caramel?

Yes, vegans can eat caramel as it is made with plant-based ingredients. Check labels carefully when buying pre-made caramel sauces and other treats, as some may contain non-vegan ingredients like dairy or bone char. Making your own is also easy and affordable if you’d rather be sure of the ingredients’ origin.

Is there a vegan alternative to dairy-based caramel?

Absolutely! Numerous vegan alternatives have substituted traditional dairy-based caramels with plant-based alternatives such as coconut or almond milk. You can also make vegan caramel sauce at home using simple ingredients like sugar, coconut milk, vegan butter, and vanilla extract.

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