Gluten and Dairy-free Caramel

by angelaskitchen on October 8, 2008


Gluten and Dairy Free Caramel

Gluten and Dairy Free Caramel


When I first went off of milk, caramel (especially caramel popcorn) was one of the main things I missed.  This has evolved over time.  Brown rice syrup, brown sugar and many more things have been used until I finally just let caramel be caramel, which in it’s simplest form is letting sugar cook until it caramelizes to a nice golden brown color..  I do not know where I got the original proportions from.  I am pretty sure it was from and old candy cook book at the library we near where we lived, WAY back before we even had kids…  (on DogHillKitchen -who’s site I just found and it is GREAT! – she has a VERY similar recipe and credits the proportions to the Glad Cow Cookbook, so it may be from there.  That could very well be the case as we were vegan back then… huh, except it wasn’t published until 2005, so, I don’t think it was.  Hmmm… so, I guess I still don’t know…grrrrr….)  


I do use Earth Balance Butter Spread for this one because some things just need that buttery flavor for me.  However, if you can’t use it, you could substitute coconut oil for a 1/3 less than the amount of buttery spread that is called for (2/3 cup coconut oil).


Crockpot 365 had a great tip the other day to put your caramel into the 1.5 quart sized crackpot to keep you caramel at a good temp for dipping apples.  I haven’t tried it as I do not have a little crockpot (oh, how I want one….gotta add that to my Christmas list), but when you caramel is all cooked, pour it into the mini crock, turn it on,  and you should be ready to dip.  Thanks for the tip, Steph!


Dairy-free Caramel

1 cup Earth Balance margarine

2 cups sugar

1 can (14.5 ounce) coconut milk plus enough almond milk to make a total of 2 cups (coconut milk and almond milk combined)

1 cup light corn syrup replacement (see below) or light corn syrup

1 1/2 teaspoon gluten free vanilla

Prepare your pan/s:  Line an 8 inch x 8 inch pan with parchment or, if dipping apples, cover a baking sheet with parchment and poke the sticks into the apples.  I do this by  very lightly oiling my pan, then laying in the parchment so the parchment does not slide around. If you will be coating apples, you can cover a few apples and then place the remaining caramel in a smaller parchment lined container such as a bread loaf pan for the caramel you will have leftover.  If making caramel sauce, have a canning jar and lid ready.  I use a canning jar, pouring the sauce into a clean canning jar, letting the sauce cool before capping and storing in the refrigerator.  Heat caramel sauce by putting uncovered jar in a sauce pan with water and heating to desired temperature.  


Place the margarine, sugar, coconut/almond milk mixture and corn syrup replacement in a large saucepan.  Clip candy thermometer to saucepan.  Slowly bring ingredients to a low boil stirring very, very often.  Keeping things at a low boil prevents the caramel sugars from forming grainy crystals, prevents boil over and hot sugar spatters.  


Cook over medium-high heat while continuing to stir often until candy reaches 248 degrees F. For softer caramels cook to 243 for softer caramels.  If you are making caramel sauce for dairy-free ice cream or for less sticky caramel (like I did for my daughter with braces) cook the caramel to 230 degrees.  This takes quite a while generally 1 ½ to 2 hours with my stove, so I will do this while I have other things I am puttering around with in the kitchen.  Trust me it is worth it!  You could cook it at a little higher temp than I do so it goes faster, but then you need to stir continuously.  It starts out very milky looking, but will become a nice caramel color when cooked.  Mmmmm…


Remove saucepan from heat and stir in vanilla. 


If making caramels:  Pour into the prepared lined baking pan.  Cool the caramel completely.  Us the parchment to lift out the caramel.  Snip with an oiled kitchen scissors or sharp knife .  Wrap in waxed paper (You can cut your own or order then from a candy supply store.  I get mine here:  Sweet Celebrations ).


If coating apples: allow the caramel to cool in the pan for a minute while continuously stirring.  Put sticks into apples (on stem end).  Holding the stick, dip the apple using a spoon, if desired to help coat on more caramel.  After coating the apples you can dip in toasted coconut, chopped toasted nuts, mini chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life’s gfcf chocolate chips) if you would like.   Place the apples on the parchment lined baking sheet.  Put your apples into the refrigerator to set up or eat them as soon as they cool enough to bite.  (I get my apple sticks and apple cups that do not stick to the caramel from Sweet Celebrations.)


For caramel sauce: Pour the sauce into a clean canning jar, letting the sauce cool before capping and storing in the refrigerator.  When you want to use it, heat caramel sauce by putting uncovered jar in a saucepan that has water in it, heating to desired temperature.  


Light corn syrup replacement

Because I don’t like to use corn syrup if I can help it…


2 cups sugar

1 cup water


Put water and sugar in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil.    Clip a candy thermometer to the sauce pan.  Do not stir!  No matter how much you want to!  If you need to get some sugar from the side of the pan, use a pastry brush dipped in water and run it around the top to the pan.  At a low boil, cook the sugar mixture until it reaches 215 degrees (you could go as high as 220 degrees depending how thick you like your syrup – remember it will thicken more when cool).  Remove pan from heat.  You can put pan bottom in a bowl of cool water to quickly cool the syrup.  Put syrup (you can stir it now) after it cools into a glass jar and cover. 


