Dulce De Leche without the dairy? You heard me.
I’d been playing around with the idea for a while, and it was about time I did more than just think about it. With only two ingredients, the reality is just as good as what I’d imagined. Sweet, rich, and with a hint of… coconut? Yes.
Coconut is the key. Swapping coconut cream for milk was the spark of inspiration for this, and it worked perfectly. Spreadable, spoonable, and completely delectable. A thick and creamy caramel sauce that’s easy to make, and sure to please.
I chose to use mine in these salted caramel and chocolate tartlets, inspired by Gooseberry Mooseberry’s vegan short-crust recipe, but the caramel sauce could be used in most any application. It would be fabulous as a dip for crisp apple slices, or poured onto coconut ice cream, or spooned over… you know, you’re taste buds.
I was pretty determined to make these tarts not only vegan, but gluten-free… after much trial and error, and five (yes, five) batches of tart shells in the trash, I managed to make one that held up for the photographs… but wasn’t particularly tasty. The gluten-free flour simply wouldn’t hold together in such a delicate application as this, and needless to say, I wasn’t really up for more experimenting. If you’d like to make the tarts, you can use virtually any crust recipe you like. If you aren’t concerned about gluten-free, I do recommend Gooseberry Mooseberry’s vegan short-crust – just be sure to use the proper flour.
Dulce De Coco-Leche
(Vegan, makes about 1 cup)
1 1/2 (15oz) cans coconut milk, unsweetened, full fat
1/2 cup + 2 TBSP vegan dark brown sugar
pinch of salt (optional)
In medium sauce pan, add one can of coconut milk and the fat off the top of a second can. This is easiest to do if the can is chilled in the fridge for 24 hours first, as the fat will solidify and separate from the liquid. Simply spoon the fat off the liquid and into the pot — discard the remaining liquid, or refrigerate it for later use.
Add the brown sugar, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
Once the mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low and cook for 40-50 minutes, stirring frequently (every thirty seconds to a minute) until the sauce is very thick and reduced by more than half. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan as you stir.
Once the caramel has thickened to your liking (keep in mind that it will thicken a lot more once it is cooled), remove it from the heat. Add a pinch of salt if desired, to taste.
Optionally, pour the caramel through a fine mesh sieve to smooth out any lumps. Use immediately, or store in a jar or air-tight container for up to a couple of weeks. (The caramel will thicken significantly once chilled, but can be easily reheated to a smooth, pourable consistency.)
UPDATE: I’ve received several comments from readers who say the caramel sauce began to separate in the pan when they made it. My apologies if this has happened to you! I’ve never had a problem with this on my end, so I’m not sure what’s going on… I’m going to play around with the recipe more (perhaps the brand of coconut milk matters??) and will come back with anything I find out.
For the tarts:
(Vegan, makes four 4inch tarts)
1/2 batch vegan tart crust
1 batch dulce de coco-leche
8 oz. vegan dark chocolate chips, melted
pinch of sea salt for garnish, optional
pinch of shredded coconut for garnish, optional
Make the crust, press into tart pans, and pre-bake until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Fill shells with 2-3 TBSP of warm dulce de leche, and tap gently to level it out. Top each with 1-2 TBSP melted vegan chocolate, tipping the tarts to spread the chocolate evenly. Refrigerate 10-20 minutes, or until fully set. Can be stored in the fridge for up to several days in advance. Remove from the tart molds, and optionally garnish with a small sprinkle of sea salt or shredded coconut.
Welcome to my life…or trash can, really. Full of gf failures :) ha! I’m so impressed with your tenacity. But really, Willow, these are gorgeous and I cannot wait to try that dulce de leche! HELLO.
Haha, yeah, I’ve had a lot of GF mishaps, but this was pretty bad… I like my flour mix, but this just wasn’t working out. Oh well.
And yes, the dulce de leche is fantastic! So good with chocolate, too. :)
I want that caramel! Yum…
Takes a little while standing at the stove, but SO worth it to make!
wow- i cannot wait to try these! they look amazing! and bravo to you for wanting to make a gluten-free crust! i’m sure it tasted better than you thought ;)
I appreciate the encouragement, but I do make things gluten-free from time to time and they turn out fine… this really wasn’t fine. Epic fail. :(
oh ok. well it looks delicious and i cannot wait to make the dulce de leche!
