Vegan Salted Caramels (Corn Syrup-Free)

 Today’s new candy for VeganMoFo is Vegan Salted Caramels. Corn Syrup-Free, might I add…

themeI’m not one for being the most healthy. I mean, I try my best to maintain a reasonably sensible diet but there are days where all I want to eat are potato chips and beer. And I do. Yet I’m stopped at the thought of making vegan caramels when I hear that corn syrup is the main ingredient. I’ve read enough to know that it’s not the best for your body however who am I to label it bad when I can down fistfuls of salty fried potatoes?

Vegan Salted Caramels - Fork & Beans

Regardless, I wanted to create a recipe that was sans corn syrup, partly because I wanted to prove that I could do it but also because I know that it’s a concern for a lot of others to stay away from the sticky, yet sweet stuff derived from corn. Just don’t be surprised if you see a candy recipe that has corn syrup over here–it’s bound to happen. So here you go: a vegan caramel recipe that doesn’t suck!

Vegan Salted Caramels - Fork & Beans


Vegan Caramels (Corn Syrup-Free)
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 30
  • 1 c. coconut milk (full or low fat)
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • ⅓ c. Earth Balance vegan butter
  • ¼ c. pure maple syrup (or corn syrup if you like)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • juice of 1 lemon wedge
  • 2 pinches of ground Himalayan salt (omit if you don't like the sweet/salty taste)
  1. 1. Throw all the ingredients into a small saucepan (except for the vanilla, lemon juice and salt) and melt on medium heat. Stir continuously. Once mixture begins to boil, add candy thermometer. Leave alone without stirring until it reaches between the soft and hard ball stages (250-275* F). Please note that it will take awhile for your caramels to get up to 250*. You can always remove them from the heat anywhere after 240* if you don't want to wait--they will be softer and melt a little quicker once it hits room temp but still taste just as good. Know that if you want to wait for 250+* it will spike quickly once it does go past 250* so don't go anywhere! You don't want it to burn.
  2. 2. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, lemon, and salt.
  3. 3. Pour onto parchment paper-lined 8×8 pan (or your choice, depending how thick you want your caramels to be).
  4. 4. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Chill in fridge 30-60 minutes or until set.
  5. 5. Cut into squares or rectangles with kitchen scissors or a knife. Wrap in precut wax paper and store in fridge.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 1641 Fat: 110g Saturated fat: 82g Unsaturated fat: 21g Trans fat: 2g Carbohydrates: 175g Sugar: 157g Sodium: 371mg Fiber: 2g Protein: 6g Cholesterol: 163mg





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  1. What would you substitute for the Earth Butter? I cannot do dairy nor soy nor corn because of severe allergies, and I keep seeing Earth Butter; however this is on my no-no list.

    • I have a nondairy butter recipe on my site. Search in the upper righthand bar and though it does call for soy lecithin, there is a note for substitutions. You will LOVE it.

  2. I’m not sure if you’ll see this since it’s so late, but do you think this caramel would work in brownies? (not simply poured on top after being baked but layered in the middle)

  3. I made this recipe for the first time last night. The first batch never reached 220 degrees, even though it burnt and turned very dark. I think the reason for this was that the mixture completely separated and the coconut milk solids burn much faster than the oil. When I remade the recipe, I read a comment about stirring the mixture constantly while it’s boiling. That goes against all caramel-making principles, but I tried it and it saved the second batch from ruin. Lemon juice also helped the mixture to come back together. The finished product has a rich, slightly nutty flavor. I poured some over fresh popped popcorn and it tastes just like the heavenly copper kettle-cooked caramel corn I used to get at the Jersey shore.

  4. Cara, Can I make these in oven? I do not have thermometer, but do have dairy-allergic , and very BORED ‘tween who is pining away for caramels on Christmas eve!. Amazingly I do happen to have all the other ingredients on hand so we started down the road, but discovered I only had meat thermometers!
    Took it to boil and small sauce pot is now in gas oven set to 265…?
    – Soy-Boy’s Momma

    • Yeah… That didnt work :) but I DID get a candy thermometer for Christmas, so tried again. Gas stove, All-Clad sauce pot… Set to 4 to 3-ish (on scale of lo-2 to hi-6). Began separating and getting some burt bits at 235 degrees. Held on to 250, then followed rest if directions but it did not fill 8″x8″ pan…?!?. Cooked at to high flame/temp???
      Out if maple syrup but do have Karo… Should I try?

  5. Made all my presents this year and had no idea what GOOD treat I could make my celiac, vegan, allergic to several types of nuts cousin, then I remembered I had seen this recipe on here before. She (and I) LOVED them. They’re so, so delicious.

