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  • Writer's pictureKelly

Paleo Sea Salt Caramel Sauce (Two Ways) (Vegan, Paleo, Sugar-Free, Fruit-Sweetened)

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

This caramel sauce is easy-peasy, decadent, crave-worthy, and tastes like the real deal! Sweetened with dates and 100% dairy-free & vegan, this caramel sauce recipe is a healthy alternative to conventional caramel (which is oftentimes full of dairy, sugar, and artificial ingredients). You can use this sea salt caramel to top your favorite dessert (ice cream or brownies, anyone?), use it in a recipe calling for caramel, or dip fresh fruit in it. There are two ways to make this sea salt caramel (with almond milk or with coconut cream). Look in the substitutions section of this post for alternatives to these ingredients. This recipe is 5 ingredients and takes only 20 minutes to make. Prepare to indulge!



This caramel sauce has a full caramel flavor, created with vegan brown butter caramelized with date paste, with notes of vanilla & sea salt. And it smells AMAZING when cooking!


There's no baking required for this recipe, it is just cooked on the stovetop. Additionally, this caramel recipe is just 5 ingredients (for both versions!!). It is vegan, guilt-free, and is sweetened with date paste.


I don't know if I can say for certain which version of this caramel sauce I like better, but at the end of this post I'll reveal the version I like best as of right now...



Ok, So How Do I Brown Butter??


Browning butter is when you cook melted butter over very low heat until the fat solids separate from the rest of the butter. You can brown both dairy butter and most kinds of dairy-free/vegan butter (like Earth Balance). Sounds easy, right? But here's the tricky part: determining when your butter has actually "browned".


The image below shows the brown butter I made while making this caramel sauce using vegan butter. You'll notice that the outer edges of the browned butter are white and foamy, but the indicator of when the butter is browned is to look at the butter in the center of the bottom of the pan. You should see a dark layer (more like a deposit) of fat solids in the center of the bottom of the pan. (In the picture, under the foam in the center of the pan you'll notice there's a slight difference in color between that part of the butter and the butter surrounding it. The darker colored portion of the butter in the center of the pan is the browned butter). The solids will appear darker than the butter around them and the butter should have a nutty, caramel-like aroma. And the rest of the butter should have turned slightly darker in color at this point. This is how you will know when your butter has browned. It can take anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes, typically, to brown vegan butter. A common misconception is that browned butter is the same as when all the melted butter turns a brown color and it's bubbling and sizzling. That's not brown butter, that's burnt butter. You want the butter to remain a yellow color, you don't want all of your butter to turn brown.



Nutritional Profile of Paleo Sea Salt Caramel Sauce (Two Ways)


Vegan butter- vegan butter (like Earth Balance) is typically made with healthy vegetable oils that are full of healthy fats. These healthy fats are good for your brain, heart, and skin & hair.


Dates- dates (and thus, date paste which is just fresh dates puréed with water) are an excellent source of antioxidants, fiber, protein, iron, and potassium. Antioxidants help fight disease-causing particles in the body and fiber, protein, iron, and potassium are good for digestive, muscular, red blood cell, and heart health, respectively.


Sea salt- sea salt balances electrolytes and nourishes the adrenal glands. It also provides traces of micronutrients. Sea salt is better for you than table salt because table salt tends to be highly processed, unlike sea salt. Himalayan pink sea salt is my favorite sea salt.


Almond milk- almond milk is a good source of vitamin E and calcium & vitamin D (if fortified). Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps build red blood cells and is good for your skin & hair. Calcium & vitamin D build bone and vitamin D is good for the immune system and increases serotonin production (a feel-good chemical in the brain).


Full-fat coconut milk- full-fat coconut milk (and therefore, coconut cream, the solidified part of a refrigerated can of full-fat coconut milk/coconut cream) is rich in protein, antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber, potassium, and iron. These nutrients are good for muscles, the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, skin & hair, the digestive system, and red blood cell formation.