Regardless of any mishaps, these tarts look extremely delicious!!!! Love the use of coconut milk for the dulce de leche. Salted caramel is addictive! Definitely going to file this under the “must make” category! :)
Okay, I’m literally speechless right now. Because you just took the vegan tartlet thing to a whole new level, my friend. This is amazing. With dulce de leche, I just can’t believe it could be vegan and so sinfully delicious too.
I admire your persistence with gluten-free crust because I haven’t even attempted to tame that beast yet. It’s definitely on my list but it’s hard. My sister-in-law is gluten-intolerant so she bakes a mean gluten-free cake. One of the things she says helps with baking in general is Xanthan gum (gluten has a binding property that is missing in a lot of the gluten-free flours, which the gum helps with). I just bought a batch, but I’m hesitant to start (as I know I will probably end up with a lot of batches in the trash).
Thanks so much for the shout-out, I feel honored! :D
Thanks, Kat! :D
Yeah, I use xanthan gum in my gluten-free flour. I’ve used it for pie crust, and also cookies, and it works great… just wasn’t holding up here. I’m sure a gluten-free tart crust wouldn’t be too difficult, but trying to do a ‘shortcrust’, specifically, is a very dilicate thing. *shrug*
Yeah, I’d figured you tried that. Shrug definitely. But given what you’ve done already I think you’ll get it right soon! ;)
Looks amazing!! I love dulce de leche, as does my sister, but now that she can’t have dairy she can’t have it anymore! I’ll definitely have to make some of this for her.
Aw, that’s so nice of you! I’m sure she’ll love it, this stuff tastes so good!
Coconut milk for caramel? Interesting. I have to try this recipe someday. Great!
Thanks! You can definitely still taste the coconut, but it’s not overpowering or bad in any way. In the tarts with the chocolate, it was much harder to detect.
Oh my goodness! These look dangerously good. Totally bookmarked this recipe.
I haven’t tried any gluten-free baking yet. Probably because I’d end up tossing out a lot more than 5 batches lol. :) One day…
I haven’t found GF baking to be *so* bad… up until this little mishap, that is. Don’t shy away from it too much, though, practice makes perfect. :)
They look elegant, rich and absolutely delicious. That pinch of salt is a must for me, it really lifts up a dessert to a highler level.
Indeed – I love salted caramel. :)
But looking at these photos you are likely to faint in front of the screen!!!
You should put a warning of the danger before reading :o)
Haha – thank you! I’m flattered you like my photos so much, as I always admire yours. :)
Okay, so I won’t go gluten-free. But, I will definitely go full-on gluten and make these tarts!
I have been experimenting by using coconut milk in all sorts of things lately. But, you have taken me into the danger zone with these.
Yeah, after awhile I threw up my ars going ‘why am I even bothering with this? I’m not gluten-free!’ haha.
And I noticed all your coconutti-ness (err… you know what I mean), and thought of you when I was making this. :)
ARMS. I threw up my ARMS. Wow. Of all the possible typos… :P
Willow we are totally friends for life now – I cannot believe you made vegan Dulce De Leche, absolutely amazing. I am booking my flight now to see you so I can enjoy a cup of tea, 20 of these tarts, some candied ginger all while sitting on the couch with your clumsy pup & you – deal, okay good :)
Hahaha – deal! It would be so much fun to cook together. Or… me cook and you sit on the couch. That works too. ;)
Oh, Willow! They’re gorgeous. And I agree – coconut milk is the KEY to making a caramel-y sauce. So yummy! I’ve only ever made it with sucanat, so I will have to try brown sugar next.
And as much as baking failures annoy the crap out of me, trial and error is the best way to learn – in my opinion :)
Agreed! And I actually considered using sucanat, but didn’t have any on hand. The brown sugar worked really well, and I thought the dark brown in particular gave it a very rich flavor. :)
I love salted caramel and these look amazing!
These sound so, so dreamy!