Comments from my old blog site:  



Wednesday, October 8, 2008 – 05:56 PM
Thank you so much!!  My son will hopefully love this.  What a blessing you are!

Thursday, October 9, 2008 – 09:14 AM
What gluten free vanilla product do you use?

Thursday, October 9, 2008 – 01:22 PM
I am using Rodelle Vanilla It is a gluten free, very tasty vanilla.  AND they label as gluten free!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Cayti Burch February 1, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Okay – I got diagnosed a year ago with a milk allergy and I’m slowly working my way through my dairy free wishlist. Dairy-free ice cream – check, dairy-free chocolate – check, dairy-free cheesecake – check, caramel – working.

I tried this one today and I’m wondering if you’re watching more for the temperature or for a certain color or consistency? It turned a light golden caramel color and hit 248’F and I stirred it at that temp for a bit, then took it off the burner, added the vanilla and put it in the pan. How long will it take to cool and thicken (I’m going on 4 hours now and it’s still pretty gloopy). I’m also wondering if you recommend a copper bottom (or metal bottom) pan or if you did this in a non-stick – granny swears it makes a difference. And another question is were you working on a gas stove or electric?


angelaskitchen February 3, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I look for the temp more than the color. I think the color isn’t as dark as dairy carmel or the carmel at the store… I make my carmel in a stainless steel pan (it’s what I have laying around here). I don’t use non-stick at home. I would love to get a copper pot sometime, as it’s supposed to be awesome to cook in, but that is a wish-list luxury item right now. It sets up pretty quickly (I can tell it’s firming fairly soon and need to keep it warm if I am dipping apples as it will get too thick to dip and stick). Usually when making carmel candy, I stick it in the pan, put it up high and walk away from it (so I and my kids stop looking at it and poking it) and then come back later and check it out when I have the time. I am not sure how long it takes for sure, but 4 hours seems like too long of a time to me. Maybe try refrigerating it after cooled to room temp? I have a gas burner and electric oven.

Also, if you need a corn syrup replacement and don’t want to make your own, you can use Lyle’s Golden Syrup.


Jamie Stern December 18, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Hi Angela,
I have an online store and also showcase recipes for my customers to try. I would love to share one of your favorites. I give full credit and links back to your website, as well as press release mentions and social media blasts. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Have a great weekend.
Best regards,
Jamie Stern, Owner


Carolyn October 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Thank you soooo much! Two children I babysit (brothers) recently went on the GFCF diet, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to make treats for them for Halloween, since that is going to be our afternoon activity a couple of times this month. I wanted to do caramel apple slices, but knew they couldn’t have “real” caramel. I think we’re going to try this recipe for ALL the kids, so that no one feels left out. Thanks again!


Heather January 30, 2011 at 11:54 pm

I just made these caramels today and they are great! I actually can’t stand the taste of coconut, so I was a bit worried, but you really can’t taste it at all. The recipe did make a whole lot more than I’d expected, so I have one questions. Is it possible to freeze the caramel pieces for later use? Thanks.


angelaskitchen January 31, 2011 at 10:03 am

I am so glad you liked them! Yep, I freeze these for later all the time. They sometimes can get a bit sticky, of course, depending on how long they have been frozen and how well they are wrapped, but are still yummy for eating and melt well for other things.


Heather January 31, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Thanks. Also, how long do they keep if you don’t freeze them?


Jennifer May 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm

I’m wondering if rice milk will work in place of coconut or almond milk, or if the fat from those is required. We work around casein, nut, and coconut allergies/intolerances so rice milk is our go-to milk substitute. Thank you!


angelaskitchen May 30, 2011 at 6:11 pm

You can use rice milk for this. It will be a bit less creamy flavored, but still really yummy. I hope you like it! 🙂


Cinde October 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Hello Angela, What temperature should I cook the caramel to if I am using it to coat apples, 248 degrees F. or 243 degrees F? Also, how many caramel apples will your recipe yield? If you could please reply a.s.a.p I would appreciate it, as I hope to make these the week of Halloween for my GF/DF daughter. Thanks!


angelaskitchen October 11, 2011 at 7:00 am

Hi! I usually cook to whatever I am in the mood for that year (though usually it is the firmer caramels, so the higher temp). What I do is make the caramels ahead of time and store them in the fridge. Then, when we are ready to make caramel apples, I warm the caramel over a double boiler until softened enough to dip the apples. I do that so we can make dipped apples whenever we are ready and don’t have to wait for the carmel to cook. You could also warm the caramel in a mini-slow cooker (safer for the kiddos) – one used for dips, etc. Hope that helps!


tiffany February 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm

What if ur using soy milk because that is the prefered dairy free milk in ur home


angelaskitchen February 8, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Yes, you can use soy milk if that is what you prefer. Enjoy!


Alison October 6, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Can I skip the coconut milk completely?


angelaskitchen October 14, 2013 at 5:43 pm

You could try it. It won’t be quite as creamy and more toffee-ish if you skip it, however. If you try it, let me know how it goes.


Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post:

  • Creative Commons License
    Angela's Kitchen by Angela Litzinger is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
    Based on a work at
    Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at