This vegan caramel is sweet, caramel-y, thick, and creamy. It’s perfect for drizzling, dipping, spreading, or enjoying by the spoonful! The recipe is vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, nut-free, and refined sugar-free.
The success of a date caramel depends on the variety of dates you use. There are about 400 different types of date cultivars – some are sweeter and stickier, and better for desserts, while others are better for cooking with their smaller size and dryer texture.
While you can’t go wrong buying whatever dates you can get your hands on, the date varieties listed below are best for vegan caramel:
- Medjool: also called the ‘king of dates’, Medjool dates are the most commonly grown and thus the most widely available. Since Medjool dates are sold as fresh fruit, they have a high moisture content (~ 25%) and soft, juicy texture. Their flavor is very sweet, rich, and almost caramel-like, which is why they are used in many desserts.
- Sukkari: also called the ‘queen of dates’, Sukkari dates have all the characteristics of Medjool dates – sweet, caramel-like flavor, and soft, juicy texture. Just like Medjool dates, they are also sold as fresh fruit. However, compared to Medjool dates, which are amber to reddish-brown, Sukkari dates are golden in color.
- Barhi: extremely sweet and soft, Barhi dates have a sweet flavor similar to caramel, brown sugar, butterscotch, or syrup. They are often compared to candy and are mostly reserved for straight snacking. These small golden dates can be difficult to find in stores because they’re too delicate to be commercially shipped. But if you live in California, you will likely find them at a local farmer’s market.
- Halawy: the sweet flavor of Halawy dates tends to have the same characteristics as caramel or honey. The texture is quite tender, and the dates melt in the mouth like a highly delectable candy. Compared to other dates, Halawy dates have smooth golden-brown skin that doesn’t flake and isn’t sticky.
- Mazafati: these dates are one of the best dates for snacking. They boast a sweet caramel taste, soft, juicy flesh, and a dark brown color.
Other dates that would be acceptable for vegan caramel are:
- Dayri: these dates do have a soft texture, so they blend quite well, but their sweet flavor is not overly rich or caramel-like.
- Khadrawi: these dates are gooey, very sweet, but more straight-up sugary than caramelly.
Dates that are too dry to use for blending, and more specifically for making date caramel, include Deglet Noor, Khudri, Mabroom, Safawi, Piarom, Thoory, and Zahidi.
Tips for Making Vegan Caramel
This date caramel is not your classic caramel with butter and heavy cream, but it is indulgent nonetheless. The ingredients you’ll need are:
- Medjool dates: when shopping for Medjool dates, look for soft, plump, and shiny dates without any sugar crystallization (a sign of aging and thus moisture loss). If your dates are too dry, you won’t achieve that smooth, creamy caramel consistency. The dates should also look and feel distinct rather than squished into a lump.
- Coconut nectar: many raw caramel recipes call for a liquid sweetener to increase the viscosity of the caramel. Coconut nectar is one of the stickiest liquid sweeteners and works incredibly well here. Brown rice syrup is a good one too. Other liquid sweeteners, such as maple syrup, agave, yacon syrup, etc., are too thin to create a sticky caramel.
- Coconut milk: a little bit of liquid is essential to turn date paste into date caramel. Full-fat coconut milk is great because it not only thins out the caramel but also adds richness and creaminess. You can customize the thickness of the date caramel by adding more or less coconut milk. I promise the resulting caramel does not taste like coconut.
- Vanilla extract: a touch of vanilla deepens the flavor of the date caramel.
- Sea salt: salt balances and enhances the flavors. Without it, the caramel is too cloying, too sweet. If you like salted caramel, use a generous pinch of salt.
How to Make Vegan Caramel
To make this date caramel, you need a high-speed blender, although a good food processor should be ok too.
- Blend. Add all the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend on high until completely smooth. That’s it!
How to Use Date Caramel
There are about a million ways to enjoy this date caramel, and they’re all delicious.
You can drizzle the caramel over nice cream (bananas and caramel is a classic flavor combination), use it as a fruit dip (apples and caramel is yet another classic), bake it with pears, serve it with pancakes, swirl it into oatmeal, or add it to smoothies and shakes.
How to Store Date Caramel
- Refrigerating: transfer the date caramel to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. The caramel will thicken slightly in the refrigerator, so you’ll need to reheat it or thin it with additional coconut milk to get it back to a thinner consistency.
- Freezing: transfer the date caramel to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.
More Vegan Caramel Recipes
- Vegan caramel sauce: a recipe coming soon!
- Blend. Add all the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend on high until completely smooth.
- Store. Transfer the caramel to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. For longer-term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.