This 4-ingredient date caramel sauce is silky sweet and wonderfully creamy yet naturally sweetened, dairy-free, and vegan. This healthy vegan caramel sauce (regular, salted caramel, or flavored) is also ready in minutes and is perfect for dipping, drizzling, and spreading!
10-Minute Healthy Vegan Date Caramel Sauce
If you have a sweet tooth but are trying to cut down on refined sugars, this healthy date caramel sauce is a must-try. With a combination of Medjool dates and maple syrup as the main natural sweeteners, this dairy-free caramel is still creamy and sweet but slightly lighter and healthier than regular caramel.
Even better, unlike regular caramel sauce, which consists of empty calories, saturated fat, and refined sugar, this recipe is made with 100% whole food plant-based ingredients. In fact, the dates even help to provide fiber, antioxidants, and several vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin B6, K, magnesium, potassium, copper, calcium, iron, and more!
Having tested recipes as basic as soaked dates with water and salt to this version that combines dates and maple syrup with creamy coconut milk and a pinch of (optional) cinnamon, we’ve finally found our desired flavor and texture! This date-based no-dairy caramel is smooth, rich, and super versatile. Plus, you can make it as thick and spreadable or thin and drizzly as you’d prefer!
All you need is just 4 simple ingredients for this date-based vegan caramel sauce.
Medjool dates: You need moist, sticky dates. Medjool dates have a natural caramel-like flavor that really helps when making this date caramel recipe.
Coconut milk: Use full-fat canned coconut milk. You may sub this with unsweetened dairy-free milk (like cashew milk or almond milk) in a pinch, but the results won’t be as creamy, so we don’t recommend it.
Maple syrup: Brown rice syrup or coconut nectar may also work but affect the flavor.
Cinnamon: A pinch of cinnamon really enhances the flavors in this dairy-free caramel sauce but is technically optional.
Optional add-ins & Recipe Variations
There are several ways you can either enhance or flavor this healthy date caramel sauce, including:
Sea Salt: A pinch of salt will enhance all the flavors in the vegan caramel sauce. Add more, and you have yourself delicious vegan salted caramel.
Vanilla extract: A few drops of natural vanilla extract tastes fantastic in this healthy vegan caramel recipe.
Caramel extract: To further enhance the caramel flavor, add a few drops of natural caramel extract.
Coconut oil: For super silky caramel, swap out the reserved water for melted coconut oil.
Nut/seed butter: For an even more decadent non-dairy caramel, you could add a tablespoon of your favorite nut butter or seed butter. We recommend using tahini, cashew butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter. Peanut butter is a little too strong in the vegan date caramel.
Flavored Vegan Caramel Sauce
Spices: Instead of cinnamon, you could add gingerbread spice, pumpkin pie spice, etc.
Instant coffee: Add a large pinch of instant coffee or espresso powder (increase to taste). Optionally, add some melted chocolate too for a mocha caramel.
Vegan Chocolate: Add some melted chocolate to the vegan caramel. Adjust the amount to taste.
Extracts: We haven’t had the chance to experiment a lot with extracts yet, but we imagine coffee, peppermint, and almond would work well.
How to Make Vegan Caramel with Dates?
1) First, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and add the dates (you only need just enough water to cover the dates). Gently boil for 10 minutes. This will soften and plump up the dates.
Alternatively, you can leave them to soak in boiling water for 30-45 minutes.
2) Drain the water, reserving around 4 tablespoons of it. And then allow the dates to cool until you can handle them.
3) Next, peel and pit the dates if they aren’t already pitted and chop them into tiny pieces.
To make the dates even easier to peel, you can optionally add a teaspoon of baking soda to the saucepan when boiling them.
4) Addthe dates, maple syrup, coconut milk, cinnamon, and reserved water to a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until super smooth and creamy (about 2-3 minutes).
5) Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Then simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, or until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon or to your desired level.
How to Make Ahead and Store?
This vegan salted caramel sauce can be stored for 5-7 days in a closed jar (or airtight container) in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it for up to a month (possibly longer, though ours never last long enough to find out).
Note that it will thicken/set slightly in the refrigerator, so you’ll need to reheat it to get it back to a smoother consistency. To reheat the dairy-free caramel, use either a microwave or the stove. If it’s thickened too much for your liking, add a splash of water or dairy-free milk.
How to Use Vegan Date Caramel Sauce?
You can use this vegan caramel sauce in place of dairy-based caramel in desserts and even in some healthier dishes too, including:
Over vegan ice cream (like this banana ice cream) or within vegan ice-cream sandwiches
As a dip for fruit or pretzels — we love making caramel apples with it, but strawberries also taste lovely with this dairy-free caramel
Can we use other types of dates for date caramel? Yes, though they may be harder to blend, and the flavor will vary. We’ve used Deglet Noor dates before with no issues but prefer the caramel flavor of Medjool.
Does date caramel taste like dairy caramel? We won’t lie and say that you won’t taste the difference, as it definitely has a slightly ‘cleaner’ flavor. However, it’s close enough that you should love it!
Do you have to peel the dates? Not necessarily, but we’ve found that the smooth and creamy result when you peel them makes it even closer to regular caramel that it’s worth the extra effort.
Do you have to soak the dates? Technically, if the Medjool dates are soft enough and your machine is powerful enough, no. However, having tested with and without soaking, we find blending is easier using soaked dates.
Is caramel vegan? Traditional caramel is made with a combination of refined sugars, butter, and heavy cream, so, unfortunately, not. However, this date caramel is AND skips lots of the empty calories, too!
Top Recipe Tips and Notes
To adjust the thickness: Use more or less of the coconut milk in the recipe and adjust the time you reduce it on the stovetop.
Blending times will vary: Depending on the power level of your blender. Make sure to give it breaks in-between, and continue to blend until smooth.
Make a large enough batch: Your food processor/ blender will really struggle to blend this healthy date caramel sauce smoothly if you don’t add enough ingredients for your machine’s jug size.
For super smooth vegan caramel sauce: Strain the dairy-free caramel mixture before reducing it on the stovetop.
To turn into date caramels: Spread the reduced/ thickened date caramel mixture in a large silicone tray and freeze. Dates don’t fully freeze, so the mixture will remain smooth enough to slice. Optionally dip in melted vegan chocolate, and enjoy from the freezer any time you like.
Get ready to indulge in this sweet and delicious 4-ingredients Vegan Date Caramel Sauce. On top of it being a limited ingredient recipe, it's also made of whole-food plant-based ingredeints so you can skip out on all of the added sugardswithout compromising flavor!
Fill a saucepan with water just enough to cover the dates. Gently boil dates for 10 minutes.
Drain, reserving 4 tablespoons of the water. Let sit until cool to the touch. Peel and pit the dates. Chop the dates and toss them in a blender with maple syrup, cinnamon, and reserved water. Blend until super smooth, about 2 or 3 minutes.
Pour the sauce back into the saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes, or until it thickens.