Home & Garden Home Is Caramel Vegan? The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Vegan Caramel Caramel presents a sticky situation for vegans. By Gia Mora Gia Mora Facebook Twitter Writer and Quality Team Editor University of Colorado University of Pisa Gia is a writer, performer, and producer who has written extensively about veganism, food waste, and sustainable living. Learn about our editorial process Updated May 19, 2022 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Treehugger / Joshua Seong Home Sustainable Eating Pest Control Natural Cleaning DIY Family Green Living Thrift & Minimalism In This Article Expand Why Most Caramel Is Not Vegan When Is Caramel Vegan? Vegan Alternatives to Caramel Frequently Asked Questions Whether you pronounce it with two syllables or three, caramel is a sweet treat made from heated sugar. Unfortunately for vegans, most commercially available forms of caramel include non-vegan ingredients like milk that give caramel its creamy, rich texture. Thankfully, vegans don’t have to give up caramel entirely. There are plenty of animal-product-free varieties as well as easy vegan DIY recipes. Discover which types of caramel are suitable for vegans and the plant-based alternatives available in our vegan’s guide to caramel. Why Most Caramel Is Not Vegan In its simplest form, caramel is browned sugar. When heated to around 340 degrees F (170 degrees C), the sugar breaks down and becomes caramelized, meaning that the water has been removed from the sugar molecules. The sugar molecules then reform, creating a sweet, sticky, golden-colored liquid used in desserts worldwide. However, most commercially available forms of caramel contain much more than just heated sugar. Most caramels include vegan-friendly ingredients like vanilla extract and salt. Still, non-vegan ingredients like milk, cream, and butter give caramel its fat and protein content and provide caramel with its signature rich, velvety texture. You can find dairy-based caramel in an assortment of forms, including candies, sauces, puddings, and baking chips. Butterscotch, too, is a type of non-vegan caramel made with brown sugar instead of granulated white sugar. It is most often made into a hard candy instead of a sauce or soft chew. When Is Caramel Vegan? Caramel traditionally comes in two forms that don’t contain animal products: clear caramel and caramel color. In both cases, the caramel contains only caramelized sugar and water. Clear caramel—so named because the glossy brown liquid isn’t made cloudy by a dairy product—appears in desserts like flan and crème caramel. Caramel color—a dark, bittersweet, water-soluble food coloring—has been used in all kinds of food and beverages, especially in colas, for over 150 years. It does not contain dairy or other non-vegan ingredients. Fortunately for vegans, a growing number of manufacturers offer vegan caramels, primarily using coconut milk and other non-animal ingredients that provide a taste and texture similar to conventional caramel. Vegan versions of desserts that include caramel, like pralines, crème brûlée, caramel apples, and ice cream, also use non-dairy milk and butter as substitutes. It’s also easy to make vegan caramel at home. Slowly boil sugar, plant-based milk, butter, and vanilla extract until the mixture attains that gooey consistency you’re craving. Vegan Alternatives to Caramel Indulge in plant-based alternatives to traditional nut brittles. Angelo D'Amico / Getty Images As the vegan market continues to expand, so do the options for plant-based caramel. Whatever you’re humming for, these vegan caramel alternatives will hit the sweet spot. AvenueSweets Dairy-Free Nut Brittle AvenueSweets offers three varieties of nut brittle: cashew, peanut, and pecan. Made with organic coconut oil, tapioca syrup, and organic vegan cane sugar, AvenueSweets also makes vegan caramel candies and a vegan sea salt caramel sauce. Beyond their vegan offerings, AvenueSweets also makes traditional, dairy-based caramels, brittles, and nougat. Be sure to double-check that you’ve selected one of their plant-based options. Bloom Hand Crafted Coconut Milk Caramel Sauce A 2019 Good Food Awards Winner, Bloom’s allergy- and animal-friendly caramel sauce comes in four unique varieties: vanilla, salted caramel, cardamom, and ancho chili. Bloom caramel sauces are made with coconut cream and cane sugar—never corn syrup. Daffy Farms Wicked Dark Non-Dairy Caramel Syrup This caramel apple company offers an award-winning dairy-free caramel syrup made from non-GMO cane sugar and tapioca. Daffy Farms stands out in the vegan caramel world as one of the few coconut-free vegan options. King David Vegan Caramel Chips Perfect for your vegan gorp, King David’s vegan caramel chips are non-dairy, lactose-free, and kosher certified. They’re made with sugar, palm oil, cocoa butter, and soy flour. King David also makes vegan butterscotch chips, which share similar ingredients but have a slightly different flavor. Frequently Asked Questions What is caramel made of? Simple caramel is browned sugar. Most commercially available caramels contain ingredients such as vanilla extract, salt, milk, butter, and cream. Is caramel dairy-based? Unless otherwise labeled, caramel that you find in stores will most likely contain dairy. Check the labels and look for vegan caramel alternatives. Is butterscotch vegan? Butterscotch, a type of caramel, is typically not vegan because it contains dairy. Which caramels are vegan? While our list is not exhaustive, we recommend buying vegan caramel sweets from AvenueSweets, Bloom Caramel, King David, and Daffy Farms.