  6. many caramel recipes I’ve used have you add the milk after you’ve got the sugar in the 225-250 temperature range. Then there is another reheat to a lower temperature. Anyone try that with this recipe? Especially those who’ve had problems getting the recipe to 250?

  7. Do you use canned coconut milk or the kind in a carton?
    Thank you!

  8. I have made candy several times, but never had such a problem getting it to temp. I have attempted this recipe twice now. I cannot get the temp. above 212. The first batch burned to the bottom of the pan, so I bought a different thermometer and tried again. Still would not budge over 212 despite boiling on the stove for over 20 minutes. I am clueless as to what my issue is. I was really looking forward to giving these as gifts.

    • Gingerbread says:

      Andrea no one is posting times, but I’ve made traditional caramels numerous times. You want soft ball stage typically. The mix requires constant stirring – to the point of two of us sharing stirring duties- until 245 (or about 45 minutes) whichever comes FIRST. I found it would hover in the 225 range a long while and then shoot up suddenly.
      I haven’t tried these vegan ones yet but will stick to my past practices. I once went by time- it shot up to hardball and I had an expensive pan of VERY hard ‘toffee’. Sugar, butter and evap milk are so expensive I couldn’t bear to trash it. We used a hammer to break it up but the shards, while tasty, were sharp and kind of dangerous!
      Try again and be patient. Good luck!
      (I’ll repost when I’m done trying this recipe.)

  9. Pamela G. says:

    I’d like to try this but does it REALLY take 60 hours total time to make or is that some sort of mistake or typo?

  10. I am excited to try this recipe! It looks delicious. I have tried making caramels with honey and no refined sugar and can’t get them quite right. Does the lemon juice just add flavor or does it have another function? (I don’t always like lemon juice in things.) Thanks for sharing this!

    • The lemon just adds an element of keeping the caramel from separating but some have said that they had no issue with not using it. Good luck, Natalie! Candy-making can be a little tricky but I am confident you will do great!

  11. Did you use grade A or B maple syrup? It makes a difference in taste and sweetness! :-) Thanks!

  12. WOW!!! A few weeks ago I had some vegan caramels from Whole Paycheck that had an amazing flavor and texture. I decided to look for a recipe to try to make my own. I was nervous since I’ve never made candy with a thermometer before, but this was actually really easy! You can just imagine me, stooped in front of the stove, cackling maniacally as I watched temperature creep up from 245… 250… 265!

    For those whose caramel is separating into clumps and liquid, mine did the same thing. I let it get to about 270, and I think that might have had something to do with the mixture separating. What I did, after removing from the heat and adding the lemon juice, vanilla, and salt, was I just whisked it with a fork until the texture seemed right. I think after the mixture cools down a little it’s more “agreeable” and will come back together in a classic caramel texture and color. My first batch is cooling beautifully on the counter right now. I rapidly cooled and scarfed the scrapings from the saucepan and O-M-G! This stuff tastes amazing!!!

    If there were a Nobel prize for vegan sweets, this recipe would definitely win :) I’d like to try this again with coconut oil instead of Earth Balance. If I do, I’ll be sure to post the results.

    Thanks again for the terrific recipe!

    • Um I LOVE this comment! Thank you for your feedback and suggestions–so super helpful Cait. I am so glad that you liked the caramels. Can’t wait to hear the results of the test drive with coconut oil…xo

      • It only took me six months to get around to it, BUT… I *finally* made this again with coconut oil instead of margarine. Know why I had to wait so long? Because this s%^t is BANANAS and I ate the entire batch in one day! Soooo good!

        The coconut oil worked pretty well, I think. The end result wound up a little bit grainy in texture, but I doubt that had to do with the oil. I figure the graininess could have resulted from a few things: 1) I heated the caramel to 275 before I took it off cause I wanted a firmer product than last time. I may have gone a little too far… I know temp is really important in candy making. OR 2)I decided I wanted to make caramel apples. When I dipped the apples in the caramel, they were kinda cold, which may have solidified some of the fat before the rest of the caramel cooled, resulting in graininess.

        I also didn’t realize that I was short on maple syrup. I only used probably 1 or 2 TB of it, and made up the rest with brown sugar.

        All in all, this is still my favorite recipe on the internet! I’m presently having some caramels with my coffee as a little post-breakfast Sunday morning indulgence! Next week is my birthday, and I wanted to have these then, but I seriously doubt this batch will even last until Monday. I might make it to fill my gluten-free, vegan birthday cake though… om nom nom…..

