Our copycat Cocomel vegan caramels recipe (made from coconut milk) is incredibly easy to make and takes only 3 ingredients! This is our own recipe for vegan caramels, developed after we realized that all of the recipes for coconut milk caramels out there are basically copies of the Saveur recipe (right down to the word-for-word copied “combine the sugar and the water and stir until sugar is wet” instructions). And most of them use use corn syrup, and also some sort of fat (vegan butter or solid coconut oil), and … water?? WTF? Cocomels don’t have that stuff in them! The ingredients for Cocomels are organic coconut milk, organic brown rice syrup, organic dried cane syrup, sea salt, and xanthan gum. Period. The ingredients for our copycat Cocomels vegan caramels are organic coconut milk, organic brown rice syrup, and organic sugar. No xanthan gum. (Optional ingredients are vanilla extract, and sea salt, but those are purely optional!)
You may already have all three base ingredients in your pantry, but if you don’t, the one you are likely to not have is the organic brown rice syrup. You can get that at any health food store (Natural Grocers, Whole Foods (if you still consider that a health food store)) and many supermarkets. You can also order it here on Amazon. Once you have it, you can also use it to make our Gluten-Free Vegan Rice Crispy Treats and our Gluten-Free Vegan 7-Layer Magic Cookie Bars!
Oh, you should also have some sort of non-stick cooking spray handy for the pan into which you will pour your vegan caramel mixture to let it set; we recommend coconut oil spray for what should be obvious reasons, but if you don’t have that then any neutral cooking spray will do.
You may be wondering what the heck the dried cane syrup is that Cocomels uses. Dried cane syrup is essentially the syrup from the sugar cane that has been boiled a bit, then dried and ground. It is part of the process that sugar cane syrup undergoes on the way to becoming white sugar but is less processed. Sugar in the Raw and turbinado sugars are very similar. We use regular organic granulated sugar (we get it in 10 pound bags from Costco) and it is just as delicious as those other sugars, but you can use them if you want to.
Our copycat Cocomels vegan caramels are made on the stovetop, and you will want to have a very heavy saucepan. We use an enameled Dutch oven, which is perfect for this. They are easy to make, but not quick, you will have the mixture simmering on the stove for a couple of hours or more, but it only needs occasional stirring (this is one of the reasons for a very heavy pan).
You need to use a heavy saucepan for this recipe
Copycat Cocomels Vegan Caramels (Vegan Coconut Milk Caramels)
1 can organic coconut milk (not “lite” coconut milk), we use the Thai Kitchen coconut milk from Costco
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (optional)
Sea salt or sea salt flakes (optional and if you want to use it it goes on after the caramels are done)
Put the coconut milk, sugar, and brown rice syrup (and vanilla if you want to use that) in a heavy saucepan (again, we use an enameled Dutch oven which is perfect for this). Put on the stove over low heat and gently stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn the heat up to medium to medium-high (depending on your stove) and bring the mixture to a low boil (not a strong, rolling boil), stirring every so often. Now keep it just above simmering (so at a low boil), and keep it going, still stirring every so often. Eventually the mixture will start to thicken noticeably (how long this will take will depend on your stove, and even on the humidity in your area, it can take a few hours); be sure to scrape any splashes down off the sides and back into the mixture.
While your mixture is doing its thing, prepare an 8×8 baking pan by lining it with parchment paper, using clips to clip it down at all four sides, so that it doesn’t move when you scrape your yummy (and very hot) vegan caramel mixture into the pan.
Also while your mixture is doing its thing put some cold water in a small bowl or cup and set it near the stove.
Continue letting your mixture do a low boil, paying attention to how thick it is getting; you want it to reach a point where when you drag a utensil across the bottom (we recommend a large wooden spoon) it doesn’t fill in right away (but it will fill in almost right away), like this:
At this point take a small spoon, dip it into your caramel, and then let the mixture that you got on the spoon drop into the bowl of water. If it forms a small soft ball with the consistency of cookie dough that you can pick up and squish between your fingers it is done if you want it to be (this is known as “soft ball stage” in candy making). If you want your caramels a bit firmer, give the mixture a few more minutes or so on the stove.
Soft ball stage
When your mixture is ready, remove it from the heat and quickly scrape it into the prepared 8×8 pan (be careful. it is very hot). It should spread out on the bottom of the pan into a single level layer, but if it’s a bit over-thick it may not, and in that case smooth it out with a heat-proof silicone or rubber spatula.
If you want to add sea salt now is the time: sprinkle it gently on top of your caramel as it sets.
Let cool completely, then turn out onto a cutting board and cut into strips with a heavy sharp knife. Don’t try to slice it, press the knife down evenly across the caramel slab. If your caramel is too sticky you can put some coconut oil on the knife to help make the cuts, although you should not have to do that.
Now cut the strips into even pieces.
If you like you can wrap the pieces in waxed paper, but if your caramel is firm enough it’s not necessary unless you are giving them away or packing them in lunches or such. Otherwise store in an airtight container.
Then hide them, because otherwise you and others will not be able to resist eating them up. :~)
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Copycat Cocomel Vegan Coconut Milk Caramels
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