Substitutions


The vegan butter is required for this recipe, seeing as this is a recipe for caramel and one of the main ingredients in caramel is butter or vegan butter. The Medjool date paste can be substituted with any other kind of date paste OR maple syrup or coconut sugar (or white sugar, if you can do sugar on your diet). Alternatively, you can use an artificial sweetener such as Swerve, stevia, or monk fruit for a sugar-free/keto version.


The vanilla extract isn't 100% necessary, but it gives this caramel extra flavor so I recommend using it. You can use vanilla powder instead of vanilla extract. You may swap out the sea salt with table salt (although the sea salt gives this caramel the best flavor). Or you can leave out the salt altogether for a plain caramel sauce. If doing the almond milk version of this recipe, the unsweetened almond milk can be replaced with the unsweetened plant milk of your choice. If making the coconut cream version of this recipe, you can replace the solidified coconut cream with almond cream, cashew cream, or un-chilled/unseparated and stirred full-fat coconut milk/coconut cream.



New Recipes Made Using this Paleo Caramel Sauce


So far, new recipes I've made/garnished with this caramel sauce include:


  1. Sea Salt Caramel Swirl Ice Cream (EXTREMELY decadent!) (recipe coming soon!)

2. As a topping for Apple Fritters (they pair incredibly well!) (recipe coming soon!)


And the list will keep growing, so keep posted for more recipes using this caramel sauce!



So... my favorite version of this caramel sauce is what is pictured above..


Any guesses?


It is....... the version with coconut cream!! I find that version super creamy & rich, plus it isn't super strong in flavor like the version with almond milk (don't get me wrong, sometimes I like splurging on something as flavorful and decadent as the almond milk version, but this coconut cream version really takes the (caramel) cake for me! You see what I did there? Yeah.)


Anyways, as always I hope you all enjoy this one and feel free to give this post a like if you try it!


Enjoy,

-K.



Paleo Sea Salt Caramel Sauce (Two Ways) (Vegan, Paleo, Sugar-Free, Fruit-Sweetened)


Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Servings: 1 1/4 cups to 1 1/2 cups (depending on which version you make)


Ingredients (for the Almond Milk Version):


-4 Tbsp vegan butter (like Earth Balance or Miyoko's)

-1/2 cup date paste

-1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-pinch to 1/8 tsp sea salt (depending on how salty you like it)

-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or unsweetened plant milk of choice)


Ingredients (for the Coconut Cream Version):


-4 Tbsp vegan butter (like Earth Balance or Miyoko's)

-1/2 cup date paste

-1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-pinch to 1/8 tsp sea salt (depending on how salty you like it)

-3/4 cup hardened white coconut cream (the solidified white part from a can of unsweetened full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream refrigerated for 24 to 48 hours)


Directions:


1. In a medium saucepan over very low heat, melt and brown the vegan butter. (In other words, on very low heat melt the butter and keep it on the heat, stirring frequently, until the fat solids settle at the bottom of the center of the saucepan. This should take anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes. The fat solids will appear caramel-colored/light to medium brownish in color and will form a layer at the bottom of the saucepan. And the rest of the melted butter should be slightly darker in color and the butter should have a nutty, caramel-like aroma. Be careful not to burn the butter!)


2. Add the date paste and caramelize with the vegan butter for 2 to 3 minutes. (In other words, cook the date paste over low heat with the browned butter until a sweet, caramel scent is produced).


3. If making the almond milk version: Add the almond milk and whisk, while incorporating the date paste into the almond milk. (If doing the coconut cream version skip this step and continue with the following steps).


4. Add the vanilla and sea salt and whisk to combine.


5. Remove from the heat and allow the caramel to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.


6. If making the coconut cream version: Transfer the caramel into a heat-safe bowl and add the coconut cream (solidified white cream) and stir into the caramel until a thick creamy caramel sauce is produced. If desired, for a smoother texture use an immersion blender (stick blender) to blend the bits of date chunks into this caramel sauce better.


7. Serve. You can dip fresh fruit in this caramel sauce (apples, bananas, pears, etc.), pour on top of your favorite dessert (to give some ideas: on top of brownies, blondies, ice cream, donuts, or cinnamon buns), use it in a recipe, or enjoy it straight up. Enjoy!


Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

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