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Five Minute Dairy-Free Caramel Sauce – Perfect for Dipping Apples!

Living on an 80-tree apple orchard, we eat a lot of apples! Thankfully my kids are on board with my love of keeping Real Food as simple as possible. They are content to eat the apples right off the tree. It really doesn’t get any easier!

But a couple of years ago I thought it would be fun to make homemade caramel sauce for dipping our apples. I found a relatively simple recipe, and it turned out so well! The kids loved it.

There was just one problem…my oldest son is dairy-free. So, while butter is my favorite healthy fat (who doesn’t love butter?!), and we get our cream fresh from a farm down the road, he couldn’t have any.

I tried making the same recipe substituting dairy-free alternatives.

It was OK. Not great. But I never got around to a second try at dairy-free caramel sauce. Until this year!

After a few more failed attempts, I’ve created a fool-proof, five-minute dairy-free caramel sauce that is perfect for dipping apples.

RELATED: Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake Recipe 

How is Caramel Sauce Made?

Traditionally caramel sauce is made with butter, sugar, water, and heavy cream. Only a few ingredients. But the process is tricky. You have to boil it long enough that it gets dark, but not too long that it burns.

Some recipes require the use of a candy thermometer and getting the sugar to just the right temperature. More experienced chefs just test it with how the sugar coats the back of a spoon. I’ve made my share of so-so caramel sauce attempts over the years. I’m thankful that pale caramel still tastes good, even if it is thin and doesn’t have the full flavor.

With four young kids, I don’t have time for monitoring boiling sugar water. An Adventurous Eater toddler can get into a lot of trouble in that amount of time! Especially when I can’t step away from the stove.

So I’m skipping the traditional caramel sauce method. Busy mamas, this recipe is for you!

How to Make Dairy-Free Caramel Sauce

Usually, when I make allergen-free foods, it’s a straight swap. So if traditional caramel uses butter and cream, it would make sense to use coconut oil and coconut cream to make a dairy-free caramel sauce.

Unfortunately, it’s not so straight forward when it comes to caramel.

The coconut oil tends to separate from the caramel as it cools. So unless it has just come off the stove, it’s not very good, and it doesn’t work so well to serve hot caramel to little kids.

I tried combinations of different fats and milks. But nothing works quite like butter and cream.

When it comes to dairy-free caramel sauce, you have to get a bit more creative.

My solution for dairy-free caramel sauce is to use sunbutter as the fat. It holds up so well! The caramel sauce is thick and does not separate.

Refined Sugar-Free Caramel

I’m a big fan of letting kids have occasional treats. But even when keeping them to special events, I still try to avoid refined sugar as much as possible since sugar can be as detrimental as cigarettes. Some health experts even go so far as to say that sugar is the root of some of the most common diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. We’ll pass on that.

RELATED: 6 strategies to reduce sugar for your kids!

As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner myself, I try to stick to unprocessed foods. Sadly, even cane sugar is in the processed category. So I opted for natural sweeteners in this simple dairy-free caramel dip.

A combination of honey and maple syrup gives a neutral sweetness that mimics the flavor of sugar. You could use all of one or the other if that’s all you have on hand.

Kid Favorite Dairy-Free Caramel Apple Dip

There are varying degrees of caramel consistency, from an ultra-thick, solid candy to a thin sauce to drizzle on cheesecake. I’ve even been known to make caramel with liver added!

For this recipe, my goal was to make a caramel sauce thick enough to be an apple dip. Plus I wanted it to be easy enough for young kids to dip without the caramel dripping everywhere (did I mention I have a very busy toddler that doesn’t like to sit down to eat?).

The combination of sunbutter and a little cornstarch thickens the sauce almost instantly. And it continues to thicken as it cools.

My kids have been the taste-testers for every batch of caramel I tried. The others got mixed reviews. But I found all the kids licking their bowls clean when they tried this simple caramel apple dip! It’s definitely a kid favorite here. I hope it will be at your house too.

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dairy-free caramel sauce

Five Minute Dairy-Free Caramel Sauce Recipe

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  • Author: Mary Voogt, NTP (Contributing Writer)
  • Prep Time: 5 mins.
  • Cook Time: 5 mins.
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1/2 cup 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Diet: Vegetarian


A simple, allergen-free caramel sauce perfect for dipping apples or drizzling over ice cream.


Units Scale

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  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine.
  2. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking periodically, until bubbling.
  3. Turn heat down to medium and whisk continuously while bubbling until thickened, about 60-90 seconds.
  4. Remove from heat and pour into a glass container.
  5. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
  6. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to a week or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  7. Serve cold or warmed with apples, pears, graham crackers, or on ice cream.


  • You can replace the rice milk with almond milk.
  • You can replace the sunbutter with peanut butter or almond butter. Just be sure the nut butter is completely smooth.


  • Serving Size: 2 Tbs.
  • Calories: 129
  • Sugar: 15g
  • Sodium: 160mg
  • Fat: 4g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 21g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 2g
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Easy Dairy-Free Dessert

Since entering the world of food allergies seven years ago, I’ve talked to a lot of moms of kids with dietary restrictions. By far the hardest food to give up is dairy. Let’s be honest, coconut milk ice cream does not taste the same as dairy ice cream. Coconut oil and lard certainly don’t taste like butter. Almond milk is delicious, but it’s still not dairy milk.

One place where it’s hard to forgo dairy is dessert. Sometimes the dairy substitutes work. Sometimes they don’t. And sometimes you end up adding extra sweetener to mask the different flavors.

This caramel apple dip is an easy dairy-free dessert that any kid will love without even realizing it doesn’t contain dairy. Plus there are no gums or fillers to overlook just so your dairy-free child can participate in a treat.

RELATED: Dairy-Free Christmas Gingerbread Cookies

We love to use dairy-free caramel sauce for dipping apples. But you can use pears, grapes, bananas, or even homemade pumpkin spice graham crackers. It also tastes great on popcorn, banana ice cream, or vanilla and chocolate coconut milk ice cream.

Dairy-free and looking for more easy substitutes? Get my free Simple Dairy Substitutes ebook!

Is Caramel Healthy?

The other day I was at the grocery store and stopped to look at the ingredients in one of the tubs of caramel apple dip stacked to eye level. I was pleasantly surprised to see it contained actual cream. But not so happy to see high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and diglycerides. Those are not components of a healthy snack. In fact, I don’t actually call them food.

Any time you are eating something sweet it really is a treat. But if you are having a treat, there is a healthy way to do it.

RELATED: More real-food recipes for healthier treats

This dairy-free caramel sauce has protein, fat, and fiber from the sunbutter. The homemade rice milk has protein from collagen (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!) and healthy fat from avocado oil. The maple syrup contains minerals as well. So all combined it is actually quite healthy. If you pair it with an apple you get more vitamins, minerals, and fiber. With a combination of protein, fat, and fiber you can avoid a big blood sugar spike and crash, which is an added stress to the body.

So when it comes to sweets, this dairy-free caramel sauce is a smart way to snack safely.

Are you looking for an easy, dairy-free caramel sauce that kids love? You’ve found it!

What would your kids like to dip in this dairy-free caramel?
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

4 thoughts on “Five Minute Dairy-Free Caramel Sauce – Perfect for Dipping Apples!”

  1. Can you use a regular dairy free milk? Like unsweetened almond or oat milk? And peanut or almond butter instead of sunflower butter?

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