  13. Do you think it might be helpful to sprinkle with powdered sugar so it doesn’t stick to the wax paper? Or is it fine once it’s frozen?

  14. Hi Cara, I am soooo glad that I have discovered your fabulous site!!! Would this caramel recipe work with almond milk? I don’t eat coconut or dairy but love love love caramels!

    Thanks for all your wonderful recipes.

  15. just made it now – try using agave syrup instead of sugar & maple syrup – it will take to boil for ages, but it won’t burn. thanks for this recipe! x

  16. I used this caramel (sans vegan butter) to make caramel popcorn. Delicious!

  17. OMG, can’t wait to try these! Just what I was looking for. :) Hoping my next attempt at vegan caramel goes well 😉

  18. I’m going to use this recipe to make my own samoa cookies, but I need it to stay a bit softer yet…how would I go about that?

  19. My batch is currently in the freezer, but I don’t think it worked. Oils separated from the sugar, looked a mess really. I’m gutted!

  20. I just made a batch of these the other day and am going to make some more today. I thought they were wonderful. Like the others, I worried I did something wrong because the temperature took forever to get above 245°F (I live in Minnesota, btw). The heating up DOES take a while, like you say in the recipe – a good 15, 20 minutes for me. I used a medium size sauce pan and put the burner on the highest setting. My candy thermometer doesn’t clip on the side of the pan very well so I had to hold it for a long time. It reminded me of making risotto – I couldn’t walk away for too long and kept having to stir it, but it was totally worth the effort in the end. Thank you for a delicious recipe!

  21. Just made these and they were a fail! Taste was gross and texture I didn’t like the texture of these caramels. Threw the batch in the trash

  22. Love this recipe. Thank you for sharing. Grandma and I used to spend days making treats for Christmas. Am searching like crazy this year to find a few goodies to make for my changing family. We are now 2 gluten free, one paleo and one dairy free. Gonna use the caramel with some toasted pecans and dairy free chips for Turtles Anyone can eat. Thanks again.

  23. Just used this recipe last night to go in my vegan rolos and they’re sooo good. Best caramel ever. I love the hint of lemon. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure if the coconut flavor would be too strong, but it’s perfect.


  24. Super disappointing. I got the mixture to about 240-245, then it started smoking, turned black, and separated into a mess. I can’t find a good coconut milk caramel recipe to save my life. I just used my candy thermometer to make regular caramels (I’m making vegan for vegan friends) and the regular ones turned out beautifully, so I don’t think it’s the problem. (Of course, that recipe said I should only bring it to 244.) What happened?

    • Could depend on your elevation. I have had a hell of a time learning to make candy, but I have to adjust almost 10-15 degrees down because I live at almost 7,000 ft. I read that you have to adjust 2 degrees for every 1,000 ft above sea level.Also look at this link for how to calibrate your candy thermometer:

      I have yet to successfully make caramels of any sort but I keep trying!!! :) Okay, I’ve made them, but they were like hard candies, ha ha.

      • Don’t stir once the mixture begins to boil, that will help with the hardness issue with the caramel, also with any graininess.

  25. I made these in less then 30 minutes at 4:11am before my sister (who lives with me) left to go back to university after Thanksgiving break. I used 1/4 cup earth balance and homemade cashew cream instead of coconut milk because I didn’t have any and because my sister doesn’t like coconut flavored things and I was worried the flavor would come through. I did alternate my heat between medium hi and hi and was able to reach 240-250 in about 15 minutes, I swirled the pan to keep from burning. The caramel was very good! However, next time I make it I will use my regular vegan sugar instead of brown sugar, I could still taste it in the finished product so it reminded me of the brown sugar candy my mom used to make. Great recipe! I can’t wait to try it with coconut milk since my sister is gone for two weeks until winter break! :)

    • I loved reading this! I was beginning to wonder why others were having troubles getting the temp up–glad to hear that with a few adjustments, this recipe works for your preferences! xo

  26. Cara, would this recipe work for coating caramel apples or would it be too thick? I have a beautiful bag of organic gala’s that I’ve eyed for luscious caramel apples! Any tips? Thanks :)

  27. I got a burnt mess from this recipe.

    When you say small pan, how small are you talking? How do I put the thermometer in the pan properly? I tested my thermometer before hand and it was at 212F for boiling water.

  28. I tried these, they took about an hour on the stove to get to over 250, a lot longer than I thought. I cooled them in the fridge for a few hours and they still were very gooey, not firm at all, what is the consistency you got with yours? I went up to around 255-260, they tasted slightly burnt, but still delicious, but it was more a carmel dip than a candy that I could individually wrap.