Be careful when labeling this recipe as “Vegan” This recipe uses both brown and granulated sugars, which are for the most part refined using animal bone char! Most of the large sugar companies do this. If you are passionate about being vegan and want to keep all animal products out of your diet, use sugars that are specifically refined without animal char, such as Florida Crystals.
This is a good thing to point out. I am aware that many brands of sugar rely on bone char when making their sugar, but I didn’t think it necessary to specify ‘vegan sugar’ in the recipe – most vegans know this, and the sugar they have in their pantry is labeled as such.
Is that not the case? We should do a poll – should I specify ‘vegan’ sugar/brown sugar, or is it unecessary?
Uh, do you want to come to my birthday potluck and bring dessert? I would, like, hire you. I’m not sure when this birthday potluck will be or where, but I have decided to have it as of now. It will be somwhere in Ann Arbor. Sometime after May 15th.
Haha – you don’t have to hire me to come to your birthday! I have a very busy month in May, so let me know when it is as soon as you can. Any dessert you’d like, I will do my best to oblige. :)
Been wanting to make something caramel, but can’t have sugar. Can you make this with xylitol?
I have no idea how xylitol will affect this… I suspect that it would sufficiently sweeten the coconut milk, but probably will not caramelize the same way sugar does, so you may not get the same deep color and flavor. I haven’t used xylitol enough to say for sure, but it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. Sorry I can’t be of more help – please let me know how it goes if you make a batch!
@donna-did you try it with xylitol? @willow-has anyone mentioned since this note trying it with xylitol? Wondering if it’s worth the effort, and if someone has already attempted….
I have not tried it with xylitol, and have not heard from anyone who has yet. Sorry! If you give it a shot, let me know. My apologies for not being more helpful.
We just moved to Buenos Aires where everything has dulce de leche. My kids and I are vegan so when I searched and found this recipe I was delighted! Can’t wait to try this :) Thanks for posting
Wonderful, I hope you like it!
Hi! I wanted to thank you for this recipe! I’m not vegan at all, but I had a wedding shower for a coworker of mine who is, and I wanted to make something special for it. I stumbled onto this page, and I am glad I did! I probably did a bit of a shortcut; instead of using 1.5 cans of coconut milk, I used one can of coconut cream (my theory being that I think that when separated, the fat at the top of a can of milk basically is coconut cream?) with a little bit of water to get to the leftover clinging to the can, and it actually worked quite well!
Yours look a lot prettier than mine did… but even the non-vegans were impressed. Thank you!
Wonderful! I’m so glad it was a hit. And yeah, coconut cream is very similar… I think it’s usually pre-sweetened, although I’m not sure. Either way, I’m happy to hear it worked! :)
These look amazing! Have you tried making these as a full-sized tart? I’m wondering if the crust would hold up for slicing.
I have not – it will depend on the crust recipe you use. Once chilled the dulce de leche firms up a bit, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the crust held up okay.
I literally just read this, and I am going to my kitchen right now to make the dulce de leche!!!
Haha – wonderful! Hope you like it.
Made the dulce a little while ago, waiting for it to cool to be able to cut into squares. Not making the tart portion. Don’t if this happened to yours but when I took it off the heat the solids separated from the fat and looked lumpy. I poured of the excess fat and and folded the remainder into it’s self for 5min and it smoothed right out. Altered the recipe slightly, 1 can coconut cream, 2oz butter, 1/2coconut sugar and sprinkled the surface with hawaiian salt. It smells delish, can’t wait to sample it!!
I didn’t have any issue with the fats separating, but I also didn’t use butter, so perhaps that’s what caused it. Glad it all smoothed out, though! Love the idea of using coconut sugar, too. Hope you like it!
I bet you could make a nut based crust – that would be gluten free – almost like a raw crust with powdered hazlenuts or almonds, with dates. It would even save the baking step and go deliciously well with the dulce de leche and chocolate…
Indeed, that would work well!
I made these yesterday! i posted an image onto my blog. I’ll definitely be returning to this recipe!
Awesome – so glad you liked them!
A question about this caramel sauce
I’m looking for a dairy free caramel to use for caramel apples. Is this something I could make semi-hard for such a thing or will it just be a runny gooey mess?