    • Hmmmmm….strange. I was able to get a some-what firm caramel (once they were placed at room temp, they sort of melt but they couldn’t last long enough because I ate all of them). Let me relook things over and see what is going on. Glad you at least liked the flavor 😛

  29. These look delicious! I was looking for a recipe that didn’t have corn syrup. Gonna try these out and hopefully they turn out with my stove (haven’t ever made caramels before!) – if they do, I might make some as Christmas gifts! :)

  30. Well, now I know what I’m making for the kiddos’ Hallowe’en goodie bags. Yum!

  31. Superyumful…and your Vegan Rolos recipe too!
    I wonder if you could make a reverse rolo…? :)

  32. I have got to have these! Coconut milk in caramels, yessssss please!

  33. Am I doing something’s wrong? I can’t get the temp above 240. How long should it stay on stove for? Thanks!

  34. Yummy! I love caramel and miss them so much since becoming vegan. You have solved my dilemma.

  35. I was gonna say that these look and sound great and I will bookmark and try them as soon as I have the chance. But I´m pretty sure that has already been said. So I´m just gonna say hi. “Hi!” :)

  36. You are on a roll – oh how I’ve missed seeing you in my in box! xo

  37. Cara, i’ve made caramels with your recipe at least 8-9 times now (when ever vegan friends stop by they almost always get twix bars… and then we can’t keep them away)… but i’ve never been able to get it even to 250*F. I’ve even got a new stove recently (couldn’t do it on the old one as well)… What am i doing wrong?

    • Hi Natalia,
      How frustrating! Hmmm, here are a few of my go-to solutions:
      1). Is your thermometer 100% accurate?
      2). How long are you keeping your caramel on the stove for?
      3). When you do make the Twix, what is the consistency of the caramel?
      Let’s start there and figure out what is going on… xo

  38. What a great looking recipe. I do remember rather enjoying caramels when I was little. It would be luverly to make some for my children.
    Thank you for creating such a straight forward recipe. :)

  39. I think these would be so delicious — coconut milk + maple syrup? I’m in.

  40. I was just trying to think of a way to make caramels without corn syrup, you read my mind!

  41. ahhh. i might have to make batches and batches of these. i had to stop picking up cocomels and now this. pha
    these look awesome!

    • This is the 2nd reference to cocomels–I have never heard of them! I just might have to try them out for the days that I am lazy and/or out of time for making caramel. Thanks for that, Richa! xo

  42. suzie blair says:

    Cara, when you call for coconut milk, do you want the canned or the milk that is in a carton in the cooler section of the store.

    Thank-you for all your work. Love your recipes!

  43. Oh they sound GOOD!!!

  44. Oh holy cow, this looks good!

  45. Mmhhhhh I can’t wait to make these. Brilliant!

  46. Mmmmm!!
    But I’m not a maple syrup fan for several reasons-
    Do you have a substitute?

  47. These look really yummy and I’m anxious to try them! Shh, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Regular corn syrup (like Karo) is actually 100% glucose syrup and doesn’t contain any of the dreaded fructose. :-) Although, maple syrup is way more healthy anyhow.

    • That is great to know Erin! It makes me feel no guilt for the hard candies I’m going to create that will be full of corn syrup :) hehehe

  48. These look super tasty. Do you think I could sub coconut oil for the vegan butter?

  49. When you get a box of assorted chocolates what do you eat first? The caramels of course. Looks like I should make myself a box – brought to you (me) by the genius that is Princess Fork. :-)

  50. they look wonderful, lady!

  51. I know what you mean! I won’t eat HFCS, but I would eat potato chips! However, I try to limit the “bad” foods in my diet. I am sure you do as well. And let me note that your candies do NOT count as junk food. he he he! :-)

    • Define limit :) hehe. Honestly, there are some days when I am naughty and I cannot stop myself…and I’m okay with it. xo

  52. I love your honesty about potato chips! Reading your blog always gets me back on track though. Thank you so much for your efforts.

  53. These sound amazing! I bet they taste just like Cocomels, which I LOVE. :)

  54. corn syrup, hissssss! great work.

  55. Most brown sugar is not vegan friendly since processed with animal bone char.


  1. […] With a very health conscious population out there I am curious how this celebration now almost 100 years old has evolved over the years? I would suspect that the candy companies all still have a plan this close to Halloween and all its sugary creations but there are great healthy alternatives to enjoy this longstanding day amongst our American compadres. Anyone have a great gluten-free brownie recipe? Coconut milk caramels? […]

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