My batch of caramel sauce was quite runny fresh off the stove, and then after chilling in the fridge it was like firm caramel dip (which would be great for apple slices). But it does not get firm like you would want for caramel apples. I would try searching for vegan caramel apple recipes… I know they’re out there.
You are killing me, thoese tartlets look amazing and so beautiful. I need one of these! Now. Pleaaaase!
I’m going to try these! But I’m thinking,using melted chocolate for the topping would result in it hardening too solidly. In fact, the texture will return to that of normal chocolate, making it hard to bite into the tartlets. Did you find that? I’ll try melting the chocolate with a bit of water, so that the texture will set a little softer.
Hi, thanks for your comment! I didn’t have any trouble with the chocolate because it was a fairly thin layer on top of the dulce de leche. If you plan to add water to your chocolate, you have to be very careful of the chocolate seizing (turning lumpy and gritty and dull). You have to be sure to add enough water that the chocolate remains smooth and does not seize up, but at the same time, too much water will cause the chocolate not to set at all. If you want a more delicate layer you could try melting some (unflavored) coconut oil into it, such as in a ‘magic chocolate shell’ recipe. Hope that helps!
Those look genius!
Tried it, but didn’t like it. The taste of coconut milk was unbearable, and hardly any taste of caramel :-(
I’m sorry to hear that! The coconut flavor was notable, but I didn’t find it overwhelming when I made it. With a little sprinkle of sea salt I found it to be a great vegan alternative. I’m sorry you didn’t like it. :/
I can’t wait to make the vegan dulce de leche for some vegan alfajores I’ve been dying to make! thank you for this!
Ooh, that sounds wonderful! Alfajores are a perfect use for this! :)
I am in the process of making this recipe as I type! I’ve just taken the caramel off the hob, after having reduced it down to a very thick sauce, and I’ve encountered a problem – the caramel seems to have separated, as a layer of clear liquid has formed on top ( I’m assuming this is melted coconut fat?) and the rest has turned into a sort of lumpy brown goop underneath.. Any suggestions on how to fix this? I already poured half the mix on to a shortbread crust, hoping to make Millionaire shortbread, but I don’t think that’s going to work out now. Bit disappointed as this looked and tasted very promising during the reducing stage!
I’m so sorry to hear that! I had no lumpiness issues with mine, and can’t imagine why there would be any. I would suggest passing the remaining caramel sauce through a sieve to smooth it out, then continue as you otherwise would. My apologies, again!
I was so excited when I found this recipe! Before I developed problems with eating dairy (I haven’t had milk in 5 years), I used to LOVE caramel-type desserts!
Only, I think I did something wrong with this recipe. It turned out gelatinous. It’s not thick and smooth, but rather like a really thick jelly. Also, some of the fat separated out. I followed the recipe except that I only made 2/3 of a whole recipe (I didn’t need a whole cup of dulce de leche).
Any idea on what I did wrong? I’d love to be able to make this.
You know what, you’re not the first one this has happened to… I’ve recieved a few comments now saying that the caramel has become lumpy or separated, but I honestly have no idea why — I’ve had no problems on my end when I make it, so I’m not really sure what to say. I’ll make a note on the recipe that this has been an issue, and will try playing around with it more to see if I can find a solution. In the meantime, you might want to try a different caramel recipe — I haven’t tried this one, but Angela (of the blog Oh She Glows) has very trustworthy recipes that are always delicious: http://ohsheglows.com/2010/10/10/project-food-blog-4-upside-down-makes-right-side-up/
Sorry again – I hope that helps!
I didn’t have any coconut milk or brown sugar around so used homemade almond milk and coconut nectar instead. It worked and it was delicious. I’m sure it will taste even yummier with coconut milk. thanks
Good to hear – glad you liked it!
Hi! i’m from argentina and i love this recipe of dulce de leche cause it was something difficult to replace once i left cow milck. Thanks a lot! love your web page. XOXO
Thanks, Micaela! I’m glad you like the dulce de leche!
Adding 1.5 tablespoons of tapioca flour at the start and 1 tablespoon of nutrional yeast in the last 15 minutes will thicken it and give it that dark brown colour dulce de leche is